Paul-François Paoli is a journalist and essayist. He recently published At the source of the French identity malaise, values, identity and instinct for collaboration (at the Gunner).
FIGAROVOX.- Colbert Sophie-Germain high school in Thionville will be renamed to take the name of the African-American activist Rosa Parks. What reaction does this inspire you?
Paul-François PAOLI.- It is not so much the fact of choosing a foreign name that is shocking in this case as of renaming an institution whose name, in this case that of Colbert, is known and respected by the entire political class, except a minority of activists who have targeted this name for years because of the famous “Code Noir” enacted under his government. In general, this tendency to rename is one-sided ideologically, which is why we must be very cautious in this matter. Can we imagine tomorrow renaming the Lenin streets that exist in certain suburbs because it created in 1918 the first gulags in the USSR? Do we imagine renaming the streets Maurice Thorez, deserter from the French army in 1939 and who was stripped of his nationality for treason? Or the streets Jacques Duclos, great leader of the PCF which Frédéric Charpier showed in a recent biography (Jacques Duclos, at Tallandier) that he was a Soviet agent all his life? What would our Melenchonist friends and a few others say? To rename is generally an ideological operation. It hurts people unnecessarily. I am not opposed in principle to attributing the name of Rosa Parks to a street or an institution, but why do it at the expense of a prominent figure in our history? The ideological string is too big to go unnoticed.
Known for the arithmetic theorem that bears her name, Sophie Germain was not, however, a divisive character. Should we see demagoguery from local elected officials?
It is especially completely out of place simply because Rosa Parks does not belong to our collective past. The question of racial segregation has never arisen in France. It relates exclusively to the history of the United States. Those who export this question to France, as we have just seen with the Traoré affair, take a very heavy responsibility. The PCF melenchonist who is trying to survive because the French workers have left him has just published a large fresco which represents George Floyd and Adama Traore as if these two stories had a link.
In the USA African-Americans are American and often patriots.
The African-American question has nothing to do with the question of so-called black minorities in France. In the USA African-Americans are American and often patriots. The problem is strictly racial or ethnic. In France many Franco-Africans have dual nationality. They may be at odds with France, which they stigmatize as an old colonial power even though they are claiming equal rights. We must have the courage to question dual nationality and the automatic acquisition of nationality by the law of the soil which allows people, once they have become “French” to sue this country as if we were their debtors .
Renaming high schools is an additional step in erasing memory?
What is terrifying in this story is the fact that the accused and the victims are assigned in advance to a predetermined role by the media. In the Manichaean world of anti-racists, the ideal victim is always black or of African origin. Unluckily, in the Traoré case, some of the police officers who arrested the victim were West Indians. And everyone can see that the street police in France are multiracial. In reality, anti-racists are never able to prove racism because racism is a concept that cannot be grasped objectively.
What defines a people or a community is first of all the feeling of familiarity which it maintains with its country, they are not values.
A person can manifest racist affects without really being it and conversely a person who has “racist” tendencies and who does not have one in terms of an ideology as elastic and multifaceted as anti-racism, can very well hide or disguise a form of aversion to a community as a whole. To debate racism, we must first define its concept. Racism is the affirmation of a natural and original supremacy of a human group which is defined by its “race”. However in France this supremacist vision which has long existed in the Anglo-Saxon world has never imposed itself. The French people are essentially the result of a mixture of Europeans, they have never been a “race”. By exporting to France the race struggle, anti-racists therefore betray their own culture. What is amazing about many of them is this cocktail of ignorance and good humanitarian feelings. Nothing is more dangerous in politics than feelings including hell; as everyone knows, is paved. Nietzsche rightly wrote: “The semi ignoramuses are the most dangerous”. The ideologists of historical guilt have incriminated the history of this country for years as if there was an innocent history. They do not even realize that they are the clones of an ahistoric and American vision of the world with its good guys and its bad guys, its good guys and its bad guys. As for Mélenchon who flatters these movements, he is in an untenable contradiction. Even though he wants to be the hero of Republican Universalism, he supports identity movements which subvert him! It is time to start a serious reflection on this question of Republican Universalism. A people in my opinion exists independently of its values or does not exist. A people is not a party or an association it is a human group which cannot be defined from an idea but is based on an anthropology and a history as well as a geography. This question of identity must be dehistoricized and de ideologized. What defines a people or a community is first of all the feeling of familiarity which it maintains with its country, they are not values. In France between 1940 and 1944 the French were everything: petainists, gaullists, resistanceists or collaborators and for many indifferent and neutral, they nonetheless continued to be French. No one asks Italians, Japanese or Russians what their values are; only the French are asked to do that. The fact is that many people from our former colonies are not familiar with this country. Their relationship is woven with ambivalence and hostility.
Are we ungrateful towards the characters of our history? And has National Education failed somewhere?
Self-hatred is one of the most glaring symptoms of the decline of the West. And in the context of this self-hatred any “victim” as soon as it is of African origin becomes emblematic. France has ceased to be Christian as the historian Guillaume Cuchet wrote, but it does not cease to be guilty. The concept of personal sin has disappeared, but we are all the heirs of historical guilt! And the imaginary victims of this collective fault are the new heroes. An offender like Adama Traore becomes a hero in the deviant worldview of neomoralists.
The pedagogo-demagogues of the National Education bear the responsibility of having fed the noxious worship of the victim.
In With the Kurds what having abandoned them says about us, Patrice Franceschi writes that:In Stoic times we pitied the victims but we did not admire them. Nowadays the victim, being passive, has generally replaced the hero, being active. If the Kurdish combatants have never found real support from European feminist organizations, it is because they have refused to don the victim’s outfit …This says a lot about what we have become! As for the pedagogo-demagogues who have raged for years in the National Education system, they bear the responsibility of having fueled the deleterious worship of the victim. Between the two wars the French school taught African students that their ancestors were the Gauls. This shows that the national novel was not racist but naive and in some respects absurd! The popularization of Bourdieu’s theses played an essential role. The “dominant” and the “dominated” replaced the teachers and the students. From the 1980s the ideology of historical guilt took power. Republican assimilation, implicitly based on the duty of resemblance, has given way to the right to dissimilarity. This speech was carried by SOS Racisme and François Mitterand: “All equal, all different” as the ad will claim. And today teachers are among the first victims of violence and incivility in certain suburbs. Who wants to teach in the northern districts of Marseille? Or in Seine St Denis? In some respects French educational bankruptcy is only the emblematic expression of national bankruptcy.
See also – What are the origins of racialist theses?