THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS (Le Camp des Saints) By Jean Raspail CHAPTER FORTY


At the selfsame hour, one hundred and forty-seven minutes ahead of the refugees’ actual landing, the myth of “redemption by the Ganges armada” swept over the nation’s industrial zones, in plant after plant. Once again we should point out that this coincidental occurrence was in no way due to any preconceived scheme on the part of the principals, or to any concerted action by the usual phalanx of outside agitators. If the Third World factory workers of France rose up in spontaneous revolt that night—in places as far removed from one another as Paris, Lille, Lyon, and Mulhouse—it’s because for the last three days the pent-up tension had built to such a pitch that the lid finally blew, in a seething eruption of wild, expectant hopes. In ordinary times no one would have dared to take such risks. Every man was intent on keeping his job and his hard-earned pay. (The unions, of course, worked hard to recruit the swarthy rabble, and would throw them into the fray from time to time, as the rules of the social wargame demanded, though really with an eye to improving the French workers’ profits, perched up at the top of the salary scale.) The best proof was the fact that at places like Rhodio-Chemical, for example—and a few other highly politicized plants, where the great emancipation revels had already begun on the day before Easter—the Third World workers had resisted temptation, sticking grimly by their machines, like a stray dog still clinging to a bone gnawed white. But that didn’t stop them from thinking. Perhaps they weren’t willing for others to share in their fabled redemption, that symbol of a million refugees, landing in France, to signal their deliverance. They had lived their exile alone, despite the occasional hand of friendship held out over the flood of false promises, and alone they would be resurrected. When the factory loudspeakers had broadcast the final words of the President’s message, the unions lost all control. The political cells exploded. And even Cadi One-Eye, in Paris, knew that now he could never keep his people in check. (Any more than he’ll hold back his wife, Élise, speeding to the studios of Radio-East, a razor hidden inside her stocking.) To be honest, we have to admit, however, that the crimes committed that night, for the most part, had no needless cruelty or malice about them, no excess of subtle finesse, but seemed part of the natural order of things. One might have feared that this was to be the first wave of a fierce, brewing storm. Instead, it was the one last visible tremor in an underground upheaval. And it quickