FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Helpless in Paris

by GUI ROCHAT

Paris.

I recently stayed for ten days in a tiny studio apartment in Montmartre, one of the tourist destinations in the City of Paris. It was located at the bottom of the steps running up to the church of the Sacre Coeur, a landmark visible from most of the streets of Paris. The nearest subway station or Metro was that of Chateau Rouge on the number 4 line to the Porte de Clignancourt.

The steps out of the Metro station are steep and constantly used by subway travelers for reaching the Gare du Nord railway station, a hub for trains to and from Northern Europe and the U.K. There was some refuse on the steps because at the exit were vegetable stalls and the usual small sandwich shops, frequented by a mass of Africans that had settled legally or not in that part of Paris.

The small street leading off the Metro station was chock-a-bloc with covered vegetable stands supplying people of all sorts, with shoppers, sellers and those who offered Metro tickets at a reduced price

African immigrants were seated on the sidewalks, crouching under sodden blankets in the intermittent ice-cold rain, their faces impassive masks. Most of them were women clad in burnouses and each of them had an upturned cookie tin in front of her displaying pieces of some kind of fruit or a half-wilted vegetable.

African men were standing behind a contraption made of an upturned cookie tin mounted on a stick on which they displayed very black roasted peanuts in a small heap in the hope that for a few centimes or even an euro they would find a customer.

The poverty and the obvious hopelessness of this scene were suppurating like an open wound that even personal charity could not cauterize. I felt like a sleek animal surveying what my fellow predators would ultimately devour.

In contrast to the perky French rationalist cynicism or the loud assertiveness of the New World, the speech of the Africans was very soft and modulated and remarkably sentient and their body language of an almost indolent sensuality. How could such a downtrodden people find elegance in their miserable existence?

Is it their relentless societal exclusion, which saves them from the dire alienations of the capitalist system? We are far here from the idealist myth of Rousseau with its images of the noble savage. Poverty in capitalist society breeds a violent lateral competitiveness, which the quiet of this Paris locale appeared entirely to abrogate.

In our sad capitalist system personal justifications of one’s needs are expressed in total denial of other human beings and of animals and nature. This atomization makes us all competing consumers and facilitators of an irrational structure that dispels all human solidarity.

George Orwell wrote correctly: ‘We are told that it is only people’s objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance’, thereby exposing the absurd postulate which truly denigrates our humanity. While Orwell was already lambasting what he saw as a form of Communist totalitarianism, and the supposedly “cold” tenets of Marxism, in reality the atomization occurs in capitalist societies, and it is true that for the purposes of historical analysis what ultimately matters is the role that human beings play objectively.

It is that emotional indifference leading to a sickness unto spiritual death, paraphrasing Kierkegaard that allows for the outrageous dissimulations and the violence perpetrated by our Western rulers. The lack of indignation about this state of affairs in the world is the result of a deceptive, fatuous and depressing capitalist dictum that ‘there is no alternative’ (Thatcher)

Unless we radically change this malaise in our own minds, we remain the perpetrators as well as the dupes of an unjust society formed by a system that growing and metastasizing by the minute may well destroy our lives and the earth. The ‘inconsequential’ forgotten poor will be left to inherit a scorched world.

Gui Rochat is an art dealer and consultant, specializing in in seventeenth and eighteenth century French paintings and drawings. He lives in New York.

Gui Rochat is an art dealer and consultant, specializing in in seventeenth and eighteenth century French paintings and drawings. He lives in New York.

More articles by:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail