Baptême princier: Attention, un rituel peut en cacher un autre ! (Brits christen their prince while former genocidal Europe seeks to criminalize circumcision)

24 octobre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/CirconcisionRothenburg.jpghttps://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/6ff16-1752b-2bthe2bbaptism2bof2bjesus.gifhttps://i2.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/10/23/1382539023487/William-Kate-and-Prince-G-009.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Botticelli_Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Moses.jpg
http://www.aubergemontsegur.com/Nouvelles/2011/Noel/Tentaciones_de_Cristo_(Botticelli)web.jpgC’est ici mon alliance, que vous garderez entre moi et vous, et ta postérité après toi: tout mâle parmi vous sera circoncis.Vous vous circoncirez; et ce sera un signe d’alliance entre moi et vous. A l’âge de huit jours, tout mâle parmi vous sera circoncis, selon vos générations, qu’il soit né dans la maison, ou qu’il soit acquis à prix d’argent de tout fils d’étranger, sans appartenir à ta race. Genèse 10: 12-17
Pendant le voyage, en un lieu où Moïse passa la nuit, l’Éternel l’attaqua et voulut le faire mourir. Séphora prit une pierre aiguë, coupa le prépuce de son fils, et le jeta aux pieds (euphémisme pour les organes génitaux) de Moïse, en disant: Tu es pour moi un époux de sang! Et l’Éternel le laissa. Exode 4: 24-26
Vous circoncirez donc votre coeur … Deutéronome 10: 16
L’Éternel, ton Dieu, circoncira ton coeur et le coeur de ta postérité, et tu aimeras l’Éternel, ton Dieu, de tout ton coeur et de toute ton âme, afin que tu vives. Deutéronome 30: 6
Il ne faut donc point que les Juifs s’imaginent aujourd’hui avoir eu quelque avantage sur le reste des nations. Quant à leur longue dispersion, il n’est point surprenant qu’ils aient subsisté si longtemps depuis la ruine de leur empire, puisqu’ils se sont séquestrés des autres peuples et se sont attiré leur haine, non-seulement par des coutumes entièrement contraires, mais par le signe de la circoncision qu’ils observent très-religieusement. Or, que la haine des nations soit pour les juifs un principe de conservation, c’est ce que nous avons vu par expérience. Un roi d’Espagne les ayant autrefois contraints ou de quitter son royaume ou d’en embrasser la religion, il y en eut une infinité qui prirent ce dernier parti. Et comme en se faisant chrétiens ils devenaient capables de tous les privilèges des autres citoyens et dignes de tous les honneurs, ils se mêlèrent si étroitement aux Espagnols qu’il ne reste plus d’eux aucune trace ni aucun souvenir. En Portugal il en a été tout autrement : car étant forcés d’embrasser le christianisme sans être admis aux privilèges et aux dignités de l’État, ils ont toujours vécu, quoique convertis, dans un état d’isolement par rapport aux autres Portugais. Le signe de la circoncision me paraît ici d’une telle conséquence que je le crois capable d’être à lui tout seul le principe de la conservation du peuple juif. Je dirai plus : si l’esprit de leur religion n’efféminait leurs âmes, je suis convaincu qu’une occasion favorable venant à se présenter, les Juifs pourraient (tant les choses humaines sont variables) reconstituer leur empire et devenir ainsi l’objet d’une seconde élection de Dieu. (…)  Au reste, si quelqu’un persiste à soutenir pour telle ou telle raison que l’élection des Juifs est une élection éternelle, je n’y veux pas contredire, pourvu qu’il demeure d’accord que cette élection, de quelque durée qu’elle soit, en tant qu’elle est particulière aux Juifs, ne regarde que les avantages temporels et l’établissement de leur empire (puisqu’il n’y a que ce seul point par où les nations se distinguent les unes des autres), mais qu’à l’égard de l’intelligence et de la vertu véritable, toutes les nations sont égales, Dieu n’ayant sur ce point aucune sorte de préférence ni d’élection pour personne. Baruch Spinoza
Dieu est mort! (…) Et c’est nous qui l’avons tué ! (…) Quelles solennités expiatoires, quels jeux sacrés nous faudra-t-il inventer? Nietzsche
A l’époque de la peste noire, on tua des étrangers, on massacra des Juifs et, deux siècles plus tard, on fit brûler des sorcières, et cela pour des raisons parfaitement identiques à celles qu’on a rencontrées dans nos mythes. Tous ces malheureux se retrouvèrent indirectement victimes des tensions internes engendrées par les épidémies de peste et autres catastrophes collectives dont ils étaient tenus responsables par leurs persécuteurs. Les crimes imaginaires et les châtiments réels de ces victimes ne sont autres que les crimes et châtiments qu’on trouve dans la mythologie. Pourquoi donc, dans le cas de la seule mythologie, faudrait-il croire que, si les crimes sont imaginaires, les punitions et les victimes ne sauraient elles-mêmes être réelles ? Tout indique que le contraire est vrai. Les textes qui témoignent d’atrocités historiques, les archives judiciaires relatives à la chasse aux sorcières, par exemple, comportent les mêmes accusations extravagantes que les mythes, la même indifférence aux preuves matérielles et le même sentiment massif et irréfléchi que tout est exact, sentiment souvent exprimé, même s’il n’est pas effectivement partagé, par les boucs émissaires eux-mêmes. Tous les indices trahissant la victimisation d’individus imparfaitement assimilés – étrangers, handicapés physiques ou mentaux – sont présents dans ces documents, tout comme ils le sont dans la mythologie, pour autant qu’on puisse le vérifier ; à nous, observateurs d’aujourd’hui, ils livrent la vraie nature de ce qui s’est passé. (…) Je suis convaincu que la plupart des données d’ordre culturel sont pertinentes pour l’étude du sacrifice, y compris dans une société comme la nôtre qui ne pratique pas d’immolations sacrificielles. Le premier exemple qui me vient à l’esprit est notre propre interrogation du sacrifice ici même. Il y a forcément un rapport entre cette interrogation et le fait que les sacrifices sanglants sont de nos jours perçus comme odieux, non seulement par une petite élite, mais par l’ensemble de notre société, laquelle est désormais en voie de mondialisation rapide. Malgré ce sentiment d’horreur, une grande part de nos coutumes et pratiques et une bonne part de notre pensée peuvent encore être reliées au sacrifice d’une façon que nous ne soupçonnons pas. J’estime que notre histoire fourmille de phénomènes si clairs de ce point de vue qu’on ne saurait les exclure d’une enquête sur le sujet. C’est le cas, par exemple, de notre attitude envers certaines formes de persécution collective, de la façon dont nous comprenons et condamnons les préjugés collectifs et toutes les pratiques d’exclusion. Je crois également à la pertinence de nombreux textes littéraires, comme la tragédie grecque ou le théâtre de Shakespeare. Je pense aussi que la Bible et surtout le Nouveau Testament ont joué un rôle important dans tous les progrès que nous avons déjà faits, et que nous ferons demain, dans la recherche d’une meilleure compréhension du sacrifice. René Girard
La même force culturelle et spirituelle qui a joué un rôle si décisif dans la disparition du sacrifice humain est aujourd’hui en train de provoquer la disparition des rituels de sacrifice humain qui l’ont jadis remplacé. Tout cela semble être une bonne nouvelle, mais à condition que ceux qui comptaient sur ces ressources rituelles soient en mesure de les remplacer par des ressources religieuses durables d’un autre genre. Priver une société des ressources sacrificielles rudimentaires dont elle dépend sans lui proposer d’alternatives, c’est la plonger dans une crise qui la conduira presque certainement à la violence. Gil Bailie
Mais pourquoi donc le christianisme est-il devenu une religion non-juive ?  Gilles Bernheim
Si la loi du sabbat appartient au cérémoniel et n’est plus obligatoire, pourquoi remplacer le sabbat par un autre jour? (…) Si la grâce chrétienne a mis fin à la loi juive, si le dimanche chrétien a abrogé le sabbat juif, si la notion d’un Dieu invisible indéfiniment suspendu à une croix a remplacé la notion du Tout-puissant invisible, si le salut et son emphase sur le spirituel l’a emporté sur la création, sur a nature et sur le corps, si le Nouveau Testament a supprimé l’Ancien, si les païens ont remplacé Israël; alors les juifs ont eu théologiquement raison, et ont encore raison aujourd’hui, de rejeter la religion chrétienne. Jacques Doukhan
All babies are unbelievably special, not only royal babies. But Prince George’s christening does carry an extra significance. As a nation we are celebrating the birth of someone who in due course will be the head of state. That’s extraordinary. It gives you this sense of forward looking, of the forwardness of history as well as the backwardness of history, and what a gift to have this new life and to look forward. Rev. Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury)
As with any other infant’s baptism, Welby marked the Prince with the sign of the cross on his forehead and splash water on his head. The silver font used for George’s baptism has been used for every royal christening since 1841 and will be filled with water from the River Jordan. CNN
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and B’nai B’rith International condemned a resolution and report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strsbourg, which calls the Jewish ritual circumcision a “violation of children’s physical integrity,” undermining the religious freedom to perform circumcision on newborn boys. … Circumcision is not discretionary, but rather central, in Jewish life and practice throughout history,” added B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “It must be made clear what those who support the criminalizing of circumcision in Europe are proposing: Discrimination against the Jewish community in Europe. EPL

Attention: un rituel peut en cacher un autre !

En ce lendemain du baptême du petit prince George qui, à travers l’Archévêque de Canterbury, nous rappelle nos indissolubles liens à notre passé judéochrétien …

Au moment même où, après la  dimanchisation du sabbat, l’Europe du génocide juif envisage de criminaliser la circoncision

Et où, retour à la fureur primitive sur les plages malgaches, on lynche et immole des hommes par le feu …

Pendant que les meutes de nos cours de recréation ou de nos réseaux sociaux peuvent pousser nos enfants au suicide …

Comment ne pas repenser à ce passé commun de l’humanité …

Dont demeurent les traces transfigurées …

Tant la circoncision (cette mutilation protectrice de la partie pour le tout, comme semble le rappeler le mystérieux épisode de Séphora préservant de la violence divine son époux comme son fils) …

Que le baptême (dont l’immersion primitive rejouait à la fois, via la noyade simulée, la mise à  mort et la résurrection du Christ)  …

A savoir le sacrifice humain en général et le sacrifice d’enfants en particulier?

LE SACRIFICE HUMAIN

Anne Stamm

Pourquoi ai-je choisi de vous entretenir du sacrifice humain, un sujet en quelque sorte tabou ? Tout simplement parce que j’ai lu l’été dernier l’ouvrage d’un universitaire américain: « L’autel le plus haut  » (Patrick Tierney), qui m’ a incité à réfléchir, à entreprendre des recherches bibliographiques, à interroger de s collègues ethnologues.

En 1954, un groupe d’archéologues andin se constitue après la découverte du Mt Plomo (5 400 m) par 2 mineurs à la recherche d’un trésor inca du corps d’un jeune enfant en parures d e cérémonies inca. Il n e s’agit pas d’une momie, mais d’un petit garçon placé dans un caveau vivant et que les conditions climatologiques ont conservé dans un état de souplesse , de flexibilité tout à fait étonnant .

Transféré à Santiago, au Muséum national le corps a été soumis à de nombreuses analyses et conservé en congélateur.

Le costume de l’enfant montrait de toute évidence qu’il appartenait à une famille princière et que son sacrifice remontait à 1470-1480 .

Depuis lors ce groupe d’archéologues a découvert de très nombreux corps d’enfants enterrés ou inhumés dan s des fosses ou dans des tours à des altitudes pouvant atteindre 6 500 m . Il s’agissait toujours d e jeunes et beaux enfants dont le visage était parfaitement calme . Bien entendu ces  trouvailles posèrent d’innombrables questions :

On connaissait les sacrifices humains des Aztèques immolant des prisonniers de guerre dont le sang et la chair devaient nourrir le soleil et lui permettre de revenir éclairer la terre.

Ceux qu’au Bénin, on accomplissait à la mort d’un souverain, on savait moins que lors d e son intronisation le nouveau roi devait tuer un esclave .

On savait qu’aux Indes les veuves devaient se jeter dans le bûcher consumant le corps de leur mari, mais aussi que les victimes humaines procuraient la richesse et l’immortalité , accomplissaient des vœux, étaient indispensables à l’érection de certains bâtiments, et ce jusqu’ à l’interdiction par les Britanniques vers le milieu du XIX e siècle. O n avai t dans l’esprit le meurtre d’Iphigènie par son père Agamemnon et celui que faillit accomplir Abraham sur son fils Isaac .

On n’avait pas assimilé l’exécution de Remus par Romulus à un sacrifice humain et les corps retrouvés dans les marais danois posaient de nombreuses questions.

Les historiens avaient tendance à penser que ces pratiques étaient le fait de peuplades arriérées et quand ils en avaient connaissance en Grèce, c’était, croyaient-ils, dans l’antiquité la plus lointaine. Pausanias (l’historien grec du 2 e siècle après J.C. ) refusa lui-même de divulguer les détails du sacrifice accompli a u sommet du Mt Lycée e n Arcadie et qui comportait la mort et le dépeçage d’un enfant mangé collectivement chaque année : « Je ne voyais aucun plaisir à étudier ces sacrifices, disait Pausanias, laissons les tels qu’ils sont et tels qu’ils ont été depuis les origines » .

Quant aux ethnologues et aux ethnographes, ils ont la plupart du temps été très discrets sur des pratiques qui les gênaient beaucoup : o u bien ils avaient très peu de renseignements, car bien entendu on se cachait des blancs, sauf dans les débuts de la pénétration européenne (mais alors ils n’étaient guère en état de faire des observations correctes), o u bien on leur disait que la chose n’avait plus cours : un dogon interrogé par Griaule racontait qu’autrefois on immolait un albinos pour emporter un message à Dieu mais que cela ne se faisait plus : « ils sont comptés maintenant  » affirmait-i l ou bien ils avaient peur que l’évocation de ces sacrifices ne nuise à l a réputation de la population, objet de leurs études et à laquelle ils s’étaient le plus souvent sentimentalement attachés .

Et puis il y avait les professionnels de la mauvaise conscience et qui mélangeaient tout :

– les vaincus passés au fil de l’épée par le vainqueur afin de manifester sa puissance, afin d’intimider les agresseurs éventuels et dissuader des attaques toujours possibles,

– les condamnés à mort dont l’exécution était tout à la fois châtiment de leur crime et élimination d’un danger futur, danger qui d’ailleurs peut-être moral, qu’on songe à Socrate ( + 399 avant J.C.) considéré com e opposant à la cité et corrupteur de la jeunesse,

– les victimes des innombrables vendettas qui se déroulaient ou se déroulent encore dans le monde, ainsi la guerre du chien chez les Mongo dans le s années 1920 fit des milliers de victimes;

– les serviteurs ou les femmes tués ou enterrés vivants dans ou à côté de la tombe de leur maître afin d’aller le servir dans l’autre monde ;

– l’immolation de martyrs qu’ils soient religieux ou politiques et le plus souvent politico-religieux par exemple :

– Husay , petit-fils de Mahomet massacré à Karbala e n Irak , en 680 , car il ne voulait pas reconnaître Yazid comme iman. Cette mort est commémorée par les Chiites lors des fêtes de l’Achura (les Chiite s sont le s partisans de l a succession du prophète par les Alides (descendants de Fatima) ;

– les martyrs chrétiens de l’empire romain qui représentaient plus un danger politique que religieux, par leur refus de rendre un culte aux empereurs; – toutes le s victimes de toutes les guerres « saintes » ;

– le meurtre d’empoisonneurs supposés avoir tué réellement ou par magie: dans de nombreuses populations, en effet , i l n’ y a pa s d e « mort naturelle » , il y a toujours un ou des responsables qu’on découvre le plus souvent par divination;

– la mort programmée des rois sacrés africains à qui l’on présentait le poison ou bien que l’on étouffait (car il ne fallait pas répandre le sang), aux premiers signes de faiblesse ou de vieillissement.

Tous ces morts, tous ces exécutés ne sont pas victimes de sacrifices humains bien que dans certaines sociétés il n’est pas de situation critique à laquelle on ne réponde par le sacrifice, et où dans le cas où le groupe est menacé on n’envisage l’immolation d’un humain, immolation qui clôt le cycle des vengeances…

Nous avions oublié les dangers des désirs de vengeance, nous les voyons ressurgir autour de nous aussitôt que s’affaiblit le système judiciaire : ainsi en est-i l aujourd’hui en Yougoslavie. Il nous faut donc examiner la notion même de sacrifice : sacrifier quelque chose ou quelqu’un c’est rendre la chose ou la personne sacrée , c’est-à-dire la séparer de soi, la séparer du monde profan , la donner à Dieu, aux dieux ou aux déesses.

Le bien offert devenant propriété du ou des dieux devient inaliénable, il peut être détruit, mais il peut aussi devenir seulement intouchable – qu’on songe aux vierges consacrées dans tant de religions .

Sacrifier c’est être dans la logique d’un échange : l’homme donne ce qu’il a, et au maximum quelqu’un de son espèce, voire de sa famille – pour obtenir de la divinité des biens que seule la puissance créatrice peut distribuer : la santé, l a purification, la fertilité de la terre, la fécondité du bétail ou des épouses…

Toute la vertu du sacrifice réside dans l’idée que l’on peut agi r sur les forces spirituelles par l’offrande de biens matériels, offrande, bien entendu assortie de prières, d’incantations, de suppliques. Le sacrifice passe même pour être un meilleur moyen que la prière souvent ignorée…

Il faut que le Transcendant soit puissant pour qu’on lui offre le bien suprême qui est si souvent un enfant c’est-à-dire l’espoir et l’avenir du groupe, l’objet des soins et de l’amour de ses parents. Il est vrai que nous avons de la peine à comprendre les formes que peut prendre cet amour. C’es t l’anthropologue Johan Reinhard qui explique : « Les Incas faisaient une faveur à ces enfants puisqu’il s devenaient des dieux après leur mort » . « Il s étaient même célébrés comme des demi-dieux pendant les dix jours de fête précédant leur mise à mort « :

Deux fois par an, aux solstices d’été et d’hiver, les meilleures récoltes, les plus beaux animaux, les plus fins vêtements, les plus précieuses œuvres d’art et les plus joli s enfants étaient rassemblés (de l’Equateur jusqu’au Chili) et amenés à Cuzco , la capitale inca perchée à 3 650 m d’altitude en 4 grandes processions convergentes, chacune venant d’une province… Cuzco n’était pas seulement une capitale politique, c’était le mandala qui maintenait la cohésion de l’empire.

Après une purification rituelle les enfants écoutaient le grand prêtre leur expliquer les bienfaits que leur sacrifice apporterait à l’Empire et à eux-mêmes. Accompagnés de leur mère ils processionnaient autour des statues des principaux dieux : Viracocha , l e Dieu d u Soleil , l e Die u de s Eclairs , ou celui de la Lune. L’inca ordonnait alors aux prêtres d’emporter leur part des offrande s et de s sacrifiés à immoler aux plus grands autels de leur région.

De nouveaux grands défilés se dirigeaient vers les provinces et finalement montaient à ces autels situés très haut dans les montagnes .

Avan t d e procéde r a u sacrific e le s prêtre s disaien t un e prière , pa r exempl e à Viracoch a l e créateu r : « Dispensateu r d e vie , to i qu i décide s d u jou r e t d e l a nuit , to i qu i engendre s l’auror e e t l a lumièr e di s à to n fil s l e solei l d e brille r e n pai x e t e n sérénité , d e brille r a u dessu s d e ceu x qu i l’attendent , d e le s protége r contr e le s maladie s etc.. « 

A e n croir e l a légend e d e Tant a Carhua , un e fillett e sacrifié e à 1 0 ans , le s festivité s inca s préparaien t parfaitemen t le s victime s à leu r sor t : « vou s pouve z e n fini r ave c moi , maintenant , aurait-ell e dit , j e n e pourrai s pa s êtr e plu s honoré e qu e pa r le s fête s qu’o n a célébrée s pou r mo i à Cuzco » .

Le s victime s étaien t de s ambassadeur s auprè s de s dieux . Elle s devaien t mouri r heureuse s ca r u n représentan t e n colèr e e t rempl i d e mauvais e volont é n’aurai t pa s ét é u n bo n défenseu r de s intérêt s d e se s mandants .

L e sacrific e humai n engendr e auss i 3 sorte s d e demi-dieu x : l a victi – m e qu i dispens e dorénavan t santé , travail , fertilit é etc. . s a tomb e étan t centr e d’u n pouvoi r magique , deuxièm e demi-die u l e commanditair e qu i profit e a u mieu x d u sacrific e consent i o u payé.. . qu i es t considér é comm e invincibl e à caus e de s pouvoir s conféré s pa r le s pacte s scellé s pa r leur s sacrifices . Enfi n l e sacrificateu r lu i même , ca r observan t de s pacte s ave c le s puissance s surnaturelles , i l n e peu t qu’e n recevoi r succès , richess e e t considération .

Pou r profite r de s bienfait s d u sacrific e i l convien t d e s’associe r à l a victim e : soi t e n mangean t s a chair , soi t e n procuran t l e sacrifié , e n l e parant , l e nourrissan t etc. .

Mai s peu t s’établi r un e relatio n contradictoir e entr e l e sacrifi é e t se s sacrificateurs . S i l a victim e n’es t pa s consentante , o n pense , a u Pérou , qu e so n âm e devien t l’esclav e de s « tius  » (esprit s d e l a montagne ) e t peu t tue r à leu r place . Ains i a-t-o n peu r qu e l e mor t n e s e libèr e e t n e vienn e s e venger . Auss i o n tach e d e s e concilie r so n espri t pa r de s prière s e t de s culte s o ù s e marquen t le s influence s chrétienne s : o n le s appell e d’ailleur s de s « misses » . I l sembl e bie n qu e le s sacrifice s humain s s e pratiquen t aujourd’hui , encore , dan s le s Audes , Patric k Tierne y a recueill i d e nombreu x témoi – gnage s e t fai t éta t d’article s d e journau x d e l a Pa z o u d e Santiago .

E n 196 0 u n orpheli n aurai t ét é sacrifi é a u Lag o Bud i (a u su d d e Santiago ) pou r fair e cesse r u n ra z d e marée , e n 198 6 u n paysa n aurai t ét é sacrifi é pou r calme r l a colèr e d e l a natur e qu i faisai t monte r le s eau x d u La c Titicaca , e n 198 3 u n homm e aurai t ét é pend u dan s l a mêm e régio n (côt é Pérou ) pou r lutte r contr a l a sécheresse . O n accus e d e ce s crime s le s chamane s qu i « parlen t a u diable » , le s narcotrafiquant s o u le s commer – çant s qu i veulen t réussir .

Dan s notr e sphèr e culturell e Eschyl e narr e l e sacrific e d’Iphigéni e :

Le s Dieux , e t e n particulie r Artémi s (don t l e cult e comprenai t parfoi s de s sacrifice s humains ) avaien t immobilis é le s vaisseau x d’Agamenno n – Artémi s avai t pri s parti e pou r Troi e – dan s l e Golf e d’Argos . Le s Dieu x avaien t avert i Agamenno n qu’il s lu i accorderaien t u n ven t favorabl e seulemen t s’i l leu r immolai t s a fill e Iphigénie . Longtemp s Agamenno n hésit a pui s i l immol a Iphigénie . A u mêm e instan t le s vent s s e levèren t mai s l e desti n tomb a su r l a nuqu e d’Agamenno n : i l ser a tu é pa r l’aman t d e s a femm e Chytemnestre , leque l ser a tu é pa r Orest e qu i poignarder a auss i s a mèr e pou r l a puni r ains i qu e so n aman t d’avoi r tu é so n père.

Pou r comprendr e c e geste , c e sacrific e innommabl e – c e qu i n e veu t pa s dir e l’approuve r – nou s allon s fair e un e sort e d’inventair e de s mobile s qu i l e provoquen t : Fondation s d e ville s Nou s avon s déj à évoqu é l e meurtr e d e Remu s pa r Romulus , pou r n e pa s multiplie r le s exemple s j e m e born e à cite r l a fondatio n d e l’un e de s cité s Kotok o (su r le s cour s inférieur s d u Char i e t d u Logone ) : Logon e Birn i exige a l e sacrific e d e l a fill e d e l’u n de s groupe s e t d u garço n d e l’autr e muré s vivant s dan s l’épaisseu r d u mu r d’enceinte , Madam e Lebeu f qu i étudi a ce s principauté s expliqu e : « l e sacrific e d’u n de s fondateur s o u d e s a progénitur e es t u n act e essentiel . I l scell e l’unio n d e l’homm e ave c l e so l d e l’espac e réserv é mai s l’unio n de s groupe s étranger s entr e eux » . Intronisatio n d e Roi s L a traditio n Yoroub a voulai t qu e l e jou r d e l’intronisatio n d e l’on i d’If é (If é es t l’antiqu e capital e d’o ù son t parti s le s yoroub a don t l a tradi – tion , no n écrite , a ét é évoqué e pa r d e nombreu x informateur s don t l’u n de s dernier s es t mor t e n 1930) , qu e l e jou r d e cett e intronisation , u n esclav e étai t amen é a u palai s richemen t habill é e t coiff é d’un e couronn e d e cauris . Ce t esclav e (ro i d’u n jour ) recevai t le s dignitaire s d e l a cour , dan s diffé – rente s partie s d u palai s assi s su r u n trône , pui s i l quittai t l e palai s e t l a vill e d’If é pou r toujours . Comm e o n n e doi t jamai s dir e qu e l e ro i es t mor t mai s qu’i l es t parti , o n peu t suppose r qu e c e ro i d’u n jou r étai t exécuté .

Mort des Roi s

A l a fi n d u XVIII e siècl e (1778-1786 ) J.-F . Landolph e décri t le s funéraille s d e l’Ob a (ro i d u Bénin) .

O n creus e un e tomb e dan s l’un e de s cour s d u palais . C’es t u n tro u larg e d e 4 pied s carré s e t profon d d e 30 . O n y descen d l e cadavr e roya l ains i qu e se s premier s ministre s vivants . L’ouvertur e es t fermé e pa r un e grand e trapp e d e bois . Tou s le s jour s o n apport e de s vivre s e t o n demand e s i l e ro i es t mort . Le s survivant s réponden t qu’i l es t bie n malade . O n agi t ains i jusqu’ à c e qu e l’o n n’obtienn e plu s d e réponses . Pendan t c e temp s l’anarchi e es t instauré e dan s l a ville , de s homme s masqué s parcouren t le s rue s d e l a vill e e t fon t vole r l a têt e d e ceu x qu’il s rencontren t d’u n cou p d e coupe-coupe . L e san g es t recueill i dan s de s bassine s e t i l es t vers é su r l e tombea u de s rois .

Plu s tar d le s corp s son t sorti s d e l a foss e e t ceu x de s ministre s rendu s à leu r famill e tandi s qu e l e ro i es t inhum é dan s un e vast e cou r sou s l e portiqu e don t le s pilier s son t sculptés . C e lieu , di t l’auteur , étai t couver t d e san g humai n e t u n énorm e serpen t sculpt é dan s de s dent s d’éléphan t emboîtée s l’un e dan s l’autr e semblai t descendr e d u toi t e t pénétre r dan s l a tombe . N’oublion s pa s qu e l e serpen t es t symbol e d’éternit é e t plu s encor e d’éterne l retour .

Mai s le s sacrifice s n’e n étaien t pa s terminé s pou r autant .Deu x foi s pa r a n avaien t lie u d’important s rituel s qu i comportaien t de s offrandes , notammen t celle s d e 1 2 victime s humaine s ains i qu e 1 2 chiens , vaches , moutons , boucs , poulet s e t u n poisson . Ce s rituel s d e commémoratio n étaien t organisé s pa r l e ro i régnan t e n l’honneu r d e so n pèr e décédé , l’Ob a allai t voi r le s victime s humaine s ligotée s e t assise s e t le s chargeait , à voi x haut e d e message s pou r so n père . Alor s avai t lie u l’exécutio n : l a victim e s’avançai t bâillonné e ell e étai t assommé e pa r devan t e t pa r derrière . Allongé e alor s à terr e ell e étai t égorgé e e t so n san g recueill i arrosai t le s tombeau x de s rois .

Un e autr e grand e fêt e honorai t l e ro i régnan t lui-mêm e e t comportai t égalemen t de s sacrifices .

E n pay s Kotok o (Tchad , frontièr e Nigeria ) à Makari , l a traditio n assur e qu’ à chaqu e intronisatio n l e cora n étai t recouver t d e l a pea u d e l a mèr e d u M e (prince ) e t d e cell e d’u n bœu f immol é e n mêm e temp s qu’elle , qu’i l étai t ensuit e plac é dan s u n étu i d e cui r multicolor e e t soustrai t au x regards .

Obtentio n d e faveur s importante s

L’immolatio n d e victime s humaine s n e s’impos e qu e lorsqu e le s faveur s sollicitée s d e l’au-del à son t importantes . Nou s avon s évoqu é l e sacrific e d’Iphigéni e pa r so n père , sacrific e auque l devai t consenti r l a victim e elle-mêm e : Racin e me t dan s l a bouch e d e so n héroïn e : « i l fau t de s Dieu x apaise r l a colère  » avan t qu’ell e n e s e voi t substitue r un e jeun e captiv e Eriphèle , fill e caché e d’Hélèn e e t d e Thésée , don c ell e auss i d u san g d’Hélène .

A u Pérou , d e même , l a victim e devai t êtr e consentante . Alor s ell e devenai t Die u e t sourc e d e félicit é e t d e pouvoi r pou r celu i qu i e n faisai t l’offrande . L a fillett e don t nou s avon s parl é e t qu i es t révéré e sou s l’appellatio n d e « Tant a Carhua » , valu t à so n pèr e nommé e che f d e l a communaut é dan s le s jour s qu i suiviren t l’emmuremen t d e s a fill e consa – cré e a u soleil .

Su r l’îl e mélanésienn e d e Malekul a u n homm e qu i sacrifi e u n jeun e garçon , e n mêm e temp s qu’u n sanglie r particulier , devien t seigneu r de s enfer s e t possèd e u n pouvoi r su r l’ensembl e d e l a tribu .

O n gagn e pourrait-o n dir e u n pouvoi r magiqu e à l a mesur e d u sacri – fic e consenti .

C’es t c e pouvoi r qu’o n recherchait , e n Afrique , e n entran t dan s le s société s secrète s dite s de s hommes-lions , de s hommes-léopard s o u croco – diles . Pou r y entre r i l fallai t « offrir  » quelqu e membr e d e s a famille , don t un e parti e (o u l a totalité ) d u corp s étein t partagé e e t mangé e pa r le s membre s d e l a confrérie . Le s faveur s demandée s peuven t êtr e moin s importante s à no s yeu x :

Che z le s Peu l d u Foulado u (Ht e Casamance ) o n célèbr e encor e aujourd’hu i u n importan t ritue l e n l’honneu r de s vaches . Le s vache s c’es t l a vi e mêm e pou r ce s pasteurs.. . auss i pou r e n obteni r n’hésitait – (n’hésite ) o n pa s à passe r u n pact e ave c Gaari-Jinn e (l e génie-taureau) ? Celu i qu i veu t avoi r u n troupea u peu t offri r secrètemen t s a femme , so n enfan t – autrefoi s san s dout e de s esclave s – . Alor s l a victim e tomb e devan t l e troupea u d e vache s d e l a communaut é qu i arriv e e n galopan t pou r partici – pe r a u rituel . Ell e tomb e e t meur t – parfoi s piétinée , parfoi s d e maladi e dan s le s jour s suivant s – . Implore r l e pardo n C’es t u n autr e moti f pou r sacrifie r u n humai n e t e n particulie r u n enfant . Lor s d e terrible s ra z d e maré e : E n 196 0 eu t lie u l’exécutio n d’u n peti t garço n orpheli n (enviro n 6 ans) , prè s d u lag o Bud i a u Chili . O n lu i arrach a l e cœu r e t le s intestin s qu’o n jet a à l’eau . C’es t pou r montre r so n obéissanc e à Die u qu’Abraha m failli t bie n immole r so n fil s Isaa c (XIX e siècl e avan t J.-C) . Mai s c’étai t e n l’honneu r d e Moloch , Dieu x de s cananéen s e t de s phénicien s qu’étaien t immolé s d e nombreu x enfant s qu’o n brûlai t dan s de s « Tophets » . Manassé , fil s d’Ezéchias , « fi t passe r so n fil s pa r l e feu , pratiqu a l’astrologi e e t l a magie , institu a nécromanci e e t devins  » ( 2 roi s 2/16) . Acha z 12 e ro i d e Juda , ro i d e Jérusalem , e n avai t fai t autan t « i l fi t fume r l’encen s dan s l a vill e d e Be n Hinno m e t brûl a se s fil s pa r l e feu » , selo n le s abomination s de s nation s qu’avaien t dépossédée s Yahw e devan t le s fil s d’Israë l ( 2 chronique s 28/3) . L a rein e Dido n d e Ty r ayan t emport é à Carthag e – qu’ell e aurai t fond é a u IX e siècl e avan t J.-C . – le s Dieu x d e Phénicie , o n trouvait , e n Tunisi e u n « tophet  » ave c de s stèle s sacrificielle s e n l’honneu r d e Baal – Hammo n e t d e Tarit-Astart é (déess e d e l a fécondité) . Renouvellemen t d u mond e L e mond e vieillissant , le s organisation s s e dégradan t i l convien t d e l e renouvele r comm e d e refair e le s force s d’u n souverain . E n Crète , l e roi-prêtr e qu i portai t l e no m d e Mino s régnai t pendan t un e périod e d e 9 ans , A u bou t d e c e temp s l a puissanc e divin e qu i lu i avai t ét é insufflé e étai t considéré e comm e épuisée . I l s e rendai t alor s dan s l’antr e d e l a Montagn e Id a (o ù Zeu s enfan t avai t ét é élev é pa r 3 nymphes) . I l y apprenai t toute s le s faute s qu’i l avai t commises . Pendan t so n séjou r tout e l’îl e vivai t dan s l’angoiss e e t sacrifiai t jusqu’ à de s hommes . Te l étai t l e sor t de s 7 jeune s gen s e t 7 jeune s filles , tribu t qu e tou s le s neu f an s le s peuple s devaien t offri r a u Minotaure , hôt e d e l a grott e labyrinthiqu e d e l’Ida . Rappelon s qu e l e « monstre  » fu t vainc u pa r Thésé e qu i deviendr a ro i à so n tour . Tou s le s 9 an s égalemen t le s tribu s venan t d u pay s entie r s e réunis – saien t à Uppsal a pou r renouvele r le s pouvoir s d u roi . Chacu n devai t apporte r 9 offrande s : chevaux , chien s e t hommes . Le s victime s étaien t pendue s mai s auss i atteinte s d’u n cou p d e lance . De s exécution s d u mêm e genr e s e pratiquaien t a u Danemar k e t e n Norvège .

A l a fi n d u 1 e r siècl e d e notr e èr e Tacit e décri t l e sanctuair e d’u n peupl e germaniqu e : le s Semnome s qu i occupaien t u n vast e territoir e entr e Elbe , Odes , Varth a e t Vistule . I l assur e qu’ à de s époque s déterminée s de s députation s de s peuple s se retrouvaien t pou r pratique r de s « rite s barbares  » e t immolaien t u n homm e (a u moins) . L’affair e de s 9 an s es t extrêmemen t intéressant e ca r c e cycl e est , dan s l’antiquité , ressent i comm e à pe u prè s capabl e d e mettr e e n accor d l e cour s d u solei l ave c celu i d e l a lune , c’es t à dir e l a vi e social e d u ro i ( = soleil ) ave c l a natur e ( = lune) . Assure r l’ordr e d u Mond e Enfi n l e principa l mobil e d e l’exécutio n d e victime s humaine s es t d’assure r l’ordr e d u monde . E n méso-amérique , avan t l a dominatio n de s Aztèques , l e débu t d e l’anné e étai t marqué e pa r de s sacrifice s d’enfant s su r l e somme t de s montagne s ; lor s d e l a fêt e de s Dieu x e t Déesses , de s homm e o u de s femme s ayan t jou é pendan t quelque s jour s o u quelque s heure s l e rôl e d e leu r « patron » , étaien t immolé s a u somme t d e pyramide s pa r u n prêtr e portan t parfoi s lu i auss i l e costum e e t l e masqu e d u Die u o u d e l a Déesse . O n l e voi t bie n i l y a l à symbolism e d e l a Mor t e t d e l a résurrectio n d u Dieu . Parfoi s u n homme , prêtr e o u non , revêtai t l a pea u d u o u d e l a suppli – ciée , imag e d u Dieu , av e l e mêm e symbolisme . Le s Aztèque s ayan t développ é u n nouvea u myticism e e t décri t l e solei l comm e devan t recevoi r d e grande s quantité s d e san g pou r survivre , i l leu r fallu t s’empare r d e nombreu x prisonnier s d e guerr e afi n d e pouvoi r e n immole r chaqu e mati n : o n arrachai t leu r cœu r encor e palpitan t a u moye n d’u n coutea u d’obsidienn e e t o n l’élevai t pou r l’offri r a u soleil . Avan t le s Incas , le s indien s de s Ande s rendaien t de s culte s au x eau x e t au x montagnes , e t san s dout e à u n coupl e formé e de s une s e t de s autre s (la c d e haut e montagn e coupl é ave c u n hau t sommet , pa r exemple ) le s Inca s on t assum é ce s ancien s culte s e n le s réorientan t ver s l e soleil , seu l capabl e d e surpasse r le s Dieu x de s montagnes . Elue s d u solei l le s victime s humaine s auraien t jou é u n autr e rôle . O n aurait , dan s le s Andes , pratiqu é de s sacrifice s pou r apaise r de s conflit s internes , pou r renforce r l’harmoni e entr e classe s sociale s e n cimentan t le s relation s ave c l’Inca . Telle s es t l a thès e d e Abbo t Cristoba l d e Molin a (XVIe ) qui , e n bo n observateur , avai t not é qu e l a redistributio n de s victime s à parti r d e l a capital e aurai t apais é le s rancœur s qu e l’inégalit é de s peuple s pouvai t développer .

O n retrouv e dan s c e réci t d u jésuit e c e qu’assur e Ren é Girar d : l e sacrific e qu i es t un e violenc e es t un e manièr e d’arrête r l e cycl e intermi – nabl e de s vendetta s individuelle s o u d e groupe . L a violenc e sacrificiell e s’opposerai t à l a violenc e « naturelle  » Le s humain s sacrifié s étaient , dan s tou s le s ca s de s messager s choisi s e t chargé s d’u n rôl e d e médiatio n entr e le s homme s e t le s Dieux . Cett e théologi e d e l a médiatio n perme t d e comprendr e (no n d’approuver ) l e cannibalism e ritue l qu i associ e à l a victim e l’ensembl e de s participants . C e n’es t pa s pa r goû t n i pa r instinc t qu e l’homm e es t cannibale , mai s à l a suit e d’un e théologi e e t d’un e mythologie . L’homm e sai t qu’i l doi t tue r de s animau x pou r vivre.. . i l extrapol e e t pens e qu’i l doi t tue r de s homme s pou r fair e vivr e l’au-delà , répétan t rituellemen t u n premie r meurtr e qu i eu t lie u dan s l e mond e de s Dieu x o u dan s celu i de s ancêtres . L e démembremen t d’u n Die u serai t l e modèl e d u sacrific e humain . L’Egypt e a fai t d’Osiri s l e Die u mor t e t ressuscit é : épou x d e s a sœu r Isis , fil s d u die u terr e Ge b e t d e l a déess e cie l Nout , frèr e d e Seth , Osiri s étai t – selo n le s récit s mythologique s – u n Dieu-ro i for t aimé . So n frèr e Seth , jaloux , fi t fair e u n coffr e superbemen t décor é et , a u cour s d’u n banquet , promi t d e l’offri r à celu i qu i pourrai t l e rempli r exactement . Comm e i l avai t ét é fai t au x mesure s d’Osiris , seu l celui-c i pu t s’ y couche r exactement . Aussitô t l e couvercl e rabatt u e t scellé , l e coffr e es t jet é a u Nil . Isi s l e recherch e e t l e retrouv e à Byblos . Ell e ramèn e l e corp s d’Osiri s e n Egypt e mai s Set h réussi t à s’e n empare r à nouvea u e t à démembre r l e corps . I l e n répan d le s morceau x à traver s l’Egypte . Isi s recherch e ce s morceaux , le s recoll e à l’exceptio n d u péni s qu i rest e introuvable . Selo n un e autr e versio n ell e inhum e chaqu e morcea u à l’endroi t o ù i l a ét é retrouv é e t à qu i es t ains i apporté e l a fertilit é e t l a résurrectio n es t antérieure . Quoiqu’i l e n soi t Isi s a u n enfan t posthum e d’u n épou x mor t e t ressuscité . C’es t enfan t c’es t Horu s – die u Fauco n – . E n Mésopotamie , selo n l e myth e babylonie n d e créatio n d e l’Univer s qu i étai t déclam é lor s de s fête s d u nouve l a n : a u commencemen t i l n’ y avai t qu e le s eau x douce s (Apsû ) e t le s eau x salée s Tiamat) . D e c e coupl e naissen t de s génération s d e Dieux , don t l’u n tu e Aps û e t l e remplac e comm e roi . I l engendr e Mardu k qu i attaqu e l a terribl e Tiamat . A lie u u n terribl e comba t don t Mardu k sor t vainqueur . I l fen d e n 2 l e cadavr e d e Tiama t e t d’un e moiti é form e l e cie l e t le s étoile s (e t auss i l a lune ) don t l’autr e form e l a Terr e o ù coulen t l e Tigr e e t l’Euphrat e issue s de s yeu x d e Tiamat.. . L’épou x d e Tiama t : King u es t alor s sacrifi é pou r qu e naiss e l’homm e ( à l’aid e don c d u san g d’u n Dieu ) o n compren d dè s lor s qu e l e servic e de s Dieu x ser a l e lo t d e l’humanité . I l fau t don c le s nourri r pa r de s offrande s : pains , viandes , mai s auss i légume s e t fruits . I l n e sembl e pa s y avoi r e u d e sacrific e humain , cependan t dan s le s tombe s royale s d’U r o n a trouv é le s squelette s d e nombreuse s personne s venue s (volontairemen t o u non ) prendr e plac e auprè s d e leu r maîtr e o u maîtresse . C’es t a u sacrific e d’u n Die u o u à so n auto-sacrific e qu’es t du e l a naissanc e d u mond e e n Grèc e comm e che z le s May a e t le s Dogon . Dionyso s es t u n die u énigmatiqu e don t l e no m signifi e  » 2 foi s né » , u n die u qu i meur t e t qu i renaît . I l es t san s dout e un e divinit é trè s archaïque , peut-êtr e originair e d’Anatolie , e n tou s ca s attesté e e n Crèt e o ù avai t lie u u n cult e d e Dionyso s enfan t s e confondan t ave c l e Zagreu s d e Mt-Ida . Zagreus-Dionyso s es t fil s d e Perséphon e déess e infernal e e t d e Zeu s (sou s form e d e serpent) . I l es t don c li é au x puissance s chtonniennes , i l évoqu e l e cycl e hive r (mort ) / printemp s (retou r de s force s d e vie) . Zagreu s a ét é déchir é e t dévor é enfant , sou s form e d e taureau , pa r de s Titans . A l’imitatio n d u sacrific e d e Zagreu s – Dionyso s qu i es t réput é favorise r l a renaissanc e e t l a croissanc e d e l a végétation , u n jeun e garço n étai t immol é e n Crète . Cett e victim e humain e avai t régn é pendan t un e journée . I l avai t alor s exécut é un e dans e illustran t le s 5 saisons , miman t l e lion , l a chèvre , l e cheval , l e serpen t e t l e veau . Aprè s quo i i l étai t sacrifi é e t mangé . Marsya s étai t am i d e l a déess e Cybèle , i l jouai t d e l a flût e pou r l a charmer . C’étai t dit-o n u n « satyre  » (o u silène ) d e Phrygie , Marsya s os a provoque r Apollo n e n comparan t s a flût e à l a lyr e d e celui-ci . Apollo n vainqui t Marsyas , pa r ruse , e n défian t so n adversair e d e fair e c e qu’i l faisai t c’est-à-dir e joue r à l’envers , c e qu’o n pouvai t ave c l a lyr e e t no n à l a flûte . Apollon , pou r s e venger , écorch a vi f Marsya s e t clou a s a pea u à u n pin , arbr e d e Cybèle , so n corp s démembr é fu t répand u dan s le s champ s pou r le s fertilisés . Ce s exemple s montren t bie n qu e l e sacrific e d’u n Die u cré e o u entre – tien t l e monde , lu i procur e l a fécondité .

Dan s l e Popo l Vuh , l e gran d text e May a écri t ver s 155 0 pa r u n lettr é quiche , le s Dieu x son t présenté s comm e de s humain s géant s comm e d e trè s grand s magicien s don t le s acte s e t le s création s furen t l e résulta t d e parole s magiques . Un e guerr e inexpiabl e éclat a entr e de s Dieu x lumineu x e t bienfaisant s e t le s Dieu x ténébreu x e t malfaisants . Cett e bataill e pri t figur e d e parti e d e je u d e paum e e t le s Dieu x lumineu x duren t feindr e d e s e laisse r tue r : rit e obligatoir e pou r passe r d u pay s d e l a Xibalb a (mort ) a u pay s d e l a vie . Ayan t remport é l a victoir e le s 2 magicien s montèren t a u cie l e t y devinren t solei l e t lune . A l’imag e d e l a lutt e de s Dieux , le s ancêtre s entamèren t un e lutt e a u je u d e paume . U n héro s ancestra l fu t décapit é e t s a têt e abandonné e su r l a plac e d u je u d e balle . Ell e y donn a naissanc e à de s fruit s e t engendr a un e descendance . O n voi t don c o ù s’ancr e l’idé e d u sacrific e humai n fécondateur . O n voi t auss i naîtr e l a nécessit é d u sacrific e pou r qu e viv e l e monde : le s Dieu x on t fai t coule r leu r san g pou r l e créer , le s homme s doiven t fair e coule r l e leu r pou r l e maintenir . Lor s don c le s cité s may a entrèren t e n guerr e no n afi n d e s’asservi r mai s d e fair e de s prisonnier s qu e l’o n puiss e immole r a u somme t de s pyramide s o u plu s souven t encor e a u cour s d’u n je u d e balle . L e ro i étai t guerrie r e t i l sacrifiai t le s prisonnier s mai s i l étai t auss i demi-Die u e t lor s de s cérémonie s rituelle s i l faisai t coule r so n propr e san g e n s e lacéran t notammen t l e lob e d e l’oreille , l a langu e e t l e péni s (l a rein e faisai t d e mêm e e n tiran t un e cord e à épine s à traver s s a langu e perforée) . C e faisan t le s souverain s répétaien t l e myth e créateu r e t l e reproduisan t assuraien t l a continuit é d e l a vie . L e san g étai t recueill i su r de s bande s d e papie r qu e de s acolyte s brûlaien t : l a fumé e l’emportai t a u ciel . Su r terr e le s souverain s étaien t alor s san s dout e e n proi e à de s phéno – mène s hallucinatoire s qu i leu r donnaien t un e versio n d e l’autr e monde . Le s Aztèque s venu s d u nor d d u Mexiqu e poussèren t jusqu’au x extrême s cett e nécessit é d u san g pou r qu e viv e leu r Die u l e solei l e t l’Univers , s a création . Che z le s Dogon , l e die u suprêm e Amm a ayan t cré é l e mond e pui s le s végétau x voulu t forme r 4 paire s d e jumeaux . I l procéd a pa r dédouble – ment s successif s créan t d’abor d le s mâle s pui s élaboran t dan s l e placent a le s jumelles . L e 4 e mâl e Og o s’impatientan t vol a l e morcea u d e placent a d’o ù devai t naîtr e s a jumelle . S e révoltan t contr e Amma , i l vol a auss i l a premièr e grain e créée.

Og o es t bie n évidemmen t l e perturbateur , l e désordonnateu r d u monde . Le s Dogo n l e décriven t comm e l e renar d pâl e (chacal) . Pou r remettr e d e l’ordr e dan s l e monde , Amm a transform a l e morcea u d e placent a e n terre . Pui s i l sacrifi a l e Nomm o (jumea u mâl e d’Og o e t don c participan t à l a responsabilit é d’Ogo , d u fai t mêm e d e cett e gémellité) . Ains i Nomm o fut-i l démembr é e t le s morceau x e n furent-il s lancé s au x 4 angle s cardinau x d e l’espace . D u sex e d e Nomm o naqui t l’étoil e Sirius , l a trac e d u san g créan t Vénus . C e sacrific e scell a l’éche c d u 1 e r mond e voul u pa r Amma , i l l e réorganis a don c pa r l a souffrance . Amm a rassembl a ensuit e l e corp s d e Nomm o e t l e ressuscit a sou s form e d e jumeau x mixte s humains . U n sacrific e commémorati f à lie u a u momen t d e l a fêt e de s semailles . Nou s penson s qu’autrefoi s avai t lie u u n sacrific e humain , aujourd’hu i remplac é pa r un e victim e animal e qu i es t mangé e pa r l a communaut é totémique . Mirce a Eliade , l e gran d ethnologu e roumai n qu i enseign a au x USA , soulignai t qu e cett e conceptio n d u sacrific e donnan t naissanc e o u régéné – ran t l e monde , proclam e qu e l a vi e es t assuré e pa r u n meurtre . Comm e l e di t Do n Eduardo , l’u n de s spécialiste s d u chamanism e andi n : l e sacrific e d’u n homm e c’es t l e sacrific e d u microcosm e a u macrocosm e qu’es t l’Univers . C’es t u n pon t e t s i l’âm e d u sacrific e es t consentant e c e peu t êtr e u n pon t cosmique . O n peu t alor s se pose r l a questio n : l a crucifixio n d e Jésus-Chris t est – ell e u n sacrific e ? J e n e veu x pa s examine r l a questio n e n théologie n – c e qu e j e n e sui s pa s – mai s e n anthropologue , sacrific e ? Certainemen t pa s ca r le s autorité s pensèren t sanctionne r un e conduit e susceptibl e d’amene r de s trouble s politiques , ca r l e peuple , qu i suivai t Jésu s quelque s jour s aupara – vant , l’abandonnèren t pa r peu r : peu r de s prêtre s qu i détestaien t l e Nazaréen , peu r d e l’occupan t qu i pourrai t sévi r contr e le s ami s d’u n rebelle . I l n’ y a pa s d e sacrific e offer t pou r l’un e de s raison s qu e nou s avon s signalée s : purification , envo i d’u n messager , etc. . S’agit-i l d’u n auto-sacrific e ? L’évangil e di t pa r exempl e : « l e fil s d e l’homm e n’es t pa s ven u pou r êtr e serv i mai s pou r servi r e t donne r s a vie , e n rançon , pou r beaucoup  » Mathie u 2 0 (28 ) e t Mar c 1 0 (32-34) . Dan s l’épîtr e au x Hébreu x 9 (26 )

Paul dit de Jésus : « Il s’est manifesté une seule fois à la fin des âges pour abolir le péché par son sacrifice. Je crois qu’il ne faut pas oublier la mentalité sacrificielle qui régnait dans le monde – rappelons-nous les taureaux immolés en l’honneur de Mithra – et qui n’est sans doute, pas abolie si l’on songe aux jeunes garçons iraniens se lançant dans les champs de mines irakiens, la clef du Paradis au cou. Mais il me semble que pour les Chrétiens il y a l à quelque chose d’unique puisque Dieu est à l a fois objet du sacrifice et destinataire du sacrifice car il est Dieu et non un Dieu, qu’ll est à la fois message, messager et récepteur du message. D’autres dieux, par exemple Odin, chez les Germains, se sacrifièrent , acceptèrent une mort rituelle, initiatique pour acquérir la connaissance suprême : de dieu des guerriers, Odin devint ainsi maître de la connaissance occulte. Mais n’oublions pas qu’il périt, englouti par le loup Fenrir et que la plupart des dieux disparurent avec lui, dans le crépuscule des dieu . Dans les auto-sacrifices que j’ai rencontrés dans les mythologies, les victimes ne se confondent pas avec le destinataire. Alors d’autres sacrifices devaient et pouvaient avoir lieu.  Je ne crois pas que l’Eucharistie chrétienn e soit un sacrifice renouvelé, le sacrifice de la croix demeurant unique mais étant présent et présenté dans le sacrement.

Je voudrais terminer cette causerie en posant une question: les archétypes sacrificiels nous quittent-ils ? En 1969, marchant sur la lune et contemplant l a sphère bleue de la terre, l’astronaute Armstrong se demandait comment une tribu primitive aurait réagi à ce magnifique spectacle: « combien de vierges lui aurait-on immolé ? » . L e psychologue Steven Kull signale que l’archétype d e l’Armageddon [montagne de rassemblement (Ap o 16,6) ] séduit des groupes religieux qui voient dans l’anéantissement du monde un ultime sacrifice purificateur : le rite de la destruction du monde.

Pétition – Non à l’interdiction de la circoncision !

CRIF

Le mardi 1er octobre 2013, l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe a adopté une résolution invitant les 47 États membres à prendre des mesures contre les « violations de l’intégrité physique des enfants » ; l’une de ces violations serait la circoncision, au même titre que la mutilation génitale féminine des enfants. Nous vous appelons à une grande mobilisation citoyenne contre ce projet injuste qui bafoue notre identité et nos libertés individuelles. Signez cette pétition initiée par le CRIF et faites-la circuler autour de vous !

Cette décision est une remise en cause inacceptable de la liberté religieuse garantie par l’article 9 de la Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme. Elle porte atteinte à l’essence même du judaïsme et des traditions qui ont accompagné l’histoire du peuple juif de par le monde. Elle agresse les communautés juives d’Europe déjà exposées à une résurgence sans précédent de l’antisémitisme. Elle est insultante quand elle met sur un pied d’égalité la circoncision et à l’excision. Elle est dangereuse car elle stigmatise les Juifs et ouvre de nouveau la porte à toutes les formes de caricatures. Elle est inconcevable pour tous ceux qui ont vécu la Shoah. Nous vous appelons à résister pour que cette décision ne soit jamais mise en application en France comme ailleurs en Europe.

Ces baptêmes royaux qui sont restés dans les mémoires

Constance Jamet

Le Figaro

20/10/2013

La famille royale lors du baptème d’Elizabeth II en 1926. Depuis 1841, soixante-dix bébés se sont fait baptiser dans la robe de dentelle et de satin portée par la fille aînée de Victoria. Depuis 2008, on utilise une reproduction. Les fonts baptismaux, en forme de lys, remontent aussi à Victoria tandis que l’eau bénite vient du Jourdain.

Lions, cérémonie secrète, bannissement, certains baptêmes à la Cour d’Angleterre ont fait des vagues. Alors que le prince William et Kate prévoient une cérémonie intime mercredi, retour sur les coups d’éclat de leurs prédécesseurs.

Après sa présentation à la presse le lendemain de sa naissance en juillet, le prince George va connaitre mercredi sa deuxième «cérémonie officielle». Le prince William et Kate baptisent mercredi leur fils dans l’intimité au Palais Saint-James. Des fuites supposées sur l’absence de certains membres de la famille royale comme la princesse Anne et Sophie de Wessex ont attisé les spéculations. Mais ceci est peu de chose comparé aux destins extraordinaires de certains baptêmes. Voyage dans le temps commenté par l’historienne canadienne Carolyn Harris, spécialiste des monarchies européennes.

• Le baptême mauvais présage. La palme revient au bien nommé mais oublié souverain Æthelred II le malavisé (968-1016). Le bébé s’oublie dans les fonts baptismaux. Furieux l’archevêque de Canterburry prédit «Par dieu et sa mère, ce sera un individu bien déplorable». Æthelred II fut détrôné par le roi du Danemark Sweyn Forkbeard. Il est resté dans l’Histoire comme un des rois les plus inefficaces de l’Angleterre saxonne.

Elizabeth I.

• Le baptême le plus rabat-joie. Elizabeth Ière (1533-1603) vient au monde dans un contexte politique tendu. Elle est le premier monarque à être baptisée dans la toute nouvelle Eglise anglicane. Pour épouser sa mère Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII a divorcé de Catherine d’Aragon, et rompu avec le Pape. Pour la frange de la population restée catholique et fidèle à Rome, il n’y a donc aucune raison de célébrer. «Ce baptême a été, comme le couronnement d’Anne Boleyn, froid et désagréable. Personne à la cour ou à Londres n’a songé à allumer les traditionnels feux de joie», se gausse un chroniqueur de l’époque, pro-Catherine d’Aragon.

• La marraine la plus généreuse. Pour la naissance en 1566 du fils de la reine d’Ecosse Mary Stuart, le futur Jacques Ier d’Angleterre, Elizabeth Ière envoie des fonts baptismaux en or. Cette bienveillance ne durera pas, la reine fera exécuter sa cousine 11 ans plus tard.

• Le baptême qui rugit. Le roi d’Ecosse Jacques VI, futur roi d’Angleterre sous le nom de Jacques Ier, veut pour son fils Henry Frederick né en 1594 une cérémonie qui surpasse toutes les précédentes. Le souverain demande comme clou de son banquet un carrosse tiré par un lion. Mais au dernier moment, le plan est abandonné, de peur que la bête ne salisse le sol. Les invités sont conviés à contempler de loin les fauves qui demeurent dans leur enclos.

Mary de Modène avec son fils.

• Le baptême clandestin. Dans une Angleterre protestante, le choix du futur Jacques II et de sa seconde femme Mary de Modène, catholiques convaincus, de baptiser clandestinement en 1675 leur aînée Catherine selon leur religion, ne peut qu’outrager la cour et le frère de Jacques, le roi Charles II chef de l’Eglise anglicane. Quand Charles II l’apprend, il arrange aussitôt un baptême anglican pour la fillette. La petite princesse meurt à neuf mois de convulsions. Aucun des enfants catholiques de Jacques II ne montera sur le trône, la lignée des Stuart s’éteint à la mort des deux filles du premier mariage de Jacques II, les reines Marie et Anne, élevées dans la foi protestante.

• Le baptême qui vire à l’affaire d’Etat. Premier monarque issue de la dynastie des Hanovre, George Ier entretient des relations détestables avec son fils, le prince de Galles bien plus populaire que lui. Celles-ci arrivent à leur point de rupture lors du baptême du cadet du prince en 1717. Tout est matière à désaccord et George Ier impose ses choix. Ulcéré que le roi ait nommé le duc de Newcastle, Lord Chambellan, parrain, le prince lance au noble honni «vous êtes un vaurien et je vous démasquerai». Sauf que le prince parlant avec un fort accent allemand, le duc comprend qu’on le provoque en duel. Scandale, George Ier bannit son fils et sa belle-fille de la cour et leur confisque la garde de leurs enfants. Le petit George William meurt à trois mois, le prince de Galles ne pardonnera jamais à son père cette séparation.

Victoria enfant.

• Le baptême suspense. En 1819, l’atmosphère est encore à la querelle familiale lorsqu’il faut prénommer la future reine Victoria. Le prince Régent et futur George IV , refuse toutes les suggestions de son frère et père de la petite fille, le duc de Kent. Vient le jour de la cérémonie, l’archevêque de Canterburry tient le nourrisson et attend la décision du prince. Celui-ci tergiverse avant de proposer Alexandrina en l’honneur du Tsar, un des parrains de l’enfant. Le duc de Kent demande le droit de donner comme deuxième prénom, Elizabeth. Le prince Régent s’y oppose mais accepte Victoria, comme la mère de l’enfant, «du moment que son nom ne précède pas celui du Tsar». Peine perdue, en montant sur le trône en 1837, la jeune femme se fera appeler Victoria.

La famille royale lors du baptème d’Elizabeth II en 1926. Depuis 1841, soixante-dix bébés se sont fait baptiser dans la robe de dentelle et de satin portée par la fille aînée de Victoria. Depuis 2008, on utilise une reproduction. Les fonts baptismaux, en forme de lys, remontent aussi à Victoria tandis que l’eau bénite vient du Jourdain.

• Une génération de baptêmes insolites. «Grand-mère» des familles royales européennes, la reine Victoria a eu des dizaines de petits-enfants. Certains ont eu droit à des baptêmes atypiques. Victoria-Melita fut une des rares membres de la famille royale à être baptisée hors du Royaume-Uni, à Malte, où son père officier de la Navy était affecté en 1877. Sa sœur cadette Batrice fut baptisée 7 ans plus tard dans la bibliothèque familiale du Kent.

• Le recordman des bonnes fées. Si les bébés royaux ont de nos jours cinq ou six parrains, Edward VIII né en 1894 en avait douze: la reine Victoria (son arrière-grand-mère), ses autres arrières grands-parents le roi et la reine de Danemark, le roi de Württemberg (un lointain cousin de sa mère), sa grand-tante la reine de Grèce, son grand-oncle le duc de Saxe-Coburg et Gotha, ses grands-parents le prince et la princesse de Galles, le cousin de son père le Tsarévitch, le duc de Cambridge (le cousin de Victoria), et ses grands-parents maternels le duc et la duchesse de Teck.


Cinéma: Le Majordome ou la subversion par le service (The Butler: when subservience becomes subversive)

23 octobre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/www.awardsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads//2013/06/butlerwindow-1370279347.jpgQuiconque veut être grand parmi vous, qu’il soit votre serviteur; et quiconque veut être le premier parmi vous, qu’il soit votre esclave. C’est ainsi que le Fils de l’homme est venu, non pour être servi, mais pour servir et donner sa vie comme la rançon de plusieurs. Jésus (Matthieu 20: 26-28)
il n’y a pas de travail insignifiant. Tout travail qui aide l’humanité a de la dignité et de l’importance. Il doit donc être entrepris avec une perfection qui ne recule pas devant la peine. Celui qui est appelé à être balayeur de rues doit balayer comme Michel-Ange peignait ou comme Beethoven composait, ou comme Shakespeare écrivait. Il doit balayer les rues si parfaitement que les hôtes des cieux et de la terre s’arrêteront pour dire : « Ici vécut un grand balayeur de rues qui fit bien son travail. Martin Luther King
Le domestique noir défie les stéréotypes raciaux en étant assidu et digne de confiance… bien que serviles, ils sont subversifs sans même le savoir. Martin Luther King Jr.
Le grand ennemi de la vérité n’est très souvent pas le mensonge – délibéré, artificiel et malhonnête – mais le mythe – persistant, persuasif et irréaliste. John Kennedy
Il n’aura même pas eu la satisfaction d’être tué pour les droits civiques. Il a fallu que ce soit un imbécile de petit communiste. Cela prive même sa mort de toute signification. Jackie Kennedy
It was people like Eugene and Helene Allen who helped build the black middle class in this country. And that is a big reason why I took this role. Oprah Winfrey
Ce qui était exceptionnel, c’était de faire un film sur une famille afro-américaine. Il y en a eu très peu. Je me souviens de Diahann Carroll dans Claudine (de John Berry) ou de Cicely Tyson dans Sounder (de Martin Ritt). Le reste, c’est mon histoire, c’est notre parcours . Lee Daniels
Devinez lequel des deux a grandi dans une Virginie sous le coup de la ségrégation, a pris un travail à la Maison-Blanche et est monté jusqu’au titre de maître d’hôtel, la plus haute position dans le service dédié à la Maison-Blanche? Devinez lequel menait une vie heureuse et paisible, et a été marié à la même femme pendant 65 ans? Et lequel avait un fils qui a honorablement servi au Vietnam et n’a jamais émis la moindre protestation durant l’ère pré- et post- droits civiques? Maintenant, devinez quel majordome a grandi dans une ferme de Géorgie, a vu son patron violer sa mère, puis son père s’élever contre ce viol, puis se faire tirer une balle dans la tête en réponse? Devinez quel majordome ressent si profondément la peine des injustices raciales de l’Amérique qu’il quitte son travail à la Maison-Blanche et rejoint son fils dans un mouvement de protestation? (…) La position de mon père sur la levée des sanctions sud-africaines dans les années 80 n’avait rien à voir avec la question strictement raciale. Il avait à faire avec la géopolitique de la guerre froide. Les faits n’ont pas d’importance pour les propagandistes créatifs de Hollywood. La vérité est trop compliquée et pas assez dramatique au goût des scénaristes, qui pensent en terme de minute, pas de contexte, quand il s’agit d’un conservateur. Contrairement à ce que les libéraux de Hollywood pensent, mon père ne voyait pas les gens en couleurs. Il les voyait en tant qu’individus américains. Michael Reagan
Les petits garçons et les petites filles américains s’assiéront ensemble dans n’importe quelle école – publique ou privée – sans aucune distinction de couleur. La ségrégation, la discrimination et le racisme n’ont pas leur place en Amérique. Vice President Richard Nixon (Campagne Eisenhower, octobre 1956)
No one should ever deny the senseless tragedies that dogged the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, including the murders of Emmett Till in 1955, of Medgar Evers in 1963, of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner 1964, and of course, of Martin Luther King in 1968. But by 1986, the United States was a different place. The Butler’s negative reimagination comes at a real social cost. Watching the movie, the viewer comes away thinking that the civil rights movement has largely failed. But the actual record is more upbeat. It is unfortunate that Daniels did not start The Butler during the Truman years. In 1948, Truman decided to desegregate the U.S. armed forces by executive order. That action would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the Second World War, given the dominant southern presence in the military. Hence, the United States had the dubious distinction of fighting Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan with segregated armed forces. Perhaps an executive order is not cinematic stuff. But the same cannot be said of baseball’s racial integration in 1947, when a determined Branch Rickey brought Jackie Robinson up from a farm team in Montreal to the Brooklyn Dodgers. That story was the subject of 1950 movie and the more recent film 42 released this year. This transformative event was done, not through legislation, but voluntarily by one courageous man who took the risk that a major backlash might follow. Change was happening at the state level as well. In 1947, New Jersey abolished segregation by a state constitutional amendment. When these changes are executed voluntarily, they are less likely to face the massive resistance that followed the Supreme Court’s decision on racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down in June 1954 and itself the culmination of a long campaign that first chopped away at segregation in railroad transportation and law school education. In time, of course, the cultural clash crystallized in the highly confrontational sit-ins that occupy much of the screen time in The Butler. It is these cases that led to the passage of Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which deals with access of all persons to public accommodations. Its basic command reads that all persons are entitled to ”the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin. Richard A. Epstein
Pourquoi les Démocrates feraient-ils l’impasse sur leur propre histoire entre 1848 et 1900 ? Peut-être parce que ce n’est pas le genre d’histoire des droits civiques dont ils veulent parler – peut-être parce que ce n’est pas le genre d’histoire de droits civiques qu’ils veulent avoir sur leur site Web. David Barton
How likely is it that the chief White House butler not only witnessed his mother raped and his father murdered by a plantation owner’s racist son but also had an intermittently estranged son of his own who became, first, one of the Fisk University student heroes of the Nashville lunch-counter sit-ins; second, one of the original Freedom Riders; third, so close an aide to King that he was in the Memphis motel room with Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, and Jesse Jackson when King was assassinated; fourth, a beret-wearing Black Panther in Oakland; fifth, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress; sixth, a leader of the South Africa divestment movement; and, seventh, a successful candidate for Congress? Hendrik Hertzberg
The Butler is fiction, although its audience may assume otherwise. Those cagey words “inspired by a true story” can be deceptive. The script was triggered by Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election.” Published after Obama’s landmark victory, and later spun into a book, it unearthed the story of former White House butler Eugene Allen, who served American presidents for 34 years. But screenwriter Danny Strong (HBO’s Game Change) has created a fictional butler named Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), whose life mirrors the drama of the civil rights movement with cut-glass symmetry. Straining to serve an overcharged agenda, The Butler is a broadly entertaining, bluntly inspirational history lesson wrapped around a family saga that gives new resonance to the term “domestic drama.” Director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) is not known for subtlety, and this movie is no exception. But at the heart of its sprawling narrative, he has corralled some fine performances. Whitaker navigates gracefully between his public and private personae—White House butlers he says, have two faces: their own “and the ones we got to show the white man.” As Cecil stoically weathers the upheavals of history, and his splintered family, we can feel him being gradually crushed under the weight of his own quiet dignity, yet mustering shy increments of resistance over the decades. Between his role as a virtually mute servant/sage in the White House and a beleaguered patriarch trying to hold together his middle-class family, this a character with a lot on his plate. The story’s long march begins with Cecil’s boyhood on a cotton plantation in the South in 1926, where he sees his father shot dead in a field for looking the wrong way at a white man. Cecil is adopted by a thin-lipped matriarch who tells him, “I’m going to teach you how to be a house nigger.” Which sounds strange coming from the mouth of Vanessa Redgrave. The term “house nigger,” and the n-word in general, recurs again and again, shocking us each time, and never letting us forget that there’s no higher house than the White House. A model of shrewd obedience, Cecil learns to make the perfect martini, to be invisible in a room, and to overhear affairs of estate in stony silence—unless asked for his opinion, which he’ll pretend to offer with a wry, Delphic diplomacy that makes the questioner feel validated. The script goes out of its way to ennoble Cecil’s work, plucking a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. —”the black domestic defies racial stereotyping by being hardworking and trustworthy … though subservient, they are subversive without even knowing it.” The Uncle Tom issue is front and centre, especially in Cecil’s feud with his radicalized son Louis (David Oyelowo), who rejects his father as a race traitor. The conflict comes to a head amid a family debate about the merits of Sidney Poitier, a legendary actor brashly dismissed by Louis as “a white man’s fantasy of what he wants us to be.” The fondly nostalgic references to In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner may fly over the heads of younger viewers. But it’s a lovely scene, mixing rancour and wit and a deft touch. Although this is a movie on a mission, it does have a sense of humour. When Cecil’s eldest son, shows up to dinner in his Black Panther beret and black leather, with a girlfriend sporting a vast Angela Davis Afro, it’s pure caricature as Daniels presents a whole other take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, played as both drama and farce. Brian D. Johnson
The film opens with young Cecil in Macon, Georgia, in the 1920s, working in a cotton field alongside his father. His mother (Mariah Carey) is raped by a white plantation overseer, Thomas Westfall (Alex Pettyfer), loud enough for everyone to hear. When Westfall returns, Cecil’s father shows his anger, and Westfall shoots him dead in front of Cecil and the other plantation workers. The plantation matriarch (Vanessa Redgrave) then decides that Cecil should leave the fields to become a “house nigger” and learn to serve her family. Those appear to be the inventions of screenplay writer Danny Strong; they are never mentioned in Haygood’s piece.Eugene Allen was born in 1919, and, like Cecil, he grew up on a plantation (in Virginia, not Georgia). He, too, became a “house boy” for a white family. When he spoke to Haygood about his childhood, “There was nary a hint of bitterness in his voice about his upbringing.” Allen left the plantation in hopes of finding better work, as Cecil does—but unlike his fictional counterpart, he never broke into a hotel restaurant to steal food. (He did, however, land a job at a Virginia hotel as a waiter, as Cecil ultimately does in North Carolina.) Allen learned of a job at a country club in Washington, D.C., a fact that aligns with Cecil’s move to the nation’s capital. But their entries to the White House differ considerably: Allen learned via word of mouth that Alonzo Fields, a black maître d’ at the White House, was looking for pantry workers, and he went to talk to him. He began working there in 1952, during the Truman administration, but didn’t get promoted to butler until several years later. In the movie, the White House calls Gaines after a white senior staffer witnesses Cecil in action at the D.C. hotel—a point Cecil, in voiceover, emphasizes proudly. Aisha Harris

Attention: une subversion peut en cacher une autre !

Mère violée, père assassiné, fils ainé panthère noire, cadet tué au Vietnam, président démocrate assassiné par le racisme, présidents républicains congénitalement racistes …

Comment devant l’histoire de ce « nègre de maison » qui finit majordome de la Maison-Blanche et qui, pendant 34 ans et de Truman à Reagan, servit huit présidents  …

Et malgré l’invraisemblable accumulation, sans parler des contre-vérités anti-républicaines, de péripéties à la Forrest Gump et de stars de la pop ou d’Hollywood que se sent obligé de lui adjoindre le film de  Lee Daniels …

Comme le véritable accident industriel que s’est révélé être l’arrivée du premier président noir à la Maison Blanche ….

Ne pas repenser à ces milliers de pères et mères de famille sans lesquels il n’y aurait pas de classe moyenne noire aujourd’hui aux Etats-Unis …

Ceux dont Martin Luther King évoquait  la dignité et l’importance …

Comme celle du balayeur de rues qui « balaye comme Michel-Ange » …

Ou du domestique noir qui par sa servilité même devient « subversif sans même le savoir » …

Mais surtout à cette ultime subversion à laquelle avait appelé le Christ …

A savoir celle de la grandeur du service et du don de soi ?

The Butler: Hit and miss, though Oprah steals every scene

Brian D. Johnson

August 16, 2013

This is turning out to be an exceptional year for black filmmakers mining true stories of race and violence in America. Last month saw the release of Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, an explosive drama about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man who was shot dead by police while handcuffed in an Oakand subway station on New Year’s Day in 2009. At next month’s Toronto International Film Festival, one of the most hotly anticipated premieres is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, about Solomon Northrup, a free-born African American who was kidnapped in 1841, sold into slavery, and rescued by a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt). And opening this week is Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a star-studded epic inspired by the life of a dedicated butler who served under eight presidents in the White House while the civil rights movement raged outside its walls.

Unlike the other two movies, The Butler is fiction, although its audience may assume otherwise. Those cagey words “inspired by a true story” can be deceptive. The script was triggered by Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election.” Published after Obama’s landmark victory, and later spun into a book, it unearthed the story of former White House butler Eugene Allen, who served American presidents for 34 years. But screenwriter Danny Strong (HBO’s Game Change) has created a fictional butler named Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), whose life mirrors the drama of the civil rights movement with cut-glass symmetry.

Straining to serve an overcharged agenda, The Butler is a broadly entertaining, bluntly inspirational history lesson wrapped around a family saga that gives new resonance to the term “domestic drama.” Director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) is not known for subtlety, and this movie is no exception. But at the heart of its sprawling narrative, he has corralled some fine performances. Whitaker navigates gracefully between his public and private personae—White House butlers he says, have two faces: their own “and the ones we got to show the white man.” As Cecil stoically weathers the upheavals of history, and his splintered family, we can feel him being gradually crushed under the weight of his own quiet dignity, yet mustering shy increments of resistance over the decades. Between his role as a virtually mute servant/sage in the White House and a beleaguered patriarch trying to hold together his middle-class family, this a character with a lot on his plate. The real surprise is Oprah Winfrey, who’s blessed with a juicy, freewheeling role, and shows once and for all she can really act, stealing every scene with a saucy gravitas, if there can be such a thing. With a performance that’s charismatic yet deeply grounded, she sails through a character arc that ranges from drunken feints at infidelity to ferocious loyalty—undercut with droll asides that are impeccably timed.

The story’s long march begins with Cecil’s boyhood on a cotton plantation in the South in 1926, where he sees his father shot dead in a field for looking the wrong way at a white man. Cecil is adopted by a thin-lipped matriarch who tells him, “I’m going to teach you how to be a house nigger.” Which sounds strange coming from the mouth of Vanessa Redgrave. The term “house nigger,” and the n-word in general, recurs again and again, shocking us each time, and never letting us forget that there’s no higher house than the White House.

A model of shrewd obedience, Cecil learns to make the perfect martini, to be invisible in a room, and to overhear affairs of estate in stony silence—unless asked for his opinion, which he’ll pretend to offer with a wry, Delphic diplomacy that makes the questioner feel validated. The script goes out of its way to ennoble Cecil’s work, plucking a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. —”the black domestic defies racial stereotyping by being hardworking and trustworthy … though subservient, they are subversive without even knowing it.”

The Uncle Tom issue is front and centre, especially in Cecil’s feud with his radicalized son Louis (David Oyelowo), who rejects his father as a race traitor. The conflict comes to a head amid a family debate about the merits of Sidney Poitier, a legendary actor brashly dismissed by Louis as “a white man’s fantasy of what he wants us to be.” The fondly nostalgic references to In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner may fly over the heads of younger viewers. But it’s a lovely scene, mixing rancour and wit and a deft touch. Although this is a movie on a mission, it does have a sense of humour. When Cecil’s eldest son, shows up to dinner in his Black Panther beret and black leather, with a girlfriend sporting a vast Angela Davis Afro, it’s pure caricature as Daniels presents a whole other take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, played as both drama and farce.

The story is a bit of a slog. It unfolds against a parade of presidents that amounts to a clumsy sideshow of cameos. Some are dismal, beginning with a ludicrous incarnation of Dwight D. Eisenhower by Robin Williams desperately trying not to look like Robin Williams. John Cusack’s Nixon is a bad joke. James Marsden’s John F. Kennedy is too young and callow—JFK as just another pretty face. But Liev Schreiber throws some mustard on a snappy portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson. And an almost unrecognizable Allan Rickman creates a masterful Ronald Reagan, complemented by Jane Fonda’s brief, brilliant turn as Nancy. First The Newsroom, now this; Hanoi Jane has grown up to be an expert at playing ballsy Republican grand dames.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, it does its job. The tragic events of America’s race war, no matter how schematically presented, burn through the narrative with potency. Intercutting horrific scenes of bigots disrupting a lunch counter protest in the South with shots of a black butlers setting fine china for a White House dinner may be contrived, but they’re brutally effective.

With his hit-and-miss direction, it’s as if Daniels is the movie’s ultimate butler, juggling an overloaded tray as he tries to serve all sides of history at once. He’s most assured in the scenes of Cecil’s extended family, which swing from rollicking banter to bitter conflict, and least comfortable in his role as history teacher. Every so often I kept wishing Spike Lee were behind the camera, cutting through clichés. Though The Butler‘s tidy sentiments can be cloying, it’s hard to remain unmoved—and unimpressed by the stubbornly authentic performances by Whitaker and Oprah, which will likely be remembered at Oscar time.

Voir aussi:

Top 5 Inaccuracies in ‘The Butler’

Christian Toto

Breitbart

16 Aug 2013

The new political drama Lee Daniels’ The Butler takes its cues from a Washington Post article about a black servant named Eugene Allen who worked in eight presidential administrations.

That part of the story is essentially unchanged. The rest of the film, a movie stuffed with politics, historical re-creations and presidential imitations, is rife with inaccuracies that should be corrected.

Note: Some story spoilers ahead …

President Ronald Reagan was indifferent to the suffering of people of color. Breitbart News reported this week that Reagan biographer Craig Shirley shredded this notion by detailing the president’s legislative achievements and personal outtreach to his black peers.

The Democrats helped pass the Civil Rights Act: This is more of an inaccuracy by omission. The film showcases how both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson rallied on behalf of civil rights, but what’s left out is the voting record on the historic Civil Rights Act. Turns out « 80 percent of the “no” votes in the Senate came from Democrats, including the late Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Albert Gore (Tenn.), father of the future vice president, » so Republicans teamed up with President Johnson to pass the legislation.

President Nixon dismissed black Americans–save for their votes: The film shows Nixon (John Cusack) promoting his upcoming election battle with John F. Kennedy by giving campaign buttons to the butler and his fellow black servers. Later, Nixon talks up black enterprise but only with an eye on winning votes. Moviefone.com notes Nixon’s record on school integration outpaced his predecessors, and Allen has spoken fondly of Nixon in press interviews.

The Butler disliked President Reagan: The real Eugene Allen has expressed affection for all the presidents he served, noting he voted for each when they were inhabiting the White House. A framed picture of the Reagans was displayed on Allen’s living room wall, and he noted that Nancy Reagan gave him a warm hug when he finally retired. Hardly sounds like the character in the movie, played by Forest Whitaker, who appeared to be fed up with the Reagans and quit for that very reason.

The Butler met Obama: The film uses a framing device of the titular Butler waiting to meet personally with President Barack Obama. There’s no official record of such a meeting, although Allen was a VIP guest at Obama’s swearing in.

Extra: Screenwriter Danny Strong (Game Change) took tremendous liberties with Allen’s life beyond the name change to Cecil Gaines. Strong gave the butler two sons, not one, made the main character’s wife (Oprah Winfrey) a heavy drinker and fictionalized much of his life story prior to entering the White House.

Voir également:

« The Butler » Distorts Race Relations

Richard A. Epstein

Hoover

August 20, 2013

The film’s retelling of history comes at a real social cost.

Next year, this nation will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That occasion will rightly give rise to many reflections about how far this nation has come and where it will go in the future.

One early entrant into this dialogue is The Butler, a new film by Lee Daniels. In the movie, Forest Whitaker plays the fictional butler Cecil Gaines, who worked for seven presidential administrations from Eisenhower to Reagan. The movie was inspired by the life of Eugene Allen, who did in fact serve in the White House between 1952 and 1986 under eight presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. Days after Barack Obama was elected president, an affectionate account of Allen’s service was written up by Wil Haygood in the Washington Post.

But Allen’s story stands in stark contrast to the fictional Cecil Gaines’.

A Tale of Two Butlers

Born in 1919, Eugene Allen grew up in segregated Virginia, and slowly worked his way up the butler profession, largely without incident. Unlike the fictional Cecil Gaines, he did not watch the boss rape his mother on a Georgia farm, only to shoot a bullet through his father’s head as he starts to protest the incident, leading Cecil years later to escape his past for a better future.

Instead, over a period of years, Allen rose from a “pantry man” to the highest position in White House service, Maître d’hôtel. His life was marked by quiet distinction and personal happiness. He was married to the same woman, Helene, for 65 years. He had one son, Charles, who served in Vietnam. During the Reagan years, Nancy Reagan invited Allen and his wife to a state dinner as guests. When he retired shortly afterwards, “President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him, tight,” according to the story in the Washington Post. During service, he never said a word of criticism about any president. Nor was his resignation an act of political protest.

The fictional Cecil, however, does not come to the White House under Truman, but arrives in 1957, just in time for one of the defining events of the civil rights movement—namely, President Eisenhower’s reluctant but firm decision to move federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, after Orval Faubus quite literally barred the school room door.

In general, the movie is full of hype. Cecil’s wholly fictional older son Louis gets involved in the civil rights movement from the time of the sit-ins through the rise of the Black Panther movement, and a younger brother, who professes pride in his country pays the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. Cecil’s wife, Gloria, falls prey to alcoholism and a time has a shabby affair with the guy next door. Gaines’ service is marked by quiet frustration, knowing that black workers suffered a 40 percent wage deficit that lasted under the Reagan years, while being excluded from well-deserved promotions. When the weight of these injustices hit him, Cecil resigns to join his son Louis in a protest movement. When Slate’s, Aisha Harris was asked “How True is The Butler?” her candid answer was “not much.”.

The Dangers of Docudrama

Why is Lee Daniels not content to tell the real story? The obvious answer is that his version makes for a better movie. Another explanation is that his tale is more downbeat so that it can belittle some of the progress that the civil rights movement has made over this time.

No one should ever deny the senseless tragedies that dogged the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, including the murders of Emmett Till in 1955, of Medgar Evers in 1963,

of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner 1964, and of course, of Martin Luther King in 1968. But by 1986, the United States was a different place.

The Butler’s negative reimagination comes at a real social cost. Watching the movie, the viewer comes away thinking that the civil rights movement has largely failed. But the actual record is more upbeat. It is unfortunate that Daniels did not start The Butler during the Truman years. In 1948, Truman decided to desegregate the U.S. armed forces by executive order.

That action would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the Second World War, given the dominant southern presence in the military. Hence, the United States had the dubious distinction of fighting Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan with segregated armed forces.

Perhaps an executive order is not cinematic stuff. But the same cannot be said of baseball’s racial integration in 1947, when a determined Branch Rickey brought Jackie Robinson up from a farm team in Montreal to the Brooklyn Dodgers. That story was the subject of 1950 movie and the more recent film 42 released this year. This transformative event was done, not through legislation, but voluntarily by one courageous man who took the risk that a major backlash might follow.

Change was happening at the state level as well. In 1947, New Jersey abolished segregation by a state constitutional amendment. When these changes are executed voluntarily, they are less likely to face the massive resistance that followed the Supreme Court’s decision on racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down in June 1954 and itself the culmination of a long campaign that first chopped away at segregation in railroad transportation and law school education.

Sit-Ins and Public Accommodations

In time, of course, the cultural clash crystallized in the highly confrontational sit-ins that occupy much of the screen time in The Butler. It is these cases that led to the passage of Title II of the

1964 Civil Rights Act, which deals with access of all persons to public accommodations.

Its basic command reads that all persons are entitled to ”the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

To most people, the argument in favor of this section is easy enough to understand. These rights are basic entitlements of citizens, and die-hard segregationists abridged them. The sustained moral indignation directed to segregationists in the movie is deserved. But some of the long-term legal implications of Title II of the CRA are more difficult to unpack.

My take runs as follows. In general it is a mistake for any government law to require one private person to do business with another against his will: the principle of freedom of organization is fundamental to a just society. The major counterweight to that, on classical liberal theory, is in cases of monopoly, which meant in bygone days railroads and inns on isolated roads.

At first blush, there are no such monopolies in luncheon counters. Standard neoclassical economics predicts that some firms will cater to African American clientele if others choose to shun them. To that confident prediction, the obvious reply was, that just didn’t happen. It is at this point that the true horror of southern system of segregation becomes clear. The old south was a closed society, which did not allow for the free entry of these competitive firms that would have transformed its culture.

It had two means of enforcement: (1) Private violence backed by a police force that either turned a blind eye to private force, or openly backed it, and (2) state regulatory bodies that could use their power over public utilities like power and light to punish those firms that broke the color line.

A solution to this problem neutralizes these two forces and then lets entry do its work. But in a federal system, it is hard for the central government to use its limited powers to exert so fundamental a change. The bottom line, therefore, is either to impose the duty from without or watch the system of southern dominance chew up its citizens by propping up the status quo ante.

The question then arises of how best to change the system. As a rhetorical matter, the only path that works is an appeal to fundamental rights. No argument about institutional imperfections could put the public accommodation provisions over the top. Indeed, it is worthy to note that the national businesses subject to these regulations often begged for federal intervention under Title II as a means to neutralize local pressures that kept them from integrating. Indeed, the success of Title II has been so great that the provision enforces itself, so that direct regulation and private litigation occupy only a tiny corner of that world.

Nonetheless, the flawed conceptual arguments for Title II did create serious complications in others areas. The parallels to private housing and to employment are not nearly so easy to draw. In the early years, the insistence on color-blind employment relations actually had the unfortunate effect of limiting private affirmative action programs when businesses and unions came, rightly in my view, to see these as social imperatives in the aftermath of the violence of the 1960s. On the other side, the constant use of disparate impact tests in education, housing, and employment led to an overreach by the new civil rights establishment of today.

My quarrel with The Butler is that its wrong narrative of the evolution of race relations serves to strengthen a set of misguided government programs at a time when it is no longer possible to bless all actions of the civil rights movement.

Richard A. Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. His areas of expertise include constitutional law, intellectual property, and property rights. His most recent books are Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law (2011), The Case against the Employee

Voir encore:

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”: An Oscar-worthy historical fable

Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey shine in a clunky but powerful yarn about race and American history

Andrew O’Hehir

Aug 15, 2013

There’s a scene about midway through “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” – an ungainly title for an ungainly picture – that captures many of the movie’s contradictions, and its surprising power. It’s 1968, and Martin Luther King Jr. (Nelsan Ellis) is discussing the Vietnam War with some of his closest aides and friends. “How many of your parents support the war?” he asks this group of African-American men. Almost all of them raise their hands. King then asks Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo), a young man sitting next to him, what his father does for a living. “My father’s a butler,” Louis says, not without embarrassment. He doesn’t tell King that his father, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), is a butler at the White House, and was almost certainly in the room during King’s historic meeting with Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office.

Black domestic workers, King tells Louis, have played an important role in the struggle for civil rights. At first Louis assumes this is meant as mockery, but King presses on. Maids, butlers, nannies and other domestics have defied racist stereotypes by being trustworthy, hardworking and loyal, King says; in maintaining other people’s households and raising other people’s children, they have gradually broken down hardened and hateful attitudes. Their apparent subservience is also quietly subversive. This poignant and humbling recognition of the sacrifices made by millions of African-Americans who appeared to have no voice is an important turning point for Louis, in his consideration of his father’s life, but it also captures King’s extraordinary philosophical depth in a few moments. In case there isn’t enough going on in that scene, let us note that it takes place in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Minutes or hours later, the great civil rights leader will step outside onto the balcony and be shot dead.

I’d be hard-pressed to describe “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” as a good movie. It’s programmatic, didactic and shamelessly melodramatic. (Danny Strong’s screenplay is best viewed as fictional, although it’s loosely based on the true story of longtime White House butler Eugene Allen, who died in 2010.) Characters constantly have expository conversations built around historical markers, from the murder of Emmett Till to the Voting Rights Act. Every time Cecil serves coffee in the Oval Office, he stumbles upon epoch-making moments: Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams) debating whether to send federal troops to desegregate the schools in Little Rock; Richard Nixon (John Cusack) plotting a black entrepreneurship program to undercut the Black Panthers; or Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman) telling Republican senators he plans to defy Congress and veto sanctions against South Africa. Cecil and Louis, the warring father and son played by Whitaker and Oyelowo, might as well come with labels: Cecil is following in the footsteps of Booker T. Washington; Louis in those of W.E.B. Du Bois.

But “The Butler” is indisputably an important film and a necessary one, arriving at the end of the summer of Paula Deen and George Zimmerman and the Detroit bankruptcy, a summer that has vividly reminded us that if America’s ancient racial wounds have faded somewhat, they have never healed. For a black filmmaker to tell this fraught and complicated story now, in a mainstream picture with an all-star cast, is significant all on its own. Faulkner’s observation that the past is never dead and isn’t even past has come to sound trite through endless repetition by politicians and journalists, but it speaks to our country in 2013, and to the impact of this movie. And before I wander too far afield, “The Butler” is also a showcase for numerous terrific black actors, including Whitaker, Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz, not to mention a fiery and sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated supporting role for Oprah Winfrey as Cecil’s wife, Gloria.

For someone of my generation, the civil rights movement may seem like an overly familiar pop-culture topic. But it’s been more than 20 years since “Malcolm X,” “Mississippi Burning” and “The Long Walk Home,” and closer to 40 years since groundbreaking TV specials like “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” or the miniseries “King.” Much of the sweep of history in “The Butler,” which begins in the Jim Crow Deep South of the 1920s and ends with a black man in the White House, may seem like a dim, black-and-white flicker to many younger Americans.

Daniels, previously the director of “Precious” and “The Paperboy” (forever famous as the movie in which Nicole Kidman pees all over Zac Efron), may not be a subtle storyteller, but he delivers big, emotional moments with considerable force. He makes the impact of the Kennedy and King assassinations seem real and present by focusing on individuals and details – Cecil, trying to comfort a sobbing, blood-spattered Jackie Kennedy (Minka Kelly) – and his re-creation of the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins of 1960, or the Birmingham street scenes when dogs and fire hoses were turned on marchers, possess a startling violence and freshness. In a time when a dominant current in American conservatism is dedicated to erasing both history and science, to insisting that “there are no lessons in the past,” it’s useful to be reminded how much about contemporary American life is shaped and conditioned by those events.

Daniels performs another public service by turning the well-meaning condescension of “The Help” upside down and telling the story of a black domestic worker and his family entirely from their point of view, with minor supporting characters that include five United States presidents. (Cecil also served under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, but they’re only seen in news footage.) The parade of famous white actors playing White House occupants is bizarre and almost arbitrary – Cusack looks nothing like Nixon, although James Marsden is well cast as JFK and Liev Schreiber makes a surprisingly good Johnson – but that’s a sideshow attraction. (Daniels understands precisely how he’s twisting the knife with Jane Fonda’s cameo as Nancy Reagan, by the way.) The main event is a terrific cast of African-American principals, headlined by the immensely dignified performance of Whitaker, playing a man who has raised himself by his own wits and almost Nietzschean willpower from the brutal cotton fields of Georgia to the corridors of power.

As a boy, Cecil witnesses his mother raped and his father murdered by a white overseer, and that’s the background his son – raised in the polite, formal segregation of 1950s Washington – can never understand. Then the overseer’s guilt-ridden mother (Vanessa Redgrave) takes Cecil in and trains him as a “house nigger,” a polite, well-dressed automaton who is almost invisible and virtually silent. (I quote that offensive expression because it’s important and recurs several times.) The instruction delivered to Cecil over and over, including at the White House, is that he sees and hears nothing, and that a room should feel empty when he is in it. Whatever Daniels’ flaws as a filmmaker may be, in all his movies he’s acutely sensitive to the possibilities of human communication, even in impossible situations. Redgrave’s character clearly feels for Cecil and gives him what little she can; in her own way, she too is a victim of the system that has destroyed his family.

Over the years, Cecil makes his way from Georgia to North Carolina to a luxury hotel in Washington and finally to the segregated service staff of the White House. (Implausibly enough, it was Ronald Reagan, a font of old-school racist policy and personal generosity, who finally insisted on equal treatment for black employees.) He learns the intricacies of wine and whiskey, builds up an autodidact’s vocabulary and masters the fine art of being charming without appearing confrontational. Every black person in this line of work (Cecil observes in voice-over) has two faces, of necessity – one for his white employers and clientele, one for his family and friends. Whitaker plays Cecil as a man making a long, lonely trek uphill with a heavy load on his back, and the film’s other black characters all deal with life under a racist system in their own way.

Cecil’s friend Howard (Terrence Howard) is a good-time Charlie and numbers runner; Cecil’s colleagues at the White House include foulmouthed ladies’ man Carter (Gooding) and educated, upward-bound James (Kravitz). I suppose Winfrey is customarily too busy playing her own public persona to play dramatic roles, but she’s damn good at it; the proud, angry, boozing, cheating and ultimately ferociously loyal Gloria has a vivid and very non-Oprah reality about her. If Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong intend the tension between Cecil’s bootstraps assimilationism and Louis’ Freedom Rider-turned-Panther radicalism to be the movie’s central driving force, it doesn’t quite work. In a picture driven by a vibrant portrayal of African-American life and the visceral, explosive force of history, their opposed and intersecting character arcs feel overly constructed.

Daniels’ point, of course, echoes what King tells Louis: The traditions of Du Bois and Washington, of self-sacrifice and hard work on one hand, and street protest and political organizing on the other, are not as distinct or disconnected as they may appear. Both have driven a history that isn’t finished yet. While the election of Barack Obama serves as the culmination of this story — and for African-Americans of Cecil Gaines’ generation it was an unimaginable, even millennial victory – in the larger story of America it was an unexpected plot twist whose true consequences remain unknown. One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln asked whether a country conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality would work out, and we still don’t know. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is big, brave, crude and contradictory, very bad in places and very good in others, and every American should see it.

The Butler, Jobs: Two ways to turn inspirational into mediocre

LIAM LACEY

The Globe and Mail

Aug. 16 2013

Two new inspirational movies, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Jobs, are the kind of unsophisticated biographical films that don’t earn much critical respect but occasionally rack up Oscar nominations. They belong in what Dennis Bingham, author of Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre, calls “a respectable genre of very low repute.” Both movies trip over the usual bio-hazards – gratuitous montages, speechifying characters and plots with historical incidents layered between private crises – but they play out in very different ways.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (the director’s name was imposed after a legal dispute forbid the use of The Butler) stars Forest Whitaker as a long-serving White House butler during a turbulent period. The film has a lot of momentum thanks to a star-studded ensemble cast, including Whitaker in the titular role and Oprah Winfrey in her first big-screen role in 15 years. The filmmakers claim that The Butler was inspired by the late Eugene Allen, a White House employee who worked for presidents from Truman to Reagan and lived to see the first black president. But Allen’s story has little to do with The Butler’s script, a Forrest Gump-like tale of a servant who was a front-row witness to modern civil-rights history. The butler’s name has been changed to Cecil Gaines.

As a filmmaker, Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) likes things pulpy, and you quickly get the sense that he can’t restrict himself to the Masterpiece Theatre model here. The Butler starts with an entirely fabricated sequence, straight out of a Blaxploitation movie, in which pre-teen Cecil witnesses his mother’s rape and his father’s murder. The killer’s mom (Vanessa Redgrave) takes the boy into her house, where he learns to serve and shut up. Eventually, Cecil (played by a slim and convincingly youthful Whitaker) marries Gloria (Winfrey) and has two sons before being hired at the White House. Though he’s instructed to see and hear nothing, he is invariably hovering over the shoulder of one president or another during critical historical moments.

Screenwriter Danny Strong, who wrote the sharp television satire of the Sarah Palin campaign, Game Change, offers the usual biographical double strands of the character’s public and private roles. One of Cecil and Gloria’s improbable friends is Howard (Terrence Howard), a layabout numbers-runner with a missing front tooth and a yen for Gloria. Gloria turns to drink and adultery when Cecil puts the president’s needs before his wife’s, which provides Oprah with some juicy scenes. The couple also has two opposite-minded sons. Louis (David Oyelowo), under the influence of his groovy college girlfriend Carol (Yaya Alafia), joins the wave of northern students who pushed for desegregation in the south in 1961. Little brother Charlie (Elijah Kelley), meanwhile, signs up for duty in Vietnam.

By contrast, the White House feels like comic relief, with a parade of presidential caricatures: pensive Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams), who ponders sending federal troops to enforce school integration while painting flowers; awkward vice-president Richard Nixon (John Cusack), found in the kitchen scrounging for snacks; bumptious Lyndon Johnson (Liev Schreiber), who bellows instructions to his cabinet while seated on the toilet; and folksy Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), whose smoothly controlling wife Nancy is played by former lefty activist Jane Fonda.

Some of this is fun if heavy-handed, but from time to time Daniels’ broad approach hits home emotionally, particularly a scene that contrasts preparations for a White House state dinner with black students being spat upon and cursed for sitting on the white side of a segregated Woolworth’s counter. The Butler may be a sanctimonious cartoon, but it points to events in the civil rights struggle that were as grotesque and extraordinary as any fiction can invent.

(…)

The Butler

All-star parade of presidents helps blunt any dramatic edge in Lee Daniels film starring Forest Whitaker as the protagonist

Katey Rich

The Guardian

9 August 2013

The Butler

More historical pageant than drama, Lee Daniels’ The Butler takes the Forrest Gump approach to another corner of American history, filtering the dramatic civil rights movement of the 1960s through the life of an ordinary butler who served seven different presidents from Dwight D Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan. Based very loosely on a real man, The Butler sets its mild-mannered protagonist Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) in sharp contrast to his son Louis (David Oyelowo), a Freedom Rider and eventually Black Panther who conveniently finds himself at the centre of a series of civil rights landmark moments.

The Butler

Production year: 2013

Country: USA

Directors: Lee Daniels

Cast: David Oyelowo, Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey

There are fascinating wrinkles to be found in that relationship, and director Daniels does stumble upon a few. But for the most part his usual heavy hand draws only the thickest lines between two generations of African-Americans, and Danny Strong’s script muddles the family story with too many « significant » encounters between Cecil and his presidential employers. It’s impossible not to be distracted when Robin Williams appears in a bald cap as Eisenhower, or Liev Schreiber blusters his way across the screen as a noisy Lyndon Johnson. When John Cusack shows up as a flop-sweating Richard Nixon, the film is playing dress-up and passing it as history. By the time Jane Fonda eerily transforms herself into Nancy Reagan, the film itself seems in on the joke.

If it’s possible to look past Daniels’ directorial flourishes, The Butler does occasionally muster its own power, contrasting Cecil’s work at a White House state dinner with Louis’s beating by the police after a protest, or the riot that broke out in Washington DC after Martin Luther King’s assassination. Aware that he has a good job that provides for his family, Cecil is unwilling to rock the boat politically, which leads to clashes with his son but an otherwise passive performance for Whitaker. Oprah Winfrey, channelling Elizabeth Taylor’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? performance as Cecil’s hard-drinking wife, has more to play with but literally nowhere to go, her scenes almost exclusively limited to their airless, modest home.

The quick glimpses into the lives of middle-class African-Americans in this time of massive social upheaval – the house parties, the front porch conversations – are evocative and frequently charming, but The Butler is trying to cover way too much ground to get into that, or anything, to any real satisfaction.

With an ensemble and a story this large casting often substitutes for characterisation – Cuba Gooding Jr and Lenny Kravitz are Cecil’s amiable White House co-workers, Vanessa Redgrave is the kindly owner of the farm where Cecil grew up, Mariah Carey is his loving mother, and so on. James Marsden comports himself well as JFK, and Alan Rickman makes for a spot-on Ronald Reagan, but the string of presidential cameos also gives the film its numbing structure. Over and over again the leaders ask Cecil a pointed civil rights-related question and seem inspired by his humble, wholly uninteresting presence. Cecil Gaines is a witness to important historical events but a participant in none of them, and at times even Daniels seems to wish he were making a film entirely about the Freedom Riders or Black Panthers (Oyelowo’s fiery performance makes that draw even stronger).

A great film about the American civil rights movement is way overdue. The Butler, overwhelmed by flash and good intentions, doesn’t even come close.

Wil Haygood: Eugene Allen, America’s Butler

Johnathan Eaglin

irockjazz

2013-06-26

This summer Oscar nominated director, Lee Daniels and an all-star cast of actors including Oscar winners, Forrest Whitaker and Cuba Gooding, Jr., will release the highly anticipated major motion picture, “The Butler”. The film will present a portrayal of a man, Eugene Allen, who served eight U.S. presidents over 35 years as a White House butler.

iRock Jazz was granted an exclusive interview with author and journalist, Wil Haygood, the writer of the 2008 Washington Post article, “A Butler Well Served by This Election” which sparked the initial interest in Eugene Allen’s story. Days after the article – a vivid chronicle by Haygood of Eugene Allen’s life in the historical context of the long and complex relationship between African-Americans and the White House – was published the story went viral. The article was later reposted in the Los Angeles Times and shortly thereafter, nearly 15 Hollywood actors and producers reached out to Haygood hoping to secure a movie deal. Four and a half years later, “The Butler” will share with the world one of the unsung champions of history.

Speaking to Haygood, a prolific biographer, having written celebrated texts on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, and Sammy Davis, Jr., you get the sense that Eugene Allen’s story may be Haygood’s masterwork, an assertion not solely based upon the brilliant content of the article or Haygood’s adept journalistic rectitude, but the striking parallels that weave Allen and Haygood together. Both men, gracious and professional, proud and persevering, fully committed to their vocation, and in the face of worldwide attention are remarkably humble.

Haygood’s two year immersion into Allen’s life strengthens his confidence that his story has the elements to resonate on the big screen. To Haygood, Allen is nothing short of an American hero whose life plays out like a movie and whose story deserves to be told. “It had the stuff of drama, the stuff of cinema – this one man that was in the white house for eight presidents. It’s almost like a novel, but it’s a real story. It really happened. Now he has a movie about his life. His life is important enough to be on the big screen. It’s really pretty magical,” exclaimed Haygood.

However, the life of Eugene Allen may not fit the standard mold of the blockbuster Hollywood biopic. While the sweeping grandeur of riveting cinematography, a gripping screenplay, and a lush emotion evoking score can serve as a recipe to garnering box office success, audience’s appetites are often whet with the star power of larger than life historical figures whose name and life are more recognizable throughout popular culture. So, why is the story of Eugene Allen noteworthy? Why make a film about his life? Why would Lenny Kravitz, after reading the script, cancel his European tour for a role in the movie? Why would Oprah Winfrey appear in this film after a 15 year hiatus? Eugene Allen did not break the color barrier on the baseball field or shake up the world in the boxing ring. He didn’t liberate a people from the shackles of slavery with the stroke of a pen or revolutionize the world through music or technology. Eugene Allen, a butler, a humble man from Virginia, is not a mainstay in history books, but he was an eye-witness to history for over three decades from a significant vantage point – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – the most powerful address in the world.

Retired for over twenty years before receiving Haygood’s call, Allen and his wife Helene lived according to Haygood in a, “Very modest house, small, on a quiet street, here, in northwest Washington D.C.”. Haygood would soon discover that the stories Allen held within him were just as rich as the treasure that lay beneath the Allen residence floors. Haywood describes the scene as he enters the Allen’s basement, “There were pictures of him and Harry Truman, him and President Eisenhower, him and President Kennedy, him and the Kennedy children, him and Duke Ellington when Duke Ellington visited the White House, him and Sarah Vaughn, him and Frank Sinatra. I almost started spinning on a top. It was like finding this unknown man and his life that nobody had written about.”

It is possible nobody had written about Eugene Allen for the same reasons the date January 20th came and went sixteen times, through ten U.S. presidents for nearly 60 years before President Barack Obama invited Allen to attend his first Presidential Inauguration in 2008. In 1986, Allen made history as the first White House butler to be invited as a guest to a Presidential State Dinner, a tribute bestowed upon him by President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan. He took the moment so serious that a picture of he and his wife at the event is the only White House photo in the front room of their home. Yet, there was a time when he grappled with the racism and segregation that kept black American’s stifled from social, economic, and political progress. And with his training he defaulted to react discreetly, not wearing his political affiliation or views on his sleeve. The effect was nonetheless impactful. To witness both emotional events like assassinations, Civil Rights movement violence and, in time, triumphs like the passing of The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, it is evident that he exhibited a herculean amount of restraint.

Even the White House, his daily destination of duty, was not immune nor could it serve as a place of refuge. “In 1962 he was working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most powerful address in the world. He could leave there, get in his car and drive to a rest stop in his native Virginia and have to use a bathroom for blacks only. And then go back to work under the American flag. The dual emotions that must have been rumbling inside of him – he was able to quiet any anger and go in to work every day, not in a restaurant, a bar, or factory, but at the most powerful address in the world that was supposed to be an emblem for world freedom. He didn’t have his rights and yet he never missed a day of work,” Haygood presented with zeal.

“When JFK was assassinated, Mr. Allen stayed at the White House all day heart stricken. He waited until the plane from Dallas had flown back to Washington, D.C. He stayed around as long as he could and helped everybody and then he went home at about 11:00pm. His son told me this – at about three o’clock in the morning he woke up, he got dressed and his wife asked him where he was going. He said, ‘I have to go back to the White House. Somebody might wake up in the middle of the night and need me. Everybody is in pain. Everybody is in shock’. And as he was walking down the hallway he crumpled to the floor and sobbed. And his son told me it was the first time he had seen his father cry. As with the assassination of Dr. King, Allen was heartbroken, but determined. Washington D.C. was engulfed in riots. While he drove to the White House through the fire and violence he got out of his car, parked it and walked the rest of the way. As grief stricken as he was it was important for him to get to work that day,” Haygood explained.

Eugene Allen’s resilience of character in the face of internal turmoil displays an example of what we all hope to be – courageous, everyday heroes who know quitting is not a viable option. Quite possibly the studio upped the release date three months earlier not to delay capitalizing on the opportunity to connect the public with Allen’s story. In describing Eugene Allen’s stature amongst celebrated history makers, which ultimately reveals both his conviction and connection to everyman, Haygood places Allen near the top. “He almost rises to the top. It’s interesting that the men I wrote about are famous figures and Mr. Allen was unknown to those men. Two of them he probably served. He probably served coffee or tea to Adam Clayton Powell or Sammy Davis, Jr. in the White House.

Mr. Allen stayed on the same job for thirty-four years. He represented to those eight presidents an example of a black man who works for his family, who believes in the country, who salutes his flag, and he never quit. There were other butlers who came and went especially after the 1960s and the social revolution during a time where it might not have seemed so cool to be a butler, a servant, in the White House. The Civil Rights Bill had not really taken full hold yet, and to stay on that job had to have meant that he believed in America and that he loved his country. And it didn’t matter that the occupant of the Oval Office was a Democrat or a Republican. He did his job very well and in the end he rose to be the maître d’, the highest ranking butler at the White House. So, his life had an amazing American song to it and I think we are in his debt to him.”

Oprah Winfrey, who plays Eugene Allen’s wife, Helene, explains her reason for taking this role which reveals more of Allen’s heroic commitment to provide a better life for his family and many others. “It was people like Eugene and Helene Allen who helped build the black middle class in this country. And that is a big reason why I took this role.” Allen chose to leave a legacy by staying on the job, which enabled him to put his son through college, extend finances to relatives who desired to migrate from the brutal south, and mentor many of the butlers and service people that came through the White House. According to Haygood, “Many who passed under his tutelage went on to get jobs in big hotel chains in LA or Chicago.”

Eugene and Helene Allen were very much inspired by the life of Barack Obama and his vision for the country. The election of President Obama in 2008, a black man who defied the odds, who noticed the historically relevant achievements of another black man enough to help him see, “the dream” not as a servant, but as a special guest, not as butler, but as a beacon of bravery and beneficiary to that dream. As Martin Luther King, Jr. gave voice to the dream, it was men like Eugene Allen whose life made the dream real every day. Eugene Allen served more than the inhabitants of the White House, he served humanity.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

iRock Jazz is honored to have a first look at Eugene Allen’s life and Wil Haygood’s enlightening perspective and story.

Voir aussi:

How True Is The Butler?

Aisha Harris

Borwbeat

2013/08/15

A few days after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the Washington Post published an article about a black butler who served in the White House for 34 years, under eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan. Eugene Allen represented, as journalist Wil Haygood wrote, “a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.”

“He was there,” Haygood continued, “while America’s racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.” Allen undoubtedly lived a fascinating life, meeting countless historical figures during especially polarizing times, and it’s unsurprising that Haygood’s profile caught the eye of Hollywood. It is now the basis for Lee Daniels’ The Butler (the director’s name is included thanks to silly copyright claims made by Warner Bros).

But as interesting as Haygood’s profile is, “A Butler Well Served by This Election” doesn’t provide that many details about Allen’s time in the White House outside a handful of facts and humorous anecdotes. (Allen’s wife Helene referred affectionately to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter as “country,” for instance.) The Butler is a bit more than 2 hours long, spans several decades, and includes multiple storylines. It’s fair to say it has epic ambitions.

So how much of Allen’s real-life experience actually made it into the film?

Not much. According to Daniels’ foreword in The Butler: A Witness to History, a book by Haygood published to accompany the film, the movie “is set against historical events,” but “the title character and his family are fictionalized.” The skeleton of Allen’s story is there: the childhood on a plantation in the early 1920s, the interactions with several presidents. But the names have been changed: Allen and his wife, Helene, are called Cecil and Gloria Gaines. (They’re played by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.) At least one key character, Cecil’s son Louis (David Oyelowo), is entirely made up.

The following breakdown is based on Haygood’s profile and the accompanying book. (I have emailed Haygood and will update the post if he provides additional information.) Spoilers follow.

The butler’s backstory

The film opens with young Cecil in Macon, Georgia, in the 1920s, working in a cotton field alongside his father. His mother (Mariah Carey) is raped by a white plantation overseer, Thomas Westfall (Alex Pettyfer), loud enough for everyone to hear. When Westfall returns, Cecil’s father shows his anger, and Westfall shoots him dead in front of Cecil and the other plantation workers. The plantation matriarch (Vanessa Redgrave) then decides that Cecil should leave the fields to become a “house nigger” and learn to serve her family.

Those appear to be the inventions of screenplay writer Danny Strong; they are never mentioned in Haygood’s piece.* Eugene Allen was born in 1919, and, like Cecil, he grew up on a plantation (in Virginia, not Georgia). He, too, became a “house boy” for a white family. When he spoke to Haygood about his childhood, “There was nary a hint of bitterness in his voice about his upbringing.” Allen left the plantation in hopes of finding better work, as Cecil does—but unlike his fictional counterpart, he never broke into a hotel restaurant to steal food. (He did, however, land a job at a Virginia hotel as a waiter, as Cecil ultimately does in North Carolina.)

How the butler got his job at the White House

Allen learned of a job at a country club in Washington, D.C., a fact that aligns with Cecil’s move to the nation’s capital. But their entries to the White House differ considerably: Allen learned via word of mouth that Alonzo Fields, a black maître d’ at the White House, was looking for pantry workers, and he went to talk to him. He began working there in 1952, during the Truman administration, but didn’t get promoted to butler until several years later. In the movie, the White House calls Gaines after a white senior staffer witnesses Cecil in action at the D.C. hotel—a point Cecil, in voiceover, emphasizes proudly.

Cecil is hired as butler just as soon as black maître d’ Freddie Fallows (Colman Domingo) confirms that he is not actively political and is experienced in his field. He begins working in the White House under Eisenhower’s administration, in 1957.

Other moments from the film appear to be true: Allen witnessed presidents mulling over important historical decisions, including Eisenhower’s fight with Arkansas governor Orval Faubus regarding the desegregation of Little Rock. And his wife Helene did pass away just prior to Obama’s election (though it was the Sunday night prior, not the morning of, as the film implies).

The butler’s family

Allen had one son, Charles, who served in Vietnam, just as Cecil’s younger son (also named Charles) does. Allen’s son survived the war, while his fictional counterpart does not. The real-life Charles is still alive, and has seen and approved of the new movie, according to Haygood.

The invented older son, Louis, serves as the main source of conflict in the narrative of Cecil’s life, in an attempt to highlight the clash between the older and younger black generation. Louis, who’s ashamed that his father is content with serving white people, is himself present for several important historical moments, including the attack and burning of a Freedom Riders bus in 1961; he’s also imprisoned in the same jail as Martin Luther King, Jr. after a protest.

Gloria Gaines, the butler’s wife, has an affair with a neighbor (Terrence Howard) and struggles with alcoholism. These storlines appear to be fictional.

The butler and the Reagans

Judging from Haygood’s interview, it seems that Allen, like Cecil, was grateful to have his job at the White House, and wary of involving himself in the politics of the time—even in his old age, he is not quoted saying anything disparaging about the presidents he worked under. In the movie, Cecil asks for equal pay among the black and white service staff, who each perform the same level of duties. His request is denied, and he accepts this. Years later, he again asks for a raise, and when he is turned down a second time, he tells his supervisor that he spoke to President Reagan personally, and that Reagan insists on the raise himself. Allen did receive a promotion to maître d’ in 1980, but there’s no indication that he ever asked for a raise.*

Cecil’s character arc is complete when Nancy Reagan invites him to the state dinner as a guest—the first black butler to receive such an invitation in the history of the White House. This did, in fact, happen to Allen, but the cinematic version unfolds quite differently. Here’s how it’s described in Haygood’s profile:

“Had champagne that night,” the butler’s wife would remember all these years later. As she said it, Eugene, rocking in his chair, just grinned: for so many years he had stocked champagne in the White House.

In the film, on the other hand, Cecil’s discomfort at sitting among the white elite is made clear through voiceover, as he describes feeling like an outsider and a traitor to his black colleagues who are now serving him. He can now see first-hand how each server “performs” for guests, and recognizes that he’s been unknowingly wearing the same mask for years. This moment, along with Cecil overhearing Reagan’s promise to veto the sanctions against apartheid-ridden South Africa, prompts the butler to hand in his resignation. Haygood’s article only mentions that Eugene “left the White House in 1986” and received a “sweet note” from the president and a “tight” hug from First Lady Nancy.

The butler and Obama

The film ends with Cecil returning to the White House to meet President Obama. I can’t tell if Allen ever actually met the president, but he did get a VIP invitation to the inauguration in 2009, and was in attendance on that historical day. When he passed away in 2010, the president sent a letter to his family acknowledging his years in service and “abiding patriotism.”

A Butler Well Served by This Election

Wil Haygood

Washington Post

November 7, 2008

For more than three decades Eugene Allen worked in the White House, a black man unknown to the headlines. During some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land.

He trekked home every night, his wife, Helene, keeping him out of her kitchen.

At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than to the large desk in the Oval Office. Helene didn’t care; she just beamed with pride.

President Truman called him Gene.

President Ford liked to talk golf with him.

He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. « I never missed a day of work, » Allen says.

His is a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.

He was there while America’s racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.

When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn’t even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. « We had never had anything, » Allen, 89, recalls of black America at the time. « I was always hoping things would get better. »

In its long history, the White House — just note the name — has had a complex and vexing relationship with black Americans.

« The history is not so uneven at the lower level, in the kitchen, » says Ted Sorensen, who served as counselor to President Kennedy. « In the kitchen, the folks have always been black. Even the folks at the door — black. »

Sorensen tried to address the matter of blacks in the White House. But in the end, there was only one black man who stayed on the executive staff at the Kennedy White House past the first year. « There just weren’t as many blacks as there should have been, » says Sorensen. « Sensitivities weren’t what they should have been, or could have been. »

In 1866 the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, sensing an opening to advocate for black voting rights, made a White House visit to lobby President Andrew Johnson. Johnson refused to engage in a struggle for black voting rights. Douglass was back at the White House in 1877. But no one wished to discuss his political sentiments: President Rutherford Hayes had engaged the great man — it was a time of high minstrelsy across the nation — to serve as a master of ceremonies for an evening of entertainment.

In the fall of 1901, another famous black American came to the door. President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington, head of the Tuskegee Institute, to meet with him at the White House. Roosevelt was careful not to announce the invitation, fearing a backlash, especially from Southerners. But news of the visit leaked quickly enough and the uproar was swift and noisy. In an editorial, the Memphis Scimitar would write in the ugly language of the times: « It is only recently that President Roosevelt boasted that his mother was a Southern woman, and that he is half Southern by reason of that fact. By inviting a nigger to his table he pays his mother small duty. »

Fifty years later, invitations to the White House were still fraught with racial subtext. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow pianist Hazel Scott to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race, many letters poured into the White House decrying the DAR’s position. First lady Bess Truman was a member of the organization, but she made no effort to get the DAR to alter its policy. Scott’s husband, Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, subsequently referred to Bess Truman as « the last lady of the land. » The words outraged President Truman, who vowed to aides he would find some way to punish Powell and barred the fellow Democrat from setting foot inside the Truman White House.

The first black to hold a policy or political position in the White House was E. Frederick Morrow, a former public relations executive with CBS. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential campaign operatives were so impressed with Morrow’s diligent work during the 1952 campaign that they promised him a White House executive job if Ike were elected. Ike won, but Morrow ended up being placed at the Department of Commerce. He felt slighted and appealed to Republican friends in New York to force the White House to make good on its promise.

The phone finally rang in 1955 and Morrow was named administrative officer for special projects. He had hoped the title would give him wide responsibilities inside the White House, but found himself dealing, for the most part, with issues related to the Brown desegregation ruling, the Rosa Parks-led bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., and the 1957 Little Rock school crisis.

« He was a man of great dignity, » says Stephen Hess, senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution, who worked as a speechwriter for Eisenhower. Morrow was in a lonely position, but « he did not complain, » says Hess. « That wasn’t Fred Morrow. »

When Morrow left his White House position, he imagined there’d be corporate job offers. There were not. « Only thing he was offered were jobs related to the black community, » says Hess. Nonetheless, « after Morrow, it was appropriate to have a black person on the staff of the White House. »

‘Pantry Man’

Before he landed his job at the White House, Gene Allen worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and then at a country club in Washington.

He and wife Helene, 86, are sitting in the living room of their home off Georgia Avenue NW. A cane rests across her lap. Her voice is musical, in a Lena Horne kind of way. She calls him « honey. » They met in Washington at a birthday party in 1942. He was too shy to ask for her number, so she tracked his down. They married a year later.

In 1952, a lady told him of a job opening in the White House. « I wasn’t even looking for a job, » he says. « I was happy where I was working, but she told me to go on over there and meet with a guy by the name of Alonzo Fields. »

Fields was a maitre d’, and he immediately liked Allen.

Allen was offered a job as a « pantry man. » He washed dishes, stocked cabinets and shined silverware. He started at $2,400 a year.

There was, in time, a promotion to butler. « Shook the hand of all the presidents I ever worked for, » he says.

« I was there, honey, » Helene reminds. « In the back, maybe. But I shook their hands, too. » She’s referring to White House holiday parties, Easter egg hunts. They have one son, Charles. He works as an investigator with the State Department.

« President Ford’s birthday and my birthday were on the same day, » he says. « He’d have a birthday party at the White House. Everybody would be there. And Mrs. Ford would say, ‘It’s Gene’s birthday, too!’ « 

And so they’d sing a little ditty to the butler. And the butler, who wore a tuxedo to work every day, would blush.

« Jack Kennedy was very nice, » he goes on. « And so was Mrs. Kennedy. »

« Hmm-mmm, » she says, rocking.

He was in the White House kitchen the day JFK was slain. He got a personal invitation to the funeral. But he volunteered for other duty: « Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral. »

The whole family of President Jimmy Carter made her chuckle: « They were country. And I’m talking Lillian and Rosalynn both. » It comes out sounding like the highest compliment.

First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming dinner for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He told her he was well ahead in the planning and had already picked out the china. But she told him he would not be working that night.

« She said, ‘You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.’ I’m telling you! I believe I’m the only butler to get invited to a state dinner. »

Husbands and wives don’t sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders. « And my son says, ‘Mama, just talk about your high school. They won’t know the difference.’

« The senators were all talking about the colleges and universities that they went to, » she says. » I was doing as much talking as they were.

« Had champagne that night, » she says, looking over at her husband.

He just grins: He was the man who stacked the champagne at the White House.

Moving Up, but Slowly

President Kennedy, who succeeded Eisenhower, started with two blacks, Frank Reeves and Andrew Hatcher, in executive positions on his White House staff. Only Hatcher, a deputy press secretary, remained after six months. Reeves, who focused on civil rights matters, left in a political reshuffling.

The issue of race bedeviled this White House, even amid good intentions. In February 1963, Kennedy invited 800 blacks to the White House to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Louis Martin, a Democratic operative who helped plan the function, had placed the names of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and his wife, May Britt, on the guest list. The White House scratched it off and Martin would put it back on. According to Martin, Kennedy was aghast when he saw the black and white couple stroll into the White House. His face reddened and he instructed photographers that no pictures of the interracial couple would be taken.

But Sammy Davis Jr. was not finished with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He got himself invited to the Nixon White House to meet with the president and talk about Vietnam and business opportunities for blacks. He even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom once. When Davis sang at the 1972 Republican convention in Miami, he famously wrapped his arms around Nixon at a youth rally there, becoming forever identified with a White House that many blacks found hostile.

Lyndon Johnson devoted considerable energy and determination to civil rights legislation, even appointing the first black to the Supreme Court. But it did not translate to any appreciable number of blacks working on his staff. Clifford Alexander says he was the sole black in Johnson’s White House, serving first as a National Security Council officer, then as associate White House counsel.

« We were fighting for something quite new, » says Alexander. « You knew how much your job meant. And you knew President Johnson was fighting on your behalf. » As a young man growing up in Harlem, Alexander had heard about Morrow. Mothers and fathers pointed to him as a grand success story. « Fred was a lovely man, » says Alexander. « But they did not pay any attention to him in the Eisenhower White House. »

Colin Powell would become the highest-ranking black of any White House to that point when he was named President Reagan’s national security adviser in 1987. Condoleezza Rice would have that same position under President George W. Bush.

The butler remembers seeing both Powell and Rice in the Oval Office. He was serving refreshments. He couldn’t help notice that blacks were moving closer to the center of power, closer than he could ever have dreamed. He’d tell Helene how proud it made him feel.

Time for Change

Gene Allen was promoted to maitre d’ in 1980. He left the White House in 1986, after 34 years. President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him, tight.

Interviewed at their home last week, Gene and Helene speculated about what it would mean if a black man were actually elected president.

« Just imagine, » she said.

« It’d be really something, » he said.

« We’re pretty much past the going-out stage, » she said. « But you never know. If he gets in there, it’d sure be nice to go over there again. »

They’ve got pictures of President and Mrs. Reagan in the living room. On a wall in the basement, they’ve got pictures of every president Gene ever served. There’s a painting President Eisenhower gave him and a picture of President Ford opening birthday gifts, Gene hovering nearby.

They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They’d go vote together. She’d lean on her cane with one hand, and on him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she’d get supper going afterward. They’d gone over their Election Day plans more than once.

« Imagine, » she said.

« That’s right, » he said.

On Monday Helene had a doctor’s appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone.

« I woke up and my wife didn’t, » he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee. They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen.

The lady whom he married 65 years ago will be buried today.

The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.

Voir par ailleurs:

LE MAJORDOME : chronique

Emmanuelle Spadacenta

11-09-2013

Lee Daniels retrace le parcours du majordome qui a servi trente-quatre ans à la Maison-Blanche sous huit présidents. Un homme qui a accompagné l’histoire américaine.

Cecil Gaines, incarné par Forest Whitaker, est l’avatar fictionnel d’Eugene Allen, majordome qui officia à la Maison-Blanche de 1952 à 1986. Retracer le destin de l’homme qui servit huit Présidents (de Eisenhower à Reagan), c’est raconter, via un témoin privilégié, l’éradication du racisme et de la ségrégation au plus haut sommet de l’État. LE MAJORDOME n’est pas une biographie : certains faits ont été modifiés ou créés de toutes pièces, afin que Cecil cristallise l’Histoire américaine et que, par son seul regard, le film puisse balayer soixante ans d’évolutions. Et poser encore davantage de questions. Car Cecil, jeune esclave des champs de coton, va s’élever socialement en devenant le serviteur des blancs. Son recruteur lui explique qu’ »à la Maison-Blanche, il n’y a aucune tolérance pour la politique ». Une ironie qui le force à se dépolitiser. Ainsi privé de toute conscience civique, il va se perdre entre les décisions des puissants et l’activisme du peuple noir. Et s’éloigner de son fils (David Oyelowo), engagé auprès de Martin Luther King puis de Malcolm X. Cecil est-il un esclave consentant d’une Amérique qui a conditionné les Noirs à s’asservir ou est-il au contraire, comme Luther King l’affirme, un être « subversif » qui s’ignore ? LE MAJORDOME est donc plus que l’hagiographie d’un témoin politique. Il ouvre des pistes de réflexion sur l’émancipation des opprimés et tend un miroir cruel à tous les Américains, via de nombreuses scènes à la puissance dévastatrice. Le réalisateur Lee Daniels est un rebelle pacifiste mais au cinéma, il dérange. LE MAJORDOME n’est ni poli ni beau sous tous rapports. C’est une œuvre de mauvais goût où le grain de l’image est gros, où les lumières sont cramées. Où Mariah Carey joue une esclave violée par son propriétaire terrien, où Oprah Winfrey incarne une desperate housewife alcoolique, où Lenny Kravitz met le tablier pour faire des petits fours. S’il n’est bien-pensant, LE MAJORDOME peut être rebutant : les maquillages prothétiques y sont franchement borderline, et cette certaine théâtralité peut friser la soirée déguisée. Mais sous cette grossièreté cinématographique, explosent une vraie flamboyance et une grande honnêteté. On est loin de l’entreprise cynique et bâclée. L’histoire, qui idéologiquement peut atteindre une grande complexité, est submergée par l’émotion, elle est racontée sans ambages, en ligne droite, et le règlement de compte que l’Amérique entreprend avec elle-même est douloureux. Il y a chez Lee Daniels, déjà responsable de PRECIOUS et PAPERBOY, une manière de s’exprimer sans s’excuser qui peut passer pour de l’arrogance ou de l’inconscience. Mais elle peut aussi révéler une personnalité entière des plus touchantes.

De Lee Daniels. Avec Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo. États-Unis. 2h12. Sortie le 11 septembre

L’ombre de ton ombre

Le Majordome

Lee Daniels

Critiques

10 septembre 2013

À peine ce Majordome nous intrigue-t-il – surtout par la cinglante démesure avec laquelle il semble endosser le genre du « film à Oscars » – que nous devons déjà ravaler nos minces espoirs : il n’y a que peu à sauver dans une entreprise à la fois aussi ambitieuse et aussi diminuée.

Cecil Gaines est un témoin privilégié de l’histoire contemporaine : il a officié durant sept présidences – nous n’en verrons réellement que cinq – en tant que majordome à la Maison Blanche. C’est aussi un Noir américain, né dans les champs de coton du Sud où il a vu son propre père se faire assassiner par son employeur blanc, avant de partir de son côté pour Washington et « servir », d’abord dans un palace, puis dans la demeure présidentielle. Le Majordome tente, ainsi, deux grands écarts : faire tenir en un seul film à la fois un résumé de toute l’histoire contemporaine américaine (par le prisme du Bureau ovale), et un résumé de toute la lutte pour la libération des Noirs (par le prisme d’une famille dont chaque génération constitue un chapitre de l’histoire des civil rights).

C’est cette vaste entreprise de pédagogie qui fait du Majordome un projet essentiellement grotesque, qui n’a que le temps de saisir les bouleversements historiques sous forme d’instants, de saynètes d’un plus grand tableau qui serait l’hagiographie d’un pays, les Etats-Unis, et d’une figure semi-divine, le Président. Ainsi se trouvent vignettées l’assassinat de Kennedy [1] (une dizaine de minutes), la guerre du Vietnam (pas mieux), la démission de Richard Nixon (un plan), où Lee Daniels visite l’histoire comme on visiterait un musée en courant, jetant des coups d’œil vaguement curieux aux mandats traversés. La question de l’émancipation des Noirs, essentiellement structurée autour de la relation entre un père bien rangé (Forest Whitaker) et son fils militant du Black Panther (David Oyelowo), n’en est pas moins caricaturale : Lee Daniels consacre une intarissable énergie à faire du « nègre de maison » (ainsi qu’ils sont appelés dans les riches propriétés du Sud) une image de libération en refusant de voir qu’elle cumule tous les attributs de la servilité.

À l’arrivée, difficile de déterminer quel versant du film est la toile de fond de l’autre. Avançant conjointement, présidence et mouvement des civil rights se font les deux points cardinaux de la contemporanéité politique américaine. Le Majordome pose ainsi l’empreinte d’un imaginaire collectif, brutalement matérialisé par une saisie de l’histoire qui est à rapprocher de l’écriture automatique. Chaque donnée politique se trouve ramenée à une image-réflexe, un souvenir prégnant ; ainsi se voient d’ailleurs tout bonnement évacués deux présidents déjà dissous dans l’amnésie générale (Gerald Ford et Jimmy Carter). La présidence de Barack Obama apparaît alors comme le salut du film, la rencontre pacifiée de ses deux sillages contradictoires. Versant littéralement dans le fanatisme – Cecil Gaines, vieillard et veuf, fond en larmes devant l’annonce des résultats en 2008 –, le final du Majordome nous rappelle à quel point l’écriture de l’histoire au cinéma n’est jamais mieux prise en défaut que dans son écriture du présent : l’agenouillement aveugle sur lequel le film s’achève vaut pour preuve de son simplisme généralisé.

Théo Ribeton

Notes

[1] Il faudrait d’ailleurs se demander pourquoi les deux films américains se proposant de représenter cette année l’assassinat d’un président ont systématiquement écarté l’image même de cet assassinat, dissimulée dans une ellipse. On ne verra pas plus la mort de John F. Kennedy qu’on ne vit celle d’Abraham Lincoln chez Steven Spielberg. Refoulé traumatique ?

« Le majordome », plus de trente ans dans la peau d’un Noir à la Maison-Blanche

Cette fresque humaniste sur un majordome qui a servi sept présidents des États-Unis et sur les tensions raciales figure déjà parmi les favoris pour la course aux Oscars.

10/9/13

Au début de sa carrière de majordome, Cecil Gaines (incarné par Forest Whitaker) est au service d…

ANNE MARIE FOX /Butler Films/LLC

Au début de sa carrière de majordome, Cecil Gaines (incarné par Forest Whitaker) est au service de Dwignt D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams).

LE MAJORDOME *** de Lee Daniels

Film américain, 2 h 05

« Je ne dois pas t’entendre respirer. » Telle est la première recommandation, terrible, de la vieille propriétaire de la plantation à Cecil Gaines, âgé de 7 ans en 1926, qui quitte les champs de coton pour devenir « nègre de maison ». Une promotion en guise de consolation : son père a été tué pour avoir esquissé une protestation contre le viol de sa mère par le maître des lieux.

L’orphelin apprend la place des couverts, la présentation des mets, la discrétion qui confine à l’invisibilité. Jeune adulte, il part de la plantation et trouve un emploi de majordome dans un bel hôtel, d’abord en Virginie puis à Washington où il épouse Gloria qui met au monde deux fils.

Sa méticulosité et sa culture l’amènent à devenir l’un des six majordomes en fonction à la Maison-Blanche. Embauché en 1957 alors qu’Eisenhower est au pouvoir, il demeure à ce poste durant sept présidences.

De la ségrégation raciale à l’élection de Barack Obama

En 2008, au moment de l’élection présidentielle, le Washington Post publie les entretiens d’un journaliste avec Eugene Allen, majordome pendant trente-quatre ans à la Maison-Blanche et qui mourra en 2010 à 90 ans. Le film de Lee Daniels s’inspire de son parcours exceptionnel. Un sujet en or dont le réalisateur tire une fantastique page d’histoire tout en ne perdant jamais de vue la petite histoire de son héros, Cecil Gaines.

En deux heures, ce long métrage balaie le demi-siècle où les États-Unis sont passés d’une période où un Blanc pouvait abattre un Noir, en toute impunité, à l’élection de Barack Obama à la présidence. Une révolution à l’échelle d’une vie. Se succèdent les étapes souvent sanglantes de la condition des Noirs, sans pesanteur grâce à l’entrelacs de ce propos avec la vie des personnages.

Étudiant, Louis, le fils aîné de Cecil, part dans le Sud afin de participer au mouvement pour l’égalité des droits civiques par la résistance pacifique chère à Gandhi et Martin Luther King ; il occupe des places réservées aux Blancs dans les restaurants et les bus, ce qui lui vaut blessures et séjours en prison. Cecil suit cet engagement avec affliction : il ne comprend pas ce militantisme et l’ingratitude d’un fils à qui il a tout donné pour mener une vie bourgeoise et paisible.

« À la Maison-Blanche, nous ne tolérons pas que vous soyez politisé »

C’est l’excellente idée du film de Lee Daniels : il ne se contente pas d’être une biographie filmée et de dérouler les étapes de l’émancipation des Noirs. Par l’antagonisme père-fils, il montre la complexité de cette mutation et deux stratégies opposées : l’intégration du père qui a trouvé sa place, même modeste, dans le saint des saints de la démocratie américaine, et la rébellion du fils, d’abord pacifiste avant de se radicaliser avec les Black Panthers.

Cecil Gaines accepte sans sourciller l’énormité énoncée lors de son recrutement : « À la Maison-Blanche, nous ne tolérons pas que vous soyez politisé. » Mais peut-être, de l’intérieur, peut-il œuvrer en douceur pour une évolution, à défaut d’une révolution.

Malcolm X oppose les « nègres de maison », conservateurs, et les « nègres des champs », révoltés. Martin Luther King au contraire voit la dimension subversive des premiers, dociles et travailleurs, à l’encontre des stéréotypes des racistes.

Film à la réalisation classique voire académique, Le Majordome brille par sa distribution où se bousculent les stars. Forest Whitaker donne une élégance retenue et un charisme modeste à Cecil Gaines. Oprah Winfrey incarne Gloria, son épouse délaissée. Inégal, le casting des présidents réunit Robin Williams (Dwight D. Eisenhower), James Marsden (John F. Kennedy) et Alan Rickman (Ronald Reagan) accompagné de Jane Fonda (Nancy Reagan).

De facture hollywoodienne, le film joue (parfois trop) sur la corde de l’émotion, au point de tirer des larmes aux spectateurs et à Barack Obama. « J’ai pleuré, a-t-il expliqué, non seulement parce que je pensais aux majordomes qui ont travaillé ici, à la Maison-Blanche, mais aussi à une génération entière de gens qui étaient capables et talentueux, mais ont été bridés à cause des lois raciales, à cause des discriminations. »

CORINNE RENOU-NATIVEL

Le Majordome

Frédéric Strauss

Télérama

11/09/2013

Au service de huit présidents à la Maison-Blanche, Eugene Allen (1919-2010) passa sa vie dans les coulisses de l’Histoire. Rebap­tisé Cecil Gaines, il devient, en quelque sorte, l’ambassadeur de tout un peuple : les Noirs américains. Lee Daniels est l’un d’eux et il n’hésite pas à politiser son propos. C’est d’ailleurs la bonne surprise de ce film, qu’on pouvait redouter bien plus décoratif et anecdotique… Deux ou trois scènes où passe un plateau d’argent suffisent à résumer le travail de ce valet des présidents. Eisenhower, Kennedy ou Nixon sont représentés avec un minimum de crédi­bilité, Jane Fonda vient faire sa Nancy Reagan : elle est très drôle, mais toute cette reconstitution reste simplette. L’important est ailleurs. Lee Daniels insiste sur la principale qualité d’un bon majordome : être invisible. La clé d’une discrétion qui va de soi, mais aussi une règle de survie sociale : pour être tolérés par les Blancs, les Noirs doivent éviter de se faire remarquer. Un principe contre lequel va s’élever le fils du majordome qui devient, lui, un héros de la bataille des droits civiques, dans le sillage de Martin Luther King et Malcolm X.

Cet aspect symbolique ne va pas sans une certaine schématisation. Mais Lee Daniels réussit à raconter, expliquer cette Amérique qui a difficilement renoncé à la discrimination raciale et n’en est pas encore complètement remise. Un pays, cependant, où un Noir, embauché à la Maison-Blanche, y revint, à la fin de sa vie, pour rencontrer Barack Obama. Un parcours qui a tout d’une parabole.


Guerre des sexes: Etalement masculin contre corset invisible ? (Man spread vs. invisible corset ?)

21 octobre, 2013
Paris
https://i0.wp.com/fr.web.img3.acsta.net/medias/nmedia/18/69/05/89/19055076.jpgLe territoire s’urbanise. La ville-féminine se territorialise et donc se masculinise. Ainsi, la structure territoriale actuelle de la ville, atomisée, multilocalisée, fragmentée, empêche l’expression des valeurs féminines du local, connu, intérieur, mesuré. Avec la mégapolisation et la globalisation, la ville devient ouverte et perméable. La globalisation a cassé l’intérieur, l’intime, le prochain, elle a violé et traversé l’enceinte sacrée du local et profané la ville. L’étranger devient local, le familier global. Le prochain est profané, le lointain sacralisé. L’association erronée du féminin avec les femmes conduit ces dernières à un confinement vers un rôle jugé péjorativement comme secondaire. Par cette même association erronée, les hommes s’érigent une fois de plus en maîtres de cette violation du sacré intérieur de la ville. Ce sont principalement eux qui construisent une Europe de villes ouvertes et défigurées, centraliste et étrangère aux intérêts des citadins. En assumant son inconscient masculin, nombre de femmes latino-américaines construisent avec créativité le souhaitable à partir du possible et nourrissent leurs familles dans des contextes de crise économique. En assumant leur inconscient féminin, des hommes de partout reconnaissent l’importance vitale de la protection de la mère-terre souffrante et agonisante et s’engagent dans sa préservation. Mais en même temps , des millions de femmes en refoulant leur inconscient masculin renoncent à lutter pour conquérir un rôle complémentaire des hommes qui leur permette de sortir de la soumission actuelle. De même, en refoulant leur inconscient féminin, des millions d’hommes continuent à détruire la mère-terre, à profaner la ville par la mise en place de politiques qui n’empêchent pas sa défiguration territoriale ni l’exploitation et la domination des femmes. En conclusion, la question que l’on peut se poser est : Comment faire en sorte que notre conception de la ville et la ville elle-même devienne plus humaine, c’est-à-dire intégrative de la totalité de l’être humain dans ses composantes féminines et masculines? Rodrigo Vidal Rojos
Depuis longtemps, les prostituées de rues se déguisent en pute pour bien expliquer: le rimmel, les bas-résilles, c’est moi qui vend la marchandise, j’annonce la couleur, laissez la petite secrétaire ou la mère de famille qui fait ses courses.  On savait à quoi s’en tenir.  Mais les marchands de fringues, de musique, de régimes et de cosmétiques ont su convaincre les femmes qu’être un objet était valorisant.  Et que montrer son piercing au nombril était chouette, que le string qui dépasse, la jarretière du bas auto-fixant, la bretelle de soutien-gorge était chouette et libérée.  Bref, la femme marchandise était conquérante, adulée, victorieuse. Et devenait l’étalon. Comme on imposait le voile dans d’autres pays et d’autres cultures, on imposait (moins brutalement mais plus sournoisement, certes) en modèle l’échancré, le transparent, le push-up, le moulant, le fendu, l’épilé, le siliconé. Ce sont ces fausses putes, les « salopes » médiatiques, de Madonna à Britney Spears en passant par Beyoncé qui, en vendant leur cul moulé et gigotant à longueur de vidéo clip ont promu la femme hypersexualisée, libertine et aguicheuse. Et fière de l’être.  « Dior j’adore » nous dit une bouche entr’ouverte et transpirante.  Le Perrier jaillit sur un corps bronzé, et la miss Wonderbra nous dit de la regarder dans les yeux.  La Saint Valentin, une débauche (sans jeu de mot) de peaux montrées pour vendre de la lingerie.  (…) Vous avez vu comment s’habillent les présentatrices télé?  Karine Lemarchand, Melissa Theuriau, Daphné Roulié, Anne-Sophie-Lapix, et des dizaines d’autres ont été choisie pour leur Q. S. (Quotient sexuel) AVANT leur QI.  Normal, sinon elles se feraient zapper entre les pubs qui montrent des filles sublimes.  Forum-doctissimo
La jupe a existé bien avant l’invention, au XIe siècle, du mot arabe «djoubba» qui désigne une sorte de robe que le prophète a portée. Selon les régions, elle était revêtue par les hommes ou par les femmes. Mais cela fait maintenant des siècles qu’en France, elle symbolise le genre féminin. (…) La Bible interdit (Deuteronome) aux femmes de s’habiller en homme et aux hommes de s’habiller en femme. En France, l’Eglise catholique s’est chargée de faire respecter cette loi morale. Jusque dans les années 60, un prêtre pouvait refuser la communion à une femme en pantalon. Les pouvoirs publics aussi, ont repris cette interdiction. Ainsi, en 1800, une ordonnance de la préfecture de police de Paris interdit aux femmes de s’habiller en homme (elle n’est d’ailleurs toujours pas abrogée). Dans la volonté de différencier les sexes par le vêtement, il y a aussi une volonté d’introduire une hiérarchie. La mode féminine a longtemps créé à l’évidence des entraves au mouvement. Et si les cols durs n’étaient sans doute pas très agréables à porter, les hommes ont toujours porté des vêtements plus pratiques. Bref, le sexe dominant s’est octroyé des vêtements plus faciles à porter. Comme le pantalon qui symbolise le pouvoir. Ce n’est pas un hasard, si on dit porter la culotte… La jupe, elle, a été valorisée sur le plan esthétique, érotique. La jupe masque, elle cache le sexe des femmes, a-t-on dit. Mais contrairement au pantalon, fermé et protecteur, c’est un vêtement ouvert, très ouvert, d’autant que pendant longtemps, les femmes n’ont pas porté de sous-vêtements fermés dessous, mais des jupons superposés. Les culottes étaient soit inexistantes soit largement fendues. La norme était l’ouverture totale. Symboliquement, on peut y voir l’accessibilité au sexe féminin. C’est seulement au début du XXe siècle que le sous-vêtement fermé se répand… (…) il faut attendre la Belle Epoque pour qu’il soit vraiment question de réformer le costume féminin. Jupe ou pantalon, c’est grâce à des féministes comme Madeleine Pelletier (1874-1939) qu’on peut se poser cette question futile le matin. On peut également citer Hubertine Auclert (1848-1914), la première suffragette française, qui défend la Ligue des robes courtes (en fait des robes qui ne traînent pas sur le sol). L’incendie du Bazar de la Charité en 1897 a marqué les esprits. Sur les 116 victimes identifiées, 110 étaient de sexe féminin. Cet événement a lancé des réflexions sur la nature contraignante du vêtement féminin. Pour les féministes les plus radicales, c’est même devenu un argument en faveur du port du pantalon, qui a aidé les hommes à fuir plus rapidement. Enfin, un mouvement hygiéniste a également poussé, dès la fin du XIXe siècle, à réformer la garde-robe des femmes, en s’élevant contre la jupe, le corset, les talons hauts… (…) La peur de l’indifférenciation des sexes freine les progrès. Il n’y a guère eu que la percée de la culotte de zouave pour monter à bicyclette et l’invention de la jupe-culotte également réservée aux activités sportives. (…)  Tout ce qui fait reculer la pudeur, qui a servi au contrôle des femmes, est un signe d’émancipation. L’ourlet est vraiment raccourci pendant les Années folles (au genou en 1925). Plus tard, sous Vichy, on se souviendra de cette garçonne, personnification de la «décadence» qui a conduit à la défaite. Les années 50 continuent d’ailleurs de régler son compte à ce modèle de femme masculinisée. Dior parlera d’ailleurs de «reféminiser» la femme… (…) Il a toujours été plus facile de montrer sa poitrine que ses jambes et ce, dès le Moyen Age et ses nudités de gorge… Mais les jeunes femmes se libèrent aussi en portant des pantalons dont le triomphe coïncide avec celui de la minijupe. On en a déjà vu à la plage dans les années 20, mais il a vraiment cessé d’être un symbole de masculinité dans les années 60. Au fond, ce que souhaitent les femmes c’est s’habiller comme elles veulent. En jupe ou en pantalon. Ce n’est pas toujours possible aujourd’hui encore dans certaines professions. Les hôtesses de l’air d’Air France, qui réclamaient le droit au pantalon depuis 1968, ont dû attendre 2005, au motif qu’elles portaient l’image de la France. Comme si la jupe était une part de la francité… (…) le droit du travail (article L.120-2) permet [d’imposer la jupe] à condition que l’employeur en justifie clairement les raisons. Typiquement, sont concernés les métiers où les femmes sont en contact avec le public, comme les vendeuses. Et de façon plus générale, toutes ces entreprises qui, à la manière américaine, donnent à leurs salariées une tenue modèle, pour créer une certaine image de leur boîte. C’est la tendance actuelle. Et l’on peut s’attendre à un regain de pression sociale pour imposer la jupe.(…) Jusqu’en 1980, les députées n’étaient pas admises en pantalon à l’Assemblée nationale. C’était du moins l’usage que faisaient scrupuleusement respecter les huissiers. Cette année-là, la députée communiste Chantal Leblanc, refoulée à cause de son pantalon, proteste et obtient gain de cause. Des années plus tard, si l’on regarde la photo du gouvernement en 2007, les ministres sont presque toutes en pantalon. Cela contraste avec l’ultraféminité de Ségolène Royal, qui joue la différence. En gros, alors que les autres cherchent à neutraliser leur genre, et à déjouer la sexualisation, elle joue la carte de la féminité, et c’est risqué… (…) c’est parfois un acte militant, une manière de défendre un «droit à la féminité» alors que dans le même temps l’association s’est prononcée contre le port du voile. Une position qui a d’ailleurs été mal comprise par les jeunes, qui sont plutôt en faveur de l’absence d’interdits vestimentaires. En tout cas, il faut bien reconnaître qu’à partir des années 2000, les jeunes filles ont renoncé à la jupe dans les collèges. Et pas seulement dans les cités. En gros, la jupe est devenue un danger, un signe de disponibilité sexuelle, avec une équation jupe = pute. Comme si la féminité était une provocation sexuelle permanente. Au fond, comme si les filles devaient faire oublier qu’elles sont des filles. Ainsi s’est créée «la journée de la jupe et du respect» à l’initiative d’une association rennaise en 2006 qui, au lycée d’Etrelles, ne fait pas l’éloge de la jupe, mais en profite pour parler de sexualité, de violence entre filles et garçons… Christine Bard
Le privilège masculin est aussi un piège et il trouve sa contrepartie dans la tension et la contention permanentes, parfois poussées jusqu’à l’absurde, qu’impose à chaque homme le devoir d’affirmer en toute circonstance sa virilité. (…) Tout concourt ainsi à faire de l’idéal impossible de virilité le principe d’une immense vulnérabilité. C’est elle qui conduit, paradoxalement, à l’investissement, parfois forcené, dans tous les jeux de violence masculins, tels dans nos sociétés les sports, et tout spécialement ceux qui sont les mieux faits pour produire les signes visibles de la masculinité, et pour manifester et aussi éprouver les qualités dites viriles, comme les sports de combat. Pierre Bourdieu
C’est très difficile de se comporter correctement quand on a une jupe. Si vous êtes un homme, imaginez-vous en jupe, plutôt courte, et essayez donc de vous accroupir, de ramasser un objet tombé par terre sans bouger de votre chaise ni écarter les jambes… La jupe, c’est un corset invisible, qui impose une tenue et une retenue, une manière de s’asseoir, de marcher. Elle a finalement la même fonction que la soutane. Revêtir une soutane, cela change vraiment la vie, et pas seulement parce que vous devenez prêtre au regard des autres. Votre statut vous est rappelé en permanence par ce bout de tissu qui vous entrave les jambes, de surcroît une entrave d’allure féminine. Vous ne pouvez pas courir ! Je vois encore les curés de mon enfance qui relevaient leurs jupes pour jouer à la pelote basque. La jupe, c’est une sorte de pense-bête. La plupart des injonctions culturelles sont ainsi destinées à rappeler le système d’opposition (masculin/féminin, droite/gauche, haut/bas, dur/mou…) qui fonde l’ordre social. Des oppositions arbitraires qui finissent par se passer de justification et être enregistrées comme des différences de nature. Par exemple, avec  » tiens ton couteau dans la main droite « , se transmet toute la morale de la virilité, où, dans l’opposition entre la droite et la gauche, la droite est  » naturellement  » le côté de la virtus comme vertu de l’homme (vir). La jupe, ça montre plus qu’un pantalon et c’est difficile à porter justement parce que cela risque de montrer. Voilà toute la contradiction de l’attente sociale envers les femmes : elles doivent être séduisantes et retenues, visibles et invisibles (ou, dans un autre registre, efficaces et discrètes). On a déjà beaucoup glosé sur ce sujet, sur les jeux de la séduction, de l’érotisme, toute l’ambiguïté du montré-caché. La jupe incarne très bien cela. Un short, c’est beaucoup plus simple: ça cache ce que ça cache et ça montre ce que ça montre. La jupe risque toujours de montrer plus que ce qu’elle montre. Il fut un temps où il suffisait d’une cheville entr’aperçue!… Les injonctions en matière de bonne conduite sont particulièrement puissantes parce qu’elles s’adressent d’abord au corps et qu’elles ne passent pas nécessairement par le langage et par la conscience. Les femmes savent sans le savoir que, en adoptant telle ou telle tenue, tel ou tel vêtement, elles s’exposent à être perçues de telle ou telle façon. Le gros problème des rapports entre les sexes aujourd’hui, c’est qu’il y a des contresens, de la part des hommes en particulier, sur ce que veut dire le vêtement des femmes. Beaucoup d’études consacrées aux affaires de viol ont montré que les hommes voient comme des provocations des attitudes qui sont en fait en conformité avec une mode vestimentaire. (…) Les études montrent que, de manière générale, les femmes sont très peu satisfaites de leur corps. Quand on leur demande quelles parties elles aiment le moins, c’est toujours celles qu’elles trouvent trop  » grandes » ou trop  » grosses  » ; les hommes étant au contraire insatisfaits des parties de leur corps qu’ils jugent trop  » petites « . Parce qu’il va de soi pour tout le monde que le masculin est grand et fort et le féminin petit et fin. Ajoutez les canons, toujours plus stricts, de la mode et de la diététique, et l’on comprend comment, pour les femmes, le miroir et la balance ont pris la place de l’autel et du prie-dieu. Pierre Bourdieu

A l’heure où, photos à l’appui, des blogueuses commencent à repérer le peu d’espace qui leur est laissé par nombre d’hommes dans notamment les transports en commun …

Comment ne pas repenser aux fameuses pages de Bourdieu sur le rôle de « corset invisible » de nombre de vêtements féminins et notamment la (mini)jupe, repassée en quelques décennies de conquête sociale à revendication sociale, que la mode féminine impose souvent aux femmes ?

Mais aussi, inversement, la sorte d’injonction de grandeur et de force et donc d’espace consommé (y compris avec les nouvelles panoplies de télécommunications numériques et notamment aux âges où deviennent si cruciales les questions de l’image de soi donnée aux autres), que cela suppose pour les hommes dignes de ce nom ?

Pierre Bourdieu : Le corset invisible

entretien avec Catherine Portevin

Télérama n°2534

5 août 1998.

TELERAMA : A quoi sert la jupe?

PIERRE BOURDIEU : C’est très difficile de se comporter correctement quand on a une jupe. Si vous êtes un homme, imaginez-vous en jupe, plutôt courte, et essayez donc de vous accroupir, de ramasser un objet tombé par terre sans bouger de votre chaise ni écarter les jambes… La jupe, c’est un corset invisible, qui impose une tenue et une retenue, une manière de s’asseoir, de marcher. Elle a finalement la même fonction que la soutane. Revêtir une soutane, cela change vraiment la vie, et pas seulement parce que vous devenez prêtre au regard des autres. Votre statut vous est rappelé en permanence par ce bout de tissu qui vous entrave les jambes, de surcroît une entrave d’allure féminine. Vous ne pouvez pas courir ! Je vois encore les curés de mon enfance qui relevaient leurs jupes pour jouer à la pelote basque.

La jupe, c’est une sorte de pense-bête. La plupart des injonctions culturelles sont ainsi destinées à rappeler le système d’opposition (masculin/féminin, droite/gauche, haut/bas, dur/mou…) qui fonde l’ordre social. Des oppositions arbitraires qui finissent par se passer de justification et être enregistrées comme des différences de nature. Par exemple, avec  » tiens ton couteau dans la main droite « , se transmet toute la morale de la virilité, où, dans l’opposition entre la droite et la gauche, la droite est  » naturellement  » le côté de la virtus comme vertu de l’homme (vir).

TRA : La jupe, c’est aussi un cache-sexe?

P.B. : Oui, mais c’est secondaire. Le contrôle est beaucoup plus profond et plus subtil. La jupe, ça montre plus qu’un pantalon et c’est difficile à porter justement parce que cela risque de montrer. Voilà toute la contradiction de l’attente sociale envers les femmes : elles doivent être séduisantes et retenues, visibles et invisibles (ou, dans un autre registre, efficaces et discrètes). On a déjà beaucoup glosé sur ce sujet, sur les jeux de la séduction, de l’érotisme, toute l’ambiguïté du montré-caché. La jupe incarne très bien cela. Un short, c’est beaucoup plus simple: ça cache ce que ça cache et ça montre ce que ça montre. La jupe risque toujours de montrer plus que ce qu’elle montre. Il fut un temps où il suffisait d’une cheville entr’aperçue!…

TRA : Vous évoquez : une femme disant:  » Ma mère ne m’a jamais dit de ne pas me tenir les jambes écartées  » et pourtant, elle savait bien que ce n’est pas convenable  » pour une fille « … Comment se reproduisent les dispositions corporelles ?

P.B. : Les injonctions en matière de bonne conduite sont particulièrement puissantes parce qu’elles s’adressent d’abord au corps et qu’elles ne passent pas nécessairement par le langage et par la conscience. Les femmes savent sans le savoir que, en adoptant telle ou telle tenue, tel ou tel vêtement, elles s’exposent à être perçues de telle ou telle façon. Le gros problème des rapports entre les sexes aujourd’hui, c’est qu’il y a des contresens, de la part des hommes en particulier, sur ce que veut dire le vêtement des femmes. Beaucoup d’études consacrées aux affaires de viol ont montré que les hommes voient comme des provocations des attitudes qui sont en fait en conformité avec une mode vestimentaire. Très souvent, les femmes elles-mêmes condamnent les femmes violées au prétexte qu' » elles l’ont bien cherché « . Ajoutez ensuite le rapport à la justice, le regard des policiers, puis des juges, qui sont très souvent des hommes… On comprend que les femmes hésitent à déposer une plainte pour viol ou harcèlement sexuel…

TRA : Etre femme, c’est être perçue, et c’ est alors le regard de I’homme qui fait la femme?

P.B. : Tout le monde est soumis aux regards. Mais avec plus ou moins d’intensité selon les positions sociales et surtout selon les sexes. Une femme, en effet, est davantage exposée à exister par le regard des autres. C’est pourquoi la crise d’adolescence, qui concerne justement l’image de soi donnée aux autres, est souvent plus aiguë chez les filles. Ce que l’on décrit comme coquetterie féminine (l’adjectif va de soi !), c’est la manière de se comporter lorsque l’on est toujours en danger d’être perçu.

Je pense à de très beaux travaux d’une féministe américaine sur les transformations du rapport au corps qu’entraîne la pratique sportive et en particulier la gymnastique. Les femmes sportives se découvrent un autre corps, un corps pour être bien, pour bouger, et non plus pour le regard des autres et, d’abord, des hommes. Mais, dans la mesure où elles s’affranchissent du regard, elles s’exposent à être vues comme masculines. C’est le cas aussi des femmes intellectuelles à qui on reproche de ne pas être assez féminines. Le mouvement féministe a un peu transformé cet état de fait – pas vraiment en France la pub française traite très mal les femmes ! Si j’étais une femme, je casserais ma télévision ! – en revendiquant le natural look qui, comme le black is beautiful, consiste à renverser l’image dominante. Ce qui est évidemment perçu comme une agression et suscite des sarcasmes du genre  » les féministes sont moches, elles sont toutes grosses »…

TRA : Il faut croire alors que, sur des points aussi essentiels que le rapport des femmes à leur corps, le mouvement féministe n’a guère réussi.

P.B. : Parce qu’on n’a pas poussé assez loin l’analyse. On ne mesure pas l’ascèse et les disciplines qu’impose aux femmes cette vision masculine du monde, dans laquelle nous baignons tous et que les critiques générales du  » patriarcat  » ne suffisent pas à remettre en cause. J’ai montré dans La Distinction que les femmes de la petite bourgeoisie, surtout lorsqu’elles appartiennent aux professions de  » représentation « , investissent beaucoup, de temps mais aussi d’argent, dans les soins du corps. Et les études montrent que, de manière générale, les femmes sont très peu satisfaites de leur corps. Quand on leur demande quelles parties elles aiment le moins, c’est toujours celles qu’elles trouvent trop  » grandes » ou trop  » grosses  » ; les hommes étant au contraire insatisfaits des parties de leur corps qu’ils jugent trop  » petites « . Parce qu’il va de soi pour tout le monde que le masculin est grand et fort et le féminin petit et fin. Ajoutez les canons, toujours plus stricts, de la mode et de la diététique, et l’on comprend comment, pour les femmes, le miroir et la balance ont pris la place de l’autel et du prie-dieu.

Voir aussi:

Genre et transports publics : la guerre des territoires

Margot Baldassi

Pop up urbain

24.09.13

C’est en errant sur Twitter la semaine dernière que nous sommes tombés sur une énième conversation lancée par la blogueuse étiquetée “féministe” (ce n’est pas son unique engagement), Mar_Lard. Les débats auxquels elle participe sur les réseaux sociaux soulèvent bien souvent des questions piquantes de discrimination. Cette fois, la discussion abordait plus ou moins directement un bouquet de thèmes qui nous sont chers tels que la place des femmes dans l’espace public, et plus précisément les incivilités teintées de machisme.

La polémique est partie de remarques sur les codes sociaux sexistes attribués à certains gestes du quotidien : les femmes se tiennent les jambes croisées, les hommes les jambes écartées. Pour faire simple, un homme croisant les jambes est catalogué “efféminé” depuis la petite école ; une femme se tenant les jambes écartées est jugée ou bien “masculine” (vulgaire) ou bien “aguicheuse” (surtout si elle porte une jupe)… Les messages qui s’en sont suivis ont alors pointé du doigt une question qui nous concerne plus directement : celle des incivilités dans les transports publics. [Voir une sélection de tweets ici]

“Your balls are not that big”

Les articles et blogs dénonçant l’attitude “machiste” de certains voyageurs ne manquent pas sur la Toile ! En effet, une poignée de Tumblr affiche ça et là des photos, prises sur le vif, de personnes d’obédience masculine se tenant les pattes un peu trop desserrées pour ne pas gêner leur voisin de trajet en métro. Ce phénomène porte même un nom sur les Internets : le fameux Urban Dictionary – “l’autorité non officielle des définitions des mots argotiques sur internet” – l’a baptisé “Man spread” (littéralement “étalement masculin”, voire “colonisation phallocrate”…). Et sa définition est bien précise :

“Where a dude sits down on a chair and spreads out his legs to make a V shape with them.” [ndlr : Lorsqu’un mec s’assoit en étalant ses jambes avec la forme d’un V.]

Man spread

Ainsi, les critiques acerbes de cette attitude à la fois sans gêne et “conquérante” – souvent propre à la gente masculine – pullulent. Tandis qu’une blogueuse pense que la lutte contre cet usage devrait à terme se concrétiser par une loi [voir en 15ème position de la liste], un mouvement féministe suédois invite les internautes à poster, sur un blog dédié, des images inculpant ces couillus assis de façon trop laxiste.

Transports publics VS “Space Invaders”

Au-delà de la dimension sexiste – présentée en introduction – de cette forme de colonisation de l’espace public, le phénomène du “Man spread” s’inscrit inévitablement dans la traque contemporaine des “incivilités” vécues par tous dans les transports publics. Cette course à la bonne conduite est ainsi devenue un leitmotiv du discours des géants de la mobilité, et de notre société si moderne. La RATP a d’ailleurs créé un Observatoire dédié, recensant des comportements aussi délictuels que :

“ne pas valider son ticket ou pass Navigo, monter dans le bus ou le métro sans attendre que les gens en descendent, sauter au-dessus des tourniquets, parler fort au téléphone, bousculer quelqu’un sans s’excuser, laisser son journal sur son siège, passer avec un autre voyageur au tourniquet sans le lui demander, rester assis sur son strapontin malgré l’affluence, rester à l’arrêt sur un escalator et gêner la circulation, et enfin manger” [Voir sur le site de RMC.]

Affiche Tokyo

Une publicité tokyoïte institutionnalise la querelle contre le phénomène du “Man Spread” avec humour

Que les institutions de transport pointent du doigt impolitesses et fraude, on peut le comprendre. Mais la réappropriation de ce discours par les habitants n’est-elle pas plus gênante ? De notre point de vue, s’écrouler un peu saoul sur un strapontin après une soirée arrosée, ou y avaler en vitesse une barquette de frites pour ne pas s’évanouir pendant sa séance de sport, ne constituent pas franchement les fléaux de la société actuelle. Les petites gênes occasionnées par “les autres” feront toujours partie de l’essence même d’un espace partagé. Et nous ne croyons guère que tout espace public puisse un jour ressembler au lieu idyllique et aseptisé dont rêvent certains.

Eradiquer la ville sexiste

Ces questions d’incivilités, couplées aux engagements féministes contre une “société testiculaire”, amènent forcément à s’interroger sur la place des femmes dans l’espace public. L’inscription de la domination masculine, en tant que paradigme sociétal fondamental, ne se ressent donc pas qu’à travers les carrières professionnelles, les produits de consommation et le marketing qui va avec… En effet, les lieux aussi sont teintés de sexisme, comme le rappelle Rodrigo Vidal Rojas dans une excellente analyse :

“Le symbole phallique, premier élément de structuration spatiale du territoire traduit la domination de l’homme sur la femme et sur la mère-terre; c’est le phallocentrisme ou la primauté du mâle.”

Ces réflexions ne sont ni nouvelles ni isolées, puisque de plus en plus d’urbanistes et de sociologues prônent l’intégration de l’égalité des sexes dans la construction de la ville. Reste à savoir à quoi ressemblerait une ville au féminin du point de vue de ses bâtisseurs actuels. D’un côté, voir disparaître les symboles phalliques que sont les tours d’un quartier des affaires au profit d’une prolifération de “gratte-terres” relèverait d’une moindre ambition.

Extrait du blog « Paye Ta Shnek », recensant des « tentatives de séduction en milieu urbain »

De l’autre, “peindre les rues en rose” – comme ironisait la journaliste Clare Foran – serait extrêmement navrant… Et pourtant cette mauvaise blague survole plus que jamais les actualités, aussi ridicule que cela puisse paraître. Voilà un exemple qui en dit long sur les caricatures qui sclérosent encore le débat “genre et territoire” : non, faire la ville pour les femmes ne signifie pas fluidifier leur déplacement de la cuisine à la crèche… Après avoir passé des siècles à penser la ville par et pour les hommes, la tendance est aujourd’hui de faire la ville pour les femmes à grands renforts de clichés sexistes. En attendant d’en finir une bonne fois pour toutes avec les multiples inégalités qui rongent encore notre société proprette, donnons aux femmes ce pouvoir urbanistique si chèrement protégé par la gente masculine.

Voir également:

Dans le métro, les hommes occupent plus d’espace que les femmes

Olivier Razemon

Le Monde

14 octobre 2013

Le voilà, le maître du monde. Les jambes nonchalamment écartées, les pieds calés de chaque côté du corps, le journal largement ouvert devant lui, la tablette à portée de main, installé comme s’il lisait paisiblement dans son salon. A côté, une femme, telle une petite souris, a replié les jambes, rangé ses affaires et posé son sac sur ses genoux. Et l’équipée s’en va ainsi, brinquebalante, soumise aux soubresauts de la rame, aux accélérations soudaines et aux freinages intempestifs.

Genre. Dans le métro, les hommes occupent plus d’espace que les femmes. Photos à l’appui, ce Tumblr (un outil comparable à un blog qui permet de poster des textes, photos ou vidéos en ligne) dénonce ce qui semble être une règle tacite entre usagers des transports. Femme, tu te ratatineras sur ton siège, car les transports sont bondés et l’espace contraint. Homme, tu feras à ta guise, car après tout c’est toi qui domines et qui gagnes le plus d’argent. Que les mouvements réactionnaires inquiets d’une hypothétique progression de la « théorie du genre » se rassurent : les comportements sexués ont de l’avenir devant eux.

Anatomie. Constatée dans le « subway » de New York, la domination masculine sur les bancs du métro est également avérée à Paris, voire dans les trains du quotidien, en France. Un article récent parle même de « guerre des territoires » entre les genres. Deux raisons au moins expliquent le phénomène qui, s’il n’a rien de scientifiquement prouvé, s’appuie tout de même sur des observations récurrentes. Tout d’abord, les hommes écartent les jambes pour rechercher un confort anatomique sur lequel il n’est pas nécessaire de s’étendre (en tous cas pas ici, maintenant). Cet article paru sur le blog féministe Jezebel ne peut être plus clair : « there’s no way that your dick is so huge that it needs an entire bench to itself ».

Ne pas passer pour un gay. Le phénomène, constate l’auteure de l’article, « transcende la classe sociale, la profession, l’âge, classe et la couleur de peau ». Le même blog féministe explique d’une autre manière le V bien ouvert que décrivent les jambes viriles : « On ne peut attendre d’un type macho qu’il place les jambes l’une contre l’autre. Ne savez-vous pas que s’asseoir normalement vous fait passer pour un gay ? » Tant qu’à faire de la psychologie de tourniquet, on pourrait ajouter que les garçons ont moins été formés que leurs sœurs à ranger leur chambre. Il faut les voir, sur ces images, déballer toutes leurs petites affaires sur le siège d’à-côté : sacoche, appareil connecté, ordinateur, dossiers, sac de sport…

Foule connectée. Enfin, si les hommes prennent plus de place sur les sièges du métro, c’est peut-être qu’ils sont davantage connectés. Comme le constate Yo Kaminagai, designer à la RATP, dans cet article écrit à la rentrée 2012, « une foule connectée prend plus de place ». Pour le designer, qui a observé les habitués du métro, « un passager qui téléphone ou rédige un message occupe une surface plus grande que celui qui reste assis ou debout sans bouger ». L’usage du smartphone exige non seulement plus d’espace physique « mais aussi une sphère de confidentialité plus grande », poursuit-il. De fait, on a naturellement tendance à s’écarter d’un quidam qui parle dans son téléphone ou qui tapote son écran à l’aide de son pouce. Surtout si c’est un homme.

NB : un dessin qui fait le,même constat. A voir sur le blog « 365 jours ».

LA VILLE AU FEMININ ET AU MASCULIN

Rodrigo Vidal Rojos

L’histoire de l’urbain révèle de manière flagrante la permanence d’un rapport de domination de la femme par l’homme. A des de grés différents et dans des modalités qui varient selon l’époque et les cultures, les villes ont été construites et ont vécu jusqu’à aujourd’hui dans un ra pport de domi nation et de soumission plus ou moins cruel pour les femmes. Cela reste un fait incontestable. Pourtant, les explications données par les sciences sociales, et particulièrement par la sociologie, bien que clarificatrices quant aux mécanismes observables de cette domination, restent insuffisantes pour en expliquer les racines profondes . Cela, tout simplement, parce que ces racines trouv ent leurs origines au coeur même des êtres humains. Ces origines, individuelles et collectiv es, sont explorées, parmi d’autres, par la psychologie, la mythologie et l’anthropologie culturelle. L’intégration à l’analyse urbaine des concepts et des méthodes scientifiques, nouveaux ou déjà connus, mais qui n’ont pas encore été suffisamment exploités dans la recherche urbaine, peut constituer une véritable contribution au progrès de la connaissance scientifique afin d’expliquer la complexité de la ville en allant au-delà des approches urbaines traditionnelles. Bien que la science ne soit pas cumulative, les concepts et les méthodes mis à jour par une discipline ne sont jamais perdus pour autant. Ils peuvent en tout temps être « re-visités » scientifiquement, c’est-à-dire actualisés et contextualisés. A cet égard, l’approche junguienne n’a pas véritablement été l’objet d’une « re-visitation » par des disciplines scientifiques favorisant les études urbaines . Cela s’explique en partie par la faible importance attribuée, à tort, à la psychologie dans la compréhension de l’urbain. L’étude du phénomène urbain, objet par excellence de la sociologie, de l’histoire et de la mythologie collective, a quasiment négligé les racines psychologiques et spirituelles des comportements sociaux. Ce texte n’est pas interdisciplinaire; il n’exclut pas pourtant des explications apportées par d’autres disciplines. Il constitue un effort scientifique pour mieux comprendre la dynamique urbaine dans la perspective du féminin et du masculin.

LA POLARITÉ FÉMININ / MASCULIN EN PSYCHOLOGIE DES PROFONDEURS

L’approche féminin/masculin nous permet, d’une part, de prendre comme point de départ de cette réflexion l’être humain lui-même en tant qu’objet et sujet de la production de la ville. D’autre part, cette approche, avec sa polarité paradoxale et complémentaire à l’intérieur de l’inconscient humain en psychologie des profondeurs, permet de dépasser le conflit culturel homme/femme et de le réinterpréter en le plaçant dans un rapport dialectique de complémentarité. Selon C.G . J ung , « chaque homme porte en lui une femme »; il l’appellera anima . Il ajoute que l’ animus, personnification masculine de l’inconscient chez la femme, se manifeste spontanément à travers les ‘convictions’ rigides et ‘sacrées’ ou l’obstination butée de la femme. Nous pouvons ainsi préciser que l’ animus correspond à la part psychique complémentaire masculine dans l’inconscient de la femme et que l’ anima correspond à la part psychique complémentaire féminine dans l’inconscient de l’homme, selon la psychologie des profondeurs de Jung. Toujours selon C.G.Jung , « l’inconscient (individuel) contient tout ce qui a été acquis au cours de l’existence personnelle… par conséquent, ce qui est oublié, refoulé, les perceptions subliminales , les pensées et les sensations »; l’auteur s’éloigne ainsi de la théorie freudienne qui « considère l’inconscient comme étant uniquement le lieu où sont déposées toutes les manifestations désagréables , indésirab les ou inutilisables d’une manière quelconque » (Emma Jung et James Hillman, 1981: 65). L’inconscient collectif est une instance de la psyché commune à tous les individus , faite de la stratification des expériences millénaires de l’humanité. Selon C.G . Jung : « L’être humain est en possession de bien des choses qu’il n’a jamais acquises par lui-même, mais qu’il a héritées de ses ancêtres . Il ne naît pas tabula rasa mais simplement inconscient… Les systèmes hérités correspondent aux situations humaines qui prévalent depuis les temps les plus anciens » (C.G . Jung , 1963: 230, 231). Toujours selon C.G . Jung, les qualités féminines chez l’homme et masculines chez la femme sont présentes en chacun de nous mais ne peuvent pas toujours s’exprimer parce qu’elles gênent notre adaptation à notre milieu ou à l’idéal culturel établi. Le second message central de la psychologie des profondeurs est que tout ce qui est inconscient en nous peut resurgir par des projections. Les mythes, les légendes, les contes que l’on trouve dans toutes les cultures et à toutes les époques sont « l’expression des réalités psychiques internes » en psyc hologie des profondeurs. L’analyse de ces représentations culturelles démontre de manière étonnante la présence de la figure de l’anima. Tous ces contes et légendes soulignent l’importance pour l’homme de donner une place au principe féminin qui fait aussi partie de son être. Le refus ou la non-acceptation/assimilation de cette composante féminine chez l’homme provoque en lui un refus des projections externes de ce principe et donc le refus et le mépris des femmes, de la nature (mère-terre) et de la ville. C .G . J ung estime que les figures de l’anima, chez l’homme, et de l’animus , chez la femme, « sont des dispositions à la relation avec l’autre sex e qui ont pris forme avec l’humanité elle-même » (Humbert, 1983: 63) et qu’il s’agit donc de dispositions innées chez les individus. Nous transposons nos conflits réels internes vers des situations , objets ou personnes réels e xternes . Les imag es que nous aurons de notre mère conditionnent nos ra pports et nos imag es des autres femmes et de tout ce qui représente le féminin. Ces projections externes de nos images internes vont finalement marquer nos comportements sociaux et influencer nos perceptions cosmiques.

LE FÉMININ / MASCULIN COMME FORME DE CONCEPTION ET DE PERCEPTION DES VILLES ANTIQUES

Les historiens des villes ne sont pas toujours d’accord sur l’origine de la ville. Pour les uns, les cavernes pré-typifient la ville. Pour les autres, ce rôle annonciateur est incarné par l’arche de Noé. Cätal Hüyäk, dans l’ancienne Turquie, constitue encore le début de l’ère urbaine pour un bon nombre d’historiens. Il y a les contestataires qui lui préfèrent Ur des Chaldéens. En ce qui concerne la ville occidentale , la Grèce , et notamment Athènes, est la référence obligatoire bien que Rome soit encore considérée comme le berceau de notre civilisation urbaine. Pour notre réflexion, l’origine exacte de la civilisation urbaine reste secondaire. Quoi qu’il en soit, l’essentiel est de dévoiler les formes et les récits de cette origine. Un récit est une relation, une narra tion, une histoire, une fable d’événements réels ou imaginaires dont peu importe la véracité historique. Son but est de nous informer sur les liens (relations) existants entre un acte accompli et l’idée fondatrice de cet acte. Un récit est un enjeu de valeurs et normalise le passé. L’histoire cherche l’objectivité scientifique dans la relation des faits cités et c’est la raison pour laquelle elle est l’objet d’une mise en question permanente. Le récit, lui, n’est jamais vrai ou faux et son importance, pour notre analyse, tient au fait qu’il n’exprime pas nécessairement les événements qui se sont succédé au cours de l’histoire, mais, et surtout, la manière dont les individus pensent ou veulent que les choses eussent pu se passer. C’est une idéalisation historique. Les récits de fondation de villes se trouvent à mi-chemin entre l’histoire et la mythologie. Une de leurs caractéristiques essentielles est qu’ils sont post-factum ; ils apparaissent après la fondation des villes afin d’expliquer cette fondation. Certains récits nous permettent, d’un côté, de connaître l’image qu’un groupe social, à un moment donné de son histoire, a de lui-même et la manière dont il conçoit sa r eproduction. D’un autre côté, si l’on s’en tient à l’idée selon laquelle l’organisation de l’espace est un reflet de l’organisation d’une société, ces récits reflètent l’image-type que ce groupe se faisait du lieu où il devait résider. « Aussi la fondation d’une ville était-elle toujours un acte religieux » dans l’Antiquité (Fustel de Coulanges, 1984: 151). La ville constituait le sanctuaire majeur de la réunion éternelle des hommes et de leurs dieux (croy ances) sur un même site. Aux origines, un foyer central (une fosse où chacun avait déposé un peu de terre de son lieu d’origine dans la tradition romaine), une enceinte sacrée et, plus tard, les murailles, les portes et le pomoerium constituent la ville. La plupart des récits insistent sur les rapports conflictuels entre la ville et son territoire. Dans la tradition étrusque, la cérémonie de fondation d’une ville commençait par la constitution du foy er central autour duquel devait s’élever la ville. Le prêtre, la tête voilée et revêtu du costume sacerdotal, traçait le sillon sacré, enceinte symbolique de la ville qui devient inviolable. Pour ce faire, il se servait d’une charrue tirée par un taureau blanc et une vache blanche. Le prêtre tenait lui-même le manche de la charrue qu’il portait à certains intervalles afin d’interrompre le sillon et de créer des portes. Les mottes de terre (sacrée) soulevées par la charrue étaient jetées soigneusement à l’intérieur de l’enceinte. Lorsqu’il avait fini de tracer le contour de la ville, la vache restait à l’intérieur du sillon et le taureau à l’extérieur. Cette enceinte était sacrée ; la toucher ou la trav erser était considéré comme un sacrilège, un acte d’impiété. Dans cette procédure d’individualisation d’un lieu sur un territoire, la vache représentait dans l’imaginaire des fondateurs le principe féminin, le taureau symbolisant le principe masculin. L’enceinte créait un intérieur et un extérieur, un familier et un étranger, un local et un global, un connu et un inconnu. Cet intérieur, familier , local, connu, est sacré et inviolable. C’est là que règne le principe féminin, lequel cherche à « unifier et à unir », comme l’anima chez C.G . Jung (cité par Humber t: 66). Cet extérieur, étranger, global et inconnu, c’est le territoire à conquérir et à dominer. Ici règne le principe masculin ou animus qui cherche à « distinguer et à connaître » (ibid.). L’impureté habite l’extérieur, la pureté sacrée, l’intérieur. L’étude de la cité de Catal Hüyäk, en Turquie méridionale, riche en images, montre comment dans d’autres cultures et civilisations le féminin organise symboliquement, spatialement et fonction-nellement les lieux. Ici, le féminin s’exprime à travers l’image de la femme et la présence de la mère-terre. La figure de la femme, symbole de fécondité et de reproduction de la vie, apparaît sous forme d’un corps de déesse, bras et jambes levés en signe d’accouchement, et à travers des images de seins. « La place du mâle est tenue par des taureaux et des béliers, expressions les plus fortes de la virilité » (Mellart, 1971 : 101). Mais le taureau et le boeuf représentent aussi le fort attachement et la dépendance vis-à-vis de la mère-terre. Il est le premier animal apprivoisé pour le trav ail, notamment pour les activités agricoles dont dépendaient les habitants . En effet, ces derniers avaient de grandes connaissances en agriculture et une bonne technique pour conserver efficacement les aliments. Mais la terre était aussi leur foyer. Catal Hüyäk est une ville souterraine située dans une colline. Elle existe par et dans la terre. Leur rapport à celle-ci ainsi que leur attachement était si grand que les habitants de Catal Hüyäk enterraient leurs morts dans le sol de leurs maisons. Dans cette ville il n’y a ni places , ni parcs , ni rues , toutes les maisons étant collées les unes aux autres. L’on sort par des trous pratiqués dans le plafond. L’intérieur des maisons est multifonctionnel : c’est le lieu sacré, le lieu de toutes les activités quotidiennes et du repos éternel. Tout se réalise à l’intérieur , à l’ex ception des activités de subsistance. L’extérieur est monofonctionnel : c’est le lieu du travail agricole et, dans une moindre mesure, de la chasse d’animaux. La re production est le fruit du sacré familial, intérieur. La préservation est le fruit du travail extérieur. Dans beaucoup de récits, la fondation d’une ville est attribuée à une déesse ou à une femme qui deviendra une déesse après la fondation. C’est le cas pour la ville sumérienne d’Akkad dont l’instauration a été prise en charge par la déesse Inanna ou encore pour la g rande Carthag e dont la fondatrice est Elyssa, vierge de grande beauté, soeur de Pygmalion, roi des Tyriens. La ville est très souvent associée à la maison, lieu sacré du lien entre les dieux et les hommes. En Mésopotamie , et notamment à Ba bylone , les ziggourats représentent le trait d’union entre la terre et le ciel. En construisant la tour de Babel, les hommes ont voulu « toucher le ciel » et sortir du cadre terrestre de la ville: le ciel est le sacré suprême . Cela ne leur a pas été permis . C’était l’utopie masculine qui voulait s’imposer au possible féminin du sacré sur terre. « Militaire ou religieuse , administrative ou marchande, la ville antique est avant tout imprégnée de religiosité, et le sacré imbibe chaque brique de chaque maison, chaque pierre de chaque route » (Paquot, 1990: 23). Les protagonistes de ces oeuvres étaient-ils conscients de ces symboles et significations ? Assurément non. D’abord, pour une raison historique. Un grand nombre de ces significations nous sont dévoilées grâce à la mise en perspective historique (le recul du temps) et aux possibilités actuelles de comparer des situations historiques, possibilités dont les acteurs ne disposaient pas. Ensuite, pour une raison psychologique. Humbert, en paraphrasant C.G . Jung , e xplique que « un symbole est (donc) une expérience… le symbole est vivant… D’une façon générale, l’action du symbole est celle d’une représentation qui engendre un sens parce qu’elle fait se rejoindre des termes séparés. Le fait de sens qui accompagne une telle expérience s’impose et, cependant, il échappe à la raison… le symbole est caractérisé, en effet, par un certain ra pport à l’inconnu » (Humbert, 1983: 43, 44). Les peuples anciens avaient ainsi créé des ima ges dont ils n’étaient pas toujours conscients. Aujourd’hui nous interprétons ces imag es et ces symboles et, bien qu’une bonne partie de leur sens nous échappe, ils nous permettent de saisir le mystère psychologique de la projection sur la réalité externe d’une réalité consciente/in-consciente interne.

LES CATÉGORIES DU FÉMININ / MASCULIN COMME INTERPRÉTATION DE LA DUALITÉ VILLE / TERRITOIRE

Ces récits nous permettent de construire une première catégorisation que nous pouvons par la suite retrouver dans n’importe quel récit: Féminin Masculin Ville Territoire Maison Site Local Global Connu Inconnu Intérieur Extérieur Prochain Lointain Fini Infini Multifonctionnalité Monofonctionnalité Unir Distinguer Réel Utopique Possible Souhaitable Mesuré Mégalo Reproduction Préservation Sacré Profane Familier Etranger

Aujourd’hui, dans l’ethnie Toucouleur qui appartient à la communauté linguistique Hal Pulaar , au Sénégal et au Mali, la Djom Soudou est la femme propriétaire de la chambre. Le Djom Gallé est l’homme propriétaire de la maison et de son enclos. Ainsi, avec des siècles de distance et dans des espaces géogra phiques et culturels différents, nous retrouvons les mêmes catégories intérieur/extérieur, maison/site, ville/territoire. Le symbole phallique, premier élément de structura tion spatiale du territoire (menhir) traduit la domination de l’homme sur la femme et sur la mère-terre; c’est le phallocentrisme ou la primauté du mâle . C’est aussi une volonté de domination sur les forces de la nature (parmi lesquelles, les animaux). Cette domination signifie contrôle . Cet imaginaire explique en partie le rôle assigné au mâle et à la femelle dans l’or g anisation sociale. Ainsi, la femme c’est le local/localisé, du latin locus , qui est aussi la racine latine de lieu, d’une partie déterminée de l’espace, un lieu précis. Le local est un lieu connu. La femelle reste dans un lieu connu, elle est locale . Le mâle , c’est le global, du latin globus la terre, le globe. Les récits de fondation reprennent cet imaginaire du féminin/masculin, local/global, passivité/activité dans la production de la ville. De cette manière, dans l’imaginaire ancien, le rapport féminin/masculin définit le rapport ville/territoire dans des sphères bien précises. Le mâle/masculin est monofonctionnel. Il sort soit pour chasser, soit pour faire la guerre, soit pour travailler, soit pour les trois choses, mais jamais en même temps. La division des fonctions dans les villes , à différentes époques, est masculine : prêtre, militaire, commerçant, producteur, politicien, etc . Le masculin/mâle c’est la spécialisation. Le territoire est divisé avant d’être exploité afin de lui assigner des rôles différents selon sa morpho-géologie. La femelle/féminin est multifonctionnelle . Elle reste pour nourrir , élever, protéger, guérir, nettoyer, attendre, organiser, etc., tout en même temps. Chez elle , il n’y a pas de spécialisation. La première définition de la ville découle de son caractère principalement multifonctionnel : lieu de relation, d’échange et d’information multiple. Selon Riccardo Mariani, au Moyen Age, la ville naît en Europe lorsqu’une multiplicité de fonctions ne sont plus exercées par l’Eglise mais autour d’elle. L’Eglise se reproduit et engendre la ville, mais sans éparpillement, comme les poussins autour de la poule. Le village devient ville. L’intérieur est la ville, le féminin dans les anciens récits de fondation. L’extérieur est le territoire, le masculin selon ces récits. L’extériorité et la globalité du territoire, par rapport à l’intériorité et la localité de la ville, sont idéalisées dans ces récits et elles expriment le besoin de l’homme d’extérioriser son principe féminin. Relevons aussi que le souhaitable appartient au principe masculin tout comme le possible appartient au principe féminin. On entre ainsi dans l’idée de l’utopie. L’utopie (du latin ou =non ; topos =lieu) c’est le non-lieu. L’utopie est une construction rigoureuse et imaginaire de la société. Toute rigueur renvoie à une méthode , à une manière de faire. L’utopie est la capacité de construire mentalement sur le néant, à partir du néant, du non-lieu. Le possible est raisonnable (non pas rationnel, même si les deux mots ont la même racine étymologique, ra tio=raison). Le raisonnable c’est agir conformément au bon sens , à partir d’une connaissance empirique . Le rationnel c’est déduire par le raisonnement et cela n’a rien d’empirique, ne dépend pas de la connaissance pratique du réel. La Charte d’Athènes a voulu universaliser le masculin/utopique interne dans l’inconscient collectif. Elle a voulu tout mettre en question et recommencer à zéro en faisant table rase de l’existant, une nouvelle création. Ce n’est pas possible. Chaque culture doit en fait s’exprimer, extérioriser de manière spécifique cette polarité paradoxale et complémentaire: utopie/réalité, raison/émotion, souhaitable/possible. Les Plans directeurs d’urbanisme , tout comme les récits, expriment post-factum l’idéal de ville à construire, la ville souhaitable ; une ville imaginaire conçue sur la table à dessin, hélas trop éloignée de notre malheureuse expérience quotidienne de la ville. La créativité n’est pas l’imagination effrénée, ni l’aménagement conformiste , mais l’effort de permettre au souhaitable de devenir possible et non l’imposition du possible comme souhaitable. Un des principaux problèmes de la planification urbaine et de la planification tout court est que l’on a voulu organiser le souhaitable sans considération du possible (féminin). En revanche, le pragmatisme actuel veut imposer le possible en négligeant le souhaitable, l’utopique. L’objectif est d’arriver à trouver une complémentarité accrue entre l’utopique , le rationnel, l’intellectuel et le souhaitable du masculin avec le réaliste, le sentimental, l’émotionnel et le possible du féminin.

IMPLICATIONS DE L’ APPROCHE FÉMININ / MASCULIN DANS LES RAPPORTS HOMME / FEMME EN MILIEU URBAIN

Au cours de notre histoire, nous avons à tort associé le principe féminin aux femmes et le principe masculin aux hommes. Il nous paraît ainsi impensable de voir une femme prenant la tête du bureau de planification territoriale d’une mégapole latino-américaine. Cette association est erronée. Le problème est que, en transposant les catégories du féminin et du masculin aux femmes et aux hommes, nous avons créé une nouvelle catégorisation:

Féminin Masculin Femme Homme Le foyer La politique La famille La société Elever les enfants Faire la guerre Reproduire Conquérir Rester Partir La communauté La société Le quartier La ville-territoire

Le féminin n’est pas la femme , le masculin n’est pas l’homme. La vie repose sur l’équilibre harmonieux des énergies masculines et féminines présentes dans l’action et dans l’inconscient de chaque être humain. La ville d’aujourd’hui exprime une rupture de cet équilibre (écologique , sociologique, biologique, psychologique et mythologique). La ville actuelle, en étendant sans cesse son territoire, afin de le maîtriser et de le soumettre à travers un processus couramment appelé « mégapolisation », a généré une dynamique inverse : elle a été modifiée dans sa structure profonde et a provoqué une énorme crise dans son fonctionnement, dans sa structure et dans son écologie. Le défi écologique, la protection de la mère-terre, est un défi féminin qui doit encore s’ouvrir un chemin à travers la méfiance de la masculinité du savoir scientifique. Un des grands obstacles à surmonter aujourd’hui est lié à l’image de la ville. La mégapolisation a produit une rupture de la frontière ville-territoire. Le principe masculin exprimé dans le désir de domination, de conquête , de mégalomanie a écrasé le principe féminin de maîtrise intérieure, de mesure, de contrôle des frontières du réel. En se mégapolisant, la ville dévore le territoire, l’urbain envahit la société et les efforts de décentralisation territoriale et de maîtrise de la croissance des villes se heurtent à un nouveau paradigme : la défiguration du local et du global. Le local se relocalise à l’intérieur d’une ville atomisée qui devient le global. La ville s’étend et devient territoire, ville diffuse . Le territoire s’urbanise . La ville-féminine se territorialise et donc se masculinise. Ainsi, la structure territoriale actuelle de la ville, atomisée, multilocalisée, fragmentée, empêche l’expression des valeurs féminines du local, connu, intérieur, mesuré. Avec la mégapolisation et la globalisation, la ville devient ouverte et perméable. La globalisation a cassé l’intérieur, l’intime, le prochain, elle a violé et traversé l’enceinte sacrée du local et profané la ville. L’étranger devient local, le familier global. Le prochain est profané, le lointain sacralisé. L’association erronée du féminin avec les femmes conduit ces dernières à un confinement vers un rôle jugé péjorativement comme secondaire. Par cette même association erronée, les hommes s’érigent une fois de plus en maîtres de cette violation du sacré intérieur de la ville. Ce sont principalement eux qui construisent une Europe de villes ouvertes et défigurées, centraliste et étrangère aux intérêts des citadins. En assumant son inconscient masculin, nombre de femmes latino-américaines construisent avec créativité le souhaitable à partir du possible et nourrissent leurs familles dans des contextes de crise économique. En assumant leur inconscient féminin, des hommes de partout reconnaissent l’importance vitale de la protection de la mère-terre souffrante et ag onisante et s’engagent dans sa préservation. Mais en même temps , des millions de femmes en refoulant leur inconscient masculin renoncent à lutter pour conquérir un rôle complémentaire des hommes qui leur permette de sortir de la soumission actuelle. De même , en refoulant leur inconscient féminin, des millions d’hommes continuent à détruire la mère-terre, à profaner la ville par la mise en place de politiques qui n’empêchent pas sa défiguration territoriale ni l’exploitation et la domination des femmes. En conclusion, la question que l’on peut se poser est : Comment faire en sorte que notre conception de la ville et la ville elle-même devienne plus humaine, c’est-à-dire intégrative de la totalité de l’être humain dans ses composantes féminines et masculines?

Bibliographie: AA.VV., 1983, La ville dans le proche-orient ancien , Leuven, P eeter s, (Les Cahiers du CEPOA, Uni v ersité de Genèv e, Actes du Colloque de Cartigny-1979), 310 p. ANTOLINI André et BONELL O Yv es-Henri, 1994, Les villes du désir , P aris , Galilée (Coll. Débats), 170 p. BENEVOLO Leonardo , 1983, Histoire de la ville , P aris , P arenthèses (pour la version française). COUSINEAU BRUTSCHE Diane , 1993, Le paradoxe de l’âme: exil et retour d’un archétype , Genèv e, Georg éditeur (Coll. « Etudes jungiennes »), 161 p. DA GHINI Giair o, 1994, « Les mots de la ville », Les Cahiers de Philosophie , n° 17, « Le philosophe dans la cité », hi v er 1993/1994, pp . 25-33. FOUSTEL de COULANGES , 1984, La cité antique , P aris , F lammarion, 494 p. HUMBERT Elie G., 1983, C.G. Jung , P aris , Editions uni v ersitaires (Coll. Agor a; Presse Poc k et ; 85), 161 p. JUNG Carl Gusta v, 1963, Psychologie et éducation , P aris , Bouchet-Chastel. JUNG Emma et HILLMAN James , 1981, Anima et Animus , P aris , Seghers (Coll. « L’esprit jungien » – traduction française), 221 p. LE CORBUSIER, 1957, La Charte d’Athènes , P aris , Minuit (Coll. P oints ; 25), 190 p. MELLART James , 1971, Catal Hüyäk: une des premières cités du monde , Suisse , J ules T allandier (pour la version française), 232 p. PAQ UO T T hier ry, 1990, Homo Urbanus: essai sur l’urbanisation du monde et des moeurs , P aris , Edition du Félin (Coll. Essai), 178 p. RACINE Jean-Bernard, 1993, La ville entre Dieu et les hommes , Genèv e, Presses Bibliques et Uni v ersitaires , 354 p. R ONCA Y OLO Marcel et P AQ UO T T hier r y (sous la direction de), 1992, Villes et civilisation urbai – ne: XVIIIe – XXe siècle , P aris , Larousse (Coll. Te xtes essentiels), 688 p. R ONCA Y OLO Marcel, 1993, La ville et ses territoires , P aris , Gallimard (Coll. F olio/essais : 139 – nouvelle édition), 278 p


Désaméricanisation du monde: Obama-Poutine-Xin, même combat ! (But who’ll stop the Nobels from voting with their feet ?)

20 octobre, 2013
https://i2.wp.com/www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/02.05.04/gifs/alties-0406-ig-nobel.jpgIl est alarmant que l’intervention militaire dans les conflits internes à l’étranger soit devenue chose ordinaire pour les États-Unis. Est-ce dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique à long terme ? J’en doute. Des millions de personnes à travers le monde considèrent de plus en plus l’Amérique non comme un modèle de démocratie, mais un modèle reposant uniquement sur la force, fabriquant artificiellement des coalitions sous le slogan du « vous êtes avec nous ou contre nous ». Vladimir Poutine
Alors que les politiciens américains des deux partis politiques continuent à faire des aller-retour entre la Maison Blanche et le Capitole, sans parvenir à un accord viable pour apporter la normalité au corps politique, et qu’ils s’en vantent, c’est peut-être le bon moment pour le monde embrouillé de commencer à envisager la construction d’un monde dé-américanisé. (…) Des jours aussi inquiétants où les destinées des autres pays sont entre les mains d’une nation hypocrite doivent prendre fin. Un nouvel ordre mondial doit être mis en place dans lequel toutes les nations, grandes ou petites, riches ou pauvres, verront leurs intérêts clés respectés et protégés sur un pied d’égalité. (…) À cette fin, plusieurs mesure fondamentales doivent être prises pour soutenir un monde dé-américanisé. (…) Pour commencer, toutes les nations doivent respecter les principes fondamentaux du droit international, y compris le respect de la souveraineté et ne pas s’ingérer dans les affaires intérieures des autres. (…) En outre, l’autorité de l’ Organisation des Nations Unies dans la gestion des points chauds du monde doit être reconnue. Cela signifie que nul n’a le droit de mener toute forme d’action militaire contre d’autres sans un mandat de l’ONU. (…) En plus de cela, le système financier mondial doit également faire l’objet de certaines réformes importantes. (…) Les économies émergentes et en développement doivent avoir davantage leur mot à dire dans les grandes institutions financières internationales, y compris la Banque mondiale et le Fonds monétaire international, afin qu’ils puissent mieux refléter les transformations du paysage économique et politique mondial. (…) Autre élément clé d’une réforme efficace, l’introduction d’une nouvelle monnaie de réserve internationale qui doit être créée pour remplacer le dollar américain dominant afin que la communauté internationale puisse s’éloigner définitivement de la contagion de la crise politique intérieure des États-Unis qui s’intensifie. (…) Bien sûr, l’objectif de ces changements n’est pas de mettre complètement de coté les États-Unis, ce qui est également impossible » conclu l’éditorialiste. « Il s’agit plutôt d’encourager Washington à jouer un rôle plus constructif dans la lutte contre les affaires mondiales. Agence Xinhua
President Obama has shelled out more in federal spending than the five presidents that came before him. Elizabeth Flock
Here’s a real bitter irony for the GOP. At the same time as their ideology took an ugly beating in the reality department, the man they are determined to destroy has a better record at deficit reduction than any of their recent Presidents. In fact, government spending under President Obama has grown at a slower rate than it did under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Bloomberg (that’s over 50 years ago, if you’re counting). Ironically, this fact is due in part to their own obstructionism and President Obama’s endless compromises with them. Sarah Jones
Pour savoir qui sont réellement ces super-riches, accapareurs ou fainéants, il est intéressant de se plonger dans les travaux d’un chercheur, Edward N.Wolff, qui figure parmi ceux qui traque les inégalités depuis près de 20 ans. (…) Dans un rapport de 2010, il dévoile que 73,8% du patrimoine du 1% les plus riches sont dans des « unincorporated business », que nous croyons pouvoir traduire par entreprises individuelles, ces entreprises que leur fondateur n’a même pas constituées en sociétés à leur création mais tout simplement débuté en offrant ses produits ou services et qui sont restées sans statuts. Le grand public non averti pourrait penser que la fortune industrielle américaine est dans les grandes entreprises cotées, les Google, General Electric, les 40 entreprises du Dow Jones ou les 100 du Nasdaq. Erreur. Elles ne constituent que 11,8% du patrimoine total américain et 16,8% si l’on inclue les actions indirectement détenus à travers les fonds de pension, les OPCVM, etc. contre 20,1% [4] pour le patrimoine représenté par les entreprises individuelles. Plus de la moitié du patrimoine industriel américain est donc dans des entreprises non incorporées. De même d’ailleurs qu’en France. Dans son rapport 2010 sur les patrimoines 2007, Wolff confirme que les très riches américains sont ces créateurs d’entreprises individuelles, par cette phrase remarquable : « a somewhat startling 74 percent of the very rich reported owning their own business ». Pourquoi les entrepreneurs individuels représentent 75% des plus riches américains. C’est que la plus grande partie de la richesse d’une nation n’est pas créée par des élèves de grandes écoles ou universités, qui cherchent généralement des carrières sures au sein de grands groupes mais par des autodidactes qui, flair ou accident, débutent une activité en affichant simplement un panneau et ne s’embarrassent pas de statuts beaucoup trop compliqués ou coûteux. À force de travail et d’économies, leur activité grandit et ils finissent, aux USA, par constituer plus de 50% de l’actif industriel. On en trouve confirmation dans les travaux d’un autre chercheur [6]. C’est qu’un entrepreneur individuel ne peut généralement compter que sur lui-même – et son entourage familial –, pas sur les institutions financières, pour survivre en cas de retournement de la conjoncture économique et qu’il est donc conduit à accumuler de la richesse, à épargner, à s’enrichir au maximum, en vivant s’il le faut chichement, comme Sam Walton, le fondateur de la plus grande chaîne de distribution Wallmart qui roula dans sa vieille Ford plus de 20 ans, jusqu’à sa mort. (…) Ce qui nous conduit à penser que si la reprise américaine est si lente et si hésitante malgré les vannes de crédit largement ouvertes par la Federal Reserve, ce n’est pas que les circuits bancaires manquent de capitaux, c’est que les principaux agents de la croissance qui sont ces entrepreneurs américains, qui ont fait leur fortune généralement en partant de rien, ces riches américains n’ont plus confiance dans leur gouvernement et gardent leur fortune plutôt que de la risquer. Bernard Zimmern
Capital is a coward, and Mr. Obama has put the fear of uncertainty into capitalists. Take it from me, it’s hard to grow the pie — and thereby, hire more workers — when you are unsure how Washington is going to be divvying it up or what new rule it will come up with next. Mr. Moore points out that we’ve added 5,000 pages to the tax code in just the past 10 years. (…) Once upon a time, envy used to be a sin, but now it’s public policy. (…) “We tried tax cuts, and it didn’t work,” Mr. Obama claimed. He’s wrong. Experience is clear — be it from the Harding-Coolidge cuts of the 1920s, the Kennedy cuts of the 1960s, the Reagan cuts of the 1980s or the Bush cuts of the 2000s — taxing and spending doesn’t work, but cutting taxes grows the economy and brings in more revenue. As John F. Kennedy once put it, “A rising tide will lift all boats.” However, Mr. Obama, who once promised to control the tides, wants to control economic growth. (…) Has Mr. Obama reduced taxes on the middle class as he claims? Not quite. His tax-refundable credits cost the Treasury $81.49 billion a year. They are “welfare payments that masquerade as tax cuts,” Mr. Moore rightly notes. I agree with Mr. Moore that it would be fair if everyone paid at least something, but I think he may be overstating it a tad. The poor do pay taxes — they just pay them in forgone opportunity rather than with a check. Herman Cain
Under both Republican President Calvin Coolidge and Democratic President John F. Kennedy, high-income people paid more tax revenues into the federal treasury after tax rates went down than they did before. There is nothing mysterious about this. At high tax rates, vast sums of money disappear into tax shelters at home or is shipped overseas. At lower tax rates, that money comes out of hiding and goes into the American economy, creating jobs, rising output and rising incomes. Under these conditions, higher tax revenues can be collected by the government, even though tax rates are lower. Indeed, high income people not only end up paying more taxes, but a higher share of all taxes, under these conditions. This is not just a theory. It is what hard evidence shows happened under both Democratic and Republican administrations, from the days of Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. (…) The Democrats and Republicans both took positions during the Kennedy administration that were the direct opposite of the positions they take today. As Stephen Moore points out, « the Republicans almost universally opposed and the Democrats almost universally favored » the cuts in tax rates that President Kennedy proposed. Such Republican Senate stalwarts as Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole voted against reducing the top tax rate from 91% to 70%. Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills led the charge for lower tax rates. Unlike the Republicans today, John F. Kennedy had an answer when critics tried to portray his tax cut proposal as just a « tax cut for the rich. » President Kennedy argued that it was a tax cut for the economy, that changed incentives meant a faster growing economy and that « A rising tide lifts all boats. » (…) ot only John F. Kennedy, but even John Maynard Keynes as well, argued that cutting tax rates could increase tax revenues and thereby help reduce the deficit. Because so few people bother to check the facts, Barack Obama can get away with statements about how « tax cuts for the rich » have « cost » the government money that now needs to be recouped. Such statements not only promote class warfare, to Obama’s benefit on election day, they also distract attention from his own runaway spending behind unprecedented trillion dollar deficits. Thomas Sowell
Reflecting the global mood, Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, editorialized last week that, with a possible U.S. default on the horizon, « it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world. » But then there is the Nobel Prize, and the fact that Americans, both native-born and immigrants, took home nine of them this year alone. Note to Xinhua: China, with 1.3 billion people, has produced a grand total of nine winners in its entire history. Of those nine, seven live abroad, including three in the U.S. Another, Liu Xiaobo, sits in a Chinese prison. How is national greatness best judged? The typical view is that what matters is size: Size of the economy, population, landmass, navy, nuclear arsenal. Hence the hysteria that China may overtake the U.S. in terms of GDP sometime in the next decade. Hence the treatment of middling powers such as Russia (with a GDP roughly that of Italy’s) as great powers. But a better metric for greatness is the ability of nations to produce, cultivate, attract and retain intellectual greatness. What is the ratio of Nobel laureates living in any one country to the total population? Russia, with a population of 142 million, has three living Nobel laureates, or one for every 47 million. So much for the land of Pasternak and Sakharov. A more interesting case is Israel. The Jewish state should be a Nobel powerhouse, given that Jews, 0.2% of the world’s population, have won 20% of all Nobels, including six prizes this year alone. But while Israel can claim nine living laureates, three of them live and teach mainly in the U.S. Why? « There are a lot of smart people in Israel and at the same time there was not a job, so he left, » Benny Shalev, brother of this year’s chemistry winner, Arieh Warshel, explained to the newspaper Haaretz. It isn’t enough for countries to produce geniuses. They also have to figure out how to employ them. Then there is Europe: Half a billion people with a comparatively minuscule Nobel representation. France has, by my count, just 10 living laureates. Germany does better, with nearly 30, although at least nine of them (including Henry Kissinger, physicist Arno Penzias, and this year’s medicine winner, Thomas Südhof ), have long lived in the U.S. Britain does about the same as Germany. Why is Europe such a Nobel laggard? In hindsight, evicting and killing most of its Jewish population was perhaps not the best idea—a lesson that still goes unlearned, considering the feverish efforts on European campuses to boycott Israeli academics. A more contemporary answer is the pervasive mediocrity of higher education throughout the EU. Cambridge and Oxford aside, the Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings list only one European university—the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich—in its top 30, and Switzerland isn’t even a member of the EU. Most European universities, overcrowded and underfunded, can’t hope to compete with their American peers. Which brings us to the Nobel superpower. Since 2000, Americans have won 21 of the 37 physics prizes, 18 of the 33 medicine prizes, 22 of the 33 chemistry prizes and an astonishing 27 of the 30 economics prizes. Pretty impressive considering our nonstop anxiety about failing schools, mediocre international test scores, undergrads not majoring in math or the sciences, and the rest. Singapore, South Korea and Finland may regularly produce the highest test scores among 15-year-olds, but something isn’t translating: Nobody from Singapore has ever won a Nobel. Korea has one—for peace. The Finns last took a science prize in 1967. The secret of America’s Nobel sauce isn’t hard to understand: an immigration culture that welcomed everyone from Ronald Coase (from the U.K.) to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (from India) to Martin Kaplus (from Nazi-era Austria) to Elizabeth Blackburn (from Australia). A mostly private, highly competitive, lavishly endowed university system, juiced by federal funding for fundamental research. A culture of individualism and an ingrained respect for against-the-grain thinking. Bret Stephens

Attention: une désaméricanisation peut en cacher une autre !

Neuf prix Nobel dans toute son histoire dont sept vivant à l’étranger et trois aux Etats-Unis sans compter un en prison pour 1, 3 milliard d’habitants (Chine), trois prix Nobel vivant et à peine plus que le PIB italien pour le plus grand pays du monde et 147 millions d’habitants (Russie), 20% des prix Nobels de l’histoire et neuf encore vivant dont sept cette seule année mais trois travaillant la plupart du temps aux Etats-Unis pour 0, 2% de la population mondiale (Israël), dix Français, trente Britanniques et autant d’Allemands dont neuf vivant ou ayant vécu aux Etats-Unis pour un demi milliard-milliard d’habitants (Europe – finalement, l’expulsion ou l »extermination des Juifs n’était peut-être pas la meilleure des solutions), vingt-et-un des trente-sept derniers prix Nobel de physique, dix-huit des trente-trois Nobel de médecine, vingt-deux des derniers trente-trois de chimie, vingt-sept des derniers trente d’économie (Etats-Unis) …

Au lendemain, en cette saison des prix Nobel, où nos médias se félicitent de la victoire du plus rapide prix Nobel et accessoirement plus grand creuseur de déficits de l’histoire sur la prétendue folie du Tea party

En ces temps où, coup sur coup, les parangons de liberté tant de Moscou que de Pékin se paient le luxe de faire la leçon au supposé chef de file du Monde libre …

Pendant qu’un autre modèle de vertu démocratique fête à son inimitable manière son élection au Conseil de sécurité et qu’au pays de l’Obama français qui se voit ridiculiser par une petite Rom de 15 ans le matraquage fiscal continue …

Petite remise des pendules à l’heure, avec l’éditorialiste du Wall Street Journal Bret Stephens, sur la réalité de ce fameux monde qu’on est censé « désaméricaniser » …

Et ces prix Nobel qui refusent obstinément d’arrêter de voter avec leurs pieds …

Nobels and National Greatness

Anyone who thinks America’s best days are behind it should take a close

A look at the latest Nobel haul.

Bret Stephens

The WSJ

Oct. 14, 2013

In its proud and storied history, Hungary has produced a dozen winners of the Nobel Prize: four for chemistry; three for physics; three for medicine; one for economics; and one for literature. Not bad for a little country of not quite 10 million people.

But one curious fact: All of Hungary’s laureates ultimately left, or fled, the country. If you are brilliant, ambitious and Hungarian, better get out while you can.

I’ve spent the past week reading up on the Nobels, mostly to relieve the gloom emanating from Congress, the White House, the State Department, the GOP caucus. It’s paralysis time in D.C., and America-in- Decline time on the op-ed pages. Reflecting the global mood, Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, editorialized last week that, with a possible U.S. default on the horizon, « it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world. »

But then there is the Nobel Prize, and the fact that Americans, both native-born and immigrants, took home nine of them this year alone. Note to Xinhua: China, with 1.3 billion people, has produced a grand total of nine winners in its entire history. Of those nine, seven live abroad, including three in the U.S. Another, Liu Xiaobo, sits in a Chinese prison.

How is national greatness best judged? The typical view is that what matters is size: Size of the economy, population, landmass, navy, nuclear arsenal. Hence the hysteria that China may overtake the U.S. in terms of GDP sometime in the next decade. Hence the treatment of middling powers such as Russia (with a GDP roughly that of Italy’s) as great powers.

But a better metric for greatness is the ability of nations to produce, cultivate, attract and retain intellectual greatness. What is the ratio of Nobel laureates living in any one country to the total population? Russia, with a population of 142 million, has three living Nobel laureates, or one for every 47 million. So much for the land of Pasternak and Sakharov.

A more interesting case is Israel. The Jewish state should be a Nobel powerhouse, given that Jews, 0.2% of the world’s population, have won 20% of all Nobels, including six prizes this year alone. But while Israel can claim nine living laureates, three of them live and teach mainly in the U.S. Why? « There are a lot of smart people in Israel and at the same time there was not a job, so he left, » Benny Shalev, brother of this year’s chemistry winner, Arieh Warshel, explained to the newspaper Haaretz. It isn’t enough for countries to produce geniuses. They also have to figure out how to employ them.

Then there is Europe: Half a billion people with a comparatively minuscule Nobel representation. France has, by my count, just 10 living laureates. Germany does better, with nearly 30, although at least nine of them (including Henry Kissinger, physicist Arno Penzias, and this year’s medicine winner, Thomas Südhof ), have long lived in the U.S. Britain does about the same as Germany.

Why is Europe such a Nobel laggard? In hindsight, evicting and killing most of its Jewish population was perhaps not the best idea—a lesson that still goes unlearned, considering the feverish efforts on European campuses to boycott Israeli academics.

A more contemporary answer is the pervasive mediocrity of higher education throughout the EU. Cambridge and Oxford aside, the Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings list only one European university—the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich—in its top 30, and Switzerland isn’t even a member of the EU. Most European universities, overcrowded and underfunded, can’t hope to compete with their American peers.

Which brings us to the Nobel superpower. Since 2000, Americans have won 21 of the 37 physics prizes, 18 of the 33 medicine prizes, 22 of the 33 chemistry prizes and an astonishing 27 of the 30 economics prizes. Pretty impressive considering our nonstop anxiety about failing schools, mediocre international test scores, undergrads not majoring in math or the sciences, and the rest. Singapore, South Korea and Finland may regularly produce the highest test scores among 15-year-olds, but something isn’t translating: Nobody from Singapore has ever won a Nobel. Korea has one—for peace. The Finns last took a science prize in 1967.

The secret of America’s Nobel sauce isn’t hard to understand: an immigration culture that welcomed everyone from Ronald Coase (from the U.K.) to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (from India) to Martin Kaplus (from Nazi-era Austria) to Elizabeth Blackburn (from Australia). A mostly private, highly competitive, lavishly endowed university system, juiced by federal funding for fundamental research. A culture of individualism and an ingrained respect for against-the-grain thinking.

The government shutdown is unfortunate; a default would be a disaster. But anyone who thinks America’s best days are behind us should take a close look at the latest Nobel haul. It says something that we take it for granted.

Voir aussi:

An Overdue Book: « Who’s The Fairest of Them All? »

Thomas Sowell

The New American

28 November 2012

If everyone in America had read Stephen Moore’s new book, Who’s The Fairest of Them All?: The Truth About Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America, Barack Obama would have lost the election in a landslide.

The point here is not to say, « Where was Stephen Moore when we needed him? » A more apt question might be, « Where was the whole economics profession when we needed them? » Where were the media? For that matter, where were the Republicans?

Since Who’s The Fairest of Them All? was published in October, there was little chance that it would affect this year’s election. But this little gem of a book exposes, in plain language and with easily understood facts, the whole house of cards of assumptions, fallacies and falsehoods which constitute the liberal vision of the economy.

Yet that vision triumphed on election day, thanks to misinformation that was artfully presented and seldom challenged. The title Who’s The Fairest of Them All? is an obvious response to liberals’ claim that their policies are aimed at creating « fairness » by, among other things, making sure that « the rich » pay their « fair share » of taxes. If you want a brief but thorough education on that, just read chapter 4, which by itself is well worth the price of the book.

A couple of graphs on pages 104 and 108 are enough to annihilate the argument about « tax cuts for the rich. » These graphs show that, under both Republican President Calvin Coolidge and Democratic President John F. Kennedy, high-income people paid more tax revenues into the federal treasury after tax rates went down than they did before.

There is nothing mysterious about this. At high tax rates, vast sums of money disappear into tax shelters at home or is shipped overseas. At lower tax rates, that money comes out of hiding and goes into the American economy, creating jobs, rising output and rising incomes. Under these conditions, higher tax revenues can be collected by the government, even though tax rates are lower. Indeed, high income people not only end up paying more taxes, but a higher share of all taxes, under these conditions.

This is not just a theory. It is what hard evidence shows happened under both Democratic and Republican administrations, from the days of Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. That hard evidence is presented in clear and unmistakable terms in Who’s The Fairest of Them All?

Another surprising fact brought out in this book is that the Democrats and Republicans both took positions during the Kennedy administration that were the direct opposite of the positions they take today. As Stephen Moore points out, « the Republicans almost universally opposed and the Democrats almost universally favored » the cuts in tax rates that President Kennedy proposed.

Such Republican Senate stalwarts as Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole voted against reducing the top tax rate from 91% to 70%. Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills led the charge for lower tax rates.

Unlike the Republicans today, John F. Kennedy had an answer when critics tried to portray his tax cut proposal as just a « tax cut for the rich. » President Kennedy argued that it was a tax cut for the economy, that changed incentives meant a faster growing economy and that « A rising tide lifts all boats. »

If Republicans today cannot seem to come up with their own answer when critics cry out « tax cuts for the rich, » maybe they can just go back and read John F. Kennedy’s answer.

A truly optimistic person might even hope that media pundits would go back and check out the facts before arguing as if the only way to reduce the deficit is to raise tax rates on « the rich. »

If they are afraid that they would be stigmatized as conservatives if they favored cuts in tax rates, they might take heart from the fact that not only John F. Kennedy, but even John Maynard Keynes as well, argued that cutting tax rates could increase tax revenues and thereby help reduce the deficit.

Because so few people bother to check the facts, Barack Obama can get away with statements about how « tax cuts for the rich » have « cost » the government money that now needs to be recouped. Such statements not only promote class warfare, to Obama’s benefit on election day, they also distract attention from his own runaway spending behind unprecedented trillion dollar deficits.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is http://www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com.

Voir également:

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

WHO’S THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?: THE TRUTH ABOUT OPPORTUNITY, TAXES, AND WEALTH IN AMERICA

By Stephen Moore

Encounter Books, $21.50, 136 pages

Herman Cain

The Washington Times

Saturday, November 3, 2012

« The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so, » Ronald Reagan once said. He might have been talking about tax policy.

Stephen Moore’s latest book, « Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth About Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America, » fairly sets our liberal friends straight on the issue that seems to be confusing President Obama and the general American public a lot — economics and, in particular, tax policy.

Mr. Moore, the senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, formerly president of the Club for Growth and a fellow of the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the tax fights of the 1980s. He condenses that nearly three decades in public policy in a slim 119-page volume that is an accessible and thorough guide to understanding economic growth. He understands that if we don’t learn the lessons of the past, we’re bound to repeat the follies, and so he has taken aim squarely at their chief originator, President Obama. While Mr. Obama may think of himself as Snow White — « the fairest of them all » — when it comes to taxing, he’s really Dopey, treating the world as if the Laffer Curve didn’t exist, as if food stamps and unemployment insurance actually grow the economy.

We should have seen this coming. It wasn’t so long ago that Charlie Gibson asked candidate Obama about his support for hiking the capital gains tax, given the historical experience that whenever government increases that tax, it loses revenue. After much back and forth, Mr. Obama insisted: « Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. »

Four trillion dollars of debt later and 4 million jobs fewer than four years ago, we have learned that what Mr. Obama meant by fairness was actually going to make the tax code far less fair. The richest 1 percent of taxpayers already pay almost 40 percent of all income taxes, but still Mr. Obama wants more, threatening the « fat-cat bankers » with higher taxes. Mr. Obama wants a tax rate of 42 percent on anyone making more than $250,000. In some states, taxation could well be more than 50 percent. Capital is a coward, and Mr. Obama has put the fear of uncertainty into capitalists. Take it from me, it’s hard to grow the pie — and thereby, hire more workers — when you are unsure how Washington is going to be divvying it up or what new rule it will come up with next. Mr. Moore points out that we’ve added 5,000 pages to the tax code in just the past 10 years.

Mr. Obama would like to have you believe it’s the rich whose taxes will go up, but the fact is that the poor and the middle class get stuck with the consequences. At the same time Mr. Obama threatens to raise taxes on capital gains and therefore discourage people from investing, he has gutted the most successful anti-poverty program ever — the 1996 welfare reform law — turning our safety net into a safety hammock. It doesn’t have to be this way. Once upon a time, envy used to be a sin, but now it’s public policy. We can change that.

Economic growth could return again. With the help of groups like the Job Creators Solutions, which I co-founded with Bernie Marcus, we can begin to help employers educate employees about why it is so pivotal — for the rich and poor alike — that growth continue.

« We tried tax cuts, and it didn’t work, » Mr. Obama claimed. He’s wrong. Experience is clear — be it from the Harding-Coolidge cuts of the 1920s, the Kennedy cuts of the 1960s, the Reagan cuts of the 1980s or the Bush cuts of the 2000s — taxing and spending doesn’t work, but cutting taxes grows the economy and brings in more revenue. As John F. Kennedy once put it, « A rising tide will lift all boats. » However, Mr. Obama, who once promised to control the tides, wants to control economic growth.

Has Mr. Obama reduced taxes on the middle class as he claims? Not quite. His tax-refundable credits cost the Treasury $81.49 billion a year. They are « welfare payments that masquerade as tax cuts, » Mr. Moore rightly notes. I agree with Mr. Moore that it would be fair if everyone paid at least something, but I think he may be overstating it a tad. The poor do pay taxes — they just pay them in forgone opportunity rather than with a check. Poor people aren’t stupid; they’re just poor. They know things aren’t working in this country, and while they may not connect it to the tax rate, they too know something is amiss.

My 9-9-9 plan and discussion of opportunity zones was to start that conversation. Mr. Moore favors a flat tax and eliminating the corporate tax. I’m willing to negotiate. Are Congress and the president?

Herman Cain is a co-founder of Job Creators Solutions and former candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Voir encore:

Idée reçue

Qui sont les très riches Américains ?

Idée reçue : le 1% le plus riche des Américains n’est pas constitué de financiers de Wall Street mais aux trois quarts d’entrepreneurs individuels.

Bernard Zimmern

Emploi 2017

18 avril 2013

Contrairement aux croyances largement répandues, le centile le plus riche des Américains n’est pas constitué des financiers de Wall Street mais aux trois quarts d’entrepreneurs individuels, à la tête d’entreprises non incorporées. Ils ont débuté leurs entreprises sans s’embarrasser de statuts et sont parvenus dans le premier centile des plus riches par leur travail et en économisant. Mais ils possèdent plus de la moitié de la fortune industrielle des États-Unis et c’est donc d’eux que dépendent la croissance et l’emploi. Ceci peut expliquer la faible reprise de l’activité américaine malgré les vannes du crédit ouvertes par la Banque Fédérale si ces entrepreneurs n’ont pas confiance dans leur gouvernement et ne veulent plus prendre de risques.

Un débat clé pour l’avenir de nos sociétés occidentales

Ce débat a agité et continue d’agiter l’Amérique puisque Barack Obama réclame une taxation spéciale des millionnaires et qu’il est même question d’instituer aux USA un impôt sur la fortune. Un débat qui concerne la France. Il n’aurait en effet guère d’incidence s’il s’agissait seulement de couper le superflu et, comme le suggèrent rien moins que deux prix Nobel, de punir les plus riches qui vivraient, au mieux d’une rente, au pire de l’exploitation de la sueur et du sang des plus pauvres.

Le hic, c’est que ce sont précisément les plus riches qui sont responsables de plus de la moitié de l’investissement dans les entreprises et l’emploi. Comme dans probablement la quasi-totalité des pays de l’Ouest. Et que, comme l’a fort bien rappelé l’OCDE, la lutte contre les inégalités commence par un travail : « L’emploi est la voie la plus prometteuse pour réduire les inégalités. Le principal défi consiste à créer des emplois plus nombreux et de meilleure qualité, offrant de bonnes perspectives de carrière et des chances réelles d’échapper à la pauvreté » [1].

Les très riches Américains sont aux trois quarts des entrepreneurs individuels, non incorporés

Pour savoir qui sont réellement ces super-riches, accapareurs ou fainéants, il est intéressant de se plonger dans les travaux d’un chercheur, Edward N.Wolff, qui figure parmi ceux qui traque les inégalités depuis près de 20 ans. Pour chiffrer la fortune des Américains et sa composition en fonction du niveau de fortune, il s’appuie sur les enquêtes du Survey of Consumer Finances effectué par le Federal Reserve Board, publiées tous les 2 ans et portant sur environ 5.000 ménages (avec échantillonnage spécial sur les ménages les plus riches pour tenir compte de leur petit nombre). Un des intérêts de ces enquêtes est qu’elles se sont répétées depuis 1983 et que le chercheur les commente et les analyse tous les 2 ans depuis 1994. Ses travaux sont d’autant plus crédibles que Wolff appartient plutôt au clan des égalitaristes, comme d’autres membres de son université semble-t-il, qu’au clan des entrepreneurs.

Dans un rapport de 2010, il dévoile que 73,8% du patrimoine du 1% les plus riches [2] sont dans des « unincorporated business » [3], que nous croyons pouvoir traduire par entreprises individuelles, ces entreprises que leur fondateur n’a même pas constituées en sociétés à leur création mais tout simplement débuté en offrant ses produits ou services et qui sont restées sans statuts.

Le grand public non averti pourrait penser que la fortune industrielle américaine est dans les grandes entreprises cotées, les Google, General Electric, les 40 entreprises du Dow Jones ou les 100 du Nasdaq. Erreur. Elles ne constituent que 11,8% du patrimoine total américain et 16,8% si l’on inclue les actions indirectement détenus à travers les fonds de pension, les OPCVM, etc. contre 20,1% [4] pour le patrimoine représenté par les entreprises individuelles. Plus de la moitié du patrimoine industriel américain est donc dans des entreprises non incorporées. De même d’ailleurs qu’en France.

Dans son rapport 2010 sur les patrimoines 2007, Wolff confirme que les très riches américains sont ces créateurs d’entreprises individuelles, par cette phrase remarquable : « a somewhat startling 74 percent of the very rich reported owning their own business » [5].

Pourquoi les entrepreneurs individuels représentent 75% des plus riches américains

C’est que la plus grande partie de la richesse d’une nation n’est pas créée par des élèves de grandes écoles ou universités, qui cherchent généralement des carrières sures au sein de grands groupes mais par des autodidactes qui, flair ou accident, débutent une activité en affichant simplement un panneau et ne s’embarrassent pas de statuts beaucoup trop compliqués ou coûteux. À force de travail et d’économies, leur activité grandit et ils finissent, aux USA, par constituer plus de 50% de l’actif industriel.

On en trouve confirmation dans les travaux d’un autre chercheur [6]. C’est qu’un entrepreneur individuel ne peut généralement compter que sur lui-même – et son entourage familial –, pas sur les institutions financières, pour survivre en cas de retournement de la conjoncture économique et qu’il est donc conduit à accumuler de la richesse, à épargner, à s’enrichir au maximum, en vivant s’il le faut chichement, comme Sam Walton, le fondateur de la plus grande chaîne de distribution Wallmart qui roula dans sa vieille Ford plus de 20 ans, jusqu’à sa mort.

Les entrepreneurs individuels, le facteur clé de la croissance, qui manque actuellement

En 2007, c’est pourtant ce 1% des plus riches qui représente 49,3% de toutes les actions et fonds communs de placement, 60,6% des placements financiers, 62,4% du « business equity » [7], donc représente plus de la moitié de la fortune industrielle américaine. Page 19 de son édition 2012, Wolff va même plus loin et rappelle que « comme montré tableau 6, les foyers du centile le plus riche (rangés par patrimoine) investissaient plus des trois quarts de leurs économies dans la propriété immobilière, les entreprises, des actions de sociétés et des placements financiers ».

Ce qui nous conduit à penser que si la reprise américaine est si lente et si hésitante malgré les vannes de crédit largement ouvertes par la Federal Reserve, ce n’est pas que les circuits bancaires manquent de capitaux, c’est que les principaux agents de la croissance qui sont ces entrepreneurs américains, qui ont fait leur fortune généralement en partant de rien, ces riches américains n’ont plus confiance dans leur gouvernement et gardent leur fortune plutôt que de la risquer.

Sur le web.

Notes :

OCDE (2011), Toujours plus d’inégalité : Pourquoi les écarts de revenus se creusent. ↩

Pour éviter toute ambiguïté, il écrit lui-même que les très riches sont les 1% les plus riches, pas les 10% ou tout autre décile. ↩

Table 6 page 49 « Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States » 2010 Edward N. Wolff. Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. ↩

Page 16, ibid. ↩

Page 16, même document. ↩

« Entrepreneurship, Business Wealth, and Social Mobility » par Gabriel Basaluzzo UT Austin / ITAM. ↩

Table 9 ibid. ↩

Is Obama Like Ike?

Michael Doran

October 2013

“I remember some of the speeches of Eisenhower,” Hillary Clinton said during a joint interview with President Obama in January. “You know, you’ve got to be careful, you have to be thoughtful, you can’t rush in.” It seems likely her memories were jogged by the reviews of Evan Thomas’s recent book, Ike’s Bluff, which argued that Eisenhower’s experience as a soldier and general taught him the limitations of exercising power. That book and a spate of other recent studies have established Ike firmly in the public mind as the very embodiment of presidential prudence.

They have also turned him into a posthumous adviser to the Obama administration. Before becoming secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel bought three dozen copies of David A. Nichols’s study of the Suez Crisis and distributed them to (among others) the president, Hillary Clinton, and Leon Panetta, his predecessor as secretary of defense. At Suez, Ike refused to support Britain and France when they (in collusion with Israel) invaded Egypt, and he effectively killed the intervention. Hagel’s lesson was clear: Don’t let allies drag you into ill-advised military adventures.

In an influential essay published last year in Time entitled “On Foreign Policy, Why Barack Is Like Ike,” Fareed Zakaria argued that when the president showed a wariness to intervene in places like Syria, he was displaying an uncanny resemblance to Eisenhower. The key quality that the two share, Zakaria argued, is “strategic restraint.” In his recent book, Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era (Princeton University Press, 200 pages), Joseph S. Nye of Harvard takes the argument even one step further. Nye claims Eisenhower was actually an early practitioner of what an Obama aide, speaking of the administration’s role in the ouster of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya, notoriously called “leading from behind.”

A cursory examination of Eisenhower’s actual Middle East policies reveals the hollowness of both this thesis and the notion that Eisenhower, as president, followed a strategy of restraint—especially as regards the Middle East. To be sure, he frequently exercised prudence in military affairs. He ended the war in Korea and did not intervene in 1956 when the Hungarians rose in revolt against their Soviet masters. Most notable of all, he refrained from intervention in Vietnam. But military prudence should not be confused with global strategy. Modern-day “restraintists” are quick to cite Eisenhower’s warning, in his farewell address, regarding the dangers of “the military industrial complex.” They typically forget, however, to quote his justification for it: “We face a hostile ideology—global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration.” Eisenhower, in other words, zealously prosecuted the Cold War. Indeed, contemporary critics diagnosed his administration as suffering from “pactomania,” an irresistible urge to organize alliances against Communism. Many historians now regard his reliance on the CIA, which toppled regimes in Iran and Guatemala, as anything but restrained. And there are also more public examples of Eisenhower flexing his presidential muscles.

There was Syria, for one. Then, as now, the country was at the center of a regional power struggle. In the summer of 1956, when the Syrian government began to drift toward the Soviet Union, Eisenhower instructed the CIA to topple it. By summer 1957, the spy agency had attempted to stage two coups, both of which failed. No sooner had Syrian counterintelligence rolled up the second plot than Eisenhower formulated another plan: fomenting jihad. He instructed the CIA to position itself in order to stir up violent disturbances along Syria’s borders. The goal was to present these incidents to the world as a threat—a Syrian threat—to the peace and security of the region. Syria’s neighbors would then use the unrest as a pretext to invade and topple the government in Damascus.

The trickiest part of the plan was convincing the Arab states to invade. In the hope that Saudi Arabia would help, Eisenhower wrote to King Saud. The letter expressed alarm over the “serious danger that Syria will become a Soviet Communist satellite.” It affirmed that “any country that was attacked by a Syria which was itself dominated by International Communism” could count on the United States for support. And then it closed with an appeal to Islam: “In view of the special position of Your Majesty as Keeper of the Holy Places of Islam, I trust that you will exert your great influence to the end that the atheistic creed of Communism will not become entrenched at a key position in the Moslem world.” The letter missed its mark. “Saud,” as the historian Salim Yaqub wrote, “had little interest in Eisenhower’s jihad.”

In praise of Ike’s pacific record, Zakaria notes that “from the end of the Korean War to the end of his presidency, not one American soldier died in combat.” The statistic is striking, but it creates a misleading impression. In truth, Eisenhower had the one quality all successful leaders have: He was lucky. Any number of his policies could easily have backfired, producing a much less impressive statistic. The Syrian crisis of 1957 is a case in point. While Eisenhower was attempting to generate a jihad, the Turkish government amassed 50,000 troops on the Syrian border. The move provoked the Soviets. In an interview with the New York Times, Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet premier, publicly accused the United States of fomenting the crisis and issued a warning to the Turks: “If the rifles fire,” he said bluntly, “the rockets will start flying.” Secretary of State John Foster Dulles immediately came to the aid of the Turks: “If there is an attack on Turkey by the Soviet Union,” he said, “it would not mean a purely defensive operation by the United States, with the Soviet Union a privileged sanctuary from which to attack Turkey.” In such tense circumstances, a miscalculation by a Turkish, Syrian, or Soviet commander could have dragged the United States into an extremely ugly conflict. History, in that case, would have produced less impressive statistics.

Zakaria also happens to be factually wrong. A number of soldiers did die on Eisenhower’s watch—three, to be exact. One fell to an enemy sniper; the other two to friendly fire. All of them died in Lebanon during the 1958 intervention. Zero or three—either way the record is remarkable, but the fallen Marines should remind us of an important fact: Eisenhower, when the situation required, did not shrink from entering a messy conflict.

In the first half of 1958, Camille Chamoun, the Lebanese president, was battling an insurgency and strongly urged Eisenhower to come to his assistance. The insurgents were receiving support from Syria, which by this time had merged with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt to form the United Arab Republic. Eisenhower feared a quagmire and resisted calls to intervene. But overnight, his calculus changed.

When Eisenhower went to bed on Sunday, July 13, Iraq was an ally—“the country,” he wrote in his memoirs, “that we were counting on heavily as a bulwark of stability and progress in the region.” By the time he woke on Monday, the bulwark had collapsed. In the early morning hours, renegade army officers staged a successful coup, destroying Iraq’s Hashemite monarchy and replacing it with an Arab nationalist republic that Eisenhower feared might align with the United Arab Republic and its Soviet patron. In a mere instant, a Cold War ally had disappeared.

Fearing a push by Nasser and the Soviet Union against all Western-leaning states of the region, a number of American allies—including the Lebanese, Saudis, and Jordanians—called for immediate intervention by the United States. Cairo and Moscow, they argued, must be put on notice that the Americans would not let their remaining friends go the way of the Iraqi monarchy. If the United States failed to intervene, the Saudi king informed Eisenhower, it would be “finished” as a power in the region. Eisenhower sprung to action with remarkable speed. Within a few hours, he gave the order to send in the Marines to bolster the resolve of allies and reinvigorating the deterrent capability of the United States.

Almost immediately, Eisenhower invited a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing. Sam Rayburn, the speaker of the House, expressed concerns: “If we go in and intervene and our operation does not succeed, what do we do then?” He also worried that “the Russians would threaten general war.” Eisenhower replied that it was impossible “to prophesy the exact course of events. If we do or if we don’t go in, the consequences will be bad.” He calculated, however, that it was crucial to take “a strong position rather than a Munich-type position, if we are to avoid the crumbling of our whole security structure.” Rayburn also believed that “intervention would intensify resentment against us throughout the area.” Eisenhower shared his fear.

The Lebanon intervention, we now know, went as cleanly as any such operation in history. At the moment of decision, however, Eisenhower regarded the venture as highly risky—so dangerous, in fact, that it reminded him of giving the go order on D-Day, the most momentous event of his life. “Despite the disparity in the size of the two operations,” he wrote in his memoirs, “the possible consequences in each case, if things went wrong, were chilling.” What, in particular, made the intervention so dangerous? “In Lebanon, the question was whether it would be better to incur the deep resentment of nearly all of the Arab world (and some of the rest of the Free world) and in doing so to risk general war with the Soviet Union or to do something worse—which was to do nothing.”

Over the last year, a parade of America’s Middle Eastern allies have made their way through the White House, raising the alarm of Syria, and urging Obama to organize a more robust international response. Unlike Ike, Obama calculated that doing nothing was preferable to taking actions that have uncertain outcomes. As a result, when Obama finally decided that some response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons was necessary, he found himself almost bereft of allies.

And what about Nye’s favorable comparison of Obama’s foreign policy with Eisenhower’s? “An incautious comment by a midlevel White House official characterized the Libya policy as ‘leading from behind,’ and this became a target for political criticism,” Nye writes, but adds that “Eisenhower was a great exemplar of knowing that sometimes it is most effective to keep a low profile and to lead from behind.”

This is an act of rhetorical legerdemain. Nye’s use of the term gives the impression that two very different things are actually one and the same. With respect to Obama, “leading from behind” describes his administration’s policy toward Libyan intervention. With respect to Ike, it describes his management style, which Fred Greenstein famously called “the hidden-hand presidency.”

In Eisenhower’s day, intellectuals almost universally regarded him as an amiable dolt, more golfer than strategist. Before Greenstein (together with Stephen Ambrose and others) set the record straight in the 1980s, it was widely assumed that John Foster Dulles was the man who actually ran American foreign policy. Using declassified documents, Greenstein and his cohort showed that Eisenhower was resolutely in charge, a master of detail, fully in command of strategy and tactics. Eisenhower might have put Dulles out front and center stage, but he was always guiding him with a “hidden hand.”

The diary of Jock Colville, Winston Churchill’s right-hand man, provides a vivid example of Eisenhower’s skills at “gentle persuasion,” to use Nye’s phrase. After Stalin died in March 1953, Churchill, then in his final term as prime minister, perceived signs of moderation in Moscow. He began a campaign to convince Eisenhower to convene a summit with the USSR on the model of the great wartime conferences. Ike repeatedly rebuffed Churchill, who eventually made his differences with Eisenhower publicly known. Tensions came to a head in Bermuda in December 1953 at a conference attended by the leaders of the United States, Britain, and France. During one of the opening meetings, Churchill immediately delivered an eloquent appeal for engaging the new Soviet leaders. Eisenhower, Colville writes, was enraged. He reacted with “a short, very violent statement, in the coarsest terms,” likening the Soviet Union to “a whore” whom the United States would drive off the main streets. Colville was shocked by Eisenhower’s profanity. “I doubt,” he noted, “if such language has ever been heard at an international conference.”

Now consider: The Islamic Republic of Iran recently elected a new president, Hassan Rouhani, whom many observers regard as a moderate. Those observers have been urging Obama to engage with him directly, just as Churchill urged Ike. Imagine a conference between Obama and a delegation of European leaders who argue eloquently for reaching out to Rouhani. Obama springs up, enraged. The veins in his forehead pop out, throbbing. He launches into a profanity-laced tirade. “Iran,” he thunders, “is a whore and we are going to drive her off the streets of the Middle East.”

If Obama were truly like Ike in foreign policy, this thought experiment would not be a fanciful one.

The popular association of the Eisenhower administration with “strategic restraint” is itself he product of historical revisionism. It was not the contemporary view. Until the 1980s, most pundits believed the opposite. Their view was perfectly distilled in Townsend Hoopes’s The Devil and John Foster Dulles (1973). The unstated goal of the book was to saddle the Republicans with responsibility for the Vietnam War—no mean feat, given that Democrats Kennedy and Johnson had made the key decisions to intervene. Nevertheless, Hoopes found an ingenious method to lay the responsibility squarely on Eisenhower’s shoulders—or, more precisely, on the shoulders of his secretary of state.

John Foster Dulles’s influence, Hoopes explains, was so immense that it extended beyond the Republican Party. Dulles managed to shape the zeitgeist by establishing in the broad culture the unassailable sanctity of “America’s posture of categorical anti-Communism and limitless strategic concern.” Once he successfully stamped the culture with anti-Communist zealotry, the Democrats had no choice but to follow its inexorable logic, which led to imperial overreach in Vietnam. “In early 1968,” Hoopes writes, “when the Tet offensive and Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal from further political combat tore away the final veil hiding the misperception and failure of America’s freedom-defending and nation-building in South Vietnam, I faced, along with many others, the dawning of the realization that an era in American foreign policy had ended.”

This was hysterically overwrought, obviously, but in its day, intellectuals took the argument seriously. It’s worth considering why. Caricature, of course, exaggerates recognizable aspects of reality. In the 1970s, the very real anti-Communism of the Eisenhower era was still a part of living memory. “Mutual Assured Destruction,” “the domino theory,” “brinkmanship”—these 1950s catchphrases reverberated, testifying to the fact that Ike, even while steering clear of military adventures, took the fight to the enemy. By contrast, contemporary audiences know Ike only from history books such as Greenstein’s, which emphasizes Eisenhower’s pragmatism precisely in order to supplant the prevailing caricature of his stupidity.

Still, there was more than just a grain of truth to Hoopes’s presentation. Ike operated in a specific ideological context. To detach “Ike the pragmatist” entirely from it is to draw a caricature every bit as distorted as “Dulles the zealot.”

Zakaria sees Ike and Obama as uncannily similar for exhibiting “strategic restraint” in their Middle East policies. That Obama has been restrained is undeniable. In what way, however, is his reluctance to use military force “strategic”? What larger plan does the policy serve? The best answer came last March from Tom Donilon, his former national-security adviser. The Obama administration, he explained in an interview, had determined that the United States was “over-invested in our military efforts in South Asia and in the Middle East.” At the same time, it was “dramatically under-invested” in Asia, which was “the most economically dynamic region in the world.” Therefore, it was “rebalancing” to Asia.

So Obama, the global strategist, pores over a huge map spread out on the table before him. Using his pointer stick like a croupier, he slides pieces from the Middle East to Asia. That’s all well and good on the global level, but what about the Middle East? The region is undergoing an epochal transformation. Where does the president see it headed? What is the American role in guiding it there?

In May 2011, a few months after the Arab Spring first broke out, Obama identified a powerful movement toward freedom and democracy and reached out his hand in partnership. “The question before us,” Obama said at the time “is what role America will play as this story unfolds.” He answered with clarity: “There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity.” Only two years later, he struck a less hopeful note. In the Middle East, he said, “there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.”

Where Obama was nurturing democracy two years ago, he is now arguing for quarantining sectarian violence. This blatant shift raises even more questions. Will this sectarianism burn itself out, or will the conflagration grow? What security structures will best contain it? How will the “rebalancing” to Asia help build them? One suspects that there are no answers to any of these questions, because the decision to pull back was disconnected from a larger vision of the Middle East. “Strategic restraint,” when applied to Obama’s policies, is synonymous with “strategic neglect.”

That was not true of Eisenhower’s policies. His eight years in office also coincided with a revolutionary wave. The old imperial and colonial order was crumbling. A new one, dominated by secular pan-Arab nationalism, was taking its place. Eisenhower saw it plainly and formulated a strategy to deal with it. His goal was to channel the nationalism of the region away from the Soviet bloc and toward the West by offering security and economic assistance. The United States was engaged in a delicate balancing act, supporting its European allies against the Soviet Union while simultaneously facilitating the rise of the independent nations of the Middle East, which were hostile to the Europeans.

It is impossible to understand any of Ike’s major moves without reference to this vision. Take, for instance, the Suez Crisis, which Zakaria cites as a prime example of “strategic restraint” and which Hagel holds up as a model for Obama. When Eisenhower turned against his allies, he did not do so out of any overarching commitment to “restraint.” He simply believed Britain and France were alienating Arab nationalists and destroying the prospect for a strategic accommodation between the Arab states and the West. He therefore shunted the Europeans aside—in what was actually the most dramatic assertion of American primacy of the Cold War.

In the midst of the crisis, he announced the Eisenhower Doctrine, a unilateral American commitment to defend the entire Middle East. His doctrine put the world on formal notice that the United States was replacing Britain as the dominant power in the region. The result of Ike’s “strategic restraint” was a massive increase in the global responsibilities of the United States. Obama’s restraint represents an attempt to shed those responsibilities.

The Ike–Obama analogy creates an illusion of commonality and historic continuity where none exists. It is bad history, because it depicts Eisenhower as a two-dimensional figure, entirely detached from his key associates and their core beliefs. At the same time, the analogy presents us with a distorted view of Obama. The Eisenhower Doctrine asserted American primacy in the Middle East, and every president since has regarded it a vital American interest to shape the international order of the region. Every president, that is, except the present one.

The old order in the Middle East is crumbling. The enemies and rivals of the United States—Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda—are working assiduously to mold the new order that benefits them. Their efforts, which are often in conflict, have ignited a great fire. Unlike his predecessors, Barack Obama has determined that the United States is best served by hanging back. This is a sharp break with the past—especially with Eisenhower. Those desperately looking to burnish Obama’s reputation when it comes to foreign policy by associating it with that of a successful presidency will have to look elsewhere.

About the Author

Michael Doran, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration, is the Roger Hertog Senior Fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is finishing a book on Eisenhower and the Middle East. He tweets @Doranimated.

Voir enfin:

Pourquoi les Français sont « en colère » : le rapport secret des préfets

François Bazin

Le Nouvel Observateur

19-10-2013

Un rapport confidentiel des préfets montre les racines d’une exaspération qui peine à s’exprimer sur le terrain social, mais qui menace de tout emporter dans les urnes.

C’est une note de quatre pages, classée « confidentiel » et rédigée par le ministère de l’Intérieur. Chaque mois, les services de Manuel Valls, sur la foi des rapports que leur adressent les préfets, rédigent une « synthèse », qui est une manière de plonger dans les méandres de l’opinion publique. Elle dit l’esprit du temps, le moral des élus et l’humeur des Français, ceux que l’on entend peu dans les grands médias et qui représentent ce que certains appellent « le pays profond ».

La dernière en date de ces synthèses a été publiée le 27 septembre dernier. Elle est remontée illico jusqu’au sommet de l’Etat et a été jugée suffisamment inquiétante à l’Elysée et à Matignon, pour que, cette fois-ci, elle soit communiquée aux principaux dirigeants de la majorité.

La France gronde, les Français sont en « colère « . Ce mot-là, François Hollande, en déplacement la semaine dernière en Haute-Loire, l’a d’ailleurs prononcé publiquement. Dans la synthèse des préfets, il ne figure pas de façon explicite. Mais c’est tout comme ! Les casquettes de la République n’ont pas l’habitude d’employer les formules chocs et les phrases qui claquent. C’est ce qui fait tout l’intérêt de la note du 27 septembre.

Il faut savoir la décoder pour mesurer son caractère alarmiste. Tout est écrit par petites touches qui signalent, une à une, les sources d’un mécontentement qui monte, qui tourne, qui s’alimente parfois à de petits riens dont on mesure toutefois combien ils pourraient devenir explosifs si demain ils devaient se cristalliser dans un même mouvement. On n’en est pas encore là. C’est ce qui explique, au bout du compte, un climat insaisissable fait d’aigreurs accumulées, sur fond de ressentiment à l’égard de ce qui vient d’en haut, du pouvoir parisien, de ceux qui gouvernent l’Etat.

« Un sentiment d’abandon »

Le premier point mis en exergue par les préfets porte sur le monde rural. Celui-ci « s’organise pour revendiquer une spécificité de traitement dans les réformes en cours ». A quelques mois des municipales, il n’y a rien là de secondaire.

Si le redécoupage cantonal « ne suscite guère de réactions dans l’opinion, il fait parfois l’objet de débats enflammés dans les exécutifs locaux ». Plus que « des accusations partisanes », les préfets notent ainsi « les inquiétudes sur les conséquences d’un tel redécoupage sur le maillage territorial des services publics et l’éligibilité à certaines subventions ou projets d’équipements ».

Le discours qui monte est tout entier dirigé « contre l’hégémonie des métropoles » que le gouvernement serait en train d’organiser à travers la loi Lebranchu. Chez les petits élus, tout fait désormais sens : les restructurations liées au vote de la loi de programmation militaire aussi bien que la réforme Peillon des rythmes scolaires. Le sentiment qui domine est « un sentiment d’abandon ».

Le deuxième point abordé par les préfets a davantage fait les gros titres des médias. »Inquiets du discours antifiscal qui pourrait favoriser les extrêmes, écrivent-ils, les élus considèrent que les limites du consentement à l’impôt sont atteintes. »

Là encore tout converge : « Dans les esprits où domine la hantise du chômage et de la baisse du pouvoir d’achat, la hausse de la fiscalité devient un élément anxiogène de plus. » L’expression utilisée est celle de « choc psychologique » pour « des foyers jusque-là non imposables ». A preuve,  » l’afflux record dans certains centres de finances publiques de contribuables à la recherche d’informations « .

Dans ce contexte, « les élus confient avoir constaté la radicalisation des propos de leurs administrés qui fustigent ‘un matraquage fiscal’ et ‘une hausse insupportable d’impôts qui financent un système trop généreux’. » Et les préfets de conclure : « La menace de désobéissance fiscale est clairement brandie. »

Le troisième point abordé par les casquettes de la République porte sur « l’évolution des modes de délinquance ». « Médiatisation croissante des faits divers par les médias locaux […] dans des régions qui s’en croyaient indemnes » ; « cambriolages, délinquance de proximité, incivilités » : la formule choisie pour résumer le sentiment des Français se passe de commentaire.

Tout cela « inquiète autant que cela exaspère ». C’est ce qui conduit les préfets à souligner que « la population semble désormais prête à s’impliquer davantage dans la lutte contre la délinquance à travers des opérations comme ‘voisins vigilants’ ou ‘alertes commerce' ».

Enfin, sur un mode un peu plus positif au regard des mesures prises récemment par le gouvernement avec notamment la baisse de la TVA sur la rénovation de logements, les préfets soulignent « la situation de détresse » qui est aujourd’hui celle des professionnels du bâtiment.

Loin du discours convenu sur les bienfaits supposés du statut d’auto-entrepreneur, ils rappellent ainsi que « dans certains départements, près de 70% des créations d’entreprises artisanales » relèvent de ce dit statut. Ce qui, ajouté à « la concurrence d’entreprises étrangères qualifiée de low cost », entretient un discours récurrent sur la « concurrence déloyale ».

Ras-le-bol fiscal

Faut-il dès lors s’étonner que le Front national monte dans les sondages ? Sentiment d’abandon des zones rurales, ras-le-bol fiscal, augmentation de la petite délinquance, détresse du monde artisanal : on retrouve là tous les ingrédients qui, mis bout à bout, nourrissent le programme lepéniste dans ce qu’il a de plus tristement classique. Durant l’été dernier, Hollande confiait volontiers son inquiétude de voir la réforme des retraites « unifier » un mécontentement latent.

« Si ça prend, disait-il en privé, toutes les catégories qui grognent oublieront leurs antagonismes pour se retrouver derrière la première manif venue. » Le danger n’est plus là. La réforme des retraites, bouclée fin août avec un sens achevé de l’équilibre hollandais, a étouffé dans l’oeuf le mouvement social et du même coup mes projets assassins de la gauche Mélenchon, en lien avec les secteurs les plus durs de la CGT ou de FO.

Sur le front de l’emploi qui s’améliore doucement, les plans sociaux qui tombent provoquent plus de ressentiments que de mobilisations. De même qu’il existe des grèves perlées, on voit s’installer une colère diffuse qui entretient dans le pays ce curieux climat où l’insatisfaction domine sans que jamais elle ne s’exprime de manière unifiée dans la rue.

« Ne comptez plus sur notre bulletin de vote »

Aujourd’hui, on en est là. Les sondages le disent. Les préfets le confirment. Les plus expérimentés des élus de gauche confient, la peur au ventre, que cette situation leur rappelle celle qui prédominait avant leur déroute des législatives de 1993. « Les gens se taisent. Bien sûr, sur les marchés, nos sympathisants viennent râler. Mais tous les autres ont le visage fermé, témoigne un député d’Ile-de-France. Ils se contentent d’un ‘C’est dur, hein !’ dont on sent bien qu’il veut dire ‘Ne comptez plus sur notre bulletin de vote’.  »

L’abstention, voilà l’ennemi. Celui qui fait trembler les candidats de l’actuelle majorité, à l’approche des municipales. Avec, en toile de fond, une attention croissante au discours lepéniste, perçu comme la dernière manifestation possible de ce refus du « système » qui fait désormais florès.

Dans ce climat délétère, tout est désormais fléché pour que la colère qui monte se porte sur le seul terrain électoral. Quand Jean-François Copé répète à tout-va que la seule manière de « sanctionner le pouvoir » est de favoriser une « vague bleue » aux prochaines municipales, mesure-t-il qu’il ne se trompe sur rien, sauf sur la couleur exacte d’un vote qui s’annonce essentiellement « bleu Marine » ? Face à cela, la majorité ne peut compter que sur l’implantation de ses élus sortants. Elle tente de faire souffler sur le pays un air d’optimisme, encouragé par la croissance qui revient et la courbe du chômage qui devrait s’inverser à la fin de l’année.

C’est peu et beaucoup à la fois. C’est un peu tard surtout pour espérer que le courant qui enfle, dans les profondeurs du pays, puisse être freiné dans les mois à venir. En 2014, immanquablement, tombera la facture. Pour Hollande, comme pour la droite républicaine, il n’y a guère de raison de penser qu’à la colère qui gronde, ne succédera pas, demain, une de ces sanctions dont on ne pourra pas dire qu’elle est venue par surprise.


Religion/neurones miroirs: Comme le Père m’a aimé (Keeping God real is what’s hard)

19 octobre, 2013
Photo : AS THE FATHER HATH LOVED ME (keeping God real is what’s hard)The moment I wake up before I put on my make up I say a little prayer for you ... I run for the bus dear, while riding I think of us dear I say a little prayer for you ... At work I just take time and all through my coffee break time I say a little prayer for you ... Aretha Franklinhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgahyfSGpVYBut it's so hard loving you ...The Beatles  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB7Syh_iY84It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.Bob Dylan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AWgnsYECLohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLFNTBcPNfQAs the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you (...) This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you ...Jesus (John 15: 9-12)For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Jesus (Matthew 11: 38)Jack (...)  set aside an hour and a half each day for this. He’d spend the first 40 minutes or so relaxing and clearing his mind. Then he visualized a fox (he liked foxes). After four weeks, he started to feel the fox’s presence, and to have feelings he thought were the fox’s.(...) For a while he was intensely involved with her, and said it felt more wonderful than falling in love with a girl. Then he stopped spending all that time meditating — and the fox went away. It turned out she was fragile. (...) The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche. But Jack’s story also makes it clear that experiencing an invisible companion as truly present — especially as an adult — takes work: constant concentration, a state that resembles prayer.It may seem paradoxical, but this very difficulty may be why evangelical churches emphasize a personal, intimate God. While the idea of God may be intuitively plausible — just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots — belief can be brittle. Indeed, churches that rely on a relatively impersonal God (like mainstream Protestant denominations) have seen their congregations dwindle over the last 50 years. To experience God as walking by your side, in conversation with you, is hard. Evangelical pastors often preach as if they are teaching people how to keep God constantly in mind, because it is so easy not to pray, to let God’s presence slip away. But when it works, people experience God as alive.Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/opinion/luhrmann-conjuring-up-our-own-gods.html?_r=0The essence of this mechanism — called the mirror mechanism — is the following: each time an individual observes another individual performing an action, a set of neurons that encode that action is activated in the observer’s cortical motor system. The mirrormechanism was originally discovered in the ventral premotor cortex of the macaque monkey ... Single-neuron recordings showed that this area contains neurons — mirror neurons — that discharge both when a monkey executes a specific motor act and when it observes another individual performing the same motor act. Mirror neurons do not fire in response to a simple presentation of objects, including food. Most of them do not respond or respond only weakly to the observation of the experimenter performing a motor act (for example, grasping) without a target object.There is convincing evidence that an action observation–action execution mirror circuit also exists in humans. This evidence comes from brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (eeG) and magnetoencephalography (MeG) studies. The crucial issue concerning the parieto-frontal mirror neurons is their role in cognition. If this mirror mechanism is fundamental to understanding actions and intentions, the classical view — that the motor system has a role only in movement generation — has to be rejected and replaced by the view that the motor system is also one of the major players in cognitive functions. Further evidence of goal encoding by the parieto-frontal mirror circuit was obtained in an fMRI experiment in which two aplasic individuals, born without arms and hands, and control volunteers were asked to watch video clips showing hand actions. All participants also performed actions with their feet, mouth and, in the case of controls, hands. The results showed that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of aplasic individuals that was active during movements of the feet and mouth was also recruited by the observation of hand motor acts that they have never executed but the motor goals of which they could achieve using their feet or mouth. The issue of whether the human parieto-frontal mirror network encodes motor goals was also addressed by fMRI and TMS studies investigating the activation of motor areas in subjects listening to action-related sounds. Hearing and categorizing animal vocalizations preferentially activated the middle portion of the superior temporal gyri bilaterally (a region that is not related to motor act coding), whereas hearing and categorizing sounds of tools that were manipulated by hands activated the parieto-frontal mirror circuit. Similarly, it was shown that listening to the sound of hand and mouth motor acts activated the parieto-frontal mirror network. This activation was somatotopically organized in the left premotor cortex and was congruent with the motor somatotopy of hand and mouth actions.In support of this view, two studies showed that the meaning of the motor acts of other individuals could be understood in the absence of visual information describing them. In one study, monkeys heard the sounds of a motor act (such as ripping a piece of paper) without seeing it; in the other study, the monkeys knew that behind a screen was an object and saw the experimenter’s hand disappear behind the screen, but they could not see any hand–object interaction. The results showed that in both experiments F5 mirror neurons in the monkeys fired in the absence of visual information describing the motor act of the experimenter. The neuronal activation therefore underpinned the comprehension of the goal of the motor act of the other individual, regardless of the sensory information that described that motor action.There is no doubt that, in some cases, understanding the motor behaviour of others might require a mechanism different from mirroring. A typical example is the capacity of humans to recognize the actions of animals that do not belong to the human motor repertoire and cannot be captured by a motor generalization. The evidence for a non-mirror mechanism in action recognition was provided by an fMRI study in which volunteers were presented with video clips showing motor acts that did or did not belong to the human motor repertoire. Although all volunteers recognized the observed motor acts regardless of whether or not they belonged to their own motor repertoire, no activation of parieto-frontal mirror areas was found in response to acts that did not belong to their motor repertoire (for example, a dog barking). The areas that became active in such cases were occipital visual and STS areas. By contrast, the sight of motor acts that were within the motor repertoire of the observer (for example, a dog biting) recruited the parieto-frontal mirror network.Finally, there is evidence that the mirror mechanism, possibly located in this case in the fronto-mesial areas, also has a role in setting up an anticipatory representation of the motor behaviour of another individual. It has been shown that the ‘Bereitschaftspotential’, an electrophysiological marker of the readiness to act, occurs not only when an individual actively performs a motor act, but also when the nature and the onset time of an upcoming action performed by another individual is predictable on the basis of a visual cue.Such motor-based understanding seems to be a primary way in which individuals relate to one another, as shown by its presence not only in humans and monkeys, but also in evolutionarily distant species, such as swamp sparrows and zebra finches.Saxophone playing has been used as an example to show that the mirror view of action understanding is “untenable”: no motor competence is required to understand that someone is playing a saxophone. This is true, but such competence leads to a different understanding of saxophone playing. The non-motor-based understanding implies a mere semantic knowledge of what a saxophone is for, whereas the motor experience allows an individual to understand what saxophone playing really means — that is, it provides a musical knowledge ‘from the inside’Furthermore, this mechanism indicates the existence of a profound natural link between individuals that is crucial for establishing inter-individual interactions. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that the impairment of this natural link may be one of the causes of the striking inability of people with autism to relate to other individuals.http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~pineda/COGS260Mirroring/readings/Rizzolatti_NatureRevNeurosci10.pdfhttp://www.ted.com/talks/vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization.htmlhttps://jcdurbant.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/mimetisme-qui-sassemble-se-ressemble-what-if-it-was-flocks-that-made-birds-of-a-feather/Photo : HOW MUCH MORE YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN (Shabbat Shalom to all !) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?Jesus (Matthew 7: 11)Samuel (Joshua Reynolds, 1776)Photo : TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO (the costs of dumbing down our children's meals but also of trusting your man too much with the food shopping - even the French know that !)Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22: 6Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.Exodus 20: 12'If children were eating what their parents eat - and, like the French, eating round the table - then we wouldn't have the iron deficiency problem we have. If they sat together there are less chances of the kids manipulating the parent over food.'It may be tempting for tired, pressurised parents to resort to the easier option - to avoid the time it takes to sit with a child and develop healthy eating habits.'But research has shown the nutritional intake and growth rate of children between the ages of 2 and 12 can have a profound influence on their susceptibility to obesity and chronic diseases in later years.'The food you feed your children now does not only influence their weight and health in the short-term, it can adversely affect their health in the future.' Dr Colin Michie (chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's nutrition committee)Getting fathers to do the food shopping pushes the budget up by hundreds of pounds a year. On average, men who do the food shopping spend an extra £235 a year, or £1,175 every five years, largely because they tend not to plan meals before they set out and so are more susceptible to impulse buys.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2319770/Healthiest-children-eat-parents.html#ixzz2SRFgcPcnComme le Père m’a aimé, je vous ai aussi aimés. (…) Aimez-vous les uns les autres, comme je vous ai aimés. Jésus (Matthieu 15: 9-12)
Nul ne peut servir deux maîtres. Car, ou il haïra l’un, et aimera l’autre; ou il s’attachera à l’un, et méprisera l’autre. Vous ne pouvez servir Dieu et Mamon. Jésus (Matthieu 6: 24)
Car mon joug est doux, et mon fardeau léger. Jesus (Matthieu 11: 38)
The moment I wake up before i put on my make up I say a little prayer for you … I run for the bus dear, while riding I think of us dear I say a little prayer for you … At work I just take time and all through my coffee break time I say a little prayer for you … Aretha Franklin
But it’s so hard loving you … The Beatles
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Bob Dylan
Jack (…)  set aside an hour and a half each day for this. He’d spend the first 40 minutes or so relaxing and clearing his mind. Then he visualized a fox (he liked foxes). After four weeks, he started to feel the fox’s presence, and to have feelings he thought were the fox’s.(…) For a while he was intensely involved with her, and said it felt more wonderful than falling in love with a girl. Then he stopped spending all that time meditating — and the fox went away. It turned out she was fragile. (…) The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche. But Jack’s story also makes it clear that experiencing an invisible companion as truly present — especially as an adult — takes work: constant concentration, a state that resembles prayer. It may seem paradoxical, but this very difficulty may be why evangelical churches emphasize a personal, intimate God. While the idea of God may be intuitively plausible — just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots — belief can be brittle. Indeed, churches that rely on a relatively impersonal God (like mainstream Protestant denominations) have seen their congregations dwindle over the last 50 years. To experience God as walking by your side, in conversation with you, is hard. Evangelical pastors often preach as if they are teaching people how to keep God constantly in mind, because it is so easy not to pray, to let God’s presence slip away. But when it works, people experience God as alive. Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard. T. M. Luhrmann
The essence of this mechanism — called the mirror mechanism — is the following: each time an individual observes another individual performing an action, a set of neurons that encode that action is activated in the observer’s cortical motor system. (…) The mirrormechanism was originally discovered in the ventral premotor cortex of the macaque monkey … Single-neuron recordings showed that this area contains neurons — mirror neurons — that discharge both when a monkey executes a specific motor act and when it observes another individual performing the same motor act. Mirror neurons do not fire in response to a simple presentation of objects, including food. Most of them do not respond or respond only weakly to the observation of the experimenter performing a motor act (for example, grasping) without a target object. (…) There is convincing evidence that an action observation–action execution mirror circuit also exists in humans. This evidence comes from brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (eeG) and magnetoencephalography (MeG) studies. (…) The crucial issue concerning the parieto-frontal mirror neurons is their role in cognition. If this mirror mechanism is fundamental to understanding actions and intentions, the classical view — that the motor system has a role only in movement generation — has to be rejected and replaced by the view that the motor system is also one of the major players in cognitive functions. (…) Further evidence of goal encoding by the parieto-frontal mirror circuit was obtained in an fMRI experiment in which two aplasic individuals, born without arms and hands, and control volunteers were asked to watch video clips showing hand actions. All participants also performed actions with their feet, mouth and, in the case of controls, hands. The results showed that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of aplasic individuals that was active during movements of the feet and mouth was also recruited by the observation of hand motor acts that they have never executed but the motor goals of which they could achieve using their feet or mouth. The issue of whether the human parieto-frontal mirror network encodes motor goals was also addressed by fMRI and TMS studies investigating the activation of motor areas in subjects listening to action-related sounds. Hearing and categorizing animal vocalizations preferentially activated the middle portion of the superior temporal gyri bilaterally (a region that is not related to motor act coding), whereas hearing and categorizing sounds of tools that were manipulated by hands activated the parieto-frontal mirror circuit. Similarly, it was shown that listening to the sound of hand and mouth motor acts activated the parieto-frontal mirror network. This activation was somatotopically organized in the left premotor cortex and was congruent with the motor somatotopy of hand and mouth actions. (…) In support of this view, two studies showed that the meaning of the motor acts of other individuals could be understood in the absence of visual information describing them. In one study, monkeys heard the sounds of a motor act (such as ripping a piece of paper) without seeing it; in the other study, the monkeys knew that behind a screen was an object and saw the experimenter’s hand disappear behind the screen, but they could not see any hand–object interaction. The results showed that in both experiments F5 mirror neurons in the monkeys fired in the absence of visual information describing the motor act of the experimenter. The neuronal activation therefore underpinned the comprehension of the goal of the motor act of the other individual, regardless of the sensory information that described that motor action. (…) There is no doubt that, in some cases, understanding the motor behaviour of others might require a mechanism different from mirroring. A typical example is the capacity of humans to recognize the actions of animals that do not belong to the human motor repertoire and cannot be captured by a motor generalization. The evidence for a non-mirror mechanism in action recognition was provided by an fMRI study in which volunteers were presented with video clips showing motor acts that did or did not belong to the human motor repertoire. Although all volunteers recognized the observed motor acts regardless of whether or not they belonged to their own motor repertoire, no activation of parieto-frontal mirror areas was found in response to acts that did not belong to their motor repertoire (for example, a dog barking). The areas that became active in such cases were occipital visual and STS areas. By contrast, the sight of motor acts that were within the motor repertoire of the observer (for example, a dog biting) recruited the parieto-frontal mirror network. (…) Finally, there is evidence that the mirror mechanism, possibly located in this case in the fronto-mesial areas, also has a role in setting up an anticipatory representation of the motor behaviour of another individual. It has been shown that the ‘Bereitschaftspotential’, an electrophysiological marker of the readiness to act, occurs not only when an individual actively performs a motor act, but also when the nature and the onset time of an upcoming action performed by another individual is predictable on the basis of a visual cue. (…) Such motor-based understanding seems to be a primary way in which individuals relate to one another, as shown by its presence not only in humans and monkeys, but also in evolutionarily distant species, such as swamp sparrows and zebra finches. (…) Saxophone playing has been used as an example to show that the mirror view of action understanding is “untenable”: no motor competence is required to understand that someone is playing a saxophone. This is true, but such competence leads to a different understanding of saxophone playing. The non-motor-based understanding implies a mere semantic knowledge of what a saxophone is for, whereas the motor experience allows an individual to understand what saxophone playing really means — that is, it provides a musical knowledge ‘from the inside’ (…) Furthermore, this mechanism indicates the existence of a profound natural link between individuals that is crucial for establishing inter-individual interactions. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that the impairment of this natural link may be one of the causes of the striking inability of people with autism to relate to other individuals.  Giacomo Rizzolatti and Corrado Sinigaglia

A l’heure où nos savants font la fine bouche (mais c’est aussi leur boulot et comme ça que la science avance) devant l’une des découvertes peut-être les plus révolutionnaires du siècle …

A savoir celle des neurones miroirs

Sans lesquels, des primates aux humains mais aussi aux oiseaux,  tant l’apprentissage que l’emphatie ne seraient possibles …

Comment ne pas voir avec ce récent article de l’anthropologue de Stanford T.M. Luhrman et le cas particulier de la religion …

L’importance, comme pour l’amour (voir Aretha Franklin) et comme le Christ lui-même l’a montré, de l’imitation active …

Pour initier une relation avec Dieu …

Mais, aussi et surtout comme par exemple la brillante mais brève période born again d’un chanteur comme Bob Dylan l’a si spectaculairement montré …

Pour l’entretenir et la maintenir …

Conjuring Up Our Own Gods

T. M. Luhrmann

The New York Times

October 14, 2013

BIG SUR, Calif. — “AMERICANS are obsessed with the supernatural,” Jeffrey J. Kripal, a scholar of religion, told me here at Esalen, an institute dedicated to the idea that “we are all capable of the extraordinary.”

Surveys support this. In 2011, an Associated Press poll found that 8 in 10 Americans believed in angels — even 4 in 10 people who never went to church. In 2009 the Pew Research Center reported that 1 in 5 Americans experienced ghosts and 1 in 7 had consulted a psychic. In 2005, Gallup found that 3 out of 4 Americans believed in something paranormal, and that 4 in 10 said that houses could be haunted.

One interpretation of these data is that belief in the supernatural is hard-wired. Scholars like the anthropologist Pascal Boyer, author of “Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origin of Religious Thought,” and the psychologist Justin L. Barrett, author of “Why Would Anyone Believe in God?” argue that the fear that one would be eaten by a lion, or killed by a man who wanted your stuff, shaped the way our minds evolved. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were more likely to survive if they interpreted ambiguous noise as the sound of a predator. Most of the time it was the wind, of course, but if there really was danger, the people who worried about it were more likely to live.

That inclination to search for an agent has evolved into an intuition that an invisible agent, or god, may be there. (You can argue this theory from different theological positions. Mr. Boyer is an atheist, and treats religion as a mistake. Mr. Barrett is an evangelical Christian, who thinks that God’s hand steered evolution.)

However, intuitive plausibility is one thing, and measured, sober faith is another. These are the two kinds of thinking that the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” calls “system one” (quick intuitions) and “system two” ( deliberative judgment). When we’re scared in the dark, we populate the world with ghosts. When we consider in full daylight whether the ghosts were real — ah, that is another matter.

Consider how some people attempt to make what can only be imagined feel real. They do this by trying to create thought-forms, or imagined creatures, called tulpas. Their human creators are trying to imagine so vividly that the tulpas start to seem as if they can speak and act on their own. The term entered Western literature in 1929, through the explorer Alexandra David-Néel’s “Magic and Mystery in Tibet.” She wrote that Tibetan monks created tulpas as a spiritual discipline during intense meditation. The Internet has been a boon for tulpa practice, with dozens of sites with instructions on creating one.

Jack, a young man I interviewed, decided to make a tulpa when he was in college. He set aside an hour and a half each day for this. He’d spend the first 40 minutes or so relaxing and clearing his mind. Then he visualized a fox (he liked foxes). After four weeks, he started to feel the fox’s presence, and to have feelings he thought were the fox’s.

Finally, after a chemistry exam, he felt that she spoke to him. “I heard, clear as day, ‘Well, how did you do?’ ” he recalled. For a while he was intensely involved with her, and said it felt more wonderful than falling in love with a girl.

Then he stopped spending all that time meditating — and the fox went away. It turned out she was fragile. He says she comes back, sometimes unexpectedly, when he practices. She calms him down.

The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche. But Jack’s story also makes it clear that experiencing an invisible companion as truly present — especially as an adult — takes work: constant concentration, a state that resembles prayer.

It may seem paradoxical, but this very difficulty may be why evangelical churches emphasize a personal, intimate God. While the idea of God may be intuitively plausible — just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots — belief can be brittle. Indeed, churches that rely on a relatively impersonal God (like mainstream Protestant denominations) have seen their congregations dwindle over the last 50 years.

To experience God as walking by your side, in conversation with you, is hard. Evangelical pastors often preach as if they are teaching people how to keep God constantly in mind, because it is so easy not to pray, to let God’s presence slip away. But when it works, people experience God as alive.

Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard.

T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropologist at Stanford, is a contributing opinion writer.

Voir aussi:

What’s So Special about Mirror Neurons?

Ben Thomas

Scientific American

November 6, 2012

In the early 1990s, a team of neuroscientists at the University of Parma made a surprising discovery: Certain groups of neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys fired not only when a monkey performed an action – grabbing an apple out of a box, for instance – but also when the monkey watched someone else performing that action; and even when the monkey heard someone performing the action in another room.

In short, even though these “mirror neurons” were part of the brain’s motor system, they seemed to be correlated not with specific movements, but with specific goals.

Over the next few decades, this “action understanding” theory of mirror neurons blossomed into a wide range of promising speculations. Since most of us think of goals as more abstract than movements, mirror neurons confront us with the distinct possibility that those everyday categories may be missing crucial pieces of the puzzle – thus, some scientists propose that mirror neurons might be involved in feelings of empathy, while others think these cells may play central roles in human abilities like speech.

Some doctors even say they’ve discovered new treatments for mental disorders by reexamining diseases through the mirror neuron lens. For instance, UCLA’s Marco Iacoboni and others have put forth what Iacoboni called the “broken mirror hypothesis” of autism – the idea that malfunctioning mirror neurons are likely responsible for the lack of empathy and theory of mind found in severely autistic people.

Ever since these theories’ earliest days, though, sharp criticism has descended on the claims they make. If it turns out that mirror neurons play only auxiliary roles – and not central ones – in action understanding, as many opponents of these claims contend, we may be looking in entirely the wrong place for causes of autism and speech disorders. We could be ignoring potential cures by focusing on a hypothesis that’s grown too popular for its own good.

And through it all, the mirror neuron field continues to attract new inquisitive minds. September 2012 marked the first-ever Mirror Neurons: New Frontiers Summit in Erice, Sicily, where researchers championing all sides of the debate gathered to share their findings and hash out their differences.

In the wake of the Summit, I caught up with some of the world’s top mirror neuron experts, and asked them to bring me up to date on their latest findings, debates, and discussions. Their insights paint a more subtle, nuanced picture of mirror neurons’ role than anyone originally suspected.

Can mirror neurons understand?

There’s something strange about the range of actions mirror neurons respond to. They don’t respond to pantomimes, or to meaningless gestures, or to random animal sounds. They seem specially tuned to respond to actions with clear goals – whether those actions are perceived through sight, sound, or any other sensory pathway.

This realization led the discoverers of mirror neurons to put forth what they call the “action understanding” hypothesis – that mirror neurons are the neural basis for our ability to understand others’ actions. On this hypothesis rests a kingdom: If it’s true, Iacoboni may be right that we can treat autism and speech disorders by repairing the human mirror neuron system. But this kingdom’s borders have fallen under relentless attack since its very earliest days.

One of the first scientists to question the “action understanding” hypothesis was UC Irvine’s Greg Hickok. Though Hickok doesn’t dispute the existence of mirror neurons, he’s highly skeptical about their supposed central role in empathy, speech, autism and understanding – and he’s spent the past 10 years publishing research regarding those doubts.

The question of whether mirror neurons allow us to understand movement gestures, Hickok explains, is only one of the “action understanding” school’s unsupported claims – researchers who argue for a mirror neuron-centric model of speech comprehension also bear the burden of proving their claim that the motor system is involved in representing the meaning of action-related language.

What the “action understanding” school originally claimed, Hickok says, was that mirror neurons provide the neural mechanism for attaching meanings to motor actions – but in recent years, many of those same researchers have been leaning away from that claim, and toward the contention that mirror neurons themselves actually encode the meanings of actions. And both of these claims, according to Hickok, remain unsupported by hard evidence.

“Iacoboni and the other ‘action understanding’ supporters are conflating two logically independent questions,” Hickok explains. “Their original claim was that mirror neurons provide the mechanism for attaching meaning to actions like hand and speech gestures. But the second question – which they conflate with the first – is whether the meanings of actions are coded in motor systems.” In other words, before we can say for sure whether mirror neurons are necessary for understanding others’ actions, we first need to establish whether these neurons associate actions with their meanings, code the meanings themselves, or neither.

“It could be that mirror neurons facilitate your understanding a reaching movement,” Hickok adds, “but don’t themselves represent the semantics of the concept ‘reach’ generally.” In short, even if mirror neurons do enable your brain to access the concept ‘reach,’ that doesn’t mean they themselves are the neurons that encode that concept.

Over the years, Hickok has led several dozen studies that find dissociations between motor control and conceptual understanding. If he’s right, and mirror neurons help code movements but not semantic concepts of them, researchers may be looking for the causes of autism and speech disorders in areas that merely reflect, rather than produce, the symptoms – like picking trash out of a creek while ignoring the garbage dump upstream.

Take patients with Broca’s aphasia, for instance. These patients, who’ve suffered severe damage to the motor areas of their brain’s left hemisphere, have major trouble joining words into coherent phrases. Ask a person with Broca’s aphasia about the last time he visited the hospital, and he’ll say something like, “hospital… and ah… Wednesday… Wednesday, nine o’clock… and oh… Thursday… ten o’clock, ah doctors.” Even so, a patient with Broca’s aphasia can still understand sentences he hears others say. “If the neural system supporting speech production were critical to speech recognition,” Hickok says, “Broca’s aphasia should not exist.”

To use a more familiar example, babies – and, arguably, even dogs – clearly understand the meanings of many words without having the motor ability to say them. By the same token, we can understand the meaning of a verb like “echolocate” without having any understanding of how to perform it.

Thus, Hickok says, “hearing the word ‘kiss’ activates motor lip systems not because you need lips to understand the action,” but because your previous experiences with the word “kiss” are associated with movements involved in kissing. Mirror neurons, then, don’t encode the meaning of the word “kiss” itself; they simply happen to fall downstream of that understanding in your brain’s river of associations.

What all this implies, Hickok says, is that “action understanding is clearly not a function of the motor system.” If we want to find the neural correlates of understanding itself, Hickok suggests, we should concentrate our search upstream from the motor cortex, in brain regions like the superior temporal sulcus (STS), which plays a central role in our ability to associate objects with goals – to decide, in other words, what an action or object is “for.”

Not everyone’s thrilled by this line of argument, though. “When one looks at the data,” Iacoboni says, “true examples of dissociation between action understanding and action production are very rare.” Action understanding doesn’t always require motor-cortex activity, he agrees; but in many instances, mirror neurons do indeed appear to be crucial for it.

For example, patients with damaged motor cortices seem to have trouble placing photos of people’s actions in chronological order – though they have no trouble ordering photos of, say, a falling ball. Cases like these, Iacoboni says, argue strongly for mirror neurons’ importance in understanding the intentions of other people’s actions. This means, he says, that the concepts of “action” and “understanding” need to be integrated into a single model of mirror neuron function – not picked further apart.

But action execution and action understanding fall apart naturally, Hickok contends. “This is evident in the fact that the inability to produce speech following brain damage or in developmental speech disorders, for example, does not cause speech recognition deficits. It is also plainly evident in the fact that we can understand actions that we can’t perform, such as fly, slither, or coil.”

As you may have noticed by now, a specter that’s even harder to pin down lurks throughout this whole debate: We have no empirical rubric for action understanding; no experiment that can tell us for sure whether it’s happening – because there’s no real agreement about what exactly “understanding” is. It’s a weirdly recursive question: Understanding implies meaning; and so far, neither Hickok nor his opponents have been able to pin down what “meaning” means in neurological terms. “The fact is, we don’t know exactly how semantic understanding is achieved neurally,” Hickok says. “I certainly don’t know.”

Does association mean understanding?

It doesn’t always take a brand-new discovery to shake up an old debate – sometimes what’s needed is a new way of seeing the data. In the mirror neuron debate, that fresh approach comes courtesy of Cecilia Heyes, a professor of psychology at Oxford’s All Souls College. At the 2012 New Frontiers Summit, Heyes presented her case for an altogether different approach to studying mirror neuron function. The really important question, she says, isn’t whether mirror neurons encode understanding, but whether they qualify as a special class of neuron at all.

Mirror neurons, in Heyes’ view, aren’t evolved specifically “for” understanding, imitation, or any other purpose – rather, they’re simply ordinary motor-cortex neurons that happen to take on special roles as we learn to associate motor actions with sounds, feelings, goals and so on. “Special-purpose mechanisms can be forged by evolution or by learning,” Heyes says – and if we can figure out what makes certain neurons, but not others, take on mirror properties in the first place, we’ll be in a much better position to examine what they’re up to.

As for the question of whether mirror neurons “do” meaning, association, or both, Heyes thinks it may boil down to how we choose to define “meaning” and “understanding.” “I don’t think it’s right to contrast meaning and association,” she says. “In principle, mirror neurons could be a product of associative learning and help us to understand the meaning of actions.” But before we can find that out with a lab experiment, she adds, supporters and defenders of the “action understanding” hypothesis will need to explain what exactly it is that they’re claiming or denying, so we know what we’re looking for.

Hickok, for his part, says Heyes’ hypothesis actually supports his argument that mirror neurons don’t constitute the basis of action understanding – after all, he explains, if mirror neurons associate incoming stimuli with motor responses, why does the concept of “understanding” need to enter the picture at all? “The mirror neuron system links sensory stimuli to the motor system for the control of action,” he says. “It’s a system that acts reflexively and adaptively.” So as far as describing mirror neurons’ function in terms of sensory-motor association, Hickok says, Heyes is right on the money.

While Iacoboni also agrees that Heyes’ hypothesis is reasonable, he cautions that mirror neurons are still a special kind of associative cell: One that’s specialized for action-oriented associations. “Why should mirror neurons respond to specific actions,” Iacobini asks, “if they’re just learning visuomotor associations?” Why, in other words, do they respond not to just any action-related stimulus, but only to actions that have goals?

And it’s on this question of goal-orientedness – and what it implies about the human mind – that the views of Hickok, Heyes, and the Parma school all diverge once again.

Does empathy depend on mirror neurons?

No matter whose side of the debate you’re on, Vittorio Gallese cuts an imposing figure. One of the original discoverers of macaque mirror neurons – and a father of the “action understanding” theory – Gallese has spent the past three decades vigorously defending the centrality of mirror neurons in our ability to know what others’ actions are “for.”

“The data strongly suggest that mirror neurons map between an observer’s goals and the acting animal’s motor goals,” Gallese says. These neurons fire in relation to the goal of grasping, he explains, whether it’s performed by a hand, a pincer, or another tool; whether it’s performed by oneself or another individual; whether the other’s movement is seen or merely heard. The only common factor in all these events, Gallese says, is the goal they aim to achieve.

Gallese actually agrees with Hickok that understanding can take place without mirror neuron activation. However, he notes, “only through the activation of mirror neurons can we grasp the meaning of others’ behavior from within.” In other words, mirror neurons enable us to understand other people’s actions in terms of our own movements and goals – to empathize with them.

Hickok will have none of it. Gallese, he says, is trying to quietly slip out of his original hypothesis that mirror neurons associate meanings with actions, and into a more evasive “claim that they allow ‘understanding from the inside,’ whatever that means.”

Gallese has an answer at the ready: If not in mirror neurons, then where else should we look for action understanding? Surely not in the STS, as Hickok advocates. “Evidence demonstrates that only the motor system – not the STS – can generalize a motor goal independently from the effector accomplishing it,” Gallese says: When it comes to directly mapping others’ motor goals against our own, mirror neurons are still the only serious contenders in town. That kind of perceptual mapping, says Gallese, is what he means by “understanding from the inside.” More work is necessary, he acknowledges, to establish the exact nature of this kind of understanding – but nevertheless, its dependence on mirror neurons is clear.

Iacoboni is somewhat less sanguine. “Admittedly, it is very difficult to obtain empirical evidence that unequivocally proves this hypothesis,” he says – though he’s quick to add that “both imaging and neurological evidence are compellingly consistent with it.” The evidence is also consistent, he adds, with the idea that mirror neuron function is significantly altered in people on the autism spectrum of disorders (ASD) – implying a correlation between autism and “broken” mirror neurons.

That may be so, Heyes interjects – but ASD is too complex a range of disorders to lay at the feet of a single malfunctioning neuron system. “Iacoboni doesn’t ask,” she says, “whether atypical mirror mechanism activity generates – rather than merely accompanies – autism spectrum disorders.” If, as Hickok contends, mirror neurons lie far downstream in the process of action understanding, this abnormal mirror-neuron activation may simply be another symptom of autism, rather than its cause.

Gallese agrees – partially. “It is very unlikely that autism can be simply equated to a mere malfunctioning of the mirror neuron mechanism,” he says – but nevertheless, “many of the social cognitive impairments manifested by ASD individuals might be rooted in their incapacity to organize and directly grasp the intrinsic goal-related organization of motor behavior.” Mirror neurons map others’ motor goals to our own; autistic individuals have trouble grasping others’ goals; therefore, Gallese argues, some kind of correlation clearly exists.

But there’s an even more serious problem with this line of reasoning, says Morton Ann Gernsbacher, a prominent autism researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It has been repeatedly demonstrated,” Gernsbacher says, “that autistic persons of all ages have no difficulty understanding the intention of other people’s actions.” Not only that – decades of research have also shown that autistic people can perform imitation tasks as well as or better than non-autistic participants, and that they can be highly responsive to imitation by others.

And so, once again, we come back to the question of what kind of understanding it is that we’re talking about here: Can people with autism really be said to “understand” an action they can’t readily imitate it? Gernsbacher says that, obviously, the answer’s yes. Gallese would argue that this isn’t “understanding from the inside,” but a more abstract kind.

Iacoboni, as usual, takes a more integrative view: “Current theories of empathy suggest a multilayer functional structure, with a core layer of automatic responses to reproduce the affective states of others. Mirror neurons are likely cellular candidates for the core layer of empathy.” And it’s that core layer of empathy, Iacobini says, that likely lies at the root of true action understanding.

In the final analysis, the one conclusion that’s emerged loud and clear from all these debates is that mirror neurons aren’t the end-all of understanding, empathy, autism, or any other brain function. The closer we examine the parts these neurons play, the more we find ourselves peering between the cracks of these mental processes – watching them unravel into threads that run throughout the brain. It may very well turn out that “meaning” and “understanding” aren’t single processes at all, but tangled webs of processes involving motor emulation, abstract cognition, and other emotional and instinctual components whose roles we’re only beginning to guess.

After decades of research, these strange cells continue to astound and confound us – not only with their unique abilities, but with the hidden complexity to which they may provide a key. But, as so often happens in neuroscience, we may end up having to pick the lock before we understand exactly how the key fits into it.

About the Author: Ben Thomas is an author, journalist, inventor and independent researcher who studies consciousness and the brain. A lifelong lover of all things mysterious and unexplained, he weaves tales from the frontiers of science into videos, podcasts and unique multimedia events. Lots more of his work is available at http://the-connectome.com. Follow on Twitter @theconnectome.

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The functional role of the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations and misinterpretations

Giacomo Rizzolatti*and Corrado Sinigaglia

Abstract

The parieto-frontal cortical circuit that is active during action observation is the circuit with mirror properties that has been most extensively studied. Yet, there remains controversy on its role in social cognition and its contribution to understanding the actions and intentions of other individuals. Recent studies in monkeys and humans have shed light on what the parieto-frontal cortical circuit encodes and its possible functional relevance for cognition. We conclude that, although there are several mechanisms through which one can understand the behaviour of other individuals, the parieto-frontal mechanism is the only one that allows an individual to understand the action of others ‘from the inside’ and gives the observer a first-person grasp of the motor goals and intentions of other individuals.

One of the most intriguing and exciting developments in neuroscience in recent years has been the discovery of a mechanism that unifies action perception and action execution 1–3 . The essence of this mechanism — called the mirror mechanism — is the following: each time an individual observes another individual performing an action, a set of neurons that encode that action is activated in the observer’s cortical motor system. The mirror mechanism is present in many cortical areas and brain centres of birds, monkeys and humans. The basic functions of these areas and centres vary con – siderably, from song production to the organization of goal-directed motor acts , to emotional processes. Thus, like other basic mechanisms (for example, excitatory postsynaptic potentials), the functional role of the mir – ror mechanism depends on its anatomical location, with its function ranging from recognition of the song of conspecifics in birds 4,5 to empathy in humans 6 . The aim of this article is not to review the vast literature on the mirror mechanism, but to focus on one spe – cific circuit endowed with mirror properties: the parieto- frontal action observation–action execution circuit. The reason for this choice is twofold. First, the proposed interpretation of the function of the parieto-frontal circuit as a mechanism that enables individuals to under – stand the actions and intentions of others ( mirror-based action understanding ) represented a paradigm shift in the classical view that these cognitive functions depend on higher-level mental processes. Second, mostly as a reaction to this new perspective, there have been attempts to interpret the functions of the action observation–action execution circuit in a way that minimizes or even denies its role in cognition. For these reasons, a review of the data on the mirror mechanism in the action observation–action execution network seems timely and necessary. In this Review, we examine first what the parieto-frontal action observation–action execution circuit encodes in monkeys and humans and then discuss its possible func – tional relevance for cognition. After examining different views on these issues, we conclude that the parieto-fron – tal mechanism allows an individual to understand the actions of another individual ‘from the inside’ and gives the observing individual a first-person grasp of the motor goals and intentions of another individual. The parieto-frontal mirror network The monkey parieto-frontal network. The mirror mechanism was originally discovered in the ventral premotor cortex of the macaque monkey (area F5) 1–3 . Single-neuron recordings showed that this area contains neurons — mirror neurons — that discharge both when a monkey executes a specific motor act and when it observes another individual performing the same motor act. Mirror neurons do not fire in response to a simple presentation of objects, including food. Most of them do not respond or respond only weakly to the observation of the experimenter performing a motor act (for example, grasping) without a target object 7 . Area F5 has recently been divided into three sectors: F5c, F5p and F5a 8–9 (FIG. 1) . Mirror neurons were originally recorded in the cortical convexity that corre – sponds to F5c 1–3 . However, functional MRI (fMRI) data showed that the other two areas also respond to observing a grasping action 8 . Mirror neurons are also present in the rostral part of the inferior parietal lobule (I pl ), particularly in area p FG 10 – 12 and the anterior intraparietal area (AI p ) 9,13 (FIG. 1) . Both these areas are heavily connected with F5: p FG mostly with F5c, and the AI p with F5a 14 . Both area p FG and the AI p receive higher-order visual infor – mation from the cortex located inside the superior temporal sulcus (STS) 13 – 14 . STS areas, like mirror areas, encode bio – logical motion, but they lack motor properties. They are therefore not part of the mirror system in a strict sense. The AI p also receives connections from the middle temporal gyrus 15 . This input could provide the mirror areas with information concerning object identity. Finally, area F5 is connected with area F6 — the pre- supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) — and with the prefrontal cortex (area 46) 16 . The prefrontal cortex is also richly connected with the AI p 16 . The frontal inputs con – trol the selection of self-generated and stimulus-driven actions according to the intentions of the agent 17 . It was recently shown that, in addition to areas p FG and AI p , two other areas of the parietal lobe contain mirror neurons: the lateral intraparietal area and the ventral intraparietal area. The mirror properties of neurons in these areas are not the focus of this Review but are briefly discussed in BOX 1 . The human parieto-frontal network. There is convinc – ing evidence that an action observation–action execu – tion mirror circuit also exists in humans. This evidence comes from brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography ( ee G) and magnetoencephalography (M e G) studies. Brain imaging studies have shown that, as in the mon – key, this action observation–action execution mirror cir – cuit is formed by two main regions: the inferior section of the precentral gyrus plus the posterior part of the inferior frontal gyrus; and the inferior parietal lobule, includ – ing the cortex located inside the intraparietal sulcus 18 . Additional cortical areas (such as the dorsal premotor cor – tex and the superior parietal lobule) have also been occa – sionally found to be active during action observation and execution 19–21 . Although it is possible that their activation is due to a mirror mechanism, it is equally possible that it reflects motor preparation. In support of this interpreta – tion are single-neuron data from monkeys showing that these areas are involved in covert motor preparation 22–23 . As for the superior parietal lobule, although its activation is typically absent in studies in which the experimenters use distal motor acts as visual stimuli, it is prominent when volunteers observe proximal arm movements that are directed to a particular location in space 24 . Single-subject fMRI analyses have recently provided evidence that other cortical areas (for example, the pri – mary and secondary somatosensory cortices and the middle temporal cortex) also become active during action observation and action execution 21 . It has been suggested 21 that these activations outside of the ‘classi – cal’ mirror areas are caused by additional mechanisms (for example, internal models) that are triggered by the mirror mechanism. These activations would enrich the information about the actions of other individuals that the mirror mechanism provides. A tale of two populations. Some authors have recently argued that the activation of the same areas during action observation and action execution is not suffi – cient to prove the existence of the mirror mechanism in humans 25 . Instead, they have suggested that, in humans, motor areas have distinct, segregated populations of vis – ual and motor neurons, the visual neurons discharging during action observation and the motor neurons during action execution. They proposed to use the ‘repetition– suppression’ technique — that is, a technique based on the progressive reduction of a physiological response to repeated stimuli to prove this point 25 . If mirror neurons exist in humans, they should ‘adapt’ when the observa – tion of a motor act is followed by the execution of that motor act, and vice versa . The ‘adaptation’ effects are, in general, difficult to interpret 26 . Adaptation occurs at the synaptic level and should therefore be present only when information repeatedly reaches a neuron through the same or largely common pathways 27 . This input commonality is typically absent when mirror neurons are activated during action observation and execution. During action observation, the input to the parieto-frontal circuit arrives from higher- order visual areas (for example, the STS) 16 whereas, during voluntary movement, it mostly comes from the frontal lobes 17 . The results of adaptation experiments therefore depend on the design of the experimental paradigm and on the stimuli used. These considerations could explain why the results of repetition–suppression experiments have been contradictory. Although some authors found evidence of the mirror mechanism in the parietal 28 or the frontal nodes 29 , others obtained negative results 30–31 . Regardless of the empirical data that may help to define some properties of the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism, the logic of the two-population story is flawed. Assuming that neurons in motor areas respond – ing to action observation are merely visual neurons implies that motor areas contain a large number of ‘dis – placed’ visual neurons and that these neurons do not communicate with their ‘neighbour’ motor neurons. Both these assumptions are hard to reconcile with what is known about the organization of the cerebral cortex. Most importantly, TMS studies have shown a clear con – gruence between the observed motor act and the acti – vated motor representation 32–36 . Thus, if higher-order sensory information describing a motor act reaches motor neurons that encode that same motor act, these motor neurons are mirror neurons by definition. Humans do not differ from monkeys in this respect. What do parieto-frontal mirror neurons encode? Evidence for goal coding in monkeys. The crucial issue concerning the parieto-frontal mirror neurons is their role in cognition. If this mirror mechanism is fundamental to understanding actions and intentions, the classical view — that the motor system has a role only in movement generation — has to be rejected and replaced by the view that the motor system is also one of the major players in cognitive functions. To address this fundamental issue, a preliminary problem must first be solved: what do the parieto-frontal mirror neurons encode when they discharge in response to the observation of the actions of others? A way to solve this problem is to examine what mir – ror neurons encode when they discharge during motor behaviour. w hat is recorded in single-neuron studies during both action execution and observation are action potentials — that is, neuronal output. Thus, having deter – mined what neurons encode during the execution of an agent’s own motor act, one also knows what they encode when they are triggered by the agent’s observation of a motor behaviour of others. e arly experiments on area F5 found that most of the motor neurons in this area encode motor acts (that is, goal-related movements, such as grasping) rather than movements (that is, body-part displacements without a specific goal, such as finger flexion) 3 7 –38 . A recent study provided compelling evidence that this is the case 39 . This study describes single-neuron recordings from monkeys that were trained to grasp objects using two types of pliers: normal pliers, which require typical grasping movements of the hand, and ‘reverse’ pliers, which require hand move – ments executed in the reverse order (that is, first closing and then opening the fingers). The results showed that F5 neurons discharged during the same phase of grasp – ing in both conditions, regardless of whether this involved opening or closing of the hand (FIG. 2) . The functional properties of I pl motor neurons are similar to those of F5 neurons: the goal of the executed motor acts is the parameter that is encoded by I pl neurons that fire during the execution of motor acts 11,40 – 42 . The mirror neurons in F5 and I pl do not differ in their motor properties from parieto-frontal motor neu – rons that do not have visual properties 1–3 . Thus, when they fire in response to motor act observation, they send information about the goal of the observed motor acts. This information can be encoded with different degrees of generality: some mirror neurons (strictly congruent mir – ror neurons) fire when the observed and executed motor acts are the same (for example, grasping with precision grip), whereas other mirror neurons (broadly congruent mirror neurons) fire when the observed motor act has the same goal as the executed motor act (for example, grasp – ing), but can be achieved in a different way (for example, with both precision and whole-hand grips) 43–44 . Recently, a single-neuron study investigated the effect of the spatial relationships between an agent and an observer, comparing F5 mirror neuron responses to motor acts performed near the monkey (in the peripersonal space) or outside its reach (in the extra – personal space) 45 (FIG. 3) . The results showed that many F5 mirror neurons were differentially modulated by the location of the observed motor act. Some neurons were selective for actions executed in the monkey’s peripersonal space, whereas others were selective for stimuli in the extrapersonal space. These findings indicate that mirror neurons may encode the goal of the motor acts of another individual in an observer-centred spatial framework, thus providing the observer with crucial information for organizing their own future behaviour in cooperation or competition with the observed individuals. Goal and single-movement coding in humans. In accordance with early findings 46–49 , a series of new fMRI studies provided strong evidence that the human parieto- frontal mirror circuit encodes the goal of observed motor acts. Volunteers were instructed to observe video clips in which either a human or a robot arm grasped objects 50 . Despite differences in shape and kinematics between the human and robot arms, the parieto-frontal mirror circuit was activated in both conditions. Another group extended these results by investigating cortical activation in response to the observation of motor acts performed by a human hand, a robot hand or a tool 51 . Here, bilat – eral activation of a mirror network formed by intra – parietal and ventral premotor cortex occured, regardless of the effector. In addition, the observation of tool actions produced a specific activation of a rostral sector of the left anterior supramarginal gyrus, suggesting that this sector specifically evolved for tool use. Further evidence of goal encoding by the parieto- frontal mirror circuit was obtained in an fMRI experi – ment in which two aplasic individuals, born without arms and hands, and control volunteers were asked to watch video clips showing hand actions 52 . All partici – pants also performed actions with their feet, mouth and, in the case of controls, hands. The results showed that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of aplasic individuals that was active during movements of the feet and mouth was also recruited by the observation of hand motor acts that they have never executed but the motor goals of which they could achieve using their feet or mouth. The issue of whether the human parieto-frontal mir – ror network encodes motor goals was also addressed by fMRI and TMS studies investigating the activation of motor areas in subjects listening to action-related sounds. Hearing and categorizing animal vocalizations preferentially activated the middle portion of the supe – rior temporal gyri bilaterally (a region that is not related to motor act coding), whereas hearing and categoriz – ing sounds of tools that were manipulated by hands activated the parieto-frontal mirror circuit 53 . Similarly, it was shown that listening to the sound of hand and mouth motor acts activated the parieto-frontal mirror network 54 . This activation was somatotopically organ – ized in the left premotor cortex and was congruent with the motor somatotopy of hand and mouth actions. u nlike in monkeys, the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of humans also becomes active during the observation of individual movements 55–56 . The initial evidence for this mechanism was based on TMS experiments which indi – cated that the observation of the movements of others results in an activation of the muscles involved in the execution of those movements 32–36 . Additional support comes from ee G and M e G studies showing that the observation of movements without a goal desynchronizes the rhythms recorded from motor areas 5 7 –64 . Recently, it was shown that mirror coding might depend on the content of the observed behaviour. Motor evoked potentials (M ep s) in response to TMS were recorded from the right opponens pollicis (O p ) muscle in participants observing an experimenter either open – ing and closing normal and reverse pliers or using them to grasp objects 65 . The observation of tool movements (that is, opening and closing the pliers without grasping anything) activated a cortical representation of the hand movements involved in the observed motor behaviour. By contrast, the observation of the tool grasping action activated a cortical representation of the observed motor goal , irrespective of the individual movements and the order of movements required to achieve it. Together, these findings show that the human parieto-frontal mirror network encodes both motor acts and movements. Understanding the actions of others Cognitive functions of the parieto-frontal network: evidence and criticisms. w hy should the motor sys – tem encode the goal of actions performed by others? From the discovery of mirror neurons, the interpreta – tion of this finding was that they allow the observer to understand directly the goal of the actions of others 1–3 : observing actions performed by another individual elic – its a motor activation in the brain of the observer similar to that which occurs when the observer plans their own actions, and the similarity between these two activations allows the observer to understand the actions of others without needing inferential processing 43–44 . In support of this view, two studies showed that the meaning of the motor acts of other individuals could be understood in the absence of visual information describing them. In one study, monkeys heard the sounds of a motor act (such as ripping a piece of paper) without seeing it 66 ; in the other study, the monkeys knew that behind a screen was an object and saw the experimenter’s hand disappear behind the screen, but they could not see any hand–object interaction 67 . The results showed that in both experiments F5 mirror neu – rons in the monkeys fired in the absence of visual infor – mation describing the motor act of the experimenter. The neuronal activation therefore underpinned the comprehension of the goal of the motor act of the other individual, regardless of the sensory information that described that motor act. This interpretation of the function of the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism has been challenged with objections and alternative proposals 68–71 . A key criticism has been advanced by Csibra 69 . He argued that the interpretation of mirror neuron function in terms of action understanding contains a “tension” between “the claim that the mirror mechanism reflects nothing else but faithful duplication of the observed action” and “the claim that mirroring rep – resents high-level interpretation of the observed action”. In other words, if mirror activity represents a copy of the observed motor act, it is not sufficiently general to capture the goal of that motor act; conversely, if it is sufficiently general for goal understanding, it cannot be interpreted in terms of a direct matching mechanism between sensory and motor representations (see also R EFS 70,71 ). In the earlier studies on the mirror mechanism, it was indeed not clearly specified that the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism in humans is involved in two kinds of sensory–motor transformation — one mapping the observed movements onto the observer’s own motor representation of those movements (movement mirror – ing), the other mapping the goal of the observed motor act onto the observer’s own motor representation of that motor act (goal mirroring), as described above. By match – ing individual movements, mirror processing provides a representation of body part movements that might serve various functions (for example, imitation), but is devoid of any specific cognitive importance per se . By contrast, through matching the goal of the observed motor act with a motor act that has the same goal, the observer is able to understand what the agent is doing. This is true not only for the mirror neurons that are broadly congru – ent but also for those that are strictly congruent, because these neurons also do not encode the elementary aspects of a movement (for example, its kinematics), but respond to the goal of the observed motor acts 44,56 . Typically, authors who play down or even deny the importance of the motor system for cognitive functions suggest that goal understanding is primarily due to cortical activation in the STS. This region, as described in a series of fundamental studies in monkeys 72,73 , is involved in the visual analysis of the actions of others. Several fMRI studies showed a similar role for the STS in humans (see R EFS 74,75 for a review). There is little doubt that STS neurons have an impor – tant role in encoding the behaviour of others. However, it is unlikely that the STS by itself mediates the processing of action understanding, relegating the parieto-frontal mir – ror network to an ancillary role in this function 65 : among the neurons in various areas that become active during action observation, only those that can encode the goal of the motor behaviour of another individual with the great – est degree of generality can be considered to be crucial for action understanding, and the available evidence shows that this capacity for generalization characterizes the parieto- frontal mirror neurons rather than STS cells. Indeed, pari – eto-frontal mirror neurons encode the goal of observed motor acts regardless of whether they are performed with the mouth, the hand or even with tools. Although STS neurons may encode some types of motor act, goal gener – alization such as is achieved by the parieto-frontal mirror neurons seems to be absent in the STS 72,73 . Most importantly, there are theoretical reasons why STS neurons are unlikely to encode actions with the same degree of generality as parieto-frontal mirror neurons. If an STS neuron selectively encodes the visual features of a given hand action (for example, grasping), it is unclear how this neuron would also be able to encode selectively the visual features of a mouth performing the same motor act. One could postulate an associa – tion process similar to that described for the temporal lobe 76,77 . However, in the STS, the association would be between spatio-temporally adjacent visual representa – tions of body part movements and not between visual representations of the same motor goal achieved by different effectors. By contrast, parieto-frontal mirror neurons — owing to their motor nature and the fact that they encode the goal of motor acts — can be trig – gered by different visual stimuli (for example, hand and mouth actions) that have a common goal (for example, grasping). Only the presence of a ‘motor scaffold’ that provides the goal-related aspects of observed actions can allow this generalization; such generalization cannot be achieved by mere visual association. A recent study provides empirical evidence in favour of this point 78 . The study was based on a TMS adaptation paradigm 79 . p articipants were presented with ‘adapta – tion-inducing’ movies of a hand or foot acting on vari – ous objects and asked to respond as quickly as possible to a picture of a motor act similar to that of the movie. TMS pulses were delivered over the ventral premotor cortex bilaterally, over the left I pl and over the left STS. The results showed that the delivery of TMS over both premotor and I pl cortices shortened the reaction times to ‘adapted’ motor acts regardless of which effector performed the observed motor act; by contrast, TMS stimulation of the STS shortened the reaction times to ‘adapted’ motor acts only if the same effector executed the act in the movie and in the test picture. Understanding actions from the inside. Another argu – ment against the role of mirror neurons in action under – standing is that there are several behavioural instances in which individuals understand the actions of others even if they are unable to perform them. For example, macaques can react to the observation of humans mak – ing the gesture of throwing objects overhand towards them 80 . It was proposed that, although monkeys never throw objects overhand, they could nevertheless under – stand the action they saw because they analysed the vari – ous visual elements of the observed actions and applied some form of inferential reasoning . However, this argument would only be valid if the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism consisted solely of strictly congruent mirror neurons. As the authors of the study themselves recognize 80 , the capacity of broadly congruent mirror neurons to generalize the goal of motor acts might account for the observed phenome – non. Given that broadly congruent mirror neurons may generalize from a hand action to actions performed with tools, even when they are as bizarre as reverse pliers, it is plausible that they could equally generalize from one type of throwing to another. There is no doubt that, in some cases, understanding the motor behaviour of others might require a mechanism different from mirroring. A typical example is the capacity of humans to recognize the actions of animals that do not belong to the human motor repertoire and cannot be captured by a motor generalization. e vidence for a non- mirror mechanism in action recognition was provided by an fMRI study in which volunteers were presented with video clips showing motor acts that did or did not belong to the human motor repertoire 81 . Although all volunteers recognized the observed motor acts regardless of whether or not they belonged to their own motor repertoire, no activation of parieto-frontal mirror areas was found in response to acts that did not belong to their motor reper – toire (for example, a dog barking). The areas that became active in such cases were occipital visual and STS areas. By contrast, the sight of motor acts that were within the motor repertoire of the observer (for example, a dog biting) recruited the parieto-frontal mirror network. These data indicate that the recognition of the motor behaviour of others can rely on the mere processing of its visual aspects. This processing is similar to that performed by the ‘ventral stream’ areas for the recogni – tion of inanimate objects. It allows the labelling of the observed behaviour, but does not provide the observer with cues that are necessary for a real understanding of the conveyed message (for example, the communica – tive intent of the barking dog). By contrast, when the observed action impinges on the motor system through the mirror mechanism, that action is not only visu – ally labelled but also understood, because the motor epresentation of its goal is shared by the observer and the agent. In other words, the observed action is under – stood from the inside as a motor possibility and not just from the outside as a mere visual experience (BOX 2) . Understanding motor intentions of others From motor goals to motor intentions. The properties of parieto-frontal mirror neurons described above indicate that their activity reflects what is going on in the ‘here and now’. However, there is evidence that parietal and frontal mirror neurons are involved in encoding not only the observed motor acts but also the entire action of which the observed motor act is part. Monkeys were trained to grasp objects with two different motor inten – tions: to place them into a container or to bring them to their mouth 11 . After training, motor neurons in the I pl that encode grasping were studied in the two set-ups. The results showed that the majority of these neurons discharged with an intensity that varied according to the action in which the motor act was embedded (‘action- constrained motor neurons’). This finding implies that the I pl contains ‘chains’ of neurons in which each neuron encodes a given motor act and is linked to oth – ers that are selective for another specific motor act. Together, they encode a specific action (for example, grasping for eating). A striking result of this study was that many of these action-constrained motor neurons have mirror proper – ties. w hen tested in the two set-ups described above, the majority of these neurons were differently activated depending on the action to which the observed motor act belonged (‘action-constrained mirror neurons’). This finding indicates that, in addition to describing what the observed individual is doing (for example, grasping), I pl mirror neurons also help the observer to explain why the individual is performing the action, owing to chained organization in the I pl . That is, I pl mirror neurons ena – ble the observer to recognize the agent’s motor intention. A recent study demonstrated that action-constrained neurons are also present in area F5 ( REF . 82) . The compar – ison of F5 and I pl (specifically area p FG) mirror neuron properties revealed no clear differences in their capacity to encode the motor intentions of others. e vidence that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit in humans is also involved in intention encoding was first provided by an fMRI experiment consisting of three conditions 83 . In the first (the ‘context condition’) the vol – unteers saw a photo of some objects arranged as for an ongoing breakfast or arranged as though the breakfast had just finished; in the second (the ‘action condition’), the volunteers saw a photo of a hand grasping a mug without any context; in the third (the ‘intention condition’) they saw photos showing the same hand actions within the two contexts. In this condition, the context provided clues for understanding the intention of the motor act. The results showed that the intention condition induced a stronger activation than the other two conditions in the caudal inferior frontal gyrus of the right hemisphere. An activation of the right parieto-frontal mirror cir – cuit during intention understanding was also described in a repetition–suppression fMRI experiment 84 . p articipants were presented with movies showing motor actions (for example, pushing or pulling a lid) that could lead to the same or to different outcomes (for example, opening or closing a box). The results showed that the responses in the right I pl and right inferior frontal cortex were ‘suppressed’ when participants saw movies of motor actions that had the same outcome, regard – less of the individual movements involved. Responses in these regions were not influenced by the kinematics parameters of the observed motor action. Brain imaging experiments allow the cortical sub – strate of a given function to be located, but they do not give information about the mechanism underlying the function. Cattaneo and colleagues tested whether the understanding of motor intention in humans might be based on the ‘chain mechanism’ described in the monkey 85 . p articipants were asked to grasp a piece of food and eat it or to grasp a piece of food and place it in a container. In another condition, they had to observe an experimenter performing the same actions. In both the execution and the observation condition, the electromyographic activity of the mylohyoid muscle — a muscle involved in mouth opening — was recorded. Both the execution and the observation of the eating action produced a marked increase of mylohyoid muscle activity as early as the ‘reaching’ phase, whereas no mylohyoid muscle activ – ity was recorded during the execution and the observa – tion of the placing action. This indicates that, as soon as the action starts, the entire motor programme for a given action is activated. Interestingly, the observers also seem to have a motor copy of this programme. This ‘intrusion’ allows them to predict what action the agent is going to execute from the first observed motor act and thus to understand the agent’s motor intention. Finally, there is evidence that the mirror mechanism, possibly located in this case in the fronto-mesial areas, also has a role in setting up an anticipatory representation of the motor behaviour of another individual. It has been shown that the ‘Bereitschaftspotential’, an electrophysio – logical marker of the readiness to act 86 , occurs not only when an individual actively performs a motor act, but also when the nature and the onset time of an upcoming action performed by another individual is predictable on the basis of a visual cue 87 . Mirroring intentions and inferring reasons. The studies reviewed above indicate that the parieto-frontal mirror network may subserve the understanding of the motor intention underlying the actions of others. This capacity represents a functional property of the parieto-frontal mirror network that further distinguishes it from those of visual areas. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how motor intention understanding could be based on visual processing alone, including visual processing that is car – ried out in higher-order visual areas such as the STS. It is true that some STS neurons are selective for a sequence of stimuli. For example, in contrast to classical visual neu – rons that respond to a specific static stimulus, some STS neurons respond to the static view of a body only when this stimulus occurs after a certain movement (for exam – ple, walk and stop) 88 . However, despite this fascinating property, these neurons do not give information about the agent’s motor intention: they describe a given motor act according to a previous motor behaviour, but they do not provide information about the motor intention underlying that motor act. This does not mean that the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism mediates all varieties of intention under – standing. Intention understanding is a multi-layer process involving different levels of action representation, from the motor intention that drives a given chain of motor acts to the propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires and so on) that — at least in humans — can be assumed to explain the observed behaviour in terms of its plausible psychological reasons. w e provide an example to clarify this point. Mary is interacting with an object (for example, a cup). According to how she is grasping the cup, we can understand why she is doing it (for example, to drink from it or to move it). This kind of understanding can be mediated by the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism by virtue of its motor chain organization. However, the mirror mechanism is not able to provide us with the reasons that might underlie the motor intention of Mary (for example, she grasped the cup to drink from it because she was thirsty or because she wanted some caffeine, or she did it to please her friends). u nderstanding the reasons behind an agent’s motor inten – tion requires additional inferential processes 89–91 . Recent empirical data confirmed these considera – tions. They showed that, although the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism is active in all conditions in which the motor task has to be directly understood, when vol – unteers were required to judge the reasons behind the observed actions, there was an activation of a sector of the anterior cingulate cortex and of other areas of the so-called ‘mentalizing network’ 92 . Activation of the same network was also shown in a study that investigated unu – sual actions performed in implausible versus plausible contexts 93 , as well as in a study on the neural basis of reason inference in non-stereotypical actions 94 . As there are different levels of action representation, there should be diverse neural mechanisms subserv – ing these different levels of intention understanding. u nderstanding motor intention relies on the parieto- frontal mirror mechanism and the motor chain organi – zation of the cortical motor system. u nderstanding the reason behind motor intention seems to be localized in cortical areas — the temporal parietal junction and a part of the anterior cingulate gyrus — that have not as yet been shown to have mirror properties. There have been theoretical attempts to integrate these two ways of understanding the intentions of others 95–96 . n onetheless, unlike for the mirror mechanism, there are currently no neurophysiological data that can explain how the ‘mental – izing network’ might work. Conclusions The mirror mechanism is a neurophysiological find – ing that has raised considerable interest over the past few years. It provides a basic mechanism that unifies action production and action observation, allowing the understanding of the actions of others from the inside. Such motor-based understanding seems to be a pri – mary way in which individuals relate to one another, as shown by its presence not only in humans and mon – keys, but also in evolutionarily distant species, such as swamp sparrows 4 and zebra finches 5 . Furthermore, this mechanism indicates the existence of a profound natural link between individuals that is crucial for establishing inter-individual interactions. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that the impairment of this natural link may be one of the causes of the strik – ing inability of people with autism to relate to other individuals (BOX 3) .


Presse: L’IHT ne soufflera pas sa 127e bougie ! (End of an era for the Trib: iconic symbol of the expatriate American presence in Paris finally bows to globalization)

16 octobre, 2013

Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film “Breathless.”The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a break at the award ceremony for his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.LOREM IPSUM

Le quotidien mondial par excellence : créé par des Américains en 1887, édité à Paris, imprimé dans 28 villes du monde, lu dans 180 pays, le titre est beaucoup plus que l’édition internationale du New York Times, son unique propriétaire. Longtemps détenu à parts égales par The New York Times et The Washington Post, l’International Herald Tribune a beaucoup évolué depuis 2004. La couleur est apparue en une ; l’économie, la culture, les loisirs ont une place plus importante. Du coup, les deux tiers de son lectorat sont constitués de non-Américains. Courrier international
To me, the Herald Tribune represents a time when Paris truly was the expatriate capital of America. Charles Trueheart
You are wiping out a great tradition which you don’t really understand. Ronald Koven
The only thing that’s changing on October 15th are the words at the top of the flag, This is not some sort of hostile takeover . . . We love the print paper. We are going to put out a print paper for as long as we can, but the growth in readership is elsewhere. Richard Stevenson
I don’t think it will die in the next five years, but I think it will die . . . The richness of the experience you get on a tablet . . . 10 years from now the print circulation of newspapers . . . the technological advances we’ve had in the past 10 years . . . it’s almost unimaginable. Larry Ingrassia
Techno utopians do not seem alarmed by the fact that two-thirds of digital advertising revenue goes to tech giants – Google et al – not to the composers, writers, artists, translators and newspapers whose production they appropriate without compensation. Studies show concentration and retention plummet when one reads from screens; no wonder we all seem to suffer from ADD. The internet revolution raises enormous sociocultural issues, but they’re not being addressed, in part because we are dazzled by technology. (…) Much of the INYT operation has already shifted from Paris to Hong Kong and London, to escape the high social charges and obstreperous printers’ unions that make it so costly to publish in France. I asked if the paper would continue to accord the importance to French news that it has in the past. “No,” Ingrassia answered. “It’s a small country in the world.” Coverage has increasingly focused on the countries that “count” – chiefly the US, Russia, China, Germany. Internet readers can toggle between domestic US and global news. “ (…) Like Starbucks, the INYT will offer a choice of sizes. For less than a third of the price of a full subscription, the “need to know” formula will provide what one needs to know before going to a dinner party – the 20 or 30 most important stories of the day. The Irish Times

L’IHT ne soufflera pas sa 127e bougie !

Enième victime de la mondialisation et de l’Internet, le légendaire quotidien-phare de plusieurs générations d’expatriés américains de Paris perd son illustre patronyme …

Ou plus précisément la partie de patronyme dont il n’avait depuis bien longtemps plus que le nom …

Et qu’il devait d’ailleurs en fait à un premier rebaptème lorsqu’il avait été repris en 1966 par un consortium du Washington Post et du New York Times (le New York Herald Tribune – du nom du premier journal new-yorkais dont il était l’édition parisienne – devenant l’International Herald Tribune) …

Avant, dix ans après le départ du Washington Post (lui-même racheté – autre signe des temps – l’été dernier par le patron d’Amazon) sa reprise totale par le quotidien dont il était devenu de fait l’édition internationale …

Sa nouvelle dénomination d’International New York Times ne faisant alors que confirmer – à l’instar du transfert (merci l’Etat et les syndicats français !) d’une bonne partie de la production à Hong Kong – la simple et dure réalité des actuels rapports de force mondiaux …

Comme de l’évident déclin de la place de Paris dans le coeur des nouveaux expatriés américains ?

Jean Seberg ne vendra plus le Herald Tribune sur les Champs-Elysées

Pierre Haski

Rue89

14/10/2013

C’est l’une des images mythiques de l’histoire du cinéma… et de la presse : Jean Seberg vendant le Herald Tribune avec Jean-Paul Belmondo, cigarette au bec, dans « A bout de souffle » de Jean-Luc Godard.

C’était en 1960, une époque où vendre un quotidien papier frisait l’érotisme. Cette époque est révolue, à la fois pour le papier qui a perdu la partie face aux écrans, et pour le Herald Tribune, le quotidien américain basé à Paris – Neuilly pour être plus précis – qui deviendra mardi l’International New York Times.

Un numéro collector

Certes, à l’époque d’« A bout de souffle », il s’agissait du New York Herald Tribune, rebaptisé par la suite International Herald Tribune. Mais c’est bien le même journal qui a publié ce lundi un numéro collector, le dernier d’une longue histoire avant de changer de peau, d’identité, de plonger dans l’ère de la globalisation.

« Ne pleurez pas, ce n’est pas le premier changement de nom », implore Serge Schmemann, responsable des pages éditoriales du « Trib », comme on l’appelle familièrement, dans le supplément de 24 pages consacré à l’histoire du journal publié lundi.

Le quotidien a publié son premier numéro le 4 octobre 1887 (par comparaison, le plus ancien quotidien français est Le Figaro, né en 1866) sous le nom de Paris Herald, édition parisienne du New York Herald destinée aux Américains voyageant ou vivant en Europe. Il s’est appelé tour à tour New York Herald Tribune, puis International Herald Tribune lorsque le New York Times et le Washington Post s’en partageaient la propriété – et les pages.

Le premier quotidien global

Depuis une décennie, le New York Times est seul maître à bord, mais c’est seulement récemment qu’il a pris la décision de le transformer en International New York Times, tout en se lançant dans un pari audacieux : devenir le premier, et peut-être le seul, quotidien papier et numérique véritablement global du monde, basé à Paris, Londres et Hong Kong.

L’édition chinoise en ligne du New York Times (capture)

Parallèlement à la transformation de son édition internationale, le New York Times tente de se développer dans d’autres langues : le chinois depuis l’an dernier, malgré la censure du régime de Pékin qui est venue contrarier ses ambitions, ou le portugais à destination du Brésil annoncé, mais pas encore lancé.

Le New York Times, qui a failli être emporté par la crise de la presse et n’a été sauvé que par un prêt du milliardaire mexicain Carlos Slim, remboursé depuis par anticipation, s’est déjà transformé :

en devenant un quotidien réellement national, imprimé dans plusieurs villes, vendant 1,9 million d’exemplaires en semaine, 2,3 millions le dimanche ;

en produisant l’un des plus importants sites d’information au monde, avec plus de 40 millions de visiteurs uniques par mois, dont quelque 700 000 abonnés payants.

Quitte ou double

La mondialisation du New York Times est un pari quasi existentiel : le journal, toujours contrôlé par la famille Sulzberger, a vendu – à perte – certains de ses actifs, notamment le quotidien Boston Globe et des chaînes de télévision locales, pour financer son expansion tous azimuts.

Il a accumulé un « trésor de guerre » d’un milliard de dollars pour financer sa stratégie globale.

« C’est quitte ou double », commente un vétéran du journal, en priant pour que ça marche.

L’aventure du média global a été tentée précédemment par la télévision, que ce soit par CNN ou par la chaîne Sky de Rupert Murdoch, ou plus récemment par Arianna Huffington et le groupe AOL avec le Huffington Post et ses déclinaisons nationales.

Avec le New York Times, c’est un journalisme de qualité « à l’ancienne » qui tente de créer le média du XXIe siècle, avec 3 500 employés dont près d’un millier de journalistes, l’une des meilleures rédactions au monde.

L’International Herald Tribune est donc mort, longue vie à l’International New York Times !

Voir aussi:

L' »International Herald Tribune » rebaptisé « International New York Times »

Marc Roche (Londres, correspondant)

Le Monde

14.10.2013

Depuis le 15 octobre, l’International Herald Tribune a été rebaptisé « International New York Times » en vue de permettre au quotidien d’outre-Atlantique de se développer en dehors des Etats-Unis.

Au hasard d’une nostalgie, cette image en noir et blanc du film A bout de souffle (1960), de Jean-Luc Godard sur laquelle on distingue la comédienne Jean Seberg, la frange très courte, dont le tee-shirt blanc proclame, en lettres noires, « New York Herald Tribune ». Tout ce qu’il y avait à retenir du quotidien anglophone, lancé à Paris en 1887 et rebaptisé International Herald Tribune en 1967, était dit. Les expatriés américains, la Ville Lumière au centre du monde et un quotidien hors norme devenu propriété exclusive du New York Times en 2003.

Sur son site Internet, l’IHT présente un article multimédia sur son histoire :  » Turning the page »

C’était hier, c’était jadis. Depuis le 15 octobre, l’IHT a été rebaptisé International New York Times en vue de permettre au quotidien d’outre-Atlantique de se développer en dehors des Etats-Unis.

« Nous voulons exploiter cette opportunité pour attirer les lecteurs étrangers, les abonnements numériques et les publicitaires. (…) C’est le moment idoine pour créer une marque médiatique planétaire unique » : le directeur général du New York Times, Mark Thompson, justifie cette décision par la volonté d’utiliser le vénérable titre comme tête de pont du développement du New York Times à l’international, en particulier son édition numérique.

Comme en témoigne une diffusion quotidienne moyenne de 224 771 exemplaires en 2012, l’International Tribune est bien implanté en Europe, surtout en France, en Allemagne et en Italie, ainsi qu’en Asie. Reste que l’enseigne, à peine rentable, est dépourvue de site Internet. Et le site payant du New York Times, un « paywall » au-delà d’un nombre d’articles, ne compte actuellement que 10 % de ses abonnés numériques hors des Etats-Unis.

CONCURRENCE

Dans la nouvelle configuration, Paris, la base historique de l’IHT, devrait perdre des effectifs rédactionnels au profit de Londres et de Hongkong, mais supervisera néanmoins désormais les vingt-cinq bureaux du New York Times en Europe. Fort de son énorme puissance de feu rédactionnelle, le New York Times est confronté aujourd’hui à une concurrence à couteaux tirés dans la construction de marques de presse anglo-saxonnes « globales ».

A gauche, le Guardian, qui a créé une édition Web gratuite spécifique aux Etats-Unis et à l’Australie, veut s’imposer comme leader du journalisme d’investigation. A droite, le Wall Street Journal, vaisseau amiral du groupe Murdoch, bénéficie de synergies au sein du conglomérat News Corp présent sur quatre continents. Sur le créneau très porteur du journalisme économique, le Financial Times est parti à la conquête des lecteurs du monde des affaires de par le globe. Le quotidien britannique aux pages saumon a annoncé, le 10 octobre, qu’il entendait se concentrer sur le Net en ne publiant qu’une édition papier unique à partir du premier semestre 2014.

Dans cet affrontement, il faut aussi compter avec la compétition, tout aussi sévère, des sites gratuits de la BBC et de CNN.

Voir également:

End of an era as venerable ‘Herald Tribune’ to be reborn as ‘International New York Times’

The Irish Times

Lara Marlowe

October 11, 2013

In the 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, the first thing Ernest Hemingway’s fictional alter ego, Jake Barnes, does on returning from Spain to France is to buy the New York Herald from a kiosk in Bayonne, sit down at a cafe and read it.

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 New Wave film classic Breathless consecrated the newspaper – by that time called the New York Herald Tribune – as a symbol of expatriate American life in Paris, portraying Jean Seberg as a student hawking the paper on the Champs-Élysées.

The International Herald Tribune, its name since 1967, will appear for the last time on Monday, to be reborn the following day as the International New York Times.

Richard Stevenson, the Europe editor of the INYT, and Larry Ingrassia, the assistant managing editor for new initiatives, on a visit from New York, met with the Anglo-American Press Association at the INYT’s offices in the Paris suburb of Courbevoie.

The AAPA seemed to have been cast as representatives of print journalism. These days, anyone who mourns the death foretold of letters delivered by post, bound books and printed newspapers is assumed to be a modern-day Luddite, after the 19th-century weavers and farmers who smashed mechanised looms and threshing machines in Britain.

There was a certain tension with Stevenson and Ingrassia, the young Turks from New York and the embodiment of the digital world. “You are wiping out a great tradition which you don’t really understand,” said Ronald Koven, one of several AAPA members who had worked for “the Trib”.

“The only thing that’s changing on [Tuesday] October 15th are the words at the top of the flag,” Stevenson protested. “This is not some sort of hostile takeover . . . We love the print paper. We are going to put out a print paper for as long as we can, but the growth in readership is elsewhere.”

The future is digital, Stevenson and Ingrassia repeated like a mantra. The NYT still earns more from print than from the internet, but as print circulation declines, digital subscriptions rise. Print advertising subsides; digital advertising grows.

About 10 per cent of the NYT’s more than 700,000 digital subscribers are outside the US. “I’d be thrilled if we could double that to 20 per cent in a couple of years,” Ingrassia said.

Survival

Asked how long he thought print newspapers would survive, Ingrassia replied: “I don’t think it will die in the next five years, but I think it will die . . . The richness of the experience you get on a tablet . . . 10 years from now the print circulation of newspapers . . . the technological advances we’ve had in the past 10 years . . . it’s almost unimaginable.”

This evolution poses the basic question: at what point does a newspaper cease to be a newspaper? Stevenson and Ingrassia emphasised the importance of video, live-blogging and “multimedia packages” to the NYT.

“Those of us who think primarily about digital don’t think necessarily of newspapers as being competition,” Stevenson said. So who was their competition? The fact that the former head of the BBC is now chief executive of the NYT “is telling in terms of the culture and priorities of the paper”, he added.

Digital advertising

Techno utopians do not seem alarmed by the fact that two-thirds of digital advertising revenue goes to tech giants – Google et al – not to the composers, writers, artists, translators and newspapers whose production they appropriate without compensation. Studies show concentration and retention plummet when one reads from screens; no wonder we all seem to suffer from ADD. The internet revolution raises enormous sociocultural issues, but they’re not being addressed, in part because we are dazzled by technology.

“Our biggest challenge now is not transitioning from print to the website,” Stevenson said. “It’s keeping up with the technology and the way people consume news . . . The New York Times newsroom has become an R&D lab. We have some of the smartest, most creative people in the world . . . What they bring us is wizardry.”

Much of the INYT operation has already shifted from Paris to Hong Kong and London, to escape the high social charges and obstreperous printers’ unions that make it so costly to publish in France. I asked if the paper would continue to accord the importance to French news that it has in the past. “No,” Ingrassia answered. “It’s a small country in the world.”

Coverage has increasingly focused on the countries that “count” – chiefly the US, Russia, China, Germany. Internet readers can toggle between domestic US and global news. “A lot of readers from outside the US consciously, affirmatively, choose the US edition on the website,” Stevenson says.

There’s no place for Pat Rabbitte’s proverbial Irish caveman among the NYT’s subscribers, defined as “English-speaking, highly educated, mobile, affluent,” by Stevenson. “If you look at the political, cultural, business elite of the world . . . that’s our audience,” says Ingrassia. “There are five million, 10 million, of those people. If we can get 100,000 of them to subscribe digitally at 350 bucks a year, that’s far greater potential growth than with print.”

Like Starbucks, the INYT will offer a choice of sizes. For less than a third of the price of a full subscription, the “need to know” formula will provide what one needs to know before going to a dinner party – the 20 or 30 most important stories of the day.

“The hope is we can figure out new revenue streams that we haven’t actually imagined today,” Ingrassia concluded.

Voir encore:

International Herald Tribune: the paper of the American abroad

Newspaper to become International New York Times as it attempts to project itself as more recognisable global brand

Simon Tisdall

The Guardian

14 October 2013

Immortalised by Jean Seberg in Godard’s 1960 film À bout de souffle, the paper of record for Americans abroad has become the International New York Times. Photograph: The Ronald Grant Archive

Ernest Hemingway, author, exile, and Rimbaud-esque enfant terrible, fully understood the life-enhancing, horizon-broadening significance that Paris and its transplanted New York-owned newspaper, the English-language Paris Herald, held for nouveau-riche middle-class Americans.

In his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, the first thing the autobiographical hero, Jake Barnes, does on his return to France from Spain is buy the Herald, as the present-day International Herald Tribune was then known, and read it in a cafe with a glass of wine.

Whether Hemingway intended it or not, Barnes struck a contagiously cosmopolitan pose that proved irresistibly attractive to the many would-be emulators who subsequently made the journey across the Atlantic.

For generations of Americans travelling to Europe before, during and after the two world wars, swapping the competitive, tight-laced rigours of the materialist, capitalist, God-fearing USA for the sophisticated languor, louche-ness and chic of the French capital, the Herald reported, reflected and symbolised the quintessential experience of embracing foreignness, and specifically Frenchness.

It provided a link with home while reminding the expatriate of his or her daring plunge into the unknown, slightly dangerous culture of the Old World.

Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper Ernest Hemingway with Gary Cooper in Paris. Photograph: Keystone via Getty Images

And it became the newspaper of glittering record for what Gertrude Stein, perhaps the original « American in Paris », dubbed « la generation perdue », the lost generation, which hailed from America’s Gilded Age and came into its own during the first world war. Its denizens included F Scott Fitzgerald, Isadora Duncan, TS Eliot, Waldo Peirce and Alan Seeger as well as Hemingway himself.

Years later, in 1953, Hemingway was still propping up the bar at the Paris Ritz, where he was discovered drinking bloody marys by the Herald’s humorist, Art Buchwald.

Hemingway denied a report that he had consumed 15 martinis in 45 minutes at the Dome cafe in Montparnasse. The great man told Buchwald: « First of all, I’d never do such a silly thing, and secondly, I’d like to see anybody drink a dry martini at the Dome. »

The exchange was reproduced in a special supplement published on Monday by the International Herald Tribune (IHT) to mark its last day of publication under that name. From Tuesday it will be marketed as the International New York Times, reflecting its present ownership and, presumably, the New York title’s desire to project itself as a more recognisable global brand.

Buchwald’s anecdotes aside, the supplement unearths old opinion and editorial pieces, historic news reports and front pages, fashion shocks, scientific breakthroughs and fusty photographs of mostly forgotten icons and tyrants, and reprints several of the paper’s consistently unfunny cartoons. All were published after the Herald opened for business in Paris in 1887 under the auspices of James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald.

Like newspapers in the digital age, the transplanted paper was made possible by revolutionary technological advances, including more efficient printing methods and improved communications stemming from the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cables in 1858.

At the same time, according to Charles Robertson, author of a history of the paper, new audiences were being created by the rapid development of steamship travel and the advent of a new class of wealthy Americans eager to discover the Europe of their forebears.

In an editorial for the last edition, the IHT’s Serge Schmemann argues bravely that the rebranded paper will remain vital and relevant because « we still need trusted reporters and editors to sort out the vast waves of information sweeping this chaotic world of ours. We need those first rough drafts, the smart commentary, the impartial news, to function in these times. »

Not everything was smart, of course. To its credit, the IHT reproduces a May 1932 editorial that bemoans the lack of a strong fascist movement in America. It declares: « The hour has struck for a fascist party to be born in the United States. »

Seven years later, reporting the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, the paper’s tune changes: « The madman has unsheathed his sword, with Poland as his first victim. »

Eye-catching photographs include one of Andy Warhol sitting in Venice in 1977 reading the « Trib » – an unwitting tribute to Breathless, the 1960 film by Jean-Luc Godard that features an American student who takes a job selling the paper on the streets of Paris. Others show Adolf Eichmann at his sentencing in Israel in 1962 and Fidel Castro in full revolutionary fig in 1957. In 1931, but it could be 2013, Walter Lippmann discusses Gandhi’s non-violence doctrine and deplores the way Americans, « who want peace but no responsibility », have abandoned a global peacemaking role.

Other reports and photos from the IHT archives record inspirational individuals of different stripes, including Simone de Beauvoir, Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, the Beatles, and Martin Luther King, in Oslo in 1964 for his Nobel peace prize. One brief item from 1911 sums up the sort of journalistic dedication the rebranded paper will hope to maintain. It concerns a railway accident in which one of its reporters was injured. The reporter, who gets no byline, is quoted as saying: « Please ring up my paper and tell them there is a big story here. I’m sorry I cannot work on it myself. » Then he died.

Voir de même:

The Life of a Newspaper

Serge Schmemann

The New York Times

October 13, 2013

This is the last time you will be reading The International Herald Tribune; as of tomorrow, it is The International New York Times. But weep not:

This is not the first name change for what was popularly known in its early years as the ‘‘Paris Herald,’’ and if the genealogy of a newspaper is reflected in its name (the original parent, The New York Herald, at one point the most profitable and popular paper in all the United States, ended its days as The New York World Journal Tribune), the DNA of a great paper is defined by evolution of the complex and intimate interplay of reader and editor, owner and technology.

And that is best discovered in the figurative basement of the paper, in those stacks of brown, brittle copies of old newspapers that trace the ever-changing interests, dramas, world views and pleasures — all that we call ‘‘news.’’

Mining these vintage broadsheets is a pleasure that may be lost to future generations if the ‘‘paper’’ goes out of newspapering. The real gems buried in these stacks are not necessarily the ‘‘first rough drafts of history’’ that reporters like to claim as their product — these are easier to access in footnotes and online — but rather the obscure little story on an inside page (‘‘Is London Hairdresser Really a German Spy?’’) alongside an ad for a forgotten product at a forgotten price (‘‘Take Carter’s Little Liver Pills … The stomach, liver and bowels will be cleansed of poison …’’) or the society news from a time when everybody knew who everybody was (‘‘Mr. Irving Marks, an American resident of Paris, has moved from the George V to the Plaza Athénée, where he plans to remain indefinitely’’).

Many a brief item leaves us craving for more: An 1897 dispatch from Kronstadt, the port of St. Petersburg, describes the arrival of President Félix Faure of France: ‘‘Ladies faint and utter strangers embrace affectionately.’’ Why?

The paper of Feb. 20, 1898, described how it took 12 Parisian policemen aided by two victims to get two muggers to the station house. Even then, one of the suspects would have escaped ‘‘had it not been for the appearance of a gigantic policeman, who goes by the name of Napoleon and who is kept on the premises specially to overpower disorderly prisoners.’’

This was the daily cafe fare of the gilded generation of ‘‘An American in Paris,’’ of the Lost Generation (‘‘America is my country and Paris is my hometown,’’ Gertrude Stein declared), of doughboys and tourists. The Paris Herald flourished at a time when the goings-on at England’s Downton Abbeys were still news even as a new social era was fast rising: A cartoon I found from 1896 shows two women resting in front of their modern bicycles. Bell: ‘‘Why did old novels all end with ‘And they lived happily for ever after?’’’ Nell: ‘‘Because the New Woman was not known then.’’

The paper evolved with the times. The European edition founded in 1887 by the wild and wealthy owner of The New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett Jr., for his fellow American expatriates in Paris spread first to London (‘‘In order to ensure an extremely rapid delivery of the New York Herald in London, the airplanes of the Air Union Company carry it over every morning’’ — 1932), then across Europe, and finally to Asia.

Its names and owners changed from time to time — it became the European Edition of The New York Herald Tribune in 1924; then, in 1967, The International Herald Tribune, under the joint ownership of The Herald Tribune, The New York Times and The Washington Post. This troika was reduced in 1991 to The Washington Post and The New York Times and then in 2003 to only The Times. And thus, as of tomorrow, it will be The International New York Times.

Whatever the name, the connection between the paper and its audience has long been clear. Already in 1911, an art magazine of the time called Lotus noted, ‘‘As all American travelers in Europe know, or should know, the ‘N.Y. Herald’ publishes in Paris a European edition that usually is spoken of as ‘The Paris Herald.’’’ (The Herald had reported a claim by the Prado Museum in Madrid that its ‘‘Mona Lisa’’ was the real one, not the Louvre’s.) And by its 100th anniversary — a birthday marked by a memorable feast at the Trocadéro, with the Eiffel Tower across the Seine recruited as a spectacular birthday candle — the Trib, aka the IHT, had become ‘‘the first global newspaper,’’ the trusted daily fare of Americans and other English-speaking travelers, businesspeople, diplomats, expatriates and journalists across Europe and Asia.

I became a regular user, and contributor, when I went abroad as a foreign correspondent 35 years ago. In my years as a New York Times correspondent in the Soviet Union, we would get the Trib in stacks, the freshest never less than four days old. But we would still devour them all — not so much for the news, which by then we’d learned, but — as with those musty stacks of Gilded Age and Jazz Age Paris Heralds — for a taste of the life in the world out there.

Of course, a lot of people will lament the latest name change, just as they do any change. Among the letters to the editor I read in the papers of yore, one railed against ‘‘the loud-speaker radio’’ and the ‘‘croaking and screeching of unseen tenors and sopranos’’ filling Parisian apartment houses; another ranted against central heating — ‘‘What can beat a good coal fire for comfort and health?’’ And newspapers, I have learned, are notoriously habit-forming — loyal readers resist any alteration of their daily fix.

But even back in the day, lurking among those who lamented change were always a few who welcomed it. The paper itself devoted an entire page in 1896 to advising ladies how to ride a bicycle and what to wear (and eat — this was France) when cycling. In 1932, one James J. Montague submitted a poem (something we don’t see much any more, alas) addressed to an infant growing up in an era of rapid technological advances: ‘‘The progress of science foretells/ That when you grow up all your work will be done/ By photo-electrical cells.’’

The fact is that The Herald/IHT/INYT (will that be the next nickname?) was itself from its inception a child of revolutionary technological advances. According to the history of the paper by Charles L. Robertson, it was industrialization and the rapid development of steamship travel after 1850 that created a new class of wealthy, Atlantic-hopping Americans. And it was the trans-Atlantic telegraph cables, first laid in 1858, that made it possible to keep them in close touch with their country, their businesses and the world. Bennett, in fact, was instrumental in lowering the cost of trans-Atlantic communications — and thus making a European edition of his paper economically feasible — by partnering with another magnate to break the monopoly of Western Union in laying trans-Atlantic cables.

The world has not ceased shrinking since. The first trans-Atlantic transmission by cable moved 98 words in 16 hours. Today, suppliers fight to shave milliseconds off the speed of transmission via fiber optic cables. But Mr. Montague’s prophecy of photo-electric everything, including eyes, has not come to pass, and it takes us as long to read those 98 words as it did in 1858. So long as that doesn’t change, we will still need trusted reporters and editors to sort out the vast waves of information sweeping this chaotic world of ours. We need those first rough drafts, the smart commentary, the impartial news, to function in these times. And we should hope that our grandchildren will delight in finding telling tidbits about our era when they find this newspaper in your attic.

Serge Schmemann is the editorial page editor of the International Herald Tribune and a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.


Columbus Day/521e: Au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique (There was no « Europe » before 1492: How Columbus discovered Europe)

15 octobre, 2013
https://i2.wp.com/libcom.org/files/images/history/Indians.jpghttps://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/9d7d3-columbus.gifAinsi au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique, et plus que ce ne l’est maintenant; car nulle part on ne connaissait de chose telle que l’Argent. Trouvez quelque chose ayant son Usage et sa Valeur parmi ses Voisins, et vous verrez le même Homme commencer rapidement à agrandir ses Possessions. John Locke
Hey Americans! Feeling uncomfortable with Columbus Day? You are cordially invited to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Stephanie Carvin (University of Ottawa)
America, as it appears in these famous words from the Two Treatises of Government, is John Locke’s political Genesis. For Locke, America is the beginning of civilization, to the extent that it reveals civil society’s natural origins. But Locke’s vision of the new world is a ‘beginning’ for the old world, in a different, although equally profound, sense. Steeped in the colonial zeal of his patron, the Earl of Shaftesbury, John Locke saw America as the second Garden of Eden; a new beginning for England should she manage to defend her claims In the American continent against those of the Indians and other European powers. America, like the world described in the original Genesis, is England’s second chance at paradise, providing the colonial masters of the old world, with a land full of all the promise known in that first Idyllic state. America thus represents for Locke and his readers a two-sided Genesis, a place to find both the origins of their past and the promise of their future. It is the role of America and Its native inhabitants In Locke’s political theory which has been previously overlooked in scholarship on the Two Treatises. Given the number of specific references In this work to America, and Locke’s lifelong Involvement In the colonization of the new world, it Is Indeed surprising that so little has been written on the subject. The oversight is Important for without considering Locke’s use of  America and its inhabitants in light of the collection of American ‘travelogues’ within his own personal library and the political needs of Shaftesbury’s colonial enterprise in Carolina, an important aspect of the Two Treaties will be missed. This thesis will argue that Locke’s Two treatises of Government were a defense of England’s colonial policy in the new world against the counterclaims of the Indians and other European powers to the continent. In particular, it will be shown that the famous chapter on property, which contains most of the references to to American Indians in the Two treatises, was written to justify the dispossession of the American Indians of their land, through a vigorous defense of England’s ‘superior’ claims to proprietorship. Morag Barbara Arneil
Columbus’s voyages caused almost as much change in Europe as in the Americas. This is the other half of the vast process historians now call the Columbian exchange. Crops, animals, ideas, and diseases began to cross the oceans regularly. Perhaps the most far-reaching impact of Columbus’s findings was on European Christianity. In 1492 all of Europe was in the grip of the Catholic Church. As Larousse puts it, before America, « Europe was virtually incapable of self-criticism. » After America, Europe’s religious uniformity was ruptured. For how were these new peoples to be explained? They were not mentioned in the Bible. The Indians simply did not fit within orthodox Christianity’s explanation of the moral universe. Moreover, unlike the Muslims, who might be written off as « damned infidels, » Indians had not rejected Christianity, they had just never encountered it. Were they doomed to hell? Even the animals of America posed a religious challenge. According to the Bible, at the dawn of creation all animals lived in the Garden of Eden. Later, two of each species entered Noah’s ark and ended up on Mt. Ararat. Since Eden and Mt. Ararat were both in the Middle East, where could these new American species have come from? Such questions shook orthodox Catholicism and contributed to the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517. Politically, nations like the Arawaks-without monarchs, without much hierarchy-stunned Europeans. In 1516 Thomas More’s Utopia, based on an account of the Incan empire in Peru, challenged European social organization by suggesting a radically different and superior alternative. Other social philosophers seized upon the Indians as living examples of Europe’s primordial past, which is what John Locke meant by the phrase « In the beginning, all the world was America. » Depending upon their political persuasion, some Europeans glorified Indian nations as examples of simpler, better societies, from which European civilization had devolved, while others maligned the Indian societies as primitive and underdeveloped. In either case, from Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau down to Marx and Engels, European philosophers’ concepts of the good society were transformed by ideas from America. America fascinated the masses as well as the elite. In The Tempest, Shakespeare noted this universal curiosity: « They will not give a doit to relieve a lambe beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian. » Europe’s fascination with the Americas was directly responsible, in fact, for a rise in European self-consciousness. From the beginning America was perceived as an « opposite » to Europe in ways that even Africa never had been. In a sense, there was no « Europe » before 1492. People were simply Tuscan, French, and the like. Now Europeans began to see similarities among themselves, at least as contrasted with Native Americans. For that matter, there were no « white » people in Europe before 1492. With the transatlantic slave trade, first Indian, then African, Europeans increasingly saw « white » as a race and race as an important human characteristic. James W. Loewen

Attention: une découverte peut en cacher une autre !

En ce 521e anniversaire de la découverte de l’Amérique par Christophe Colomb

Qui, politiquement correct oblige, se voit accuser de tous les maux de la terre …

Et où nos amis canadiens en profitent discrètement pour fêter leur Thanksgiving

Retour sur l’autre découverte que rendit possible celle de Colomb avec ses inexplicables « Indiens » et ce nouveau jardin d’Eden extra-biblique …

Mais aussi l’immensité des nouveaux espaces ouverts qui inspirera à Locke sa fameuse définition de la propriété

A savoir au-delà naturellement de la justification des visées coloniales de son employeur le comte de Shaftesbury

L’autodécouverte, par l’Europe elle-même, de sa propre identité …

Essai sur la véritable Origine, l’Étendue et la Fin du Gouvernement Civil.

John Locke

Chapitre V

De la Propriété.

25. Que nous considérions la Raison naturelle, qui nous dit que les Hommes, à la naissance, ont droit à la Conservation de soi, et donc au Boire et au Manger, et à ces autres choses que la Nature procure pour leur Subsistance; ou la Révélation, qui nous représente ces Concessions que Dieu a faites du Monde à Adam, et Noé, et ses Fils, il est très clair, que Dieu, comme le dit le Roi David, Ps. CXV. xvi. a donné la Terre aux Enfants des Hommes, l’a donnée à l’Humanité en commun. Mais ceci étant supposé, il subsiste pour certains une très grande difficulté, comment quiconque pourrait-il jamais devenir Propriétaire de quoi que ce soit: je ne me bornerai pas à répondre que s’il est difficile de comprendre la Propriété, dans l’hypothèse que Dieu donna le Monde à Adam et à sa Postérité en commun; il est impossible que qui que ce soit, sauf un Monarque universel, devienne Propriétaire, dans l’hypothèse que Dieu donna le Monde à Adam et à ses Héritiers dans l’ordre de Succession. Mais je tâcherai de montrer comment les Hommes ont pu devenir Propriétaires de parties différentes de ce que Dieu donna à l’Humanité en commun, et ceci sans Contrat exprès de tous les Usagers.

26. Dieu, qui a donné le Monde aux Hommes en commun, leur a aussi raison donnée pour l’utiliser au mieux et à la commodité de la Vie. La Terre, et tout ce qui s’y trouve, est donnée aux Hommes pour le Soutien et le Confort de leur existence. Et bien que tous les Fruits qu’elle produit naturellement, et toutes les Bêtes qu’elle nourrit, appartiennent à l’Humanité en commun, en tant qu’ils sont produits par la main spontanée de la Nature; et bien que personne n’ait à l’origine de Domination privée, à l’exclusion du reste de l’Humanité, sur n’importe lequel d’entre eux, en tant qu’ils sont dans leur état naturel: cependant, donnés pour être utilisés par les Hommes, il doit nécessairement y avoir un moyen ou un autre de les approprier avant qu’ils ne puissent servir ou bénéficier à qui que ce soit. Les Fruits, ou le Gibier, qui nourrissent l’Indien sauvage, ne connaissant point la Clôture et encore Tenancier en commun, doivent être à lui et tellement à lui, c’est-à-dire partie de lui-même, que personne ne peut plus y avoir droit, avant de pouvoir lui être d’aucun bien pour le Soutien de sa Vie.

27. Bien que la Terre, et toutes les Créatures inférieures soient communes à tous les Hommes, cependant chacun d’eux est Propriétaire de sa propre Personne. Sur elle nul n’a de Droit sauf lui-même. On peut dire que le Labeur de son Corps, et l’Ouvrage de ses mains sont proprement à lui. A tout objet, donc, qu’il tire de l’État où la Nature l’a procuré et laissé, il a mêlé son Travail, et joint quelque chose qui est son bien, et le fait par là sa Propriété. En le retirant de l’état commun où la Nature l’a placé, ce Travail lui a annexé quelque chose, qui exclut les autres Hommes du droit d’usage. Car, Propriété incontestable de celui qui le fournit, personne d’autre ne peut avoir droit à ce à quoi il est désormais joint, du moins là où il en reste assez, et d’aussi bonne qualité, en commun pour d’autres.

28. Celui qui se nourrit de Glands ramassés sous un Chêne, ou de Pommes cueillies sur l’Arbre dans les Bois, se les est certainement appropriés. On ne peut nier qu’ils ne soient à lui. Je demande alors, à partir de quand? Au moment où il les a digérés? mangés? fait bouillir? ramenés chez lui? ou ramassés? Il est évident que rien ne le pourrait, si les cueillir d’abord ne le faisait. Ce travail les a mis à part de ceux qui sont en commun. Il leur a ajouté quelque chose de plus que ce qu’avait fait la Nature, la commune Mère de tout; et ainsi ils sont devenus son droit privé. Et dira-t-on qu’il n’avait point droit aux Glands ou aux Pommes qu’il s’est ainsi appropriés, parce qu’il n’avait pas le consentement de toute l’Humanité pour les faire siens? Était-ce donc un Vol que de supposer à lui ce qui appartenait à tous en Commun? S’il fallait un tel consentement, l’Homme serait mort de faim, nonobstant l’Abondance que Dieu lui a donnée. On voit dans les Communaux, qui le restent par Contrat, que c’est le fait de prendre une partie de ce qui est commun et de la retirer de l’état où la Nature la laisse, qui fait naître la Propriété; sans laquelle le Communal n’ait d’aucune utilité. Et prendre telle ou telle partie ne dépend pas du consentement exprès de tous les Usagers. Ainsi l’Herbe que mon Cheval a broutée; la Tourbe que mon Serviteur a découpée; et le Minerai que j’ai extrait n’importe où je partage avec d’autres un droit d’usage, deviennent ma Propriété, sans assignation ni consentement de quiconque. Le travail qui était mien, en les retirant de cet état commun où ils étaient, y a fixé ma Propriété.

29. S’il fallait un consentement explicite de tous les Usagers à tous ceux qui s’approprient une partie de ce qui est donné en commun, Enfants ou Serviteurs ne pourraient pas couper la Viande que leur Père ou leur Maître leur a fourni en commun, sans leur assigner de part en particulier. Bien que l’Eau à la Fontaine soit à tout le monde, qui peut douter que dans le Pichet elle ne soit qu’à celui qui l’a tirée? Son travail l’a retirée des mains de la Nature, où elle était en commun et appartenait également à tous ses Enfants, et l’a par là appropriée à lui-même.

30. Ainsi cette Loi de la raison fait du Cerf le bien de l’Indien qui l’a tué; il est permis que les biens auxquels il a appliqué son travail soient à lui, bien qu’auparavant chacun en eût le droit d’usage. Et parmi ceux qui passent pour la partie Policée de l’Humanité, qui ont fait et multiplié les Lois positives pour déterminer la Propriété, ce Droit de la Nature originel pour faire naître la Propriété, dans ce qui était auparavant en commun, a encore cours; c’est en vertu de lui que le Poisson capturé dans l’Océan, ce grand Communal encore subsistant de l’Humanité; ou l’Ambre gris qui y est pris, deviennent par le Travail, qui les retire de l’état commun où la Nature les laissait, la Propriété de celui qui s’en donne la peine. Et même parmi nous, la Hase, que l’on court, est pensée comme lui appartenant par son poursuivant au cours de la Chasse. Puisqu’étant une Bête qui passe encore pour commune, et n’est Possession privée de Personne; quiconque a employé autant de travail à quoi que ce soit, que la débusquer et la poursuivre, l’a retirée par là de l’état de Nature où elle était commune, et a fait naître une Propriété.

31. On objectera peut-être à ceci, Que si cueillir des Glands, ou d’autres Fruits de la Terre, &c. donne droit à eux, alors n’importe qui peut accaparer autant qu’il veut. A quoi je Réponds, Non. Le même Droit de la Nature, qui nous donne par ce moyen la Propriété, limite également cette Propriété aussi. Dieu nous a donné toutes choses richement, 1 Tim. vi. 17. est la Voix de Raison confirmée par l’Inspiration. Mais jusqu’où nous l’a-t-il donné? Pour jouir. Autant que quelqu’un peut en utiliser en faveur de la vie avant qu’il ne se gâte; autant il peut y fixer une Propriété par son travail. Tout ce qui est au-delà, est plus que sa part, et appartient à autrui. Dieu n’a rien créé pour que l’Homme le gâte ou le détruise. Et ainsi vu l’abondance des Vivres naturels qu’il y avait longtemps dans le Monde, le peu de consommateurs, et la petitesse de la fraction des vivres sur lesquels l’industrie d’un Individu pouvait s’étendre et qu’elle pouvait accaparer au détriment d’autrui; surtout s’il restait dans les limites mises par la raison à ce qui pouvait lui servir; Querelles ou Litiges sur la Propriété ainsi établie n’avaient donc guère de place.

32. Mais l’objet principal de Propriété n’étant pas maintenant les Fruits de la Terre, ni les Bêtes qui y subsistent, mais la Terre elle-même; comme ce qui englobe et comporte tout le reste: je pense qu’il est évident, que la Propriété en ce qui la concerne s’acquière aussi comme la précédente. Autant de Terres qu’un Homme Laboure, Plante, Améliore, Cultive, et dont il peut utiliser le Produit, autant est sa Propriété. Par son Travail il les enclôt, pour ainsi dire, du Communal. Et cela n’invalidera pas son droit de dire que Tout autre y a un Titre égal, et qu’il ne peut donc approprier, enclore, sans le Consentement de tous ses Co-Usagers, de toute l’Humanité. Dieu, quand il donna le Monde en commun à toute l’Humanité, commanda aussi à l’Homme de travailler, et l’Indigence de son État le lui imposa. Dieu et sa Raison lui commandaient de soumettre la Terre, c’est-à-dire de l’améliorer en faveur de la Vie, et ce faisant d’y dépenser quelque chose qui était son bien, son travail. Celui qui, Obéissant à ce Commandement de Dieu, en soumettait, labourait et ensemençait une partie, lui annexait ainsi quelque chose qui était sa Propriété, à laquelle autrui n’avait point de Titre, ni ne pouvait lui prendre sans lui léser.

33. Et cette appropriation d’une parcelle de Terre, moyennant son amélioration, ne nuisait à personne, puisqu’il y en avait encore assez, et d’aussi bonne; et plus que ne pouvait utiliser celui qui était encore dépourvu. Si bien qu’en effet, il ne restait jamais moins aux autres de la clôture pour soi. Car celui qui laisse autant qu’un autre peut utiliser, fait comme s’il ne prenait rien. Personne ne pouvait s’estimer lésé par ce qu’un autre buvait, même s’il s’agissait d’une bonne Gorgée, si toute une Rivière de la même Eau lui restait pour étancher sa Soif. Et il en est exactement de même pour la Terre, là où, comme de l’Eau, il y en a assez.

34. Dieu donna le Monde aux Hommes en Commun; mais puisqu’il le leur donna pour leur bien, et pour les plus grandes Commodités de la Vie qu’ils étaient capables d’en tirer, on ne peut supposer que ce fût pour qu’il restât toujours en commun et non cultivé. Il le donna à l’usage de l’Industrieux et du Rationnel (et le Travail devait être son Titre); non à la Fantaisie ou à la Cupidité du Querelleur et du Chicaneur. Celui qui en avait d’aussi bon pour l’améliorer que ce qui était déjà pris, n’avait pas à se plaindre, ne devait pas se mêler de ce qui était déjà amélioré par le Travail d’un autre: S’il le faisait, il est évident qu’il voulait profiter de la Peine d’autrui, à laquelle il n’avait point droit, et non du Sol que Dieu lui avait donné à travailler en commun avec les autres, et dont il restait d’aussi bonne qualité que ce qui était déjà possédé, et plus qu’il ne savait en faire, ou que son Industrie pouvait attraper.

35. Il est vrai, dans la Terre qui est commune en Angleterre, ou ailleurs, où il y a une Abondance de Gens sous Gouvernement, qui ont Monnaie et Commerce, personne ne peut enclore ou approprier quelque partie que ce soit, sans le consentement de tous ses Co-Usagers: parce qu’elle est laissée en commun par Contrat, c’est-à-dire par le Droit foncier, qui ne doit pas être violé. Et, si elle est Commune, relativement à certains, elle ne l’est pas à toute l’Humanité; mais elle est la co-propriété de telle Contrée, ou de telle Paroisse. En outre, le restant, après une telle clôture, ne serait pas aussi bon au reste des Usagers que ne l’était le tout, quand ils pouvaient tous l’utiliser: alors qu’au commencement et au premier peuplement du grand Communal du Monde, il en était tout autrement. La Loi sous laquelle était l’Homme, était plutôt pour l’appropriation. Dieu Commandait, et ses Besoins le forçaient au travail. C’était sa Propriété qu’on ne pouvait lui prendre partout où il l’avait fixée. Et de là nous voyons que soumettre ou cultiver la Terre, et avoir la Domination, vont ensemble. L’un donnait Titre à l’autre. Si bien que Dieu, en commandant de soumettre, donnait Pouvoir d’approprier. Et la Condition de la Vie Humaine, qui nécessite Labeur et Matières à travailler, introduit nécessairement les Possessions privées.

36. La Nature a bien établi la mesure de la Propriété, par l’étendue du Travail humain, et la Commodité de la Vie humaine: il n’y avait personne dont Travail pût soumettre ou approprier tout: ni la Jouissance consommer plus qu’une petite partie; si bien que personne ne pouvait, par ce moyen, empiéter sur le droit d’autrui, ou acquérir, pour lui, une Propriété aux dépens de son Voisin, qui trouverait encore place pour une Possession aussi bonne, et aussi grande (après que l’autre a pris la sienne) qu’avant son appropriation. Cette mesure limitait la Possession de chacun à une Proportion très modérée, et telle qu’il pouvait s’approprier, sans Léser qui que ce soit aux Premiers Ages du Monde, quand les Hommes risquaient plus de se perdre, en s’écartant de leur Compagnie, dans les alors vastes Déserts de la Terre, que d’être empêchés de s’établir par manque de place. Et la même mesure vaut encore, sans nuire à qui que ce soit, aussi plein que le Monde paraisse. Car, si un Homme, ou une Famille, dans l’état où ils étaient au premier peuplement du Monde par les Enfants d’Adam, ou de Noé, s’établissait dans quelque endroit vacant d’Amérique situé à l’intérieur des terres, nous verrions que les Possessions qu’il pourrait se constituer, en fonction des mesures que nous avons données, ne seraient pas très grandes, et que, même aujourd’hui, elles ne nuiraient pas au reste de l’Humanité, ou ne lui donnerait pas de raison de se plaindre, ou de s’estimer lésé par l’Usurpation de cet Homme, quoique la Race humaine se soit maintenant disséminée aux quatre coins du Monde, et surpasse infiniment le petit nombre qu’elle était au commencement. Bien plus, l’étendue du Sol vaut si peu, sans travail, que j’ai entendu dire qu’en Espagne même, on peut être autorisé à labourer, semer et moissonner, sans être inquiété, sur une Terre à laquelle l’on n’a d’autre Titre que l’usage qu’on en fait. Mais qu’au contraire les Habitants s’estiment obligés par celui dont l’Industrie sur une Terre négligée, et donc vaine, a accru le fonds de Grains, dont ils avaient besoin. Mais quoi qu’il en soit de ceci, je ne m’y appuierai point; Voici ce que j’ose affirmer hardiment, la même Règle de Propriété, (à savoir) que chacun devait avoir autant qu’il pouvait utiliser, subsisterait encore dans le Monde, sans gêner personne, puisqu’il y a assez de Terres dans le Monde pour suffire au double d’Habitants, si l’Invention de l’Argent, et la Convention tacite des Hommes pour lui mettre une valeur, n’avaient introduit (par Consentement) des Possessions plus grandes, et Droit à celles-ci; je vais bientôt montrer plus en détail comment cela s’est fait.

37. Il est certain, Qu’au commencement, avant que le désir d’avoir plus que les Hommes n’avaient besoin, n’eût modifié la valeur intrinsèque des choses, qui ne dépend que de leur utilité pour la Vie humaine; ou n’eût convenu qu’un petit morceau de Métal jaune, qui se conserverait sans s’user ni s’altérer, vaudrait un grand morceau de Viande ou tout un tas de Grains; quoique les Hommes eussent chacun Droit de s’approprier, par leur Travail, autant de choses de la Nature qu’ils pouvaient utiliser: ce ne pouvait cependant pas être beaucoup, ni nuire à autrui, là où ceux qui utiliseraient la même Industrie en trouvaient encore tout aussi abondamment. J’ajoute, que celui qui s’approprie de la Terre par son travail, ne diminue pas mais accroît le fonds commun de l’humanité. Car les vivres servant au soutien de la vie humaine, qui sont produits par acre de terre enclose et cultivée, représentent (sans exagération) dix fois plus que ceux rendus par acre de Terre, d’une égale richesse, restant vaine en commun. Et donc on peut vraiment dire de celui qui enclôt la Terre et obtient de dix acres une plus grande abondance de commodités de la vie que celle qu’il pourrait avoir de cent laissées à la Nature, qu’il donne quatre-vingt-dix acres à l’Humanité. Car son travail le pourvoit maintenant de vivres tirés de dix acres, qui n’étaient le produit que de cent restant en commun. J’ai évalué ici très bas la terre amélioration en n’envisageant son produit que dans le rapport de dix à un, alors qu’il est beaucoup plus près de cent à un. Car franchement, mille acres dans les bois sauvages et dans les terres vaines incultes d’Amérique laissées à la Nature, sans aucune amélioration, labour ou culture, rendraient-ils aux habitants nécessiteux et miséreux autant de commodités de la vie que ne le font dix acres de terres d’égale fertilité dans le Devonshire où elles sont bien cultivées?

Avant l’appropriation des Terres, quiconque cueillait autant de Fruits sauvages, tuait, capturait ou domestiquait autant de Bêtes qu’il pouvait; quiconque employait sa Peine sur n’importe lequel des Produits spontanés de la Nature, à le modifier d’une façon ou d’une autre, à partir de l’état que lui donne la Nature, en y plaçant quoi que ce soit de son Travail, en devenait Propriétaire: Mais s’il périssait, en sa Possession, sans leur bonne et due utilisation; si les Fruits pourrissaient, ou le Gibier se putréfiait avant qu’il n’ait pu les consommer, il enfreignait le Droit coutumier de la Nature, et s’exposait à châtiment; il envahissait la part de son Voisin, car il n’avait point Droit, au-delà de ce que son Usage en demandait, et ils pouvaient servir à le pourvoir des Commodités de la Vie.

38. Les mêmes mesures gouvernaient également la Possession de la Terre: Tout ce qu’il labourait et moissonnait, mettait en réserve et employait avant que cela ne se perdît, lui appartenait en propre; tout ce qu’il clôturait, pouvait nourrir, et employer, Bétail et Produit, était aussi à lui. Mais si l’Herbe de son Enclos pourrissait sur le Sol, ou si les Fruits de son plantage s’abîmaient sans être cueillis, et mis en réserve, cette partie de la Terre, nonobstant sa clôture, devait encore être tenue pour Terre Vaine, et pouvait être Possession de n’importe qui d’autre. Ainsi, au commencement, Caïn pouvait prendre autant de Sol qu’il pouvait en labourer, et dont il pouvait faire sa propre Terre, et cependant en laisser assez aux moutons d’Abel pour y paître; un petit nombre d’Acres servait à leurs deux Possessions. Mais à mesure que les Familles s’accroissaient, et que l’Industrie augmentait leur Fonds, leurs Possessions s’étendaient avec leur besoin; mais c’était communément sans aucune propriété permanente du sol qu’elles utilisaient, jusqu’à ce qu’elles se fussent unies, établies ensemble, et qu’elles eussent construit des Cités, et donc que, par consentement, elles en vinrent à fixer les limites de leurs Territoires distincts, à convenir de leurs frontières avec leurs Voisins, et par des Lois internes, à établir les Propriétés des membres de la même Société. Car l’on voit, dans cette partie du Monde habitée en premier, et donc susceptible d’être la mieux peuplée, même en des temps aussi éloignés que celui d’Abraham, qu’elles erraient avec leur petit et gros Bétail, qui était leur substance, librement partout; et qu’il en était ainsi d’Abraham, dans un Pays où il était Étranger. D’où il ressort, qu’au moins une grande partie de la Terre restait en commun; que les Habitants ni ne l’évaluaient, ni n’en revendiquaient la Propriété sur plus qu’ils ne pouvaient utiliser. Mais quand il n’y avait pas au même endroit assez de place pour que leurs Troupeaux paissent ensemble, par consentement, comme le firent Abraham et Lot, Genèse xiii. 5. ils séparaient et étendaient leur pâture, où cela leur convenait le mieux. Et c’est ce qui fit qu’Esaü quitta son Père et son Frère, et s’établit dans la Montagne de Séïr, Gen. xxxvi. 6.

39. Et ainsi, sans prêter de Domination et de propriété privées à Adam, sur le Monde entier, à l’exclusion de tous les autres Hommes, ce qui ne peut être prouvé, ni être à l’origine de la propriété de qui que ce soit; mais en supposant le Monde donné comme ce le fut aux Enfants des Hommes en commun, on voit comment le travail pouvait faire des Hommes des titres distincts à des parcelles différentes, pour leurs usages privés; où il ne pouvait y avoir d’incertitude juridique, ni de place pour les différends.

40. Et il n’est pas aussi étrange que peut-être a priori il paraît, que la Propriété du travail puisse l’emporter sur la Communauté de la Terre. Car c’est en effet le Travail qui met la différence de valeur sur toute chose; et, quiconque s’interroge sur la différence entre un Acre de Terre plantée en Tabac ou en Sucre, ensemencée en Blé ou en Orge; et un Acre de la même Terre restant en commun, sans Culture, trouvera que l’amélioration du travail fait de loin la plus grande partie de la valeur. Je pense que ce ne sera en faire une Évaluer très modeste que de dire, que 9/10 des Produits de la Terre utiles à la Vie humaine sont les effets du Travail: bien plus, si l’on veut correctement estimer les choses à leur stade final, et calculer les différentes Dépenses qu’elles nécessitent, ce qui en elles est dû purement à la Nature, et ce qui l’est au travail, on trouvera que dans la plupart d’entre elles 99/100 sont à mettre intégralement au compte du travail.

41. Il n’y en a pas démonstration plus claire, que les diverses Nations Américaines, riches en Terre, et pauvres dans tous les Conforts de la Vie; qui, quoique la Nature les ait pourvues aussi libéralement que n’importe quel autre peuple des matières de l’Abondance, c’est-à-dire d’un Sol fécond, apte à produire copieusement, ce qui pourrait servir de nourriture, vêtement, et contentement; n’ont pas, faute de l’améliorer par le travail, la centième partie des Commodités dont nous jouissons: Et le Roi d’un vaste Territoire fécond là-bas se nourrit, se loge et s’habille plus mal qu’un Journalier en Angleterre.

42. Pour rendre ceci un peu plus clair, il suffit de suivre quelques uns des Vivres ordinaires, dans leurs différentes étapes, avant leur stade final, et de voir combien ils reçoivent de leur valeur de l’Industrie Humaine. Pain, Vin et Drap sont d’un usage quotidien, et de grande abondance, cependant nonobstant, Glands, Eau et Feuilles, ou Peaux constitueraient notre Pain, notre Boisson et notre Vêtement, si le travail ne nous fournissait pas de ces Denrées plus utiles. Car tout ce que le Pain vaut de plus que les Glands, le Vin que l’Eau, et le Drap ou la Soie que les Feuilles, les Peaux ou la Mousse, est intégralement dû au travail et à l’industrie. Les uns étant la Nourriture et le Vêtement dont la Nature inassistée nous pourvoit; les autres les vivres que notre industrie et nos peines nous préparent, quiconque calculera de combien la valeur de ceux-ci excède la valeur de ceux-là, verra alors combien le travail fait de loin la plus grande partie de la valeur des choses, dont nous jouissons en ce Monde: Et le sol qui produit les matières, doit à peine y être compté, comme toute autre partie, ou au plus que comme une infime partie; Si infime que, même parmi nous, la Terre totalement laissée à la Nature, que n’améliorent pas les Pâture, Labours, ou Plantage est appelée, comme elle l’est en effet, vaine; et l’on trouvera que son profit se monte à presque rien. Ceci montre, combien le nombre des hommes doit être préféré à la grandeur des dominations, et que l’accroissement des terres et leur bon emploi sont le grand art de gouvernement. Et le Prince qui sera assez sage et divin pour établir des lois libérales pour assurer protection et donner encouragement à l’honnête industrie humaine contre l’oppression du pouvoir et l’étroitesse partisane deviendra vite trop fort pour ses Voisins. Mais c’est là une parenthèse. Revenons à notre propos.

43. Un Acre de Terre qui rend ici Vingt Boisseaux de Blé, et un autre en Amérique, qui, identiquement Cultivé, en rendrait autant, ont sans doute la même Valeur naturelle, intrinsèque. Mais cependant le Bienfait que l’Humanité retire de l’un, en un an, vaut 5 l. et de l’autre probablement pas un Penny, si tout le Rapport qu’un Indien en tire était évalué, et vendu ici; du moins, à vrai dire, pas 1/1000. C’est donc le Travail qui met la plus grande partie de la Valeur sur la Terre, sans lequel elle vaudrait à peine quelque chose: c’est à lui que l’on doit la plus grande partie de tous ses Produits utiles: car tout ce que la Paille, le Son, le Pain, de cet Acre de Blé, valent de plus que le Produit d’un Acre d’aussi bonne Terre, qui reste vaine, est intégralement l’Effet du Travail. Car ce ne sont pas simplement la Peine du Laboureur, le Labeur du Moissonneur et du Batteur, et la Sueur du Boulanger, qui doivent être comptés dans le Pain que nous mangeons; le Travail de ceux qui ont dressé les Boeufs, qui ont extrait et travaillé le Fer et les Pierres, qui ont abattu et façonné le Bois employé pour la Charrue, le Moulin, le Four, ou n’importe lequel des innombrables Ustensiles requis pour ce Blé, depuis son existence de semence à semer jusqu’à celle sous forme de Pain, tous doivent être imputés au Travail et reçus comme un effet de celui-ci: La Nature et la Terre n’ont fourni que les Matières en elles-mêmes presque sans valeur. Combien étrange serait le Catalogue des choses fournies et utilisées par l’Industrie pour chaque Miche de Pain avant son stade final, si nous pouvions en suivre la trace: Fer, Arbres, Cuir, Écorce, Bois, Pierre, Briques, Charbons, Glu, Drap, Teintures, Poix, Goudron, Mâts, Cordes, et toutes les Matières utilisées dans le Navire qui a apporté n’importe laquelle des Denrées employées par n’importe lequel des Ouvriers, à n’importe quel stade de l’Ouvrage, toutes Matières dont il serait presque impossible, du moins trop long, de faire le compte.

44. D’après tout ceci il est évident que, quoique les choses de la Nature soient données en commun, cependant l’Homme (en étant Maître de lui-même, et Propriétaire de sa propre Personne, ainsi que des actions ou du Travail de celle-ci) avait en soi le grand Fondement de la Propriété; et ce qui formait la plus grande partie de ce qu’il appliquait au Soutien ou au Confort de son existence, quand l’Invention et les Arts eurent amélioré les commodités de la Vie, était parfaitement son bien propre, et n’appartenait pas en commun à autrui.

45. Ainsi le Travail, au Commencement, donnait-il un Droit de Propriété, partout où quiconque se plaisait à l’employer, sur ce qui était en commun, qui resta, longtemps, la partie de loin la plus grande, et est encore plus que l’Humanité n’en utilise. Au début, les Hommes, pour la plupart, se contentaient de ce que la Nature inassistée Offrait à leurs Nécessités: et bien que par la suite, dans les parties du Monde (où l’accroissement des Gens et du Fonds, avec l’Usage de l’Argent) avait rendu la Terre rare et ce faisant de quelque Valeur, les diverses Communautés eussent établi les Frontières de leurs Territoires distincts, et par des Lois internes réglementé les Propriétés des Individus de leur Société, et qu’ainsi, par Contrat et Convention, elles eussent établi la Propriété engendrée par le Travail et l’Industrie; et par des Alliances, conclues entre plusieurs États et Royaumes, niant expressément ou tacitement toute Revendication et Droit sur la Terre en Possession d’autrui, elles eussent, par Consentement commun, renoncé à prétendre au Droit d’usage naturel, qu’elles avaient à l’origine sur ces Pays, et qu’ainsi, par convention positive, elles eussent établi une Propriété parmi elles, sur des Parties et Parcelles distinctes de la Terre: néanmoins il subsiste encore de vastes Étendues de Terre à découvrir, (dont les Habitants n’ont pas rejoints le reste de l’Humanité, dans le consentement à l’Usage de son Argent commun) qui restent vaines, et surpassent ce qu’en font les Gens qui y habitent, ou ce qu’ils peuvent en utiliser, et donc qui restent encore en commun. Quoique ceci puisse à peine exister dans la partie de l’Humanité qui a consenti à l’usage de l’Argent.

46. La plus grande partie des choses réellement utiles à la Vie humaine, et dont la nécessité de subsister fit s’occuper les premiers Usagers du Monde, comme elle le fait maintenant aux Américains, sont généralement des choses de brève durée; qui, si elles ne sont pas utilisées, s’altéreront et périront d’elles-mêmes: L’Or, l’Argent, et les Diamants sont choses, auxquelles la Fantaisie ou la Convention ont mis de la Valeur, plus que l’Usage réel, et le Soutien nécessaire de la Vie. Maintenant de toutes ces choses que la Nature a fournies en commun, chacun avait Droit (comme il a été dit) à autant qu’il pouvait utiliser, et était Propriétaire de tout ce qu’il pouvait effectuer avec son Travail: tout ce à quoi son Industrie pouvait s’appliquer, dont elle pouvait modifier l’État dans lequel la Nature l’avait mis, était à lui. Quiconque cueillait Cent Boisseaux de Glands ou de Pommes, en avait donc la Propriété; ils étaient ses Biens dès qu’il les avait cueillis. Il devait seulement veiller à les utiliser avant qu’ils ne se perdissent; sinon il prenait plus que sa part et volait autrui. Et c’était d’ailleurs aussi stupide que malhonnête que d’amasser plus qu’il n’en pouvait en utiliser. S’il en donnait une fraction à n’importe qui d’autre, de sorte qu’elle ne pérît point inutilement en sa Possession, c’était aussi en faire usage. Et si aussi il troquait des Prunes qui auraient pourri en une Semaine, contre des Noix qui pouvaient rester bonnes à manger pendant toute une Année, il ne lésait point; il ne gaspillait pas le Fonds commun; ne détruisait aucune part de la portion de Biens appartenant à autrui, tant que rien ne périssait dans ses mains inutilement. Derechef, s’il voulait donner ses Noix contre un morceau de Métal dont la couleur plaisait; ou échanger son Mouton contre des Coquillages, ou de la Laine contre un Caillou brillant ou un Diamant, et les conserver toute sa Vie, il n’usurpait pas le Droit d’autrui, il pouvait entasser autant de ces choses durables qu’il voulait; le dépassement des limites de sa juste Propriété ne résidant pas dans la grandeur de sa Possession, mais dans ce que quelque chose y périsse inutilement.

47. Et ainsi vint l’usage de l’Argent, quelque chose durable que les Hommes pouvaient conserver sans qu’il se perdît, et que par mutuel consentement ils pouvaient accepter en échange des Choses nécessaires à la Vie vraiment utiles, mais périssables.

48. Et comme les degrés différents d’Industrie tendaient à donner aux Hommes des Possessions en Proportions différentes, cette Invention de l’Argent leur donna l’occasion de continuer à les agrandir. Car soit une Ile, coupée de tout Commerce avec le reste du Monde, où ne vivraient qu’une centaine de Familles, mais où il y aurait Moutons, Chevaux et Vaches, et d’autres Animaux utiles, des Fruits sains, et assez de Terres à Blé pour cent mille fois autant, mais rien qui soit, du fait de sa Généralité ou de sa Périssabilité, propre à occuper la place de l’Argent: Quelle raison quelqu’un pourrait-il y avoir d’agrandir ses Possessions au-delà de l’usage de sa Famille, et d’un approvisionnement abondant pour sa Consommation soit en produits sa propre Industrie, soit en produits qu’il pourrait troquer contre des Denrées pareillement utiles et périssables avec d’autres? Là où il n’y a rien à la fois de durable et de rare, et d’une valeur qui fasse qu’on l’amasse, on ne tendra pas à agrandir ses Possessions de Terre, si riche et si libre qu’elle fût. Car je vous le demande, Que vaudraient pour quelqu’un Dix Mille ou Cent Mille Acres d’excellente Terre, déjà cultivée, et également bien pourvue en Bétail, au milieu des Parties de l’Amérique à l’intérieur des terres, sans l’espoir de Commercer avec d’autres Parties du Monde, de tirer de l’Argent de la Vente du Produit? Enclore ne vaudrait pas la peine, et nous le verrions restituer au Communal sauvage de la Nature, tout ce qui dépasserait les Commodités de la Vie qu’il en pourrait tirer pour lui et sa Famille.

49. Ainsi au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique, et plus que ce ne l’est maintenant; car nulle part on ne connaissait de chose telle que l’Argent. Trouvez quelque chose ayant son Usage et sa Valeur parmi ses Voisins, et vous verrez le même Homme commencer rapidement à agrandir ses Possessions.

50. Mais puisque l’Or et l’Argent, peu utiles à la Vie humaine proportionnellement à la Nourriture, au Vêtement et au Transport, ne tiennent leur valeur que du consentement des Hommes dont le Travail fait cependant, en grande partie, la mesure, il est évident que les Hommes ont convenu d’une Possession disproportionnée et inégale de la Terre, quand ils ont par un consentement tacite et volontaire inventé la façon, dont un homme peut honnêtement posséder plus de terres qu’il ne peut lui-même en utiliser de produit, en recevant en échange du surplus, de l’Or et de l’Argent, ces métaux qui, ne se perdant ni ne s’altérant dans les mains du possesseur, peuvent être amassés sans léser qui que ce soit. Ce partage des choses, dans une inégalité des possessions privées, les hommes l’ont rendu réalisable hors des limites de la Société, et sans contrat, uniquement en mettant une valeur à l’or et sur l’argent et en convenant tacitement d’utiliser l’Argent. Car dans les Gouvernements les Lois règlent le droit de propriété, et des constitutions positives déterminent la possession de la Terre.

51. Et ainsi je pense qu’il est très facile de concevoir, sans aucune difficulté, comment le Travail a pu d’abord faire naître un titre de Propriété sur les choses communes de la Nature, et comment le dépenser pour notre usage le limitait. Si bien qu’il ne pouvait y avoir de sujet de différend sur le Titre, ni d’incertitude sur la grandeur de la Possession qu’il donnait. Droit et Commodité allaient de pair; car comme un Homme avait Droit à tout ce sur quoi il pouvait employer son Travail, il n’avait point la tentation de travailler pour plus qu’il pouvait utiliser. Il n’y avait pas place pour Controverse sur le Titre, ni pour Empiétement sur le Droit d’autrui; la Portion qu’un Homme se taillait se voyait aisément; et il lui était aussi inutile que malhonnête de s’en tailler une trop grande, ou de prendre plus qu’il n’avait besoin.

Columbus, the Indians and the ‘discovery’ of America

Howard Zinn on the « discovery » of America, the treatment of the native population and how it was justified as « progress ».

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

Columbus wrote:

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.

The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic-the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to get to the Far East.

Spain was recently unified, one of the new modern nation-states, like France, England, and Portugal. Its population, mostly poor peasants, worked for the nobility, who were 2 percent of the population and owned 95 percent of the land. Spain had tied itself to the Catholic Church, expelled all the Jews, driven out the Moors. Like other states of the modern world, Spain sought gold, which was becoming the new mark of wealth, more useful than land because it could buy anything.

There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for Marco Polo and others had brought back marvelous things from their overland expeditions centuries before. Now that the Turks had conquered Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land routes to Asia, a sea route was needed. Portuguese sailors were working their way around the southern tip of Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean.

In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new tide: Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He was a merchant’s clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver (the son of a skilled weaver), and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and thirty-nine crew members.

Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between Europe and Asia-the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water. They saw flocks of birds.

These were signs of land. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.

So, approaching land, they were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears.

This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields.

On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die.

Columbus’s report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China (Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:

Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful … the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals….

The Indians, Columbus reported, « are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…. » He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage « as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask. » He was full of religious talk: « Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities. »

Because of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives. But as word spread of the Europeans’ intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.

Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were « naked as the day they were born, » they showed « no more embarrassment than animals. » Columbus later wrote: « Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold. »

But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed.

Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.

When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.

The chief source-and, on many matters the only source-of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty. Las Casas transcribed Columbus’s journal and, in his fifties, began a multivolume History of the Indies. In it, he describes the Indians. They are agile, he says, and can swim long distances, especially the women. They are not completely peaceful, because they do battle from time to time with other tribes, but their casualties seem small, and they fight when they are individually moved to do so because of some grievance, not on the orders of captains or kings.

Women in Indian society were treated so well as to startle the Spaniards. Las Casas describes sex relations:

Marriage laws are non-existent men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy or anger. They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth. If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth; although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man’s head or at his hands.

The Indians, Las Casas says, have no religion, at least no temples. They live in

large communal bell-shaped buildings, housing up to 600 people at one time … made of very strong wood and roofed with palm leaves…. They prize bird feathers of various colors, beads made of fishbones, and green and white stones with which they adorn their ears and lips, but they put no value on gold and other precious things. They lack all manner of commerce, neither buying nor selling, and rely exclusively on their natural environment for maintenance. They are extremely generous with their possessions and by the same token covet the possessions of then; friends and expect the same degree of liberality. …

In Book Two of his History of the Indies, Las Casas (who at first urged replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks) tells about the treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards. It is a unique account and deserves to be quoted at length:

Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians….

Las Casas tells how the Spaniards « grew more conceited every day » and after a while refused to walk any distance. They « rode the backs of Indians if they were in a hurry » or were carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. « In this case they also had Indians carry large leaves to shade them from the sun and others to fan them with goose wings. »

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards « thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades. » Las Casas tells how « two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys. »

The Indians’ attempts to defend themselves failed. And when they ran off into the hills they were found and killed. So, Las Casas reports, « they suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help. » He describes their work in the mines:

… mountains are stripped from top to bottom and bottom to top a thousand times; they dig, split rocks, move stones, and carry dirt on then: backs to wash it in the rivers, while those who wash gold stay in the water all the time with their backs bent so constantly it breaks them; and when water invades the mines, the most arduous task of all is to dry the mines by scooping up pansful of water and throwing it up outside….

After each six or eight months’ work in the mines, which was the time required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the men died.

While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and making thousands of hills for cassava plants.

Thus husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides … they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, 7000 children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation…. hi this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk . .. and in a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile … was depopulated. … My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write. …

When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, « there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it…. »

Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning, when you read Las Casas-even if his figures are exaggerations (were there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million as others now believe?)-is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.

Past the elementary and high schools, there are only occasional hints of something else. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguished writer on Columbus, the author of a multivolume biography, and was himself a sailor who retraced Columbus’s route across the Atlantic. In his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, written in 1954, he tells about the enslavement and the killing: « The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide. »

That is on one page, buried halfway into the telling of a grand romance. In the book’s last paragraph, Morison sums up his view of Columbus:

He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great-his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities-his seamanship.

One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

But he does something else-he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important-it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.

It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.

My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker’s distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian’s distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker’s technical interest is obvious (« This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you’d better use a different projection »). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as « the United States, » subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a « national interest » represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.

« History is the memory of states, » wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen’s policies. From his standpoint, the « peace » that Europe had before the French Revolution was « restored » by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a world not restored but disintegrated.

My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can « see » history from the standpoint of others.

My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.

Still, understanding the complexities, this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest. I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don’t want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: « The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is. »

I don’t want to invent victories for people’s movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past’s fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.

That, being as blunt as I can, is my approach to the history of the United States. The reader may as well know that before going on.

What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.

The Aztec civilization of Mexico came out of the heritage of Mayan, Zapotec, and Toltec cultures. It built enormous constructions from stone tools and human labor, developed a writing system and a priesthood. It also engaged in (let us not overlook this) the ritual killing of thousands of people as sacrifices to the gods. The cruelty of the Aztecs, however, did not erase a certain innocence, and when a Spanish armada appeared at Vera Cruz, and a bearded white man came ashore, with strange beasts (horses), clad in iron, it was thought that he was the legendary Aztec man-god who had died three hundred years before, with the promise to return-the mysterious Quetzalcoatl. And so they welcomed him, with munificent hospitality.

That was Hernando Cortes, come from Spain with an expedition financed by merchants and landowners and blessed by the deputies of God, with one obsessive goal: to find gold. In the mind of Montezuma, the king of the Aztecs, there must have been a certain doubt about whether Cortes was indeed Quetzalcoatl, because he sent a hundred runners to Cortes, bearing enormous treasures, gold and silver wrought into objects of fantastic beauty, but at the same time begging him to go back. (The painter Durer a few years later described what he saw just arrived in Spain from that expedition-a sun of gold, a moon of silver, worth a fortune.)

Cortes then began his march of death from town to town, using deception, turning Aztec against Aztec, killing with the kind of deliberateness that accompanies a strategy-to paralyze the will of the population by a sudden frightful deed. And so, in Cholulu, he invited the headmen of the Cholula nation to the square. And when they came, with thousands of unarmed retainers, Cortes’s small army of Spaniards, posted around the square with cannon, armed with crossbows, mounted on horses, massacred them, down to the last man. Then they looted the city and moved on. When their cavalcade of murder was over they were in Mexico City, Montezuma was dead, and the Aztec civilization, shattered, was in the hands of the Spaniards.

All this is told in the Spaniards’ own accounts.

In Peru, that other Spanish conquistador Pizarro, used the same tactics, and for the same reasons- the frenzy in the early capitalist states of Europe for gold, for slaves, for products of the soil, to pay the bondholders and stockholders of the expeditions, to finance the monarchical bureaucracies rising in Western Europe, to spur the growth of the new money economy rising out of feudalism, to participate in what Karl Marx would later call « the primitive accumulation of capital. » These were the violent beginnings of an intricate system of technology, business, politics, and culture that would dominate the world for the next five centuries.

In the North American English colonies, the pattern was set early, as Columbus had set it in the islands of the Bahamas. In 1585, before there was any permanent English settlement in Virginia, Richard Grenville landed there with seven ships. The Indians he met were hospitable, but when one of them stole a small silver cup, Grenville sacked and burned the whole Indian village.

Jamestown itself was set up inside the territory of an Indian confederacy, led by the chief, Powhatan. Powhatan watched the English settle on his people’s land, but did not attack, maintaining a posture of coolness. When the English were going through their « starving time » in the winter of 1610, some of them ran off to join the Indians, where they would at least be fed. When the summer came, the governor of the colony sent a messenger to ask Powhatan to return the runaways, whereupon Powhatan, according to the English account, replied with « noe other than prowde and disdaynefull Answers. » Some soldiers were therefore sent out « to take Revenge. » They fell upon an Indian settlement, killed fifteen or sixteen Indians, burned the houses, cut down the corn growing around the village, took the queen of the tribe and her children into boats, then ended up throwing the children overboard « and shoteinge owit their Braynes in the water. » The queen was later taken off and stabbed to death.

Twelve years later, the Indians, alarmed as the English settlements kept growing in numbers, apparently decided to try to wipe them out for good. They went on a rampage and massacred 347 men, women, and children. From then on it was total war.

Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them. Edmund Morgan writes, in his history of early Virginia, American Slavery, American Freedom:

Since the Indians were better woodsmen than the English and virtually impossible to track down, the method was to feign peaceful intentions, let them settle down and plant their com wherever they chose, and then, just before harvest, fall upon them, killing as many as possible and burning the corn… . Within two or three years of the massacre the English had avenged the deaths of that day many times over.

In that first year of the white man in Virginia, 1607, Powhatan had addressed a plea to John Smith that turned out prophetic. How authentic it is may be in doubt, but it is so much like so many Indian statements that it may be taken as, if not the rough letter of that first plea, the exact spirit of it:

I have seen two generations of my people the…. I know the difference between peace and war better than any man in my country. I am now grown old, and must the soon; my authority must descend to my brothers, Opitehapan, Opechancanough and Catatough-then to my two sisters, and then to my two daughters-I wish them to know as much as I do, and that your love to them may be like mine to you. Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love? Why will you destroy us who supply you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions and run into the woods; then you will starve for wronging your friends. Why are you jealous of us? We are unarmed, and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly manner, and not so simple as not to know that it is much better to eat good meat, sleep comfortably, live quietly with my wives and children, laugh and be merry with the English, and trade for their copper and hatchets, than to run away from them, and to lie cold in the woods, feed on acorns, roots and such trash, and be so hunted that I can neither eat nor sleep. In these wars, my men must sit up watching, and if a twig break, they all cry out « Here comes Captain Smith! » So I must end my miserable life. Take away your guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy, or you may all die in the same manner.

When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a « vacuum. » The Indians, he said, had not « subdued » the land, and therefore had only a « natural » right to it, but not a « civil right. » A « natural right » did not have legal standing.

The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: « Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. » And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: « Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. »

The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.

A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the NarraganseIt Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote:

They had commission to pat to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampum for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force.

The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: « The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully… -« 

So, the war with the Pequots began. Massacres took place on both sides. The English developed a tactic of warfare used earlier by Cortes and later, in the twentieth century, even more systematically: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy. This is ethno historian Francis Jennings’s interpretation of Captain John Mason’s attack on a Pequot village on the Mystic River near Long Island Sound: « Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors, which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective. »

So the English set fire to the wigwams of the village. By their own account: « The Captain also said, We must Burn Them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam … brought out a Fire Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire. » William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation written at the time, describes John Mason’s raid on the Pequot village:

Those that scaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.

As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: « It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day. »

The war continued. Indian tribes were used against one another, and never seemed able to join together in fighting the English. Jennings sums up:

The terror was very real among the Indians, but in rime they came to meditate upon its foundations. They drew three lessons from the Pequot War: (1) that the Englishmen’s most solemn pledge would be broken whenever obligation conflicted with advantage; (2) that the English way of war had no limit of scruple or mercy; and (3) that weapons of Indian making were almost useless against weapons of European manufacture. These lessons the Indians took to heart.

A footnote in Virgil Vogel’s book This Land Was Ours (1972) says: « The official figure on the number of Pequots now in Connecticut is twenty-one persons. »

Forty years after the Pequot War, Puritans and Indians fought again. This time it was the Wampanoags, occupying the south shore of Massachusetts Bay, who were in the way and also beginning to trade some of their land to people outside the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their chief, Massasoit, was dead. His son Wamsutta had been killed by Englishmen, and Wamsuttas brother Metacom (later to be called King Philip by the English) became chief. The English found their excuse, a murder which they attributed to Metacom, and they began a war of conquest against the Wampanoags, a war to take their land. They were clearly the aggressors, but claimed they attacked for preventive purposes. As Roger Williams, more friendly to the Indians than most, put it: « All men of conscience or prudence ply to windward, to maintain their wars to be defensive. »

Jennings says the elite of the Puritans wanted the war; the ordinary white Englishman did not want it and often refused to fight. The Indians certainly did not want war, but they matched atrocity with atrocity. When it was over, in 1676, the English had won, but their resources were drained; they had lost six hundred men. Three thousand Indians were dead, including Metacom himself. Yet the Indian raids did not stop.

For a while, the English tried softer tactics. But ultimately, it was back to annihilation. The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million. Huge numbers of Indians would the from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that « the Indians … affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died. » When the English first settled Martha’s Vineyard in 1642, the Wampanoags there numbered perhaps three thousand. There were no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians were left there. Similarly, Block Island Indians numbered perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 in 1662, and by 1774 were reduced to fifty-one.

Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property. It was a morally ambiguous drive; the need for space, for land, was a real human need. But in conditions of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples. Roger Williams said it was

a depraved appetite after the great vanities, dreams and shadows of this vanishing life, great portions of land, land in this wilderness, as if men were in as great necessity and danger for want of great portions of land, as poor, hungry, thirsty seamen have, after a sick and stormy, a long and starving passage. This is one of the gods of New England, which the living and most high Eternal will destroy and famish.

Was all this bloodshed and deceit-from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans-a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made-as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants for industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?

That quick disposal might be acceptable (« Unfortunate, yes, but it had to be done ») to the middle and upper classes of the conquering and « advanced » countries. But is it acceptable to the poor of Asia, Africa, Latin America, or to the prisoners in Soviet labor camps, or the blacks in urban ghettos, or the Indians on reservations-to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world? Was it acceptable (or just inescapable?) to the miners and railroaders of America, the factory hands, the men and women who died by the hundreds of thousands from accidents or sickness, where they worked or where they lived-casualties of progress? And even the privileged minority-must it not reconsider, with that practicality which even privilege cannot abolish, the value of its privileges, when they become threatened by the anger of the sacrificed, whether in organized rebellion, unorganized riot, or simply those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law and the state?

If there are necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves? We can all decide to give up something of ours, but do we have the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not nearly as clear or present as sickness or health, life or death?

What did people in Spain get out of all that death and brutality visited on the Indians of the Americas? For a brief period in history, there was the glory of a Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere. As Hans Koning sums it up in his book Columbus: His Enterprise:

For all the gold and silver stolen and shipped to Spain did not make the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of power for a time, a chance to hire more mercenary soldiers for their wars. They ended up losing those wars anyway, and all that was left was a deadly inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a ruined peasant class.

Beyond all that, how certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior? Who were these people who came out on the beach and swam to bring presents to Columbus and his crew, who watched Cortes and Pizarro ride through their countryside, who peered out of the forests at the first white settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts?

Columbus called them Indians, because he miscalculated the size of the earth. In this book we too call them Indians, with some reluctance, because it happens too often that people are saddled with names given them by their conquerors.

And yet, there is some reason to call them Indians, because they did come, perhaps 25,000 years ago, from Asia, across the land bridge of the Bering Straits (later to disappear under water) to Alaska. Then they moved southward, seeking warmth and land, in a trek lasting thousands of years that took them into North America, then Central and South America. In Nicaragua, Brazil, and Ecuador their petrified footprints can still be seen, along with the print of bison, who disappeared about five thousand years ago, so they must have reached South America at least that far back

Widely dispersed over the great land mass of the Americas, they numbered approximately 75 million people by the rime Columbus came, perhaps 25 million in North America. Responding to the different environments of soil and climate, they developed hundreds of different tribal cultures, perhaps two thousand different languages. They perfected the art of agriculture, and figured out how to grow maize (corn), which cannot grow by itself and must be planted, cultivated, fertilized, harvested, husked, shelled. They ingeniously developed a variety of other vegetables and fruits, as well as peanuts and chocolate and tobacco and rubber.

On their own, the Indians were engaged in the great agricultural revolution that other peoples in Asia, Europe, Africa were going through about the same time.

While many of the tribes remained nomadic hunters and food gatherers in wandering, egalitarian communes, others began to live in more settled communities where there was more food, larger populations, more divisions of labor among men and women, more surplus to feed chiefs and priests, more leisure time for artistic and social work, for building houses. About a thousand years before Christ, while comparable constructions were going on in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Zuni and Hopi Indians of what is now New Mexico had begun to build villages consisting of large terraced buildings, nestled in among cliffs and mountains for protection from enemies, with hundreds of rooms in each village. Before the arrival of the European explorers, they were using irrigation canals, dams, were doing ceramics, weaving baskets, making cloth out of cotton.

By the time of Christ and Julius Caesar, there had developed in the Ohio River Valley a culture of so-called Moundbuilders, Indians who constructed thousands of enormous sculptures out of earth, sometimes in the shapes of huge humans, birds, or serpents, sometimes as burial sites, sometimes as fortifications. One of them was 3 1/2 miles long, enclosing 100 acres. These Moundbuilders seem to have been part of a complex trading system of ornaments and weapons from as far off as the Great Lakes, the Far West, and the Gulf of Mexico.

About A.D. 500, as this Moundbuilder culture of the Ohio Valley was beginning to decline, another culture was developing westward, in the valley of the Mississippi, centered on what is now St. Louis. It had an advanced agriculture, included thousands of villages, and also built huge earthen mounds as burial and ceremonial places near a vast Indian metropolis that may have had thirty thousand people. The largest mound was 100 feet high, with a rectangular base larger than that of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. In the city, known as Cahokia, were toolmakers, hide dressers, potters, jewelry makers, weavers, salt makers, copper engravers, and magnificent ceramists. One funeral blanket was made of twelve thousand shell beads.

From the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes, in what is now Pennsylvania and upper New York, lived the most powerful of the northeastern tribes, the League of the Iroquois, which included the Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), Onondagas (People of the Mountain), Cayugas (People at the Landing), and Senecas (Great Hill People), thousands of people bound together by a common Iroquois language.

In the vision of the Mohawk chief Iliawatha, the legendary Dekaniwidah spoke to the Iroquois: « We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other’s hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not shake nor break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle in security, peace and happiness. »

In the villages of the Iroquois, land was owned in common and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who encountered them in the 1650s wrote: « No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers.. . . Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common. »

Women were important and respected in Iroquois society. Families were matrilineal. That is, the family line went down through the female members, whose husbands joined the family, while sons who married then joined their wives’ families. Each extended family lived in a « long house. » When a woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband’s things outside the door.

Families were grouped in clans, and a dozen or more clans might make up a village. The senior women in the village named the men who represented the clans at village and tribal councils. They also named the forty-nine chiefs who were the ruling council for the Five Nation confederacy of the Iroquois. The women attended clan meetings, stood behind the circle of men who spoke and voted, and removed the men from office if they strayed too far from the wishes of the women.

The women tended the crops and took general charge of village affairs while the men were always hunting or fishing. And since they supplied the moccasins and food for warring expeditions, they had some control over military matters. As Gary B. Nash notes in his fascinating study of early America, Red, White, and Black: « Thus power was shared between the sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society. »

Children in Iroquois society, while taught the cultural heritage of their people and solidarity with the tribe, were also taught to be independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught equality in status and the sharing of possessions. The Iroquois did not use harsh punishment on children; they did not insist on early weaning or early toilet training, hut gradually allowed the child to learn self-care.

All of this was in sharp contrast to European values as brought over by the first colonists, a society of rich and poor, controlled by priests, by governors, by male heads of families. For example, the pastor of the Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners how to deal with their children: « And surely there is in all children … a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon. »

Gary Nash describes Iroquois culture:

No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or courts or jails-the apparatus of authority in European societies-were to be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival. Yet boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set. Though priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a strict sense of right and wrong…. He who stole another’s food or acted invalourously in war was « shamed » by his people and ostracized from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himself.

Not only the Iroquois but other Indian tribes behaved the same way. In 1635, Maryland Indians responded to the governor’s demand that if any of them lolled an Englishman, the guilty one should be delivered up for punishment according to English law. The Indians said:

It is the manner amongst us Indians, that if any such accident happen, wee doe redeeme the life of a man that is so slaine, with a 100 armes length of Beades and since that you are heere strangers, and come into our Countrey, you should rather conform yourselves to the Customes of our Countrey, than impose yours upon us….

So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.

They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe’s, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.

John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: « Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace. »

Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that « myth. » Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.


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