Cet article a été rédigé par Jacquie Bridonneau, que je remercie. Une traduction en français sera publiée prochainement.
Our public library in my little town of Conches-en-Ouche in Normandy, France, ever so graciously supplies me with books in English that they either purchase with their book budget, or borrow from the Eure departmental library, and this generous gesture led me to reread the 20th century classic by William Golding, “Lord of the Flies” quite recently.
Most of you have probably either read this book in high school, or at least heard of it, but for those who do not know it, it was originally published in 1954 and is the story of a group of English school boys, some teenagers and some quite a bit younger, who survive a plane crash on a deserted island without any adults. At the beginning, they revel in the freedom they have in this world without adults, living in the present, for fun and for pleasure, but soon their fragile sense of order begins to fall apart, they split into two tribes, and irrational fear of a beast begins to haunt them. Violence, nepotism and theft govern their lives in their struggle to survive, while they lose any hope that a ship will see the smoke from a fire they try to keep lit and rescue them.
This led me to think of the all too many recent events in our beautiful country of France, where young people, many of them far from being adults, have also given up hope, are sleeping on the streets in this arctic weather we are currently experiencing, and are struggling to survive on a daily basis, not able to focus on the essentials in life such as getting out of their condition as a victim of society, and making a real life for themselves. These homeless people, or “SDF” as we call them in France, are younger and younger, something that is relatively new, with many now under the age of 20.
Another case of a “Lord of the Flies” mentality is that of the Roma people in France. Let’s be honest – very few people are comfortable when a group of caravans parks illegally in our neighborhood. Most of us are afraid of these people, who we do not understand, who seem, like Ralph and Jack, to live only for today, who wander around without working, and who seem to be just one small step out of another century. Are they really free, or on the other hand, are they prisoners not of a desert island like the children, but of their own history? In any case we are uncomfortable with this situation, when we see these children running around the caravans in tattered clothing, most of them in dire need of a good wash, and wonder if this life they have chosen is truly a choice, or like the children, something over which they have no control.
“Lord of the Flies” has a happy ending; when the desperate children actually start to kill those in the other clan, a naval officer who saw smoke on this deserted island arrives to rescue them, while wondering how things among a “pack of British boys” could have degenerated into such a state. But for our homeless in France, in spite of the many numerous associations coming to their assistance, and the Roma who are currently being offered money to leave this country, somehow it doesn’t look like this is going to be the same case for them.