Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A long tradition of refusing The Other ...

In the final pages of Octave Mirbeau's realistic and explicit masterpiece "Le journal d'une femme de chambre" (1892), the main character watches as a rally walks past the window of her café, to the piercing collective cry of "A bas les métèques!", which we can translate as "Down with the dagoes"!

In a much more frivolous tone, an English work colleague confessed a few weeks ago (May 2015) that she no longer watches the Eurovision song contest, "because of all the countries singing in weird languages".
The author of these lines has many stories to tell, but in this strangely grey late spring day, he remembers particularly two.

A cultural francophile, he had to listen one of his early Parisian acquaintances say that he and his friends "nous détestons les gens internationaux" ("we do not like international people"), which coming from someone whose father was writing a book about Kierkegaard, was a bit odd.

This should have been a warning, but the author persevered in his wanderings throughout this Continent, and after living for 8 years in one of the former Eastern bloc countries, marrying one of its citizens in the process, and learning its official language, he had to smile politely as a work colleague called him "this tourist" while pointing a finger at his no longer young figure.

It is really a problem of education. When education is controlled by national states to perpetuate the myths that hold the nation together, the Other serves for that purpose as well. A national state always has to find enemies. We should not be surprised then if, when those countries unite themselves in a fiction called EU, the long and rich tradition of a multilingual Europe is push aside to give way to compromises around selfish local privileges.

One thinks naively that education's main purpose was to form independent and cultivated human beings, and that exposure to other European cultures in the pre-University school curriculum, outside of elitist schools, should be a major goal of EU bureaucrats and politicians.

Maybe that way the idiots mumbling the words "polish plumber", "Romanian thief" or "Spanish waiter" in every second sentence of the Daily Mail, Bild and similar repositories of hate, would stop. Because where were Chopin, Cioran and Buñuel otherwise born?

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