Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Looking for laicity

I don't know where exactly in France this splendid doorway exists:

The doors might not appear to be open… but maybe it's winter, and visitors merely have to push on a panel marked Entrée to enter, as in the impressive doorways of countless French churches.

Let's talk about the concept of laïcité, subject of the day examined by collaborators of the political party of Nicolas Sarkozy. Let me ask a simple question: If you happened to bump into a laic in the street, would you recognize him/her as a layperson? That, in a nutshell, is the metaphysical problem that besets Sarko's party.

As somebody pointed out recently, looking for laics is much like trying to draw up a list of individuals whose specialty is that they don't collect stamps. Can people be classified according to what they don't do, or don't believe? Simple question: How do we identify ourselves, we global non-accepters of bullshit of all kinds? Maybe we need a recognizable label... but certainly not a party or a club.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy's great assembly on laïcité fizzled out thankfully into a stupendous and forgettable non-event. Fortunately, at the last moment, Sarko was saved (as always) by a happy coincidence.

At the sacred Panthéon in the heart of the Latin Quarter (just across the road from the Lycée Henri IV, where I worked for three years as an English assistant), the president celebrated the introduction of a memorial for the great African poet and politician Aimé Césaire [1913-2008].

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