And I saw there some very sharp words and some bloody ones. The pilot told us that these sometimes returned to the place from which they came, but that place was a slit crop. I saw other terrible words, and none too pleasant ones to look at; and as they melted, we heard:“Hin, hin, hin, his, ticque, torche, lorgne, brededin, brededac, frr, frrr, frrr, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, traccc, trac, trr, trr, trr, trr, trrr, trrrrrr! On, on, on, on, ouououououon! Goth magoth.”I cannot tell you what other barbarous words I heard. And the pilot said that these words were the clash and neighings of horses in a battle-charge. And then we heard other big ones that gave out a sound like the fifes and drums, and others a sound like that of trumpets and clarions. You may believe that we had plenty of sport.I wanted to pickle a few of the throaty words in oil, just as one does snow and ice, between straw; but Pantagruel would not hear of it. He said that it was foolish to preserve something that one never had lack of, but always keep to hand- such as is the case with good throaty words among all good and joyous Pantagruelists. (the final passage Book Four; Rabelais: 621)
Immigrants Partout – 27 February 2016 Pique-Pique on the N165
The grey February sky and the fields flat and bare, littered with shredded plastic and clumpish sea gulls. Not far over the other side of Calais, passed the super stores, the drive by shopping malls, the “OutLet Centre”, is that encampment where thousands of asylum seekers are crammed together in their muddy enclave, waiting. Yet everything still strains for optimism along the road to St Omer, by the canal, where all remains calm and quiet in the early morning light.
I turn back onto a suburban roadway – Rue Strasbourg and then pass a sign for the Park Bleirot – the road is open and another marker rushes by welcoming us to the Porte de Lille. The contrast here between the modern optimistic Europe and the reality, could not be harsher, cruelly exposed now these fantastic monuments to union, as you now drive out of the port – either way now: south to Paris you have to pass the disheveled campsite of the Jungle or onto Boulogne-sur-mer where the rolling fields in front of Sangatte now carved in two by a vast cutting. Here where the TGV crosses and joins the Tunnel to England the grass and earth has been replaced by a network of oversized whitened fences, topped with razor wire and patrolled by gendarmes in menacing vans. It seems to stretch forever, and nothing can prepare you for these fences, this giant enclosure, a brutal cut into the soil of France; a fateful blow to Europe’s much vaunted ‘freedom of movement’. Not long ago the fences and barriers were merely kept hidden away in people’s minds, now they are being made out in the open again, with a feverish intensity. As if all the bile and resentment, long buried, was being resurrected from the deepest most hellish pit of European Fascism. I stop to get a coffee and returning to the car park find I am confronted by a dozen white vans filled with bored looking CRS riot police. It’s deeply frustrating and depressing.
But now, only 24 hour later I am among thousands of expectant people gathering at Le Quatre Nations – waiting for the start of the latest Zad manifestation, this grand resistance against the planned airport at Notre Dames des Landes. And people keep coming, arriving in buses, on bikes and on the backs of tractors, carrying colorful and inventive banners. The sun is pouring over the horizon as we start along the N165. Ten Thousand, Fifteen Thousand, Sixty Thousand, whatever the number this march is going to block the road to Nantes and stop the traffic for a day. Why so? Because of their plans and their technocratic orders – pinching the earth – and it’s certainly been piqued. The ground beneath the thin tarmac literally trembles with a roaring cry as the people beat the central reservation barrier with sticks; this impromptu collected curse on the concrete and asphalt is a terrific roar, extraordinary, speaking through the trodden soil, from beneath this manmade artificial skin,‘this breach of promise earth’ sends its unbroken shiver up, up into the skies, to shake the blades of the police helicopter circling overhead.
I think of how this road now filled with people, abandoned by the traffic, could once again become totally silent, peaceful, where ‘the shy speechless sound of fruit falling from trees’ returned ‘to the silent music/Of the forest, unbroken…’. A different sense of Europe, peacefully sustained by the rich resources of place and intermingling people, working all together.
Here again witness the extraordinary activity in the collective creation of a watch tower in the form of an oversized can – a corrugated grain hopper – made up of a number of prefabricated parts; the whole building operation made in an hour, overseen by the crowd who wait patiently to see the Zadists finally lift the can-like structure into place. Everyone is expectant, willing and ready. Then one final warning cry and the forklift roars, raising the can up and up, impossibly high on its extended hydraulics, so that it can rest on its plinth. The crowd cheering, the tower now stands tall looking out across the road, sentinel to nature, its three pronged legs lightly held into the rich earth, gently vibrate with the weighted tension. If the Zad can do this what more can it achieve… If this is what we can do together then what else might be possible? What else might we make? Other structures, other worlds, entirely other solutions yet to be imagined? On the way back along the silent road, as darkness falls I make out the signs: Refugees Welcome, Nantes- Calais Solidarity, Immigrants Partout. The native and the foreign combine together, richly interlaced, into the new jungle that will surely take root… (counterproductions March 3 2016)
Postscript: Deja vu
“…Since it opened in 1999 (Sangatte) has attracted thousands of would-be asylum seekers, and the people traffickers who exploit their dreams of a new life.
Eurotunnel claimed it stopped some 18,500 refugees trying to smuggle themselves into Britain in the first half of last year alone – some 200 a night – and that the vast majority of them were from the camp.
Sangatte is just half a mile from the entrance to the Channel Tunnel and many of the refugees are prepared to pay traffickers to show them how to breach security measures.
The British government and railway executives have accused France of inadequate policing of their side of the tunnel, while France has pleaded it is unable to cope with the vast numbers of refugees crossing its borders.
Sangatte officially has capacity to house some 600 people, but up to 1,500 refugees use the camp, including Iraqi Kurds, Afghans and Iranians, many of whom live in cramped, squalid conditions.
The centre has flooded in the past, and undercover reporters who have entered the site have also reported overflowing toilets and filthy sinks.
But the French Red Cross insists closing it would not help France’s immigration problems, and would deprive refugees of even the most basic humanitarian assistance. (Guardian Thursday 23 May 2002)
Diatribes and writing for the new millennium
‘barbarism from within’ was a platform for new writing, diatribic rants and communications from South East France. It was divided into 4 sections: Antedotes (anecdotal antidotes to current thinking and prescriptions), Brief Tales (short incidental writing), Briny Customs (commentary, aphorisms and quotations on the current state of Europe’s tribes) and A WalkaWeek (writings on walks made in various regions of Europe). From 2015 the site has expanded into reports form North Atlantic Europe and includes further fragments and incidents including: Novel Fragments
Homeless- A line of clothes in Apt.
In 1931, at the age of nineteen, Camus wrote to a friend, “I shall never be able to live away from Algiers. Never. I shall travel because I want to know the world, but I am convinced that anywhere else I shall always be an exile.” (97; Quoted in Todd p56)
Homeless – this fundamental desire for shelter – and yet is there a fundamental need for a feeling, of belonging somewhere, or is exile preferable?
Exiled, expelled, brought together from outside, from without, from the comfort of a home and yet displaced, uncertain and without a language to communicate – this perpetually misunderstood place, in between selves. The selves that make up each being in, and in between the different being selves.
What is this homeland and should we ever feel completely at home?
You have to make the best of it. The home that you have been given, those clothes that are the being self. Sometimes they are taken from you, violently or without you knowing why, and then you are like a shadow, a really homeless self with nowhere to hide yourselves, from your other selves. A self within the shadows, hiding from the others and from oneself.