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1989, l’affaire Salman Rushdie : Quand la France célébrait sa Révolution sous les feux croisés de l’obscurantisme

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations on August 15, 2022 at 1:02 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Après les Etats-Unis en 1976, les Français ont célébré en 1989 le Bicentenaire de la Révolution qui a créé leur république, avec pour traits d’union entre les deux pays le Marquis de la Fayette, «héros des deux mondes» en France comme le deviendrait plus tard Giuseppe Garibaldi en Italie, et le fameux «Ça ira» de Benjamin Franklin, Ministre des Etats-Unis d’Amérique à Paris mais francophone malhabile qui, lorsqu’on lui demandait des nouvelles de son pays, répondait par ces deux seuls mots que les sans-culottes avaient fini par reprendre à leur profit. Mais en France, l’année 1989 fut loin d’être placée sous le seul signe des idéaux de la Révolution française tels que résumés en sa devise officielle – Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Depuis le début des années 1980, la France était régulièrement frappée par le terrorisme lié au conflit israélo-palestinien, comme lorsque fut frappé voici quarante ans ce mois-ci, le 9 août 1982, le restaurant Jo Goldenberg dans le quartier juif de Paris. Depuis les élections municipales de 1983 et dans des proportions sans précédent depuis la Libération, l’extrême droite reprenait pied dans la politique française avec les succès électoraux du Front National, dénoncés ainsi que la complaisance du reste de la classe politique par Louis Chedid dans Anne, ma sœur Anne.

C’était déjà beaucoup, évidemment trop. Mais ce n’était pourtant qu’un début, et bientôt une France déjà en proie à ses propres démons allait se trouver prise au cœur de luttes d’envergure mondiale, luttes qui, bien que jamais vraiment disparues, viennent aujourd’hui se rappeler tragiquement au souvenir non seulement de la France mais du monde entier, avec l’agression de Salman Rushdie le 12 août dans l’État de New York.

La Dernière Tentation du Christ : la Contre-Révolution contre-attaque

Le réalisateur américain Martin Scorsese (C) David Shankbone

En août 1988, le cinéaste américain Martin Scorsese sort son nouveau film, La Dernière Tentation du Christ, d’après un roman de Níkos Kazantzákis. En rupture directe avec les récits bibliques, Scorsese y dépeint un Jésus vivant comme tout mortel, peu soucieux du péché ou de la foi, et qui prend soudainement conscience de sa mission divine puis entame un parcours messianique en s’opposant aux dirigeants mêmes du peuple juif dont il est issu. Devant les caméras de Scorsese, c’est Jésus lui-même qui demande à Judas, son premier adepte, de le dénoncer aux Romains afin d’être arrêté et mourir en martyr. Mais, alors qu’il attend la mort sur sa croix, Jésus se voit offrir le salut par un ange qui vient lui dire qu’il est Fils de Dieu, mais non pas le Messie, et doit vivre en homme normal. Sauvé par l’ange de la crucifixion, Jésus épouse Marie-Madeleine et fonde avec elle une famille heureuse.

A la fin de sa vie, Jésus appelle auprès de lui ses anciens disciples et Judas lui avoue que l’ange qui l’a sauvé était en réalité Satan, dont lui est venue cette «dernière tentation» de vivre en homme ordinaire et non en Messie. Mourant, Jésus rampe jusqu’à la croix dont Satan l’avait jadis extrait, dans une Jérusalem en flammes puisque n’ayant jamais été pacifiée par son enseignement. Il implore Dieu de le replacer sur la croix, afin de pouvoir enfin accomplir sa destinée. Crucifié une nouvelle fois, il sait sa mission menée à bien et meurt.

Cette uchronie religieuse soulève la fureur chez les Chrétiens à travers le monde entier, d’abord chez les Protestants aux Etats-Unis même puis, en France, chez les Catholiques, l’Archevêque de Paris Jean-Marie Lustiger parvenant même à faire plier le Gouvernement socialiste de François Mitterrand qui, d’abord partenaire du film, finit par jeter l’éponge.

A sa sortie en France en septembre, le film réveille un mouvement catholique intégriste que l’on croyait décapité depuis l’excommunication au printemps de Monseigneur Marcel Lefebvre et la mise au ban par le Vatican de sa Fraternité sacerdotale Saint-Pie-X traditionaliste et hostile à Vatican II. En octobre, un cinéma projetant La Dernière Tentation du Christ est incendié dans l’est de la France et, à Metz, la visite du Pape Jean-Paul II donne lieu au retrait du film des salles locales. Bientôt, le film est déprogrammé partout ailleurs ou projeté sous protection policière. Le 23 octobre, un commando catholique intégriste attaque l’Espace Saint-Michel à Paris, dernière salle projetant encore le film, blessant quatorze personnes dont deux grièvement.

En pleine célébration de sa Révolution et de l’Être suprême, divinité laïque sous les auspices de laquelle était adoptée le 26 août 1789 la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, la France découvre que l’esprit vengeur des Chouans de Bretagne et des royalistes de Vendée qui refusaient la fin de la monarchie de droit divin était toujours là, et que, comme leurs ancêtres révolutionnaires, les Français républicains de 1989 allaient devoir y faire face. Et à l’intégrisme catholique menaçant le Bicentenaire allait bientôt s’ajouter l’intégrisme issu des rangs d’une autre religion majeure de France – l’Islam.

Allah et Les Versets sataniques : les «intégristes musulmans» à l’assaut de l’Être suprême

En 1989, la France ne parle pas encore d’islamisme. Ce terme n’apparaît que l’année suivante, lorsque les premières élections libres et multipartites en Algérie voient non pas la victoire courue d’avance du Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), jusqu’alors parti unique, mais du Front islamique du Salut (FIS), parti prônant une application stricte de la loi coranique dans tous les domaines de l’administration et de la vie publique. Pour l’instant, en cette année 1989, la France parle d’intégrisme musulman. Jusqu’à présent, cet intégrisme s’est surtout manifesté à travers le terrorisme, non dans une moindre mesure en lien avec l’Iran comme en témoigne l’affaire Wahid Gordji. Mais la France est sur le point de découvrir que cet intégrisme peut aussi frapper là où elle l’attend le moins, sur un terrain où, ceinte de ses idéaux révolutionnaires, elle se croit inexpugnable. Le terrain de la culture.

