From nearly two weeks ago — oops! I am a bit behind on stuff. Here is the article, and here is a podcast which features my radio interview with Andrew Lawton concerning the article.
Years ago, I lived in France on Boulevard Voltaire, not far from the Bataclan. I never went to the Bataclan because I was never groovy. I did go to see Etienne Daho at Bercy Stadium one time. My apartment was near Place Leon Blum, named after the French politician who, prior to World War II had been the Prime Minister of France and then during the war had been deported (he was Jewish) to Buchenwald and Dachau and Tyrol and then after the war became Prime Minister again. Seriously. Only in France. (I believe his brother died in Auschwitz.)
In 2005, on a trip to Israel, I visited a kibbutz named after Blum – Kfar Blum, it was called. I was with a group of journalists and I shocked them all by knowing who Blum was. I also shocked the lady from the kibbutz who was tasked with taking us around the place — she told me that no one other than French visitors ever knew who Leon Blum was. (I shocked her even more the next morning when I took a whole mess of fish from our breakfast buffet and fed it to Kfar Blum’s many stray cats.)
A few doors down from my apartment on Boulevard Voltaire there was a convenience store run by a Moroccan family. The father had come to France from North Africa but his sons were all born and raised Frenchmen. They were terribly nice and used to help us (my roommates and me) with our bags and suitcases and such when we returned home from trips. I remember that they loved wearing muscle shirts and showing off their good looks. (Why should youth not be so?) They were terribly sweet and I was grateful for their store because, at the time, it was very difficult to find a grocery store open after 7 p.m. in Paris (not the case now). So I had somewhere to go to buy bottles of wine and Lindt bars.
I keep thinking about that time in my life and about Mustapha Dupont, a Gilbert Becaud song from 1984. I moved to France in the late ‘80s and stayed there nearly five years; long a Becaud fan, I enjoyed that song and its idealism regarding French Muslims, an idealism which one could be forgiven for now considering rather quaint.
Some of the lyrics:
Il est né entre Constantine
C’est un bon Français
Comme toi et moi
Il a vu le jour entre Fez
Durand Mohamed Français cent pour cent
De A… à Z…
Son père est tombé en ’44
En plein mois d’août
Mamadou Abdou il est bien d’chez nous
Comme toi, comme nous
C’est ça la couleur d’ l’ équipe de France
Entre bleu d’outre-mer et d’ Provence
Tu prends un Lillois, Marseillais
Un Rital un peu polonais
C’est rouge orange, jaune, vert, bleu
If you don’t speak French, those lyrics talk about three French Muslims who are all ‘bon Francais’ (good Frenchmen), one of whose father died in World War II fighting (one presumes, given the date of the action and the point of the song) for France. The repeated lyric, at the end, is about the colours of “Team France.” Every colour, says Becaud. Team France is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
I bring this song up because I was at a dinner the other night where someone said that France was basically getting what it deserved – in regards terror attacks — for not having properly integrated Muslims. Um, wtf??? Apart from the victim-blaming of the comment, it simply isn’t true. While there is no question that European countries, in general, are not anywhere as good as we (meaning Canada and the United States) are at integration, the vast majority of French Muslims are just that, integrated and very well so. And while I have no doubt that many French Muslims have had to deal with stupid comments or other forms of ignorance, saying France is getting what it deserves is, well, stupid. As though a natural response to discrimination is to shoot up a restaurant, a magazine, a nightclub, a Kosher supermarket. Further, French Jews experience far more hate-based attacks than any other group (French Jews make up 1% of the population but are the victims of 51% of hate-based attacks in France) and I don’t seem them shooting up innocents.
In short, there is a deeper problem here, a sort of mass pathology, as Paul Berman wrote about so eloquently here.
A couple more useful links here and here, and my own observations when I returned to France in 2014 and 2015, regarding what I viewed as a clear improvement in just how well integrated the French Muslim population had become.
Of course, there are neighbourhoods that are a mess — Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 riots erupted, comes to mind. To some degree this is the result of a “hands-off” approach – a big mistake that comes from cultural relativism, moral equivalency, political correctness…and fear, I imagine. A bad idea by any other name is a bad idea. We in the West have become cowards (I blame Baby Boomers). We are unwilling to protect values that have been centuries in the making, values from which every group could benefit. This is currently playing out in Germany and other parts of Europe. When people won’t integrate or obey the law, there is nothing unreasonable or bigoted about jailing them or deporting them if they are not legal or talking honestly about the problem, rather than trying to hide it for fear of appearing intolerant. Islamism is not Islam and it shouldn’t be difficult to say as much.
I believe such an approach would make life better for those who want to assimilate (and by assimilate, I don’t mean giving up one’s religion or freedom of worship). There is also nothing unreasonable with making sure refugees/immigrants are carefully vetted.
I am an idealist. I see no reason that Becaud’s lyrics can’t reflect reality. And in many ways I think they do.
See here two pictures taken last March, when I was in Paris. The first is a plaque from inside the Grand Mosque of Paris, commemorating Muslim soldiers who died for France in World War II. The second is a plaque honouring a ‘spahi’ – regiments of the French army recruited primarily from the Maghred – who died during the liberation of Paris.
I am trying to age gracefully, largely because I do not have the money to do so any other way. But in a fit of depression about the marionette lines developing from my nose down to my chin (think Angela Merkel, who has a lot more on her mind than I do), I decided to have a consultation with a doctor about getting Juvederm injections. The consultation was free and you did not have to commit to anything, so I figured, “information is good.” I had been told by a friend of mine who has used the product that Juvederm, sold by the syringe, can make a huge difference in one’s appearance and that one syringe, at $500, could soften lines (the effects of which had the added benefit of lasting over 18 months).
What follows is a from-memory (obviously, I didn’t tape the conversation) transcription of my meeting with this doctor, who was an attractive Russian lady with a very no-nonsense way about her.
Doctor Russian Lady: Please to be telling me what you wish for.
Me: Well, I am wondering about using a filler, and I just wanted to know what the least amount of it I could use is, I mean, the least amount that would make a difference and that wouldn’t look freakishly unnatural. I don’t have a lot of money, so I was thinking one syringe maybe and…
DRL: (Frowning, staring at me, pulls out pad and pen and writes a bunch of stuff down. Shows me what she has written, with the number $1900 at the bottom.) First I am using Botox on gigantic wrinkles on gigantic forehead, and then three syringes of Juvederm on deep creases on face. You are having uneven creases, so I will to be using more on left side of face than right. Also you are having jowls, which I will help prop up and then you are needing injections on thin lips.
Me: (Feeling suicidal, having been previously unaware of just how hideous I am.) Well, um, first of all, I really don’t want to look unnatural. I don’t want puffy lips. And I mean, yeah, they’re thin, but you know, I mean, er, I make jokes about having lips like Heinrich Himmler, but I really don’t think I do. Do I?
DRL: Lips are not like lips of Heinrich Himmler or any other person from Third Reich. By the way, my grandfather died at Stalingrad fighting German devils.
Me: Wow. Well, bless him. My uncle, too. I mean, not at Stalingrad, but…
DRL: Yes, was hero in Great Patriotic War. But the reason you are needing fuller lips is that you are having gigantic forehead and face does not look balanced. Fuller lips will balance gigantic forehead.
Me: Well, I just don’t want those fish lips you see on ladies.
DRL: I am not to be giving you fish lips. Full lips. Like Angelina Jolie.
Me: Well, hers are kinda fishy. Anyway, she’s Angelina Jolie. That’s different. And I really don’t think my forehead is gigantic.
DRL: Yes, is enormous. You are looking like Tweety Bird.
Me: (Close to tears, trying to form sentences…)
DRL: (Sensing, finally, that I am upset.) No! No! Gigantic forehead is good thing. When I was student at V.I. Lenin Institute of Neurology for the Great Soviet People, we were being taught that big forehead is meaning big brain.
Me: I don’t know about that.
DRL: But you are just needing some balancing with fuller lips.
Me: Yeah, but you know, I really was just concerned about my marionette creases. I’m starting to look like Angela Merkel.
DRL: (Stares in disbelief.) You are looking nothing like Angela Merkel. Angela Merkel is dumpy German lady with bowl cut.
Me: Right. Well, I’m glad I don’t look like that, I guess, but I just was trying to make a little joke, you know.
DRL: Ah. Is humour?
Me: Yeah. I just was trying to give an example of someone with those marionette lines. I mean, I feel bad saying that because she is way more accomplished than I will ever be, and she certainly has a lot on her plate and…
DRL: Yes, yes. So $1900 you are looking fresh and with full lips and not fish lips and with no wrinkles on gigantic, enormous forehead.
Me: Right. Well, that is a bit out of my price range.
DRL: I can give 10% discount.
Me: I need more like an 80% discount.
DRL: Please to be leaving.
Here’s a fine feral fellow I met in Italy, in April. He did not appreciate my attempts to capture his undeniable beauty, but somehow, I managed.
Ashes to Ashes.
Would really love to hear what the two ladies I wrote about here have to say about the events in Cologne and elsewhere on New Year’s Eve, especially the fact that the Mayor of Cologne blamed the victims.
One of the ladies I described in that piece is quite young and goes to slut walks and such. I would be curious to see how she is going to square the circle of her need to portray the wearing of a niqab as something noble, with her (quite justified) belief that rape victims should not be blamed for what happens to them based on their clothing. I’m sure both she and the other woman about which I wrote will find a way to excuse the perpetrators, because leftists, when stuck choosing between Islamism and women’s rights, generally go for the former, oddly enough.
The attacks happened a year ago today, and people said, “oh well, this will change things. The West will wake up now.” And…nothing has really changed and we have yet to awaken.
Here is the piece I wrote about the attacks and all of the morons in denial who tried to mitigate what happened by crying “shades of grey.”
I mean, I assume it’s over, but one never knows what is around the corner. To what do I refer? To this kind of confusion.
(Is it just me, or is the afore-linked wonderfully Talmudic?)
- Always keep New Year’s resolutions.
- Get up early and get right out of bed and meditate for ten minutes before starting day (but only after coffee). Am already doing that this morning.
- Lose weight. Get more fit. Before this happens:
- Cut down on wine intake, no matter how stressed I am. Find other ways to handle stress, such as herbal tea.
- Do something creative/career-oriented every day, and not just watch old episodes of ’70s TV shows on YouTube.
- Be more patient with other humans and also with myself.
- Be less gutless.
- Be less of a ridiculous person.
- Don’t buy any more lipsticks/lip glosses until have used up all the ones I have, which are myriad.
- Remember I am lucky to be alive and healthy (touch wood).
- Be a better girlfriend to Significant Other, who puts up with me for reasons I will never understand.
- Help as many animals as I can.
- Try to be as vegan as I can.
- Read Finnegans Wake (and don’t put an apostrophe in the title, even though I really want to. Joyce wanted the title that way, and yes, I realize it means something).
- Fight my natural introversion and actually go out sometimes to see friends and family instead of merely maintaining relationship with them over social media.
- Remember that life is just a bowl of cherries. Don’t take it serious. It’s too mysterious:
It is…not, but try to believe it is! Happy 2016, dear readers.
Born on this day in 1449, Lorenzo de Medici, “Il Magnifico.” He wrote — among other things — the following words:
Quant’ e bella giovinezza,
Che si fugge tuttavia!
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’e certezza.
If you know any romance languages, you can probably figure that out, but just in case, it says (more or less), “How beautiful is youth (or how beautiful is it to be young)/which nevertheless disappears (runs away)/Be happy all who wish to be/of tomorrow there is no certainty.”
Basically, “enjoy life while you can.”
I am currently reading this book, from which I am learning a good deal. Tim Parks’ non-fiction are always terrific. (Not saying his novels aren’t terrific, I just haven’t read any of them — yet.)
Update: Ok, I just finished the afore-linked Tim Parks book and it includes his translation of the bit of poetry above. His translation is, obviously, better than mine. Here it is: How fine youth is/Though it flee away/Let he who wishes, enjoy/Nothing’s certain tomorrow.