Updated: Jun 11, 2021
France fucked up and is about to harvest the fruits of centuries of malice. Those fruits, my friends, are grenades.
In the past few weeks there has been a lot happening in my country. From beheadings to open criticism of other countries’ leaders, from another lockdown to an organised worldwide boycott of French products, not to mention the new Council of Defense that takes place in utmost secrecy before any Assembly. France is not in good shape right now. The fact that the beheadings were surrounded by misinformation and incitations to hate against the Muslim community, and against Islam in general, really doesn’t help. Among other things. But let’s be honest here, I might be a little bit shocked from the violence of it all but I’m far from surprised.
Liberty, equality, fraternity has never been meant to include anyone but not poor white men. Women are seen as meatbags, North African folks as thieves and liars, Black people as lazy scum. Any other ethnicity is either forgotten or dismissed. Until you want to eat out and go grab sushi, of course. French people are taught to be arrogant and self-centered and it shows.
But I’m not here to tell you about the wonderful racist, xenophobe, sexist and overall hate filled culture of the beautiful place where I was born. I would like to dig a little bit into why I believe we’re all screwed. It goes way back, and it’s dirty, and it’s not just about my country. The whole Western world is going to pay for the consequences of things that happened a long time ago and the beliefs that stemmed from it. But I’m going too fast. Let’s slow down and get back to the good old days. The 1500s. I could go back further but this should do the trick for now.
In those times, Europe was composed of monarchies who liked to compete with each other in what can only be described as “mine is bigger than yours” contests, except we’re talking about the size of their realms instead of their anatomy.
In other words, kings wanted more land. We have to keep in mind that, of all 7 continents, Europe is by size the smallest. And constant wars had diminished the populations of all those monarchies and left them mostly in poverty and struggling. In order to get more land, they had to acquire it from other continents or risk seeing their people turn against them. No problem, they had just discovered one. 1534, New France is founded on the continent of North America. Yes, the French Colonial Empire began in Canada. Who knew? Not the French people of today. We don’t talk about that. Ever. It is to most of my countrymen a mystery that there is a place in Canada that is mainly francophone.
You might at this point be wondering what the conquest of Canada by the French has to do with any of the things that are happening in the world right now, and the answer is: everything. See, mankind is a competitive species. When the Europeans discovered that there was a big mass of land they hadn’t set foot on yet, each king decided that they just had to be the first to conquer it. Because they couldn’t leave all the rich, fertile, beautiful land at the hands of savages, could they. And look what they did to it. Look what they are doing to it now, how they are treating this whole fucking planet. I mean the governments, not the people. The people don’t give a damn about their rulers’ power and standing. They’re too busy trying to feed themselves and their families, keeping a roof over their head, and drinking. A lot. Anyway, back to the 1500s and Canada.
Rich and powerful Europeans being what they are, the people who already lived there were first treated like something you wouldn’t want to find stuck to the bottom of your shoes, then simply murdered once the Europeans were settled to their satisfaction. The strongest were enslaved, the weakest killed for fun. Once they were settled, the French declared the place was theirs, and that’s what marks the beginning of the First French Colonial Empire.
After that, the rivalries between European monarchies got worse, and they decided to enlarge even more their small territories. Oh, and they needed resources. Did I mention that Europe is small? It’s also poor in mineral resources, and limited in choice of crops. As the territories grew, so did the access to luxuries. You can thank European monarchs for your addiction to tobacco and coffee.
The First French Colonial Empire (yes I need to capitalize it) lasted until a few years after the French Revolution (yes, that too) and crumbled, ironically, under the Napoleonic Empire (and this, yes). Slavery was briefly abolished under the very short First Republic, but then Napoleon declared himself Emperor and brought it back. Then he had to sell Louisiana to cover up the costs of his ambitions, and he lost a fight with Haiti who became the first Black Republic in the world, and France turned her attention elsewhere. Elsewhere being Africa, which until now had been almost left alone. Almost. There were a couple of places taken, and commercial exchange (including slave trade) was well established on the north and west of the continent, but the damage truly started under Napoleons 1 and 3, and the Second French Colonial Empire.