Dès 1987, la chanteuse Véronique Sanson envisageait une chanson contre l’intégrisme religieux, racontant l’histoire d’un couple maghrébin se muant en auteurs d’un attentat-suicide par l’explosion d’un camion. Alors qu’elle entend intituler sa chanson Dieu, le chanteur Michel Berger, son ancien compagnon qui produit pour elle l’album devant contenir la chanson, lui suggère de l’intituler Allah en référence à l’extrémisme musulman qui, à travers le monde, s’affirme alors de plus en plus comme une «troisième force» entre les Etats-Unis de Ronald Reagan et l’URSS de Mikhaïl Gorbatchev. C’est ainsi que la chanteuse enregistre Allah, où elle s’en prend directement au Dieu de l’Islam pour les attentats commis en son nom par des fanatiques.

Véronique Sanson

Alors qu’elle s’apprête à donner un concert à l’Olympia, Véronique Sanson reçoit des menaces de mort lui enjoignant de ne pas chanter Allah. Le 14 février 1989, une fatwa est lancée contre elle avec ordre de la tuer. La carrière de la chanson s’arrête là. Mais pas celle de l’extrémisme se réclamant de l’Islam, car bien sûr, Rushdie est le prochain sur la liste.

C’est en septembre 1988 que l’écrivain britannique d’origine indienne, naturalisé américain, publie son quatrième roman, Les Versets sataniques (The Satanic Verses). Les protagonistes, deux artistes indiens vivant en Angleterre contemporaine, se trouvent pris dans un détournement d’avion et, alors que l’appareil explose en plein vol, se voient miraculeusement y survivre puis prendre pour l’un, la personnalité de l’Ange Gabriel et, pour l’autre, celle d’un démon. Ce dernier réussit à ruiner la vie, notamment sentimentale, de son comparse qui le lui pardonne toutefois en bon ange que, selon lui, il est devenu. Tous deux rentrés en Inde, le premier tue sa compagne avant de se suicider, et le second, jusqu’alors brouillé avec son identité indienne ainsi que son propre père, se réconcilie avec les deux et reste vivre dans son Inde natale.

Salman Rushdie

Mais derrière cette histoire de deux Indiens frappés d’une maladie mentale, servant de trame au roman de Rushdie, d’autres parties du roman s’avèrent plus problématiques, du moins pour les Musulmans les plus dogmatiques.

A l’instar de Scorsese mettant en scène un Christ détourné de sa mission salvatrice par un Satan habilement déguisé, Rushdie dépeint Mahomet, le Prophète de l’Islam, adoptant trois divinités païennes de La Mecque en violation du principe islamique du dieu unique, les trois divinités ayant dicté à Mahomet de faux versets du Coran en ayant pris l’apparence d’Allah. Le récit romancé de Rushdie amène ensuite des prostituées de La Mecque à se faire passer pour les épouses du Prophète, puis l’un des compagnons de Mahomet à douter de lui en tant que messager de Dieu et l’accuser d’avoir volontairement réécrit certaines parties du Coran en occultant le verbe divin.

Rushdie poursuit avec le récit, toujours fictif, d’une jeune paysanne indienne affirmant recevoir des révélations de l’Archange Jibreel («Gabriel» en arabe). Elle convainc son village entier d’entreprendre un pèlerinage en marchant jusqu’à La Mecque, affirmant qu’ils pourront tous traverser la mer à pied. Mais les pèlerins disparaissent tous, les témoignages discordant sur leur noyade pure et simple ou leur traversée miraculeuse de la mer comme l’aurait promis l’Archange Jibreel.

Puis Rushdie présente un chef religieux fanatique expatrié, «l’Imam», chef religieux en lequel est aisément reconnaissable l’Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, Guide suprême de la République islamique d’Iran, exilé en France jusqu’à la révolution islamique de 1979.

Après le tollé chez les Chrétiens contre Scorsese, c’est au tour de Rushdie d’enflammer le monde musulman. Au Pakistan, Les Versets sataniques sont interdits et, le 12 février 1989, dix mille personnes manifestent contre lui à Islamabad où le Centre culturel américain et un bureau d’American Express sont mis à sac. L’Inde interdit l’importation de l’ouvrage et des autodafés se font jour en Grande-Bretagne.

En février 1989, c’est au tour de Khomeini d’ajouter à la polémique en édictant une fatwa, littéralement une «opinion juridique», facultative en Islam sunnite mais ayant valeur contraignante chez les Chiites, appelant au meurtre de Rushdie et de ses éditeurs ainsi qu’à faciliter ce meurtre à défaut de le commettre soi-même. En Grande-Bretagne, le Gouvernement conservateur de Margaret Thatcher prend fait et cause pour Rushdie, qu’il place sous protection policière, mais un jeune député travailliste nouvellement élu organise dans sa circonscription une marche pour l’interdiction des Versets sataniques et un ancien leader du Parti conservateur, Norman Tebbit, sans aucun lien personnel avec l’Inde ou l’Islam par ailleurs, condamne et injurie publiquement Rushdie.

Là où Martin Scorsese continue d’aller et venir librement, Véronique Sanson ayant tôt fait de sortir de nouveaux titres et faire oublier Allah, Rushdie se trouve désormais prisonnier d’une alternative qui résume tout son sort – la clandestinité ou la mort.

Héritage humaniste contre héritage de haine

Devenu invisible et introuvable, Rushdie publie en 1995 un nouveau roman, Le dernier soupir du Maure (The Moor’s Last Sigh). Mais, pour avoir perdu en intensité, la menace de Téhéran n’en a pas pour autant disparu. Loin des regards, c’est désormais par procuration que Rushdie continue d’être attaqué.

En 1991, les traducteurs italien et japonais de Rushdie sont assassinés. Deux ans plus tard, un traducteur norvégien des Versets sataniques échappe de peu à une tentative de meurtre par balles puis un traducteur turc manque de succomber à un incendie volontaire qui le visait.

