Thursday, May 31, 2018

Where are you from?

"Where are you from?" 

I am never quite sure how to respond to this question.  

What does the person really want to know (if anything)?

"Do you want to know where I was born?"

"Well, I was born in Blackpool."

"Do you want to know where I live?"
"Do you want to know where I lived?"
"Do you want to know where I work?"
"Do you want to know with which place(s) I identify?"

"Well, I am from Clermont Ferrand."

This was an answer I gave to a man in a queue at the checkout of a hypermarket in France.

My answer clearly did not satisfy him.

"Oh, you're not really from here," he says with spite, "You're a plum (pudding)."

He means rosbif, English...

I have lived in this town for 30 years - longer than anywhere else in my life. 

I could stay another seventy years but to this man and others of his ilk, I will never have the right to say:

"I am from Clermont Ferrand."

Others are less aggressive, they smile when I answer:

"I am from Clermont Ferrand."

They immediately detect that I am "from somewhere else".

"But you're not really French." 
"I can hear a little accent."

The fact that I have French nationality means nothing to them.

"But you're not really French."

I will never be "really French."

"So you're English."

"Well no in terms of passports, I'm British and French."

"Oh...but you're not really French."

The Auvergne, the region in which Clermont Ferrand is located, is not really some.

Alsace and Lorraine, a border territory between France and Germany, has alternately been "French" and "German".

Wars have been fought so that they can say it is "français" or "deutsch".

It is for now "French".

What do people from Reunion island, in the Indian Ocean reply to the question:

"Where are you from?"

"I am from France."
"I am Reunionais."

Who decides what it is to be French?

Who decides what it is to be Auvergnat?

Who decides what it is to be English, British?

What do I answer when I am aware of my heritage with its English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, and Norman origins?

On what criteria shall I be judged "really English"?

I chat with one of my friends from university that I have known for thirty years.

"You're not really English now are you?" he says in a broad Derbyshire accent, "You're more French than English."

Where are you from?

As a child, I lived in a big house, a rectory, as my father was a clergyman. 

When I played in the park and spoke to the other kids, it was clear that I was unlike them.

They gave me dirty looks and chattered between themselves.

I never had a local accent like theirs.

I never sounded like I was from any place in particular.

I remember being able to detect the accent from a small town near Preston in Lancashire.

"That person's from Bamber Bridge," I rightly guessed.

Nobody easily detected where I was from.

I didn't come from a place, I came from a class.

I was marked as "posh"  by some.

I spoke, like many middle class kids, a version of "received prononunciation"

I alternate vowel sounds from the North West and from received pronunciation.

I am not quite one thing or another.

I am not a real anything really.

I am a human...I suppose.

"So where are you really from?"

Talking with a British colleague in France, I immediately determine that he, like me, has been to boarding school, to public school.

"So, where are you from?"
"I am from a class, I am from public school."

Where he or I are from is an irrelevance.

We come from privilege.

Suspect origins, suspect sexuality, suspect intentions.

So, I am in a pub with my family in Yorkshire. 

As we come in, the local people all stop speaking and stare.

We are NOT one of them.

I am reminded of a scene from American Werewolf in London.

An American Werewolf In London - The Pub Scene from Sajeev cheeroth on Vimeo.

I forget the norms of masculinity in Yorkshire, I have, like many French men, a shoulder bag.

"Oh, look he's got a handbag." jeers one of the "real" men at the bar.

How could I have forgotten that having a shoulder bag would make my sexuality appear ambiguous?

"So, where are you from?"

I run through the possible answers in my head.

"I was born in Blackpool."
"I lived for many years in Manchester."
"I identify with the North West of England, Lancashire."
"I am from Clermont Ferrand, in France."

I settle for:

"I was born in Blackpool, but now I live in France."

The men in the bar appear not to be able to get their heads around that.


"Can I buy you a drink." one offers.

I do a quick mental calculation of the number of rounds I will be up for and politely decline.

I am rejecting their challenge, their "hospitality," to be mascot, a token, a guest member of their drinking fraternity.

They go back to speaking about football.

I am irrelevant.

Where are you local?

If I am writing of this now, it is because I am currently studying on a course which concerns intercultural facilitated virtual exchanges.

As preparation for a synchronous video conferencing session, we are asked to watch a TED video entitled:

"Don't ask me where I am from, ask me where I am local."

I decided to annotate the video and tweet it out on Twitter.

I choose a number of friends whose reactions to the video intrigue me.

These people, I know, have lived in a number of different countries, are living in colonised lands or are more rooted, and identify with a land, a  national group.
I wonder how occupation by invaders or colonisers of a territory affects the strength of people's association with populist concepts of "nationality".

In times of mass migration or military invasion, I wonder about "resistance" to "diversity."

"Where are you local?"
"Where are you from?"

What would a coloniser answer to this?

Oh for heaven's sake...

"Why don't we just all go back to where we came from?"

"We're not from here are we?"

How do the colonised feel?

Do indigenous people identify with national myths, national concepts?

Would some indigenous people see any relevance to the question:

"Where are you from?"

How many generations does it take for people to feel a sense of a place being "home".

I think of people in Corsica, in Majorca and other "desirable" territories for "second homes" who are being priced out of the market by wealthy investors who buy up property and let it out on Air B'n'B, ripping out the heart of communities.

What to say of how attachment to land, to culture, to home is being wrenched from families?

I get some more reponses to my tweet.

I think of connection in a time of disconnection.

I wonder who really benefits from Erasmus "Intercultural", "Virtual Exchanges" ?

Indeed, whose interests does "European Union" really serve?
I wonder to whose and what ends academia and its markets are performed?

I think of my lack of attachment to the earth, my lack of manual skill, my dependence on a system...

I am ever so proud of having seeded a lawn.

I never get round to growing food.

I pick up fruit and vegetables in the hypermarket.

"Where are they from?"

"Corsica, Spain, California, South Africa, China, Guyana, Kenya..."

I go and take a tour of IKEA, I go to the cafeteria...
I look at labels on my clothes.

"Where are they from?"

"Vietnam, China, Tunisia, Romania..."

Where they are from is an irrelevance.

I don't care where they are from.

I look at the price.

I don't care about the cost to others.

I am detached from the people, the children perhaps, whose calloused hands made my t shirt.

"Where is it from?"
"Where are you from?"

The t shirt and I are from a system, an exploitative system.

I wonder to what extent our local attachments, our feelings of belonging are under threat.

I wonder who benefits...
Is all that counts not knowing or not caring the answer to the following question:

"Where are from?"

"Where is your/our wealth from?"

"All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned."Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

French Superheroes...

"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That's how it goes
Everybody knows"

Leonard Cohen.

Spider-man went to tea at the Elysée.

Spider-man of Paris to get French citizenship after child-rescue.

One moment, he's a clandestine illegal immigrant from Mali...(that's in Africa)

Then he goes and saves a life on Youtube.

Spider-Man, a superhero.

Now, he's being fêted as a symbol of  "volonté" (will) which Macron (president of France) claims is foundational to "French identity".

Now, he's being employed by the fire-fighters of Paris, to save lives.

Spider-Man, a photo opportunity gift from God, to President Macron.

Members of the Front national, self-proclaimed "protectors" of "French identity" are raging against the announcement that Mamadou Gassama, will be rewarded with French citizenship.

Nicolas Bay (FN) s'oppose à la régularisation du héros Mamadou Gassama, sauf si...

Saving lives means nothing to them.

What will happen to his brother and other partners in precarity?

Nobody knows.

Buses came to gather up "clandestines" "lodged" in tented cities in Paris just this morning.

What will happen to them?

Nobody knows.

Mirage-Man went to tea at the Elysée...often...but now he's dead.

Le mort de Serge Dassault, un grand industriel français.

One moment, he's being sued in court for tax fraud and being threatened with a jail term.

Next moment, he's being fêted by the Elysée.

Death is great for tax-evasion!


Death is great for business!

Rafales, over Mali (that's in Africa).

Rafale M: €79M (flyaway cost, FY2011) The Dassault Rafale (French pronunciation: ​[ʁafal], literally meaning "gust of wind", and "burst of fire" in a more military sense) is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation.

Burst of fire on the ground in Mali.


  • tax evader
  • billionaire arms dealer
  • corrupt politician
  • owner of Le Figaro.

Mirage-Man, a superhero.

Dassault, a symbol of "volonté" (will), of  French "air-superiority" of overseas projection.

The French are in Mali "to help destroy jihadists" aren't they?

Mali... but that's in Africa, isn't it?

Aren't the French in Mali for other business?

Surely not.

Mali : un pays riche en pétrole, en gaz et en mines d’or

Aren't the French in Mali for other business?

Surely not.

"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That's how it goes
Everybody knows"

Leonard Cohen.


Mali: When France ruled West Africa.

France in Mali: The longue durée of imperial blowback

The current crisis in Mali is a product of French colonialism, and their intervention will sadly create more blowback.


I went back and read a post from December 2016 entitled "The end of the world".

I had forgotten that Abba had already educated me on French interests in Mali.

Here is a section from the post:

One of them, Abba, from Bamako, Mali, was busy educating his friends on global politics and colonialism.

"Where do you think the French Nuclear Industry gets its uranium from?" He asked

"There aren't many uranium mines in the Massif Central."

"'What do you think the French army is doing in Mali?"

"Have you heard of Areva?"

"Did you hear that they have found oil in Senegal?"

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Stolen words.





Oh what the hell...

Well, before the call.

A change of rhythm.

"Is that how you write it?"

"Ahem. Are you listening?"

A sound.

We shall never know.

Oh what the hell.

"I may as well..."

"We may as well..."

A sound.

"What was that?"

The sound.

"Are you listening?"

Oh what the hell.

"I may as well..."

"You may as well..."

He never lived to tell.

It stopped.

Oh. What the hell.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Diffusion of responsibility...

What a gorgeous spring day it was for the assembled anonymous flag wavers, people watchers, souvenir hawkers...Her, Him, HRM, George Clooney and I.

We do do it so well, don't we?


Let us pray, stand, or kneel by ceremony.


Heavens they even invited a black gospel choir!


OH! Moving it was.


God save the Queen!

Lime green, behatted, b.well conserved, granny.

What's not to LOVE?

We do do it so well, don't we?


People slept in the streets...

They were moved on.

People slept in the streets.

They stood to cheer.



Let us pray, stand, or kneel, or lie perhaps, by ceremony.

They have updated the brand a bit.

Heavens, they even elected a black president!

Heavens, they even invited a black preacher!

He dared to "touch on civil rights" even!

He dared to speak to POWER!

Of "Power" "Real Power".

“I'm talking about some power, real power, power to change the world ... If you don't believe me there were some old slaves in America's South who explained the power of love."
Curry continued, 
“They sang a spiritual even in the midst of their captivity. It's the one that says there's a balm in Gilead, a healing balm."

He quoted from Saintly Martyred Doctor  King, now relic, now bust, no body, now stood alone, cast bronze in oval office.

Oval offices past and present.

Take a tour.

Is that a portrait of Andrew Jackson smirking?

Let us trot out a dream.


He gave us LOVE.

He gave us hope?

Real hope?
False hope?

We have LOVE that will change the world.



Yes, the Rev Michael Curry could almost make me a believer.


Her, veteran of suits series, in Givenchy.

Him, veteran of uniform series,  in Afghanistan.

What the hell was he doing in Afghanistan?

What the hell was she doing in America?





"There is no PLAN ET B"
Emanuel Macron.


Changed to black tie, white dress.

 Changed from gas-guzzling Rolls to grey-horse-drawn carriage to "a zero-emissions, battery-electric-powered version of the 1968 model with LED headlights"Jaguar

Doesn't it make you feel all fuzzy, dozy and content?



“What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment and death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose.” 

― Thomas JeffersonLetters of Thomas Jefferson

"After over 200 years of rumors and controversy, Thomas Jefferson’s historic home at Monticello is giving Sally Hemings, the slave with whom Jefferson likely fathered at least six children with, a room of her own, reports Michael Cottman at NBC News."

"...small, windowless room is 14 feet, 8 inches wide and 13 feet long"

Diffusion of responsibility.

They've cut the number of classes per term.

Oh you know "budget cuts."

Nothing to do.

Oh, you know "we (the university) do(es)n't have any money."

"So what that means is you will have 20% less time to cram in all those hours."

She was already stretched to the limit, people on yearly contracts do 30% more teaching hours.

On a spreadsheet, nobody can hear her scream.

The accountant is relieved.

The director is relieved.

She is screaming.

I am blogging.

Blogging on, banging on...doing nothing.

I am reminded of a blog post of Jesse Stommel.

In  a blog post, nobody can hear her weep.

Writing, singing, movies, social media diffuse emotional proximity.

We can feel moved.

We can relate...vicariously.

We can nod (off).

Diffusion of responsibility.

Don't speak out.

Don't act up.

I mean we are all so busy.

I mean we are all so scared.

I mean we are all so fortunate...

Well some of us.

Aren't they beautiful?

What a gorgeous spring day it was for the assembled flag wavers, people watchers, souvenir hawkers, Her, Him, HRM, George Clooney and I.

Count your blessings.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or should it be 5, 4, 3, 2, 1?

I mean it's all about cost.

To them, certainly.

To us?

5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Shh... count your blessings.

Diffusion of responsibility.

Shall we sing songs of slaves?

"Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then has not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" 

Jeremiah 8:22

Shall we swallow talk of "love" whole (and do nothing)?

"I'm talking about some power, real power, power to change the world ... If you don't believe me there were some old slaves in America's South who explained the power of love."

Dr Stephen Curry gave us songs of captive slaves?

Why wasn't he speaking of slave rebellions which freed them?

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.” 
― Thomas JeffersonLetters of Thomas Jefferson

Didn't King speak of that struggle, that suffering?

"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive."

Diffusion of responsibility.

Corridors of power are long.

Whose doors do we knock on to speak to the management?

"Take me to your leader!"

"According to Hesiod, the Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.[3] It possessed many heads, the exact number of which varies according to the source. Later versions of the Hydra story add a regeneration feature to the monster: for every head chopped off, the Hydra would regrow a couple of heads.[4]
The Hydra had poisonous breath and blood so virulent that even its scent was deadly.[5]

Whose streets do we barricade when the highways are virtual?

Whose (virtual) walls are we banging our heads against?

Blogging on, banging on...doing nothing.


Diffusion of responsibility.

What to do when responsibility is diffuse?

What to do when responsibility is distributed?

Where is Google or Facebook based?

In Ireland?

In Luxembourg?

In Gilead?

Where is the capital?

Bei Jing?
Wall Street?


And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of god
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Diffusion of responsibility.

What of King's "dreams"... on Youtube?

Oh yes, part of the curriculum now.

He's safe now he's bust in bronze and gone into scripture for royalty.

What of crowds of anonymous marchers at the capitol?

What is the "power of love" without the power of rebellion?

Count your blessings.
Count those sheep.
Count those years you spend asleep.

May your dreams be sweet.
Some have dreams of release.

Here I am banging on, blogging on, doing nothing.

Count your blessings.
Count those sheep.
Count those years you spend asleep.

May your dreams be sweet.
Some have dreams of freedom.

There is no freedom without struggle.

Hope, it's theirs...

He waves a banner.

Hope, it's the right one.

Touches of sense...

5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

He snores.


Diffusion of responsibility[1] is a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present. Considered a form of attribution, the individual assumes that others either are responsible for taking action or have already done so.[2] Assumption of responsibility tends to decrease when the potential helping group is larger, resulting in little aiding behavior demonstrated by the bystander(s).[3] Causes range from psychological effects of anonymity to differences in gender. Implication of behaviors related to diffusion of responsibility can be threatening as there have been increases in moral disengagement and helping behavior. The infamous rape case of Kitty Genovese and increased murders in WWII can be attributed to diffusion of responsibility

Diffusion of responsibility

In addition, diffusion of responsibility is more likely to occur under conditions of anonymity. In prosocial situations, individuals are less likely to intervene when they do not know the victim personally. Instead, they believe that someone who has a relationship with the victim will assist. In antisocial situations, negative behaviors are more likely to be carried out when the person is in a group of similarly motivated individuals. The behavior is driven by the deindividuating effects of group membership and the diffusion of feelings of personal responsibility for the consequences.[6] As part of this process, individuals become less self-aware and feel an increased sense of anonymity. As a result, they are less likely to feel responsible for any antisocial behavior performed by their group. Diffusion of responsibility is also a causal factor governing much crowd behavior, as well as risk-taking in groups

Post Script

"When we cheer the royals, democracy suffers."

Friday, May 18, 2018

Nothing matters.

Nothing seemed to matter any more.

She said nothing, she looked at him.

She said nothing, she looked at him.

She said nothing, she looked at him.

Nothing seemed to connect.

"What I mean is...." 

"That's yours isn't it?" 

There was no answer.

Nothing else followed.

None of it made any sense.

"What I mean is...." 

"I just wanted to say..." 

He took a step, he was gone. 

"Nothing matters."

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

verb: flicker; 3rd person present: flickers; past tense: flickered; past participle: flickered; gerund or present participle: flickering
  1. 1.
    (of light or a source of light) shine unsteadily; vary rapidly in brightness.

    "the interior lights flickered, and came on"

    antonyms:burn steadily
    • (of a flame) burn fitfully, alternately flaring up and dying down.

      "the candle flickered again"
    • (of an emotion) be felt or shown briefly or faintly.

      "amusement flickered briefly in his eyes"
  2. 2.
    make small, quick movements.

    "her eyelids flickered"

    synonyms:flutterquivervibratetremblewobbleshivershudderspasmjerktwitchbatflapwinkblink, open and shut; More
    • (of someone's eyes) move quickly in a particular direction in order to look at something.

      "her alert hazel eyes flickered around the room"
noun: flicker; plural noun: flickers
  1. 1.
    an unsteady movement of a flame or light causing rapid variations in brightness.

    "the flicker of a candle flame caught our eyes"
    • fluctuations in the brightness of a film or television image such as occur when the number of frames per second is too small for persistence of vision.
  2. 2.
    a tiny movement.

    "the flicker of an eyelid"
    • a brief feeling or indication of emotion.

      "a flicker of a smile passed across her face"
Old English flicorianflycerian ‘to flutter’, probably of Germanic origin and related to Low German flickern and Dutch flikkeren .
  1. an American woodpecker that often feeds on ants on the ground.
Translate flicker to
Use over time for: flicker
pronoun: nothing; plural noun: nothings
  1. 1.
    not anything; no single thing.

    "I said nothing"

    synonyms:not a thing, not a single thing, not anything, nothing at all, nilzeroMore
    • something of no importance or concern.

      "‘What are you laughing at?’ ‘Oh, nothing, sir’"

      synonyms:a matter of no importance/consequence, a trifling matter, a trifle, a piece of trivia, a (mere) bagatelle; More

    • (in calculations) no amount; nought.
      synonyms:zeronought, 0; More
adjective: nothing
  1. 1.
    having no prospect of progress; of no value.

    "he had a series of nothing jobs"
adverb: nothing
  1. 1.
    not at all.

    "a man who cared nothing for her"
    • NORTH AMERICANinformal
      used to contradict something emphatically.

      "‘This is a surprise.’ ‘Surprise nothing.’"
Old English nān thing (see nothing).
Translate nothing to
Use over time for: nothing
A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.

A nothing flickers.