So now we are in the 1800s, and for the past 300 years or so Europe has been killing people and taking their lands for the sake of chocolate, gold, and overcompensation. They destroyed civilizations and cultures. They officially announced that they were “superior”, and set up institutionalised slavery. And they weren’t done. I’ll stick to France now since that’s what I was originally talking about and I need to stop digressing.
When we talk about colonies and colonisation in France, we think mainly of Africa. That’s because the Antilles were transformed from colonies to territories. In other words, they are part of France in a way colonies never were. But if we’re honest, these islands and Guyana in South America, those territories, are still pretty much colonies. They are forgotten until the government needs something from them, such as votes or resources. And despite France’s Constitution now stating that “all Men are equal”, non metropolitan French people, despite being called French, have more duties, less rights, and much less support from the government than French people who were born and live in the mainland. We are talking about people who were taken away from their homes, enslaved, mistreated, and dropped on islands they didn’t even know existed. Well, we’re talking about their descendants now, but still. They had to invent languages because they had none in common. Now that language is referred to by French officials as a dialect. That’s very representative of my country’s ways.
The Overseas Territories, like the old colonies were, are treated like a Frenchman treats his wife: while she’s young and pretty and can give him what he wants he’ll tend to her every need, marry her, sweet talk her. But after a while he gets bored of her, or she’s not submissive enough anymore, and he goes look for another woman. He won’t divorce though, too much trouble. Either she leaves, as most French colonies did, after a long and arduous fight, or she settles for a miserable life but a fancy name.
All this to say, despite having lost all her colonies (the last one, Vanuatu, in 1980), France has always held on to that colonial mindset. It’s been 500 years since France invaded Canada and started all this madness, but only 40 since it officially ended. You can’t undo all that in a night. But we need to know it. To think on it. To see the damage it’s done.
Back on track. What’s happening right now in France is mostly the result of the Second French Colonial Empire, which consisted in grabbing as much of Africa and as many islands as possible. France had upgraded its navy, see. And it needed a bigger army. And slaves.
It was also still competing against other European leaders, mainly England as usual, and since England was reaching for India and Africa, France reached for everything that would annoy her enemy the most. Human lives had no importance since anyone who wasn’t a white European wasn’t considered human. Except when it came to religion, of course.
This is the other big horror of colonialism. Not only did France steal lives and land, it destroyed cultures and traditions. It converted millions to Christianism by force. France prides itself on the separation of Church and State yet remains a deeply Catholic country. The things my country has done in the name of religion makes me sick. And it takes a lot to make me sick. Add to that their superiority fantasy, the belief that money is happiness, and a complete disregard for human life, and you have a good synopsis of the past 500 years. Oh, and ungratefulness. France is still standing thanks to its former colonies. Between the Senegalese riflemen who were first in line during both World Wars, the Antilles population who rose up and made up the vast majority of French Resistance during WW2, the Agerians and Moroccans who came to help rebuild, and Guyana who provided gold and mineral resources when the government was too broke to function, the French people owe so much to people our leaders have tried to destroy.
France has also conspired with the other countries of the Alliance after WW2 to settle what remained of the Jewish people. With its usual disregard for anything not serving its own interests, my country’s government has used my father’s people’s suffering to steal land again, giving it to people who had no other choice but to take it, and starting a fire that still burns today.
Now take a look at a map that shows where oil and mineral resources can be found. A good long look. And think. Is it a coincidence that France or its allies had a hand in most of these places?
Okay, I didn’t mention a lot of things. This piece would be way too long. Still, I think we have now most of the cards in our hands for a basic understanding of France’s history with foreign policy. As a result it should be a surprise to nobody to learn that 14 African countries still use the CFA Franc as their currency. That currency was created in 1945 on Christmas day by General De Gaulle, at the time president of the provisional government of the French Republic, and is worth pretty much nothing. In case you didn’t know, CFA stood for “Colonies Françaises d’Afrique”, or French Colonies of Africa. They changed the meaning of the letters since but they kept the same damned letters in the same damned order. And trust me when I say the countries that use it remember. I didn’t even know that currency still existed. That’s how much France’s leaders care about the African countries they used to rule over. French people are not even taught all the names of the former colonies, let alone are we told about that currency.
Every year, France receives 440 billions Euros in taxes from its former colonies linked to the CFA franc. Oh, and since it’s the predominant currency in some parts of Africa, there are even countries that are not former French colonies who use it. France makes money on them as well. Although at this point I need to point out that a number of those countries have formed a coalition and are trying to implement their own currency, which is good. But despite what our beloved President Macron said, France’s government is not too happy about it.
France also makes money on arms deals. In the Middle-East, for example. Take a guess at who they are arming.
Anyway. All of this has made France both rich and despised. Its arrogance and its refusal to let go of that colonial mindset is dangerous. Because we live in a different world now, and France refuses to change along with it. Yes, we have gay marriage, and we’ve been trying to push it on our former colonies. But we still have so much discrimination against LGBTQ+people that most are forced to hide their orientation and non conforming genders. Yes, we’re saying that everyone is equal. Yet we made rules that names shouldn’t appear on resumes to prevent discrimination. Yes, State and Church are separated. Yet every friday, in every public school, we eat fish. Our vacations are based on Christian holidays. Women can’t be veiled in public places yet we can wear a cross around our necks.
I have never been stopped by police. Never been asked to show my ID. I have friends who get stopped every week. I have been known to smoke a joint, see the cops, wave, and they left me alone. I have been looked over by train controllers when I gave them an apologetic smile. I didn’t have a ticket. I didn’t get a fine. Because I’m white, and a woman, and cute, and France is racist and sexist. There is no equality.
It gets worse. These days with COVID-19 being uncontrollable, restrictions are put in place. French people are only allowed outside for an hour a day, they need a document signed by their boss to go to work, and another one signed by the authorities to take their kids to school. The government has decided what was essential and what wasn’t. Clothing isn’t. Books aren’t. But cosmetics are. I have a friend who can’t even buy new shoes for her kid. She can’t get him a comic for Christmas. But she can buy lipstick. It’s a perfect metaphor of France’s policies. Keep your people ignorant but pretty, they’ll be easier to control.
But those who would rule over my people have forgotten our own History. The French are not known to be compliant. Be it the Revolution or the great upheaval of 1968 among others, we speak our mind, and we do it loudly. And we the people are fed up with our government’s hypocrisy, manipulation, and tyranny. We support free speech, we support freedom of faith, we support liberty, equality, and fraternity.
The countries that have been suffering under France’s royalist ambitions are done with it. Everyone these days has access to information, be it on social media or from people like me who blog and talk and spread the word. We are no longer isolated. We are no longer blind. And we do not want another king, another colonial empire, another war. But it’s coming, and we’re ready.
I left my country because, while I was in a toxic relationship and asking my friends for help, most of them thought a man who said “I’d rather kill you than lose you” was romantic. I left my country because I couldn’t stand to see people brutalised by police on the news everyday. I left my country because I’m bisexual and open about it, and women were afraid of me, and men objectified my orientation. I left my country because dating a Black man would mean cutting ties with most of my family. I left my country because all of this, this mindset, this violence, this discrimination, is caused by all I’ve said before. But I know that what I experienced doesn’t reflect the heart of my people, only of their rulers. And I will run back the moment people realise all this and rise. I abhor violence but I will fight, as a lot of us will, for France to finally be the land of peace and acceptance it was meant to be.
The coming months are going to be complicated. But we'll be ready. And whether it comes from the outside or the inside, we won't escape some form or other of war. It's up to us now to be on the right side of it. And to change, once again, France's History.