…when madmen lead the blind”

By a really strange coincidence, I happened to see three times last week King Lear from which this quotation has been taken.

And indeed, never has it seemed more appropriate and the whole play which I saw twice in a slightly abridged version in Geneva in a really clever stage direction by Hervé Loichemol at Comédie de Genève and in its full and absolutely breath-taking majesty with the incomparable Klaus-Maria Brandauer. LEAR 1 lear 2lear23


Our world at present is a gigantic King Lear. We try to see some sense in an amazing madness. How can one explain otherwise the short term decisions of countries favouring war lords at some stage to play them against other ones…which ends up in the amazing mess we see at present?

As as sociolinguist, I have always favored communicative skills and really wonder why we communicate so much to so few. I discovered how great Facebook was when you know how to use it and share your perspectives. I share this blog with the groups I founded Sociolinguists on Facebook and Académie Sans Frontières. Both of course reflect my perspective and have taught me to listen to the others’ values…I welcome their feedback and yours, my dear and surprising readers from all over the world!

Can someone explain to me why at a time when I satellites can count our sneeAfrica-Problemszes, planes can vanish into thin air and ISIS can take control of gas power enabling it to massacre entire populations in almost total silence?

Why do most Africans accept the nepotism and bribery that rule their countries more surely than any decent democracy?

Why do the US State of Gorgia still admits today barbaric lethal killings, no matter whether the latter might be mentally weak or not?

Why does Israel accept to confront the whole world in search of a Greater Israel that really sounds like a King Lear led by religious zealots taking into hostage a large part of the Israeli army and taxpayers money?

Why do young French people believe silly Dieudonné Youtube antisemitism as a rule of some crazy God…

How can people favour one of their origins out of all of them in our cosmopolitan world? 


I could go on and on about our lack or lost sense of democracy, social and moral values but it’s not my way to look at things, so let me share with you some stories that might perhaps help seeing life a bit differently.

I will start with my own classes as I teach various age groups in Geneva including a class of young students (aged 14 to 16) which are considered problematic cases in a school which is meant to give a second chance to kids who couldn’t make it into mainstream public education.

In the aftermaths of the Paris massacres, our school library organized an exhibition around human rights, Charlie Hebdo and freedom of press. Initially, my students, who were asked to simply note what they saw then make a drawing, focused on blaming Israel for having a responsibility towards the Palestinians which explained, according to them, the hatred they generated. They also kept focusing on the fact that one shouldn’t insult someone else’s revered prophet.images (2)

Then we discussed the fact that the people who were killed were simply buying products in a kosher supermarket or drawing simple cartoons and had a discussion which concluded on the immorality of the killer gang and their utmost stupidity. One of my Bosnian student actually was instrumental in telling his fellow-students (none of which were muslims apart from him) that these killers were mad and that his parents “forbade him to attend Mosque in Geneva because the preachers are totally mad extremists”. In the end, I realized how important it is to actually talk to the students, not only about the topic we are paid to teach, but about life in general. They understood the difference between a drawing on a religion and an appeal to hatred or racism.


The other example of how much these students are respectful happened in my friend Dominique’s class. She discovered by accident that one of her students had a grandfather who was a holocaust surviver. She invited the gentleman to address her class and the session was supposed to be two hours long. As I was myself teaching at that time, I had promised to come right at the end to say hello.

I discovered, however, that the conversation between the old man and the class was still going on vividly although the bell meant to “liberate” them had long since rang. Usually, five minutes before the bell rings, our students start moving and getting fidgetty…well in that case I witnessed the class not only attentive and respectful but didn’t move in any way to indicate that it was time to move on…So whenever you hear people complaining about youngsters and assimilating them all to hooligans, téléchargementbeware, it’s just as stupid as blaiming all moslems for the insanity of an unfortunately growing proportion of some of them, or jews for the handful of crazy israeli settlers. At the time we are remembering the liberation by the Russians of the Auschwitz concentration camp, at a time when we celebrated this event without the Russians representatives, which I deplore personally, it’s great sign of hope. As in the wonderful movie Les Héritiers, meeting a surviver is the guarantee that these young people won’t forget and will one day tell their children.

credit: https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-7I0Cb_EJ6Ss/UHGOAyOdPTI/AAAAAAAAACM/fU9pSpzF29M/w800-h800/Photos%2B2010%2B%2Bnov.%2B2010%2B665.jpg
credit: https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-7I0Cb_EJ6Ss/UHGOAyOdPTI/AAAAAAAAACM/fU9pSpzF29M/w800-h800/Photos%2B2010%2B%2Bnov.%2B2010%2B665.jpg

And my last little story of hope dates back to last october during the Feast of Tabernacles, Souccot. I was meant to attend a play at the theater but was an hour early so instead of just waiting, decided to attend the Shabess prayer at the nearby synagogue. I am quite a secular jew who happens to love traditions and the idea of sharing a moment under the Souccah always appeals to me. When I arrived in front of the Souccah, I saw a mature lady holding a Palestinian flag and waiving it in front of the synagogue. I went to her, shook hands and introduced myself. She did likewise, her name is Myriam and she’s the widow of a Palestinian activist. I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch the name but nevertheless discussed with Myriam my sorrow at her behaviour in front of a synagogue. I said I could have fully understood such a behaviour in front of the Israeli embassy and might even have sympathized. I also added that I had lost my dear uncle killed by a Palestinian activist and had never thought of demonstrating in front of a Mosque and that by doing so, she broke my heart. Our conversation took about 10 mn during which Myriam kept saying that she was only doing it that very night in honor of her late husband and I kept repeating she could have chosen some other spot. In the end, I simply said good-bye and that it was nice meeting her, but I gave up trying to make my opinion heard. Needless to say, I then had to endure quite an interrogatory at the gate of the protected synagogue about who I was, and the usual questions asked to make sure we belong to the jewish community. I responded to the two guards for a while but as soon as I got into the Shul, I was again assaulted by various people all telling me that I should never have spoken to Myriam and that the police had given instructions to ignore her….Well, the fact is that minutes after I entered the synagogue, Myriam went to the guards and asked them to tell me she would never come again in front of the synagogue.

Men are behaving rather insanely, like King Lear asking his daughter to express how much they love him…but the one who loves him most isn’t the one shouting her love, remember…

One world, we only have one world, please consider that men and women aren’t meant to starve and die while others in more and more protected surroundings can enjoy a democracy they are not ready to extend to all. Our society in Europe and the Western world respects everyone, yet we expect the respect of those who come to share our values…such as gender equality, sexual preferences and secularism of the State and public institutions !


2 thoughts on “‘Tis the time’s plague…

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