En 1998, l’Iran de Mohammed Khatami, Président se voulant réformiste, annonce la fin de la fatwa contre Rushdie qui, à son tour, abandonne sa vie en clandestinité. Mais en 2006, le conservateur nationaliste Mahmoud Ahmadinejad qui a succédé à Khatami fait marche arrière ; pour lui, une fatwa ne peut être annulée que par la personne qui l’a édictée, et puisque Khomeini est décédé, la fatwa est irréversible. Dix ans plus tard, la prime promise par l’Iran pour le meurtre de Rushdie dépasse les trois millions de dollars, notamment sous l’impulsion des médias iraniens.

Et le 12 août dernier, alors qu’il s’apprête à donner une conférence à la Chautauqua Institution dans l’Etat de New York, Rushdie est poignardé au cou par Hadi Matar, Chiite d’origine libanaise dont les réseaux sociaux grouillent de messages de soutien au régime iranien et d’admiration pour Khomeini. Hospitalisé en urgence, placé sous assistance respiratoire, il est menacé de perdre un œil ; le 14, son agent annonce qu’il se rétablit et respire normalement. En Iran, la presse conservatrice couvre de louanges Hadi Matar qui, ensuite amené devant la justice, plaide non coupable.

En France, d’aucuns convoquent aussitôt le souvenir de l’attentat terroriste du 7 janvier 2015 contre la rédaction de Charlie Hebdo, régulièrement accusé de s’en prendre systématiquement à l’Islam et aux Musulmans, en particulier depuis la publication dans ses colonnes, en 2006, de caricatures de Mahomet parues dans un journal d’extrême droite au Danemark. C’est toutefois après avoir critiqué non l’Islam mais l’islamisme, incarné par le parti tunisien Ennahda et une partie du Conseil national de Transition en Libye, que Charlie Hebdo avait connu en 2011 l’incendie de ses locaux à Paris. Quant à l’attentat ayant décimé sa rédaction, Charlie Hebdo le devait bien à deux terroristes résolus, deux frères membres d’Al-Qaïda en Péninsule Arabique, Cherif et Saïd Kouachi. L’Islam ne tue pas, l’islamisme oui.

Pour les Français, immanquablement, le souvenir de l’attentat contre Charlie Hebdo en appelle un autre, celui de l’assassinat de Samuel Paty, professeur d’histoire-géographie victime d’un autre attentat terroriste à Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, en région parisienne, le 16 octobre 2020 alors que se tenait justement à Paris le procès des auteurs présumés des attentats de janvier 2015 dont celui contre Charlie Hebdo, en dehors des frères Kouachi et d’Amedy Coulibaly qui avait attaqué l’Hyper Cacher de la Porte de Vincennes. Samuel Paty avait été dénoncé par certains élèves musulmans comme ayant utilisé des dessins parodiques de Mahomet parus dans Charlie Hebdo, ce qui avait fait de lui une cible du seul fait de son enseignement, non contre l’Islam mais en faveur de l’esprit critique.

Étrangère à l’univers anglo-saxon de l’Amérique de Scorsese ou de l’Angleterre de Rushdie, la France qui célébrait sa Révolution s’était retrouvée victime collatérale des deux épisodes mais n’en avait pas connu de semblable pour ses propres artistes, notamment pas pour Véronique Sanson contre laquelle la fatwa aura fait long feu. Inspirée par le Bicentenaire de la Révolution, Isabelle Adjani, l’une des actrices françaises les plus en vogue à l’époque, n’en avait pas moins lu à haute voix un extrait des Versets sataniques lors de la cérémonie des Césars en 1988. Malgré tout, la France républicaine avait bien dû se faire une raison, constatant que les idéaux qu’elle célébrait et voulait universels ne l’étaient pas tant qu’elle le croyait et que, dans cet Occident qui regardait de haut un «Tiers Monde» auquel il imputait l’intégrisme religieux comme une conséquence de son sous-développement, ce même intégrisme existait aussi, non du seul fait de migrants musulmans mais aussi de citoyens de lignée locale depuis des siècles, non du seul fait d’un Islam qui, ailleurs, avait pris les armes mais aussi du même catholicisme qui, le dimanche matin, rassemblait les fidèles devant Le Jour du Seigneur sur la télévision d’État.

Triste préfiguration d’un monde qui, en quittant les années 1980 et par miracle la Guerre Froide, (r)entrait successivement dans la guerre «chaude» avec la campagne militaire internationale pour la libération du Koweït envahi en août 1990 par l’Irak, les guerres balkaniques avec camps d’internement et purification ethnique rappelant sombrement la Shoah, le terrorisme généralisé, ici islamique du fait d’Al-Qaïda et ailleurs d’extrême droite comme à Oklahoma City, et l’extrême droite au pouvoir, fût-ce en coalition gouvernementale, comme en Italie.

D’aucuns en France voudraient penser que tous les chemins mènent non à Rome, mais à Paris, et donc que tous les chemins en partent aussi. En 1789, la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen avait bel et bien résonné, pour sa part, loin par-delà les frontières du Royaume de France. Là où les textes constitutionnels américains avaient été scrutés principalement par les ennemis britannique et espagnol de la jeune Amérique indépendante, la proclamation française «en présence de l’Être suprême» avait permis au monde entier de comprendre qu’une nouvelle ère commençait. Deux cents ans plus tard, la fête de ce légitime moment de fierté pour le peuple français lui offrait tout le contraire, l’obscurantisme et la violence venues d’ailleurs convergeant vers Paris pour ternir ce moment de joie et ouvrir la voie à une fin du vingtième siècle qui ne pouvait que laisser craindre le pire.

La Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen adoptée le 26 août 1789 (C) Musée Carnavalet – Paris

Aucun respect du droit sans respect de l’écrit

Et le vingt-et-unième siècle n’a pas manqué de tenir les terribles promesses de son prédécesseur. Pire attentat terroriste de l’histoire en 2001, extrême droite au pouvoir dans deux pays d’Europe et ayant manqué de l’être aussi en France en 2002, invasion de l’Irak cette fois sans mandat international en 2003, tortures de civils dans ce même Irak l’année suivante …  La liste serait bien trop longue. Mais une chose est sûre, ce qui était au vingtième siècle le futur ressemble horriblement à ce qui était vu, à l’époque, comme un passé révolu.

Des écrivains comme Rushdie, tous les pouvoirs tyranniques en ont toujours emprisonné, interdit, torturé voire tué. Dans le contexte individuel de 1989, plus encore en France, Rushdie était devenu le symbole vivant d’un mal nouveau, menaçant un monde où le Mur de Berlin était toujours debout même si l’URSS vaincue en Afghanistan semblait à genoux. Mais avec le nouveau siècle est venue l’expansion de la nouvelle technologie, et avec elle, la possibilité d’être auteur sans plus devoir passer par un journal ou une maison d’édition, avec l’apparition des blogs et, pas toujours pour le meilleur, des réseaux sociaux. Et qui dit nouveaux moyens d’expression dit nouvelle peur pour les régimes répressifs, et avec cette nouvelle peur, de nouveaux motifs de répression. Publié sur papier ou autopublié sur Internet, qu’importe aujourd’hui, vous risquez tout autant de payer cher le moindre de vos mots contre qui veut régner en imposant le silence.

Active au sein du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies, l’Association of World Citizens ne s’est jamais limitée pour autant à cette seule enceinte genevoise, ayant toujours porté la défense des Droits Humains partout où elle le peut.

En Tunisie où, depuis un an, les initiatives du Président Kaïs Saied mettent à mal l’héritage de la Révolution de janvier 2011, le journaliste Salah Attia en a fait les frais pour avoir dénoncé ces dérives autoritaires en direct sur la chaîne Al Jazeera. Jugé sur ce seul fondement par des militaires en uniforme, il s’est retrouvé détenu à la prison de Mornaguia près de Tunis. Dans la Libye voisine qui n’a jamais su trouver sa voie nouvelle depuis la révolte populaire contre Mu’ammar Kadhafi, hélas devenue intervention militaire franco-britannique aux motifs plus qu’incertains, c’est Mansour Atti, journaliste lui aussi, mais également blogueur et dirigeant local du Croissant-Rouge, qui fut enlevé en juin 2021 par un groupe armé réputé proche des Forces armées libyennes.

Toujours en Afrique mais plus au sud, dans la Corne du continent, en Somalie où l’État central ne s’est jamais vraiment reconstitué depuis 1990 et la désagrégation du pays après la fin de la dictature de Mohamed Siad Barré, un journaliste indépendant nommé Kilwe Adan Farah fut arrêté en décembre 2020 dans la région autonome de facto du Puntland où il venait de couvrir une manifestation contre les autorités locales. Jugé lui aussi par un tribunal militaire, il fut condamné à trois ans d’emprisonnement pour avoir «répandu des fausses nouvelles et incité au mépris envers l’État». A ce jour, il purge encore sa peine.

Kilwe Adan Farah

Le terrorisme jihadiste en France et ailleurs l’a prouvé : ce qui menaçait Salman Rushdie n’a jamais disparu, tout au plus changé de forme. Mais aujourd’hui, là où un interdit fanatique peut toujours frapper quelqu’un qui s’exprime par l’écrit, l’interdit peut venir également des forces armées dans un pays cherchant sa voie constitutionnelle et, dans le meilleur des cas, démocratique. Quitte à oser vouloir faire croire qu’un écrit public dénué de toute intention malveillante peut menacer un pays tout entier de ne jamais (re)trouver une vie libre et paisible.

En France, en Grande-Bretagne et aux Etats-Unis, mais bien sûr pas seulement, la loi permet de saisir la justice contre un écrit public et obtenir soit réparation si l’on est visé à titre personnel, soit condamnation pénale dans le cas d’un abus de la liberté d’expression internationalement reconnaissable comme tel, par exemple à travers la jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme. Et ce sera toujours, dans ces trois pays et partout ailleurs dans le monde, une infaillible indication du respect de l’État de droit par opposition à la loi de la jungle ou à celle du talion. Quiconque se reconnaît Citoyen du Monde doit défendre sans faille ces principes, sachant que là où un écrit peut valoir la mort, il n’est aucune responsabilité envers sa communauté locale, a fortiori envers la communauté humaine mondiale, que l’on puisse entendre assumer à moins que ce ne soit, au bout du compte, en vain.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Frantz Fanon: The New Humanism

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Development, Human Rights, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace on July 20, 2022 at 9:42 PM

By René Wadlow

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) whose birth anniversary we mark on July 20, was a French psychologist, writer, and participant in the Algerian struggle for independence (1954-1962). He was born in Martinique, then a French colony which now has the status of a Department of France. The bulk of the population are of African descent, having been brought to the West Indies as slaves. Although the basic culture is French, some in Martinique are interested in African culture, and as in Haiti, there are survivals of African religions, often incorporated into Roman Catholic rites.

In 1940, as France was being occupied by the German forces and a right-wing nationalist government was being created in the resort city of Vichy, sailors favorable to the Vichy government took over the island and created a narrow-nationalist, racist rule. Fanon, then 17, escaped to the nearby British colony of Dominica, and from there joined the Free French Forces led by General De Gaulle. Fanon fought in North Africa and then in the liberation of France.

Once the war over, he received a scholarship to undertake medical and then psychiatry training in Lyon. His doctoral thesis on racism as he had experienced it in the military and then during his medical studies was published in French in 1952 and is translated into English as Black Skin, White Masks.

In 1953, he was named to lead the Psychiatry Department of the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria shortly before the November 1954 start of the war for independence in Algeria. He treated both Algerian victims of torture as well as French soldiers traumatized by having to carry out torture. He considered the struggle for independence as a just cause, and so in 1956 he resigned his position and left for Tunisia where the leadership of the independence movement was located. As a good writer, having already published his thesis followed by a good number of articles in intellectual journals, he was made the editor of the Algerian independence newspaper. There were a number of efforts by the French security services to kill him or to blow up the car in which he was riding. Although wounded a number of times, he survived.

In 1959, the British colony of the Gold Coast was granted independence and took the name of Ghana under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was a pan-African, having participated in a number of pan-African congresses starting in the 1930s. He viewed the independence of the Gold Coast as the first step toward the liberation of all colonies in Africa, to be followed by the creation of African unity in some sort of federation. Ghana attracted a good number of activists of anti-colonial movements. Fanon was sent to Ghana to be the Algerian Independence Movement (Front de Libération Nationale, FLN) ambassador to Ghana and as the contact person toward other independence movements.

From his anti-colonial activity, he wrote his best-known study of colonialism, the mental health problems it caused, and the need for catharsis Les damnés de la terre, translated into English as The Wretched of the Earth. The title comes from the first line of the widely sung revolutionary song L’Internationale. For French readers, there was no need to write the first word of the song which is “Arise” as in “Arise, you Wretched of the Earth” (“Debout, les damnés de la terre”). The meaning of the book in English would have been clearer had it been called Arise, Wretched of the Earth.

Fanon was very ill with leukemia, and Les damnés de la terre was written by dictation to his French-born wife that he had married during his medical studies. He received in the hospital the first copies of his book three days before his death. He had been taken for treatment to a leading hospital just outside Washington, DC by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The role of the CIA in support of, or just infiltrating for information, the Algerian independence movement is still not fully clear. Frantz Fanon was buried in a town in Algeria then held by the independence forces. The 1962 peace agreement with France granting independence followed shortly after his death. Fanon is recalled warmly in Algeria for his part in the independence struggle.

The final four pages of Les damnés de la terre are a vital appeal for a new humanism and for a cosmopolitan world society based on the dignity of each person. For Fanon, there is a need to overcome both resignation and oppression and to begin a new history of humanity.

Note

Two useful biographies of Fanon in English are David Caute, Frantz Fanon (New York: Viking Press, 1970), and Irene Gendzier, Frantz Fanon. A Critical Study (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Antonio Gramsci: A Cultural Base for Positive Action

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Europe, Literature, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:54 PM

By René Wadlow

Antonio Gramsci (January 22, 1891 – April 24, 1937) was an Italian Socialist and then Communist editor who is best known for his notebooks of reflections that he wrote while in prison. (1) Gramsci grew up on the Italian island of Sardinia and saw the poor conditions of the impoverished peasants there. He studied just before the First World War at the University of Turin at a time when industry, especially the Fiat auto company was starting. Gramsci became concerned with the conditions of the new industrial working class. When the First World War started, he was asked to join a new Socialist newspaper that had started in Turin.

Antonio Gramsci

In 1921, in part due to the Russian Revolution, the Italian Communist Party was born. Some of the Socialists, including Gramsci, joined the new party, and Gramsci became an editor of the Communist newspaper. In 1922, he went to Russia as a delegate of the Italian Communist Party to a convention of Communist Parties from different parts of the world.

Also in 1922, Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power and quickly began a crackdown on the Communists and other opposition movements. In 1926, after a failed attempt on Mussolini’s life, there was a massive crackdown on Communists. Although he had nothing to do with the effort to kill Mussolini, but as a Communist deputy to the national Parliament, Gramsci was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His health, which had never been strong, deteriorated in prison. On April 27, 1937 he died, aged 46.

While in prison, he wrote his ideas in notebooks which were censored by the prison authorities. Then the notebooks were passed on to family members. Gramsci had to be careful about how he expressed his ideas. The notebooks were published only after the end of the Second World War and the defeat of the Fascist government. Thus, Gramsci was never able to discuss or clarify his views. Nevertheless, his prison writings have been widely read and discussed.

Benito Mussolini

The concept most associated with Gramsci is the idea of “hegemony”. Hegemony is constructed through a complex series of struggles. Hegemony cannot be constructed once and for all since the balance of social forces on which it rests is continually evolving. Class structures related to the mode of production is obviously one area of struggle – the core of the Marxist approach. However, what is new in Gramsci is his emphasis on the cultural, ideological, and moral dimensions of the struggle for hegemony.

For Gramsci, hegemony cannot be economic alone. There must be a cultural battle to transform the popular mentality. He asks, “How it happens that in all periods, there co-exist many systems and currents of philosophical thought and how these currents are born, how they are diffused and why in the process of diffusion they fracture along certain lines and in certain directions.”

Gramsci was particularly interested in the French Revolution and its follow up. Why were the revolutionary ideas not permanently in power but rather were replaced by those of Napoleon, only to return later? Gramsci put an emphasis on what is called today “the civil society” – all the groups and forces not directly related to government: government administration, the military, the police.  There can be a control of the government, but such control: can be replaced if the civil society’s values and zeitgeist (world view) are not modified in depth. There is a slow evolution of mentalities from one value system to another. For progress to be permanent, one needs to influence and then control those institutions – education, culture, religion, folklore – that create the popular zeitgeist. He was unable to return to the USSR to see how Stalin developed the idea of hegemony.

The intellectual contribution of Gramsci has continued in the work of Edward Said on how the West developed its ideas about the Middle East. (2) Likewise, his influence is strong in India in what are called “subaltern studies” – what those people left out of official histories think. As someone noted, “I believe firmly that the history of ideas is the key to the history of deeds.”

Notes

(1) Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (three volumes) (New York: Columbia University Press); Antonio Gramsci, Prison Letters (London: Pluto Press, 1996)

(2) See Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Pitirim Sorokin: The Renewal of Humanity

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Democracy, Europe, Literature, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:26 PM

By René Wadlow

Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) whose birth anniversary we mark on January 21, was concerned, especially in the period after the Second World War, with the relation between the values and attitudes of the individual and their impact on the wider society. His key study Society, Culture and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics (1947) traced the relations between the development of the personality, the wider cultural values in which the personality was formed, and the structures of the society.

Pitirim Sorokin

The two World Wars convinced him that humanity was in a period of transition, that the guideline of earlier times had broken down and had not yet been replaced by a new set of values and motivations. To bring about real renewal, one had to work at the same time on the individual personality, on cultural values as created by art, literature, education, and on the social framework. One had to work on all three at once, not one after the other as some who hope that inner peace will produce outer peace. In his Reconstruction of Humanity (1948), he stressed the fact that “if we want to raise the moral standards of large populations, we must change correspondingly the mind and behavior of the individuals making up these populations, and their social institutions and their cultures.”

Sorokin was born in a rural area in the north of Russia. Both his parents died when he was young. He had to work in handicraft trades in order to go to the University of St. Petersburg where his intelligence was noted, and he received scholarships to carry out his studies in law and in the then new academic discipline of sociology. After obtaining his doctorate, he was asked to create the first Department of Sociology at the University of St. Petersburg. However, the study of the nature of society was a dangerous undertaking, and he was imprisoned three times by the Tsarist regime.

He was among the social reformers that led to the first phase of the Russian Revolution in 1917. He served as private secretary to Aleksandr Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government and Sorokin was the editor of the government newspaper. When Kerensky was overthrown by Lenin, Sorokin became part of a highly vocal anti-Bolshevik faction, leading to his arrest and condemnation to death in 1923. At the last moment, after a number of his cell mates had been executed, Lenin modified the penalty to exile, and Sorokin left the USSR, never to return. His revolutionary activities are well-described in his autobiography A Long Journey (1963).

Aleksandr Kerensky

He went to the United States and taught at the University of Minnesota (1924-1930) where he carried out important empirical studies on social mobility, especially rural to urban migration. These studies were undertaken at a time when sociology was becoming increasingly recognized as a specific discipline. Sorokin was invited to teach at Harvard University where the Department of Social Ethics was transformed into the Department of Sociology with Sorokin as its head. He continued teaching sociology at Harvard until his retirement in 1955 when the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism was created so that he could continue his research and writing.

Of the three pillars that make up society − personality, culture, and social structure − personality may be the easiest to modify. Therefore, he turned his attention to how a loving or altruistic personality could be developed. He noted that in slightly different terms: love, compassion, sympathy, mercy, benevolence, reverence, Eros, Agape and mutual aid − all affirm supreme love as the highest moral value and its imperatives as the universal and perennial moral commandments. He stressed the fact that an ego-transcending altruistic transformation is not possible without a corresponding change in the structure of one’s ego, values and norms of conduct. Such changes have to be brought about by the individual himself, by his own effortful thinking, meditation, volition and self-analysis. He was strongly attracted to yoga which acted on the body, mind, and spirit.

Sorokin believed that love or compassion must be universal if it were to provide a basis for social reconstruction. Partial love, he said, can be worse than indifference. “If unselfish love does not extend over the whole of mankind, if it is confined within one group − a given family, tribe, nation, race, religious denomination, political party, trade union, caste, social class or any part of humanity − in such an in-group altruism tends to generate an out-group antagonism. And the more intense and exclusive the in-group solidarity of its members, the more unavoidable are the clashes between the group and the rest of humanity.

Sorokin was especially interested in the processes by which societies change cultural orientations, particularly the violent societies he knew, the USSR and the USA. As he wrote renewal “demands a complete change of contemporary mentality, a fundamental transformation of our system of values and the profoundest modification of our conduct toward other men, cultural values and the world at large. All this cannot be achieved without the incessant, strenuous active efforts on the part of every individual.”

Notes

For a biography see: B. V. Johnston, Pitirim A. Sorokin: An Intellectual Biography (University Press of Kansas, 1995)

For an overview of his writings see: Frank Cowell, History, Civilization and Culture: An Introduction to the Historical and Social Philosophy of Pitirim A. Sorokin (Boston: Beacon Press, 1952)

For Sorokin’s late work on the role of altruism see: P. A. Sorokin, The Ways and Power of Love (Boston, Beacon Press, 1954) A new reprint was published by Templeton Press in 2002

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Khalil Gibran: The Forerunner

In Arts, Being a World Citizen, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on January 6, 2021 at 11:06 PM

By René Wadlow

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), the Lebanese poet whose birth anniversary we mark on January 6, was a person who saw signs in advance of later events or trends. The Forerunner is the title of one of his books, though less known than his major work The Prophet. As he wrote, “Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.”

Khalil Gibran

Lebanon is a country rich in legend and Biblical references. It is the traditional birthplace of the god Tanmuz and his sister Ishtar. Tammuz is a god who represents the yearly cycle of growth, decay and revival of life, who annually dies and rises again from the dead – a forerunner of Jesus. Ishtar is a goddess who creates the link between earth and heaven – the forerunner of Mary, mother rather than sister of Jesus, but who plays the same symbolic role. As Gibran wrote “Mother (woman), our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness … I am indebted for all that I call ‘I’ to women, ever since I was an infant. Women opened the wisdom of my eyes and the doors of my spirit. Had it not been for the woman – mother – the woman – sister – and the woman – friend – I would be sleeping among those who seek the tranquility of the world with their snoring.”

To Ishtar, for Gibran, the Great God placed deep within her “discernment to see what cannot be seen … Then the Great God smiled and wept, looked with love boundless and eternal.”

Yet, like Jesus, Gibran was moved by women but never married and was not known to be in a sexual relation with women. Gibran felt that Jesus was his elder brother. The life of the soul, My brother “is surrounded by solitude and isolation. Were it not for this solitude and that isolation, you would not be you, and I would not be me. Were it not for this solitude and isolation, I would imagine that I was speaking when I heard your voice, and when I saw your face, I would imagine myself looking into a mirror.”

For Gibran, Jesus died “that the Kingdom of Heaven might be preached, that man might attain that consciousness of beauty and goodness within himself. He came to make the human heart a temple; the soul an alter, and the mind a priest. And when a storm rises, it is your singing and your praises that I hear.” (1)

Like Jesus, Gibran was at odds with the established conservative institutions, the clergy and the politicians of his day, those concerned to preserve their inherited power and privileges. He sought out of his experience a general critique of society, concentrating on the hypocrisy of its religious institutions, the injustice of its political institutions and the narrow outlook of its ordinary citizens.

However, Gibran saw his role as a poet and not as a prophet. As he wrote “I am a poet am a stranger in this world. I write in verse life’s prose, and in prose life’s verse. Thus, I am a stranger, and will remain a stranger until death snatches me away and carries me to my homeland … Do not despair, for beyond the injustices of this world, beyond matter, beyond the clouds, beyond all things is a power which is all justice, all kindness, all tenderness, all love. Beauty is the stairway to the thrown of a reality that does not wound…Jerusalem proved unable to kill the Nazarene, for he is alive forever; nor could Athens execute Socrates for he is immoral. Nor shall derision prove powerful against those who listen to humanity or those who follow in the footsteps of divinity, for they shall live forever. Forever.”

Notes:

1) See Khalil Gibran. Jesus. The Son of Man (London: Penguin Books, 1993) This is the longest of Gibran’s books. It was first published in 1928. Through the device of imagining what Jesus’ contemporaries who knew him, Gibran portrays Jesus as a multi-faceted being, a mirror of different individuals’ strengths, convictions and weaknesses.

2) The painting that accompanies the article by Khalil Gibran.

3) Also from Rene Wadlow in Ovi magazine:

Khalil Gibran: Spirits Rebellious & Khalil Gibran: The Foundations of Love

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Velimir Khlebnikov (November 9, 1885 – June 28, 1922): The Futurian and World Citizen

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Literature, Poetry, Spirituality, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on November 9, 2020 at 1:02 PM

By René Wadlow

Let Planet Earth be sovereign at last. Planet Earth alone will be our sovereign song.

Velimir Khlebnikov.

Velimir Khlebnikov was a shooting star of Russian culture in the years just prior to the start of the First World War. He was part of a small creative circle of poets, painters and writers who wanted to leave the old behind and to set the stage for the future such as the abstract painter Kazimir Malevich. They called themselves “The Futurians”. They were interested in being avenues for the Spirit which they saw at work in peasent life and in shamans’ visions; however, the Spirit was very lacking in the works of the ruling nobility and commercial elite.

As Charlotte Douglas notes in her study of Khlebnikov “To tune mankind into harmony with the universe – that was Khlebnikov’s vocation. He wanted to make the Planet Earth fit for the future, to free it from the deadly gravitational pull of everyday lying and pretense, from the tyranny of petty human instincts and the slow death of comfort and complacency.” (1)

Khlebnikov wrote “Old ones! You are holding back the fast advance of humanity. You are preventing the boiling locomotive of youth from crossing the mountain that lies in its path. We have broken the locks and see what your freight cars contain: tombstones for the young.”

The Futurian movement as such lasted from 1911 until 1915 when its members were dispersed by the start of the World War, the 1917 revolutions and the civil war. Khlebnikov died in 1922 just as Stalin was consolidating his power. Stalin would put an end to artistic creativity.

The Futurians were concerned that Russia should play a creative role in the world, but they were also world citizens who wanted to create a world-wide network of creative scientists, artists and thinkers who would have a strong impact on world events. As Khlebnikov wrote in his manifesto To the Artists of the World We have long been searching for a program that would act something like a lens capable of focusing the combined rays of the work of the artist and the work of the thinker toward a single point where they might join in a common task and be able to ignite even the cold essence of ice and turn it to a blazing bonfire. Such a program, the lens capable of directing together your fiery courage and the cold intellect of the thinkers has now been discovered.”

The appeal for such a creative, politically relevant network was written in early 1919 when much of the world was starting to recover from World War I. However, Russia was sinking into a destructive civil war. The Futurians were dispersed to many different areas and were never able to create such a network. The vision of a new network is now a challenge that we must meet.

Note

1) Charlotte Douglas (Ed.) The King of Time: Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Khalil Gibran: The Foundations of Love

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Poetry, The Search for Peace on December 18, 2018 at 7:26 AM

By René Wadlow

Life without love is like a tree without blossom and fruit. And love without beauty is like flowers without scent and fruits without seed… For Love is the only flower that grows and blossoms without the aid of seasons… Love is a rose, its heart opens at dawn.”

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) the Lebanese poet, whose birth anniversary we mark on January 6, in many ways represents the deeper spirit of Lebanon though he lived most of his life outside the country: in Paris as an art student and in the USA where he started to write directly in English. His best known book The Prophet was written directly in English.

In “My Birthday”, written in Paris on January 6, 1908 Gibran wrote “Thus have I walked round the sun twenty and five times. And I know not how many times the moon has encircled me. Yet I have not unveiled the secrets of life, neither have I known the hidden things of darkness… Much have I loved in these five and twenty years. And much that I have loved is hateful to people, and much that I have hated is by them admired… I have loved freedom, and my love has grown with the growth of my knowledge of the bondage of people to falsehood and deceit… Love is the only freedom in the world because it so elevates the spirit that the laws of humanity and the phenomena of nature do not alter its course.”

In a vision that was correct, he added in the 1908 birthday essay “And today, today I stand in remembrance as a tired wayfarer who stands mid-way on the ascending road.” He died in 1931 at the age of 48. (1)

For Gibran, Love and Beauty are the foundations of existence. As he wrote in an essay which gave the title to the book “A Tear and a Smile” Then my heart drew near to wisdom, the daughter of Love and Beauty, saying ‘Give me wisdom that I may carry it to humankind’. She answered ‘Say that happiness begins in the holy of holies of the spirit and comes not from without.

A Tear and a Smile sums up well Gibran’s attitude toward life which is always made up of contrasts: light and dark, knowledge and doubt.

How beautiful is life, beloved.
Tis like the heart of a poet,
Full of light and spirit,
How harsh is life, beloved
Tis like an evildoer’s heart
Full of guilt and fear.

In “The Hymn of Man”, nearly a credo of his views, he stresses the ‘both/and’ of contrasts:

I have hearkened to the teachings of Confucius and listened to the wisdom of Brahma, and sat beside the Buddha beneath the tree of knowledge. Behold me now contending with ignorance and unbelieving.

I have borne the harshness of insatiable conquerors, and felt the oppression of tyrants and the bondage of the powerful. Yet I am strong to do the battle with the days.

I was,
And I am.
So shall I be to the end of Time.
For I am without end.

(1) Quotations are from Khalil Gibran A Tear and A Smile. Translated from the Arabic by H.M. Nahmad (London: William Heinemann, 1930)

Painting: Age of Women by Khalil Gibran

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Aimé Césaire (1913 – 2008): A Black Orpheus

In Anticolonialism, Human Rights, Literature on April 7, 2011 at 10:29 PM

AIME CESAIRE (1913 – 2008): A BLACK ORPHEUS

By René Wadlow


My negritude is not a stone,

nor deafness flung out against the clamor

of the day

my negritude is not a white speck of dead water

on the dead eye of the earth

my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral.


Return to My Native Land


On April 6, 2011, Aimé Césaire was honored by the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, at the Pantheon, a monument in Paris where persons who have contributed to French political culture are honored. Aimé Césaire, the Martinique poet and political figure, was a cultural bridge builder between the West Indies, Europe and Africa. A poet, teacher, and political figure, he had been mayor of the capital city, Fort-de-France for 56 years from 1945 to 2001, and a member of the French Parliament without a break from 1945 to 1993 — the French political system allowing a person to be a member of the national parliament and an elected local official at the same time. First elected to Parliament as a member of the Communist Party, he had left the Party in 1956 when he felt that the Communist Party did not put anti-colonialism at the center of its efforts.

The Communist Party’s position was that colonialism would end by itself once the workers had come to power. Césaire went on to form a local political party which existed only in Martinique and was largely his political machine for creating municipal jobs. Césaire faced a massive rural to urban migration on the 400,000 person West Indian department of France. One answer to unemployment was to create municipal posts largely paid for from the central government budget — a ready pool of steady political supporters. Césaire also did much to develop cultural activities from his mayor’s office— encouraging theater, music and handicrafts.

Aimé Césaire’s wider fame was due to his poetry and his plays — all with political implications, but heavily influenced by images from the subconscious. Thus it was that André Breton (1896-1966) writer and ideologue of the Surrealists saw in Césaire a kindred soul and became a champion of Césaire’s writing. Breton had been interested in African art and culture, by its sense of motion, color and myth. Breton often projected his own ideas onto African culture seeing it as spontaneous and mystical when much African art is, in fact, conventional and material. Nevertheless, Breton, who spent some of the Second World War years in Martinique, was able to interest many French writers and painters in African culture. It was Breton who encouraged Jean Paul Sartre to do an early anthology of African and West Indian poetry – Black Orpheus and to write an important introduction stressing the revolutionary character of the poems.

Aimé Césaire’s parents placed high value on education — his father was a civil servant who encouraged his children to read and to take school seriously. Thus Césaire ranked first in his secondary school class and received a scholarship in 1931 to go to France to study at l’Ecole Normale Supérieure — a university-level institution which trains university professors and elite secondary school teachers. He was in the same class with Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal and Leon Damas. They, along with Birago Diop also from Senegal, started a publication in Paris L’étudiant noir (The Black Student) as an expression of African culture. One of Césaire’s styles in poetry was to string together every cliché that the French used when speaking about Africa and turning these largely negative views into complements. Thus he and Senghor took the most commonly used term for Blacks, Nègre, which was not an insult but which incorporated all the clichés about Africans and West Indians and put a positive light upon the term. Thus negritude became the term for a large group of French-speaking Africans and French-speaking West Indians – including Haiti – writers. They stressed the positive aspects of African society but also the pain and agony in the experience of Black people, especially slavery and colonialism.

In 1938, just as he finished his university studies, Césaire took a few weeks’ vacation on the coast of Yugoslavia. There he wrote in a burst of energy his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of the Return to My Native Land), his best known series of poems. In 1939, he returned to Martinique having married another teacher from Martinique who was also trained in Paris. Both started teaching at the major secondary school of Martinique and started being politically active. However, by 1940, Martinique was under the control of the Vichy government of France and political activity was firmly discouraged. Thus Césaire concentrated on his writing. He met André Breton who spent the war years in the USA. Breton encouraged an interest in the history and culture of Haiti. While Haiti is physically close to Martinique, Haitian history and culture is often overlooked — if not looked down upon — in Martinique. Césaire wrote on the Haitian independence leader Toussaint Louverture as a hero, and later a play in 1963 La Tragédie du roi Christophe largely influenced by the early years of the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier.

Aimé Césaire (1913-2008)

With the end of the Second World War, the French Communist Party had one third of the seats in the Parliament of the newly created Fourth Republic. The French Communists were looking for potential candidates from Martinique where the Party was not particularly well structured. They turned to young, educated persons who had a local base. Césaire, with his Paris education and as a popular teacher at the major secondary school fitted that bill. He was elected the same year both to Parliament and to the town hall. When in Paris, he took an active part in cultural life, especially with African students and young intellectuals. In 1947, along with the Senegalese Alioune Diop and Senghor, he founded the journal Présence africaine which later became also a publisher of books and the leading voice of the negritude movement.

As the French Communist Party had a rule of tight party discipline, Césaire played no independent role in the French Parliament until he left the Party in 1956. However, his 1950 Discours sur le Colonialisme, at the same time violent and satiric became the most widely read anti-colonial tract of the times, calling attention to the deep cultural roots of colonial attitudes. After 1956, most of his efforts in Parliament were devoted to socio-economic development for Martinique. His strong anti-colonial efforts were made outside Parliament, especially in the cultural sphere. Nevertheless, as a member of Parliament he could open doors that poets do not usually enter.

Césaire, who read English well, was interested in the writings of Langston Hughes whose poems were close in spirit and style. He translated into French some of the poems of the Negro poet Sterling A. Brown.

In the 1960s, Césaire turned increasingly to writing plays, especially on the history of Haiti, as the earliest independent State of the West Indies. These were verse plays as the actors’ dialogues were nearly poems. As the French African colonies became independent in the 1960s, he stressed that the end of colonialism was not enough but that colonial culture had to be replaced by a new culture, a culture of the universal, a culture of renewal. “It is a universal, rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars that are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all.”

 

René Wadlow is Senior Vice President and Chief Representative to  the United Nations Office in Geneva of the Association of World  Citizens.

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