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Most of my New Year blog posts actually comment in one way or another on how unfit the current situation is to wish for happiness, but this Year, I will take an extra step and actually skip this indecency altogether. It is clear that this Year 2021 will be a miserable, terrible, painful and horrifying one. For many. Maybe for most. Therefore, I present everybody—ourselves—my sorrows and sympathy for the difficult times to come.
Joe Biden has been declared the 46th president of the United States. By the media, but it seems to be accepted now that they are the ones to decide, not the legal system, not the court, nor the state and certainly not the current office which gets silenced 40s into their assessment of the situation.
I am not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
France just sent a writer, Hervé Lalin, known as Hervé Ryssen, to jail for nine months. For his writings.
In the same week, the French president (Macron) made a flamboyant speech in the defense of total freedom of speech in his country with also, simultaneously, all major newspapers launching a common call in defense of freedom of speech, of writing and of drawing. But not for Ryssen. He is behind bars as I write. Of him, I know very little. He seems to be a self-declared antisemite, a racist and has a few theories of his own ranging from incestuous practices of the Jewish people to satanic expression in Holywood's movies. I don't know, really, but now, more than I want to, I feel that I have to.
Easter is an important holiday break for us: that's typically when we make the most interesting and exploratory trip of the year. In 2018, it was badly spoilt by my intestine troubles, for which I had to be hospitalized for a few days, only to be hospitalized, this time for surgery and for about ten weeks, a few months later. This took in its wake the best of this year's holidays which had been craftily prepared for a great narrow-boating trip in south Wales. Last year, we visited Easter Spain, and still have in memory the shock of meeting Albarracín, a place which seems to have not yet heard about the Reconquista. This year we had planned to visit the Portugal which we have neglected, that is, all that lies between the Algarve and Porto, passing by one of my favorite region of Spain, also greatly neglected, Extremadura. But this time, it's not me, it's the World which is sick.
I've been on Twitter since November (2009), which is very late actually (I've been on the Internet since 1993). It was in a time when social media were not yet a big thing. I was very much against facebook (and still am), but someone, now a top editor in a big journal, convinced me to give it all a try. I hated facebook even more after trying it. But I actually came to enjoy Twitter.
And now that some #10YearsChallenge gets trending there, it was a nice occasion to go down through my entire stream. Sadly, Twitter doesn't let you do that. I'm blocked beyond 2014. One can still download one's full dataset, though, which I did, but it comes without any friendly interface to browse them (it used to). In the process, however, I also noticed that I just passed a thousand tweets! No that much given some people would easily write such an amount in a week, and read as much in a day or less. Still, this is agreeable to go down memory lane. This is a selection of a few interesting events that one can still access in my twitter feed.
Something not unique, but quite rare, seems to be happening in France. The country, which once was leading the nations to aspire to new models of civilization nurtured by freedom and human rights, and was inspiring the world towards these universal ideals, later took its turn to join a queue for some sort of political balconing to explore how private and corporate interests could maximally spoil the people's fundamental rights and common good.
The country that once was that of du Guesclin, of Jeanne d'Arc, of Robespierre, of Desaix, of Victor Hugo, of Lamartine, of Bernanos and of de Gaulle, became the country of Pompidou, of Giscard, of Chirac, of Sarkozy and of Hollande, in an observably worsening sequence. Each next president of the French republic was less popular than the previous one. For the latter in the series, the indicators even became qualitative: Sarkozy was the first president not to be re-elected and Hollande was the first to not even try. And then came Macron.
It is unsettling to consciously realize that there is only one unit of human history (a century) that separates us from the great war (!?). I remember the same odd feeling of History suddenly shrinking to a speck of insignificant duration at the occasion of the bicentenary of the French revolution, which was the first of the decisive turning points leading to our contemporary society: the revolution leading to the first war, the first to the second and the second leading us to where we are now (see Jean Dutour for the details of this sequence would this not be evident). The French revolution, however disruptive and terrible it was, still carried at least the illusion of a step forward. It made such a great impression on such a great man as Victor Hugo. With the first war just behind him, Bernanos, the most visionary writer of his time, was already observing that "le visage du monde devenait hideux" (en). After the second, it was plain for everybody to see its traumatic proportions. In this droplet of time that separates us from the first war, three generations of my ancestors have gone. It almost took me out as well.
Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut's masterpiece, and the second book of him I read (after Cat's cradle). I enjoyed it so much I naturally turned to the rest of his work, with the anxiety that the minor pieces would not be up to the famous ones (a problem with every author). Vonnegut is a peculiar writer, with strange sci-fi plots and uncanny characters whose recurrences throughout his work make you feel there is a thread to follow. Reading the synopsis of his works does not really make you crave to read them. The titles, in particular, are, to my taste, extremely poor. Even the book covers are, for some reason, repelling. It looks like every care has been taken by both the author and the people in charge of his marketing to make you flee away. It all changes, however, when you open the book and start reading.
How shocking! Big Ben has gone silent until 2021! That's a recording of our last hearing of it:
Since I have recently worried more than on average (this is a constant preoccupation) on political turmoil, oppression and dictatorship, etc., in the wake of the American political landscape, brexit, and, of course, the French elections, I have put back at the top of my list some old-time classics that I have wanted to read for a long time, plus a political essay/documentary from someone I personally know:
In the French presidential debate , where the liberal discourse was confronting the nationalistic one, but which everybody agrees was of terrible quality, full of unwarranted aggressiveness, insults, belittling of the other, etc., the pathetic Marine Le Pen had one good rhetorical line: "whoever wins the election, a woman will govern France, either me or Mrs. Merkel" (?!).
Our democracies have little left even of the mere appearance of what they proclaim to be. A recent "incident" in Spain provides a neat illustration of the totalitarian regimes that now rule us. Two puppeteers performing for the Carnival in Madrid were detained by the police and jailed without bail for apology of terrorism .
In the two weeks of holidays we have in August this year, I will be reading: