No amount of discussion, argument or counter argument would bring the two sides closer.
Rational debate gave way to emotional outbursts and hurt feelings.
There was no way forward.
They agreed to stop the discussion, to change the subject and accept mutual misunderstanding, their differences.
I've been thinking about the question of "inclusion" over the past few days.
This is particularly topical for me as I have started the process to apply for French nationality.
I have lived in France longer than the time I spent in the country of my birth - The UK - but as a European citizen I never felt the need to change national status.
As a result of the Brexit vote, I , like so many others, have been spurred on to put in the necessary paperwork to take the nationality of our residence.
As a distant observer of the Brexit referendum, I was saddened but not surprised to see the strength of feeling against "Europe".
For years, "Europe" had been experienced by a cosmopolitan elite as something positive.
For others, some my friends, "inclusion" in European Union was felt more as an intrusion.
Returning to the UK, year, after year, I have witnessed dramatic transformations to the country that I grew up in.
The marketisation and corporatization of everything and everybody from museums, to football stadiums to highways, to education, the predominance of finance and the City of London, the growing gap between derelict midland and northern town centres and shiny metropolitan centres.
I no longer feel the same attachment to this country.
I feel an attachment to what was. I feel alienation.
I suppose such feelings are shared by those who voted for Brexit.
I felt much readier to be included as a citizen of the French Republic.
I have become much more aware that my own lack of attachment to place that roots some of my friends is indicative of the class into which I was born.
We were brought up with stories of adventure, of explorers...empire.
We were snatched away from our families at an early age to be brought up in boarding school.
We have that mutilated 'emotional detachment'.
I was forever more immigrant than resident.
I rather envied the rootedness of some of my friends.
As a son of a middle class clergyman in a working class town I was, I suppose, coloniser.
I was to borrow a term of Sean Michael Morris, "troubled" , a "troubled coloniser."
As an English as a foreign language teacher, I am it would seem a "troubled coloniser."
Why, after all, should French students be compelled to learn English?
What is this "European project" which demands that we learn English?
Whose interests does this language, this project, this education serve?
Finding our tribes
Living a fair amount of time online, I have wondered about this sense of belonging.
Whose interests are served by "living a fair amount of time online"?
I have wondered about this demand that students should be "digitally literate."
I have heard many people talk of "finding my tribe".
Might "finding our tribe" online be an escape from a reality within which we must concentrate our energy?
I have, I suppose been drawn to those progressive educators who would constitute "my tribe".
I don't work exclusively with my tribe...
I suppose my identity as "outsider" is stronger than any sense of belonging.
I worry about "echo chambers".
I worry about always meeting people with whom I agree with.
On the other hand, how do we deal with people with whom there is profound disagreement?
Is walking away the only answer?
On becoming "français"
I return to my demand for French nationality.
There is a battle in France as to what constitutes "French national identity."
There are those who would use the concept of "laicism" or rather the "laic state" to deny liberty to some that they would rather stigmatise.
Having spent some of the summer on the Côte d'Azur, I can say that there is tension, and underlying hysteria which threatens peaceful co-existence of diverse communities.
There is underlying racism, which is not so underlying anymore.
When speaking with one person about the Nice attack, I was shocked by his reaction.
"Somebody should bomb a mosque that would shut them up. I tell you that is the solution."
"Don't you think that is precisely what the bombers are looking for?" I asked
I shouldn't have been surprised, the National Front have extremely strong support in the south (and the North.)
It is similar to the alienation of people in areas of the North and the Midlands in the UK who voted for Brexit.
It is no doubt similar to the success of Trump in the rust belt of the USA.
What should be our reaction to irreconcilable differences?
Should we even bother discussion with racists?
What of those who feel uncomfortable with LGBT rights?
Should we retreat into our "tribes"?
How rigid should be our "tribes" boundaries?
How far can we reach out?
Recent events in Cannes, where the mayor has forbidden burkinis on the beach, claiming that such clothes were associated with those worn by terrorists!
It is a measure to maintain the peace during a "state of emergency".
Such a claim found some resonance in Corsica where a violent conflict between communities resulted in this same measure to "keep the peace."
I would argue that the action of the mayor of Cannes is arguably illegal« Plages laïques » : la mairie de Cannes interdit le burkini sur ses plages ! | Le Libre Penseur https://t.co/HIHvVzhURs— Simon Ensor (@sensor63) August 16, 2016
It does nothing to reduce tension, it only serves to increase it in associating a whole religion with the violent action of a small number.Interdire le Burkini, est-ce légal ? - La Croix https://t.co/PclbdmiGvH— Simon Ensor (@sensor63) August 16, 2016
It amounts to being a populist provocation which further threatens peace within communities, and the safety of people.
It is a misuse of power which uses ignorance, which uses intolerance to build political capital.
It this misuse of power which is rife in the US, the UK, France, Greece, and elsewhere.
It takes us back to the politics of the 30's...
We are indeed "Taken Back."
As in post-Brexit Britain it opens the door to racist mob-violence.
It is hardly a means to establish dialogue.
It does certainly not respect the principles of the French Republic to which I am applying for citizenship.
Those principles are clear.
People are free to do what doesn't harm the freedom of others.
«La liberté consiste à pouvoir faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas à autrui : ainsi, l’exercice des droits naturels de chaque homme n’a de bornes que celles qui assurent aux autres membres de la société la jouissance de ces même droits.»
There has it seems been a drift away from these principles as regards how people dress...
It protects the freedom of its citizens regardless of their origins to follow the religion of their choice.Laïcité et signes religieux en France : que dit la loi ? https://t.co/lLDWhOOCMz— Simon Ensor (@sensor63) August 16, 2016
«La République assure la liberté de consciente et elle garantit la liberté de culte.»
«Nous sommes tous égaux devant la loi sans distinction d’origine ou de religion.»
It protects the freedom of speech.
«La libre communication des pensées et des opinions est un des droits le plus précieux de l’homme : tout citoyen peut donc parler, écrire et imprimer librement, sauf à répondre de l’abus de cette liberté dans les cas déterminés par la loi.»
I return to the question of irreconcilable difference.
The image which illustrates this post depicts St Batholomew's day massacre in France.
Between 5,000 and 30,000 protestants were massacred by mobs of Catholics.
The problem of religious violence is one of the reasons why the French republic is based on an idea of separation between state and religion. This is the grounding for laicism in the constitution.
It is a community's response to the question of how to live with "irreconcilable differences".
I am wondering aloud here about the difficulty of accepting our differences.
I remember the differences which tear away at community ties online.
I am beginning to think that this is our most important work.
How can we respectfully stretch our "inclusion" so as not to deny basic fundamental human rights?
How do we maintain a sense of belonging without denying that others different to us live with us?
I was reading Kate Bowles excellent post "Us/not us" and fell upon a comment of Alan Levine.
"It seems to be a paradox in almost any community. No matter how open, welcoming, hospitable you think you are, unless you discard every shred of what we are familiar with in being part of a group, it’s going to be inhospitable to people."
On arriving in France, I felt immediately not at home.
On living in France, I have come to value the strong sense of what many have been brought up to have pride in: La République.
I have become, perhaps, more French than British (whatever that is).
It is, I suppose La République is an experiment in living with "irreconcilable differences".
What is important is that it is considered as an ongoing, living, discussion as to how best to develop a sense of adherence to a project which respects diversity rather than denies its existence.
What is essential is that we don't deny our differences but attempt to work with them or around them - even, or perhaps especially, those differences that are irreconcilable.