La Matrice vous souhaite “Bonne nuit les petits” (The Matrix Wishes You “Good Night Kids”)—Or How the Mass Strikes reflect the French Malaise!
Attention ! Just as with le Petit Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the power of the “imaginary” contes de fée (fairy tales) is capable to identify, and even sometimes explain, what are seemingly the deepest and most complex of les problèmes socio-économiques that affect a human society.
But the “story” that you’re about to read here goes in fact a bit deeper than that.
Perhaps the best way to describe it is the French expression “une histoire à dormir debout.”
Not in the idiomatic sense of a “tall tale”, but rather in the French literal sense, namely “a story of sleeping while you’re standing”…
If you can’t follow ”le lapin blanc” (“the white rabbit”) of Alice au Pays des Merveilles (Alice in Wonderland), then maybe un “Gros Ours” (a “Big Bear”) would be easier to track—or, let’s just say it plainly, ”do the trick“!
The “cult” (!) TV show “Bonne nuit les petits” (“Good Night Kids”) features the “Boss” marchand de sable (Sandman) and his “employee”, the “Big Bear” called “Nounours“
“Au pays des aveugles, le borgne est roi“ (“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”): From the Latin: “In regione caecorum rex est luscus“, Erasmus, Adagia (III, IV, 96)
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If at this point you are unable to see the connection (call it if you want the “French Connection”) between “The Matrix“, the current ”fine mess” of the mass strikes in France, and the marchand de sable (Sandman), the “fictional character“ of a 5-minute TV show widely reputed to have “fashioned” an entire generation of French ”ex-kids” (known today in France as “les Enfants de la Télé“, meaning the “Children of TV”) and literally ”sent them to sleep” every night, then please just— “bear” with us until the end.
Un “Enfant de la Télé”: Still can’t see “the connection”? Just— “bear” with us until the end!
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If not, if you are one to firmly believe that “l’ignorance est une bénédiction” (“Ignorance is a bliss”), and want to keep perfectly intact the unchallenged souvenir of a TV show that has defined your childhood, then by all means, stop reading this “story” at once. Just take la pilule bleue (the blue pill) from la main gauche (the left hand) of Morpheus, and “fais de beaux rêves” (“Sweet Dreams”); Morpheus being of course the name of the famous Greek mythological god of “dreams“—Doing pretty much the same “job” as Monsieur le marchand de sable (Mister Sandman)!
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Out of the Inferno of “la Matrice”; up to the Paradisio of Béatrice !
In the carefully articulated words of the French Morphéus: “Today, millions of French people seem like they are living in an enormous “Matrice nationale” (a “National Matrix”) which they themselves helped fashioning on the ruins of their old village gaulois, yet they don’t appear to fully grasp what is truly happening to them. The country is trapped in the convulsions of a profound crisis.”
But what sort of crisis is it?
(From Astérix et Obélix)
Set in “Armorique” (Today’s Britany), one of the few regions of France known to have resisted the massive “movement of immigration” set by the German Franks fifteen centuries ago. The German Franks would eventually change the identity of all the land they conquered to give it their own name instead— And thus “The Gaule” of the native Celts became known as “Francia” (“Land of the Franks”), after the name of the German newcomers!
Is this crisis, in a way, une crise d’identité nationale (a national identity crisis) that requires a “big debate“, as it is persistently suggested?
Most likely not, since the strikes are obviously so massive that they embrace all kinds of ethnic backgrounds.
What is sure, however, is that a feeling of *malaise* -that’s the keyword here- is virtually emprisonning the French society as a whole.
One symptom -among many others- of this so-called malaise is clealry manifested in the seemingly unending mouvement de grèves (strikes movement) that is crippling the French national economy.
In step with the national Zeitgeist: A True annonce (ad) published in a French newspaper: “For your psychotherapy, call now Philippe MALAISE!”
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This type of generalized feeling of social dissatisfaction is obviously far from being new in France. Just remember the ”existential melancholia” of French authors such as Sartre with his “Nausée“, or “Nausea”, and Camus, who personally faced that same old feeling that “plagued” -so to speak- his own ”Étranger.“)
The “social malaise” that seems to define today’s France has already been remarkably “prefigured” by Sartre’s 1938 ”Nausée” (“Nausea”), and the “non-metropolitan” French writer Albert Camus through his own ”eerie” sensation of being an ”Étranger“ in his own homeland (1942), perfectly echoing the psychological feeling that Freud previously called “das Unheimliche” (the “Un-home-liness”, “Strangeness”, or “Uncanny”)
This deep social unrest has become over the decades so typically “French” in the eyes of the world, and so closely related to the zeitgeist of France, that the French word “malaise” itself made its way into other languages to describe such a phenomenon, even in English!
Mais qu’est-ce que ce sentiment psychologique, au juste ? (But what is this psychological feeling, precisely?), and how can it affect a whole society?
According to the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, this malaise is to be defined in French as “l’inquiétante étrangeté” (“the worrying strangeness.”) A term which is known to the psychologists in English as “The Uncanny“, the equivalent of the German “Unheimliche“, meaning almost literally “the feeling of not being at home.”
That is, the feeling of being a “stranger”—even in one’s own home.
Once again, the shadow of “l’Étranger” of Albert Camus does not seem to be too far away.
In that case, can one conclude that “les Français ne se sentent pas chez eux ?” (“the French don’t feel like at home?”) Is that it?
That in fact sounds just like a slogan that an anti-immigrant right-winger would be only too happy to endorse, claiming that there are so many immigrants that the (“true”) French don’t feel like at home anymore, doesn’t it?
But not so surprisingly, the answer is no. And that is simply because the roots of this French malaise are to be traced several centuries ago, even to la Révolution française and beyond, at which times the social phenomenon of massive immigration was virtually unknown in France—or at least not since the last big movement of immigration occurred in France, which eventually was to give the country its very name, “Francia“: During the invasion of the German Franks fifteen centuries ago!
So much for the tale of the so-called ”Français de souche“, who are therefore originally German by definition, and different from the natives, namely the Celts or “the Gaulois“, such as the Bretons today.
This observation alone should be sufficient to prove that immigration, a fairly recent phenomenon in France, has nothing to do with the much older phenomenon of French malaise.
Surely, la clé (the key) to truly understanding les racines de ce phénomène social et économique (the roots of this social and economic phenomenon) is to be looked up somewhere else.
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Following the trail of ideas of none other than Doktor Sigmund Freud himself, through his own written admission, one can finally discover the exact source where he was able to acquire the concept of the “The Uncanny“: From the rather “eerie” novel of a German author belonging to the “Romantic school”, E.T.A. Hoffmann, by the title of “Le marchand de sable” (“The Sandman.“)
Obviously not as friendly looking as his latest “avatars” in France, this “creepier” marchand de sable (Sandman) is closer to the original one depicted by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822.) Just like le Père Noël (Santa), the “pagan” Celtic or Gaulois Druid-like features of this old man are quite remarkable
All that one has to do to understand this is ouvrir grand ses yeux (Open wide one’s eyes.)
Of course, in order to open them wide, one must not succumb to the temptation of s’endormir (falling asleep)—Especially if this temptation is systematically entertained on a massive scale, in such a seemingly “benign” way that it wouldn’t arouse the suspicion of no one.
That is, in precisely the same way, for example, an “uncanny” marchand de sable (Sandman) would proceed!
- The current mass strikes in France are the obvious symptom of a deep malaise social.
- This social malaise has been identified by Sigmund Freud as “The Uncanny”, or “the feeling of not being at home.”
- Sartre and Camus laregely confirmed this Freudian diagnosis in their works (respectively “The Nausea” and “The Stranger.”)
- The source of Freud’s “Uncanny” is E.T.A. Hoffmann’s work called “The Sandman.”