EXTRACTS - The sociologist traces, in a landmark essay, the eighteen years that preceded the events of May '68. He will debate around this theme with Patrick Buisson on March 13, as part of the Le Figaro meetings which take place Room Gaveau.
After May 68, impossible inheritance (La Découverte, 2006), the sociologist chose the form of the story to transmit to younger generations what were the transformation of a world and the inner shockof a young Norman during the 1960s. With precision and depth, he describes the contours of mass adolescence and the torments of progress that, in a prosperous society, will lead to barricades. A precious and decisive testimony to the daily life of the French during the reign of General de Gaulle. A portrait of "the France before" pointillist, deeply honest and beautifully brushed that can understand before judging. Le Figaro Magazine publish the good sheets.
Today, it is fashionable, in some circles, to boast of having been raised outside of the rural and religious prejudices by arguing a modernity who would be rid of all belief. This can be seriously questioned given the place and the fascination exerted on certain minds by the audiovisual world. I realized it one day when I had the mistake of agreeing to intervene in a program of a well-known television channel that is very popular with teenagers. That day, young students from a school in the Paris suburbs came to watch the show as part of an "educational trip". Entering the studio before the show began, they scattered in all directions, looking from all sides as dazzled by this place out of the standards they knew until then only to through their television screen.
The officials had a hard time holding them up so much they were agitated. I watched them casting their amazed gaze on the still empty table where the animators and guests would soon be seated. I had the impression that these young people were entering for the first time in a new sacred place with its trays flooded with light that are like a universe out of space and time, governed by some mysterious organizers and animators haloed by their notoriety . I spontaneously remembered the exchange I had many years ago with the one called "Godmother" [...] I then asked her the reasons why she continued to go to Mass while I it seemed very boring to me. His response had surprised me: "You do not realize. We are poor people, we have known misery and the mass is good for us. There are the stained glasses with their colors and their light, the incense and the songs in Latin, the altar and the priest in chasuble with the children of choir in front of the altar ... The mass makes us forget our daily worries. You do not realize how beautiful it is for us ... "It was not only God who counted or rather it was intimately involved in a world of beauty that transcended a needy life and allowed" poor people To access a supernatural universe. The "adolescent people" raised in a completely different context where television or fusion concerts take the place of a wonderful world does not necessarily seem to me to have won the change.
The "little war" had the advantage of satisfying an aggressiveness by the game that did not lead to dramas but paid only a few bruises. It was then part of the child condition of boys as the "war in real life" was that of adults forever. It would never have occurred to our parents and teachers to forbid us to "play the war." The time was not for sanitation and pacifism; we did not dream of a world full of love and kisses and educators did not pretend to eradicate any form of aggression in children, especially boys.
Tintin, roots and wings
The album Tintin in Congo did not seem to shock anyone. The paternalism of Tintin, like that of the White Fathers, seemed self-evident in the face of natives who always seemed stupid and smiling: "You are a great sorcerer! You have become King of Hats!
To say that in Europe, all the little whites, there are some like Tintin ... "The hero could kill gazelles, elephants and recover their ivory, blow up a rhinoceros with dynamite ... that was nothing particularly shocking: fauna and flora seemed inexhaustible at the time of triumphant productivism. Tintin knew how to drive all modern machines, motorcycles, automobiles, locomotives, airplanes and seaplanes, sailing and motor boats, submarines, not to mention the rocket to go to the moon ... At the same time, he had a a point of attachment with Captain Haddock and his castle of Moulinsart, which had all the charms of the countryside and the old days. After every adventure, Tintin and his companions were happy to find their country. This country, it seemed to us well known: its cities, its streets and surrounding countryside were similar to those we knew. With Tintin, everything was going fast and yet everything seemed finally simple and reassuring. We were on a level ground in a modern and exciting life that kept its values of valor, loyalty and kindness, with a rectifying hero steeped in the values of Scouting who was afraid of nothing and knew how to fight when he needed.
Among the protective figures, the guardian angel occupied a special place: Not content to always watch over us, he [God] still gives us a guardian, an Angel, a prince of his Paradise. Having a guardian angel specially attached to you was something wonderful and comforting. Although pure spirit, the images represented him with a face and a child's body with wings, barely bigger and older than us. At our games and in all situations where we could fall and hurt ourselves, he was always there to protect us. It was also the little voice of consciousness that told us to avoid evil and guide us in the right way. Although invisible, the guardian angel always stood by your side, he never left you; he helped you fall asleep and watched over you at night.
I became acutely aware of the importance of the generation gap in religious and cultural matters when I visited my parents' home in the 1980s. The youngest of my sons saw the crucifix hanging on the wall of the house. The room pointed at him and exclaimed: "It's Goldorak!" (robot of a Japanese television series). I knew that the rupture of the transmission was a reality but it remained until then an idea on which one could kindly dissert. All of a sudden she became consistent with my son's words. I then explained to him, as best I could, that it was Jesus Christ who had been nailed to the cross. This Christian culture that was part of my early education had become incomprehensible to him. The years had passed and I had not realized anything; an essential part of our inheritance had been put aside and in the emptiness left by this rupture could rush exotic mythologies degraded into serial or cartoon. From that day, I tried so hard to make up for lost time: I bought children's books telling the Bible and the Gospels and I read at night. It might seem ridiculous, but at least my son will have learned some basics of Judaism and Christianity. The time was no longer for a revolt that might have seemed salutary in its time, but this time it was a question of renewing the thread to prevent the ignorance from triumphing.
Progress or mess
In December 1965, in a television interview between the two rounds of the presidential electionGeneral de Gaulle describes in his own way the balance between order and change in this new modernity: "There is, as far as France is concerned, what happens in a house. The housewife, the housewife wants to have a vacuum cleaner, a fridge, she wants to have a washing machine and even, if it is possible, a car. That's the movement. And, at the same time, she does not want her husband to go to bed on all sides, the boys put their feet on the table and the girls do not come home at night. That's the order. And the housewife wants progress, but she does not want the mess. Well, that's true for France too. We need progress, we must not mess! "It is precisely this balance that is not in good shape and that youth will tilt.
Antigone without tragedy
Antigonus' reading of Jean Anouilh expressed what had hitherto been felt as an incommunicable revolt, experienced in solitude or chaotically shared with some friends. The antagonism between Creon the realist with his politician cuisine and Antigone the rebel expressed a desire for purity even challenging the very idea of human happiness: "We are among those who ask the questions to the end. [...] Ah! Your heads, your poor heads of happiness candidates! You are ugly, even the most beautiful. You all have something ugly in the corner of your eye or mouth. You said it just now, Creon, cooking. You have chefs' heads! "
The refusal to accept living within the limit and the compromise offered no choice but a flight into the imaginary of a world outside the constraints of life in society and the laws of the city. This flight had the character of an impossible return to the world of childhood that we did not want to leave. "You disgust me all with your happiness! With your life you have to love at all costs. They look like dogs licking everything they find. And this little chance for everyday, if you are not too demanding. Me, I want everything, right now - and it's whole - or I refuse! I do not want to be modest myself, and content myself with a little piece if I was very wise. I want to be sure of everything today and that it is as beautiful as when I was little - or die. "These words of Antigone express, one could not better, a teenage revolt that was not only mine and who was growing up. In Jean Anouilh's play, this requirement at all, immediately led to death. Beyond the tragic, the rebellious youth of the 1960s was going to make it his program of life and action in the new conditions of consumer society and recreation.
The loss of meaning
"The deepest spiritual need of men is neither justice nor order, but meaning. Every person needs that his life "means", and not only by his insertion in some will or in some collective enterprise "(Albert Béguin). If this need has not disappeared, what has become of a society that seems above all preoccupied with the mechanisms of its operation? What about concern for meaning at the time of communication, image and appearance? Inculture is conducive to the grip and the unbridled expression of affects and drives that no longer find the channels of their symbolic expression. At the risk of disintegration, a new barbarism that makes the world insignificant and vain.
These revolutionary interpretations of May 68 remain blind on a new historical fact that does not fall within the framework of the militant action: the arrival on the social and political stage of a new social actor, the adolescent people raised and educated in the new consumer and leisure society [...] "The great mass of students is in fact shared by contradictory demands. One finds in them a dimension of permanent play, of game-fair mingled with an extreme serious which can pour in the tragedy. The great celebration of youth solidarity, the great syncretic game of the revolution, was at the same time, on the individual level, a passing examination in society (which, in the moment and for the most part, seemed preferable and far superior to school examinations), and, collectively, the desire to assert oneself for and against society "(Edgar Morin).
France yesterday. Story of a teenage world, from 1950 to May 68, Jean-Pierre Le Goff, Stock Editions, 288 p., 21,50 €.
- March 1986: the ultimate confessions of Jean Anouilh at Figaro Magazine
- May 68, the suicide of the youth of France
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