Thursday, 2 April 2009

The Ant, the Grasshopper and the Immigrant Cockroaches

France's political incorrectness can sometimes provoke quite sharp intakes of shocked breath. Like the chocolate coated meringues some people still call a "Tete de Nègre" or "Nigger's Head" . Like referring to the children of mixed parents as "métis", or if it is a girl "métisse", which translates as "halfcast". Somehow I cannot see the Golliwog row happening in France. Then again I cannot see an English schoolteacher calling one of her pupils of African origin a "Little Monkey" as la Fille tells me her French teacher did the other day, and not being severely reprimanded for racism at worst and insensitivity at best.

It is true, political correctness can be taken too far, but where is the line to be drawn? I received the following email from one of the Frenchman's friends. At the beginning I laughed. At the end I had stopped. The words: "a gang of immigrant cockroaches" made me feel distinctly uncomfortable even in the context of cultural parody in which all the characters are insects. Thinking I might be overreacting - it has been known - or that I'd misread the nuance, I asked La Belle Belle Fille what she thought. She declared it to be too close to the truth to be funny, but didn't seem particularly shocked. I asked an American friend what she thought. Like me, she laughed at the beginning. At the end she said: "Noooo, that's awful." Maybe it's just one of those Anglo-French cultural things; a sense of humour lost in translation. Here's the mail translated.

THE STORY - ENGLISH VERSION

The ant works hard all through the summer heatwave.
He builds a house and stocks up food for winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is stupid. He laughs, dances and plays around.

Winter comes. The ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper shivers with cold and has neither food nor shelter. He dies of cold.

END OF STORY

THE STORY - FRENCH VERSION

The ant works hard all through the summer heatwave.
He builds a house and stocks up food for winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is stupid. He laughs, dances and plays around.

Winter comes. The ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper shivers with cold. He organises a press conference to demand why the ant has the right to be warm and well fed when others, less fortunate than him, are cold and hungry.

Television stations organise live shows showing the grasshopper shivering with cold and include video clips of the ant in his warm house with a table covered with food. The French are shocked that in such a rich country, a poor grasshopper can be left to suffer while others have so much. Anti-poverty organisations protest in front of the ant's house.

Jounalists run interviews claiming the ant has become rich on the back of the grasshopper. They call on the government to increase the ant's taxes so that he "pays a fair contribution". The unions, the Communist Party, the Revolutionary Communist League, the Gay and Lesbian Pride groups organise sit-ins and protests in front of the ant's house. As a show of solidarity public servants decide to go on strike for 59 minutes every day for an indefinite period.

A famous philosopher writes a book establishing links between the ant and the Nazi torturers at Auschwitz. In response to opinion polls the government rushes through laws on economic equality and anti-discrimination. The ant's taxes are increased and he is fined for not having employed the grasshopper as his assistant. The ant's house is requisitioned by the authorities because the ant doesn't have enough money to pay the fine and increased taxes. The ant emigrates to Switzerland where he contributes to that country's economic wealth.

A television report shows the grasshopper has now become fat. He is in the process of eating what remains of the ant's food even though Spring is still a long way off. Gatherings of artists and left-wing writers are regularly held in the ant's house. The singer Renaud composes a song: "Ant, beat it..."

The ant's former house, now a local authority home for the grasshopper, becomes increasingly run down because the grasshopper does nothing to maintain it. The government is blamed for not providing enough money for the work. An inquiry costing 10 million euros, is set up.

The grasshopper dies of an overdose. The newspapers Libération and Humanité comment on how the government has failed to address seriously the problems of social inequality.

The ant's former house is squatted by a gang of immigrant cockroaches.

The cockroaches deal in drugs and terrorise the local community.

The French government congratulates itself on the multicultural diversity of France.

END OF STORY

8 comments:

Nicol said...

That is so true even for here! We are seeing this sort of thing happening more and more often. Whatever happened to hard work?! I feel now that we are stuck paying for those who refuse to work, who refuse to do anything about their situation. They have the same opportunity as the rest of us. Argh! This really angers me!

Cimon said...

Did you get the 59 minute strike every day for civil servants ?

Well, it is basical right wing. Nothing serious, indeed...

Actually I do not get where you got shocked. The cockroaches ?

Btw, I am really surprised your daughter's teacher used monkey for an African pupil. I mean, stop making the monkey is standard French for stop being stupid, but it does not have racial contain (or at least I do not think).

Metropolitan Mum said...

This is disgusting and just awful. And there is way too much right wing crap in there to be funny at all.

Nota Bene said...

We're far far too pc over in blighty theses days, so there was a little smirk on my face as I read this through. I think the Italians have gained mastery in the art of political incorrectness, which makes the French seem mild indeed

Not Waving but Drowning said...

It made me feel squeemish too.

GG

Grumpy Old Ken said...

The older I get the more I dont know what to think. I dont think things will ever truly change.

Mignon said...

I for one having a business, then selling and now working (in a jail). I feel this story is just about accurate. I hate paying ,serving and taking care of criminals who are stupid and lazy. Wait...maybe they are clever they get food, clothing, madical, med's, dental, TV, and sleep all day , the women get maternity care with special diets and they complain if we forgot a milk.(I bet the guy she killed would like to drink some milk). And I the Ant have to serve and care for them. You got me to rant! Using the "Monkey" term here would get you fired. Unless maybe if you said it as "Stop monkeing around".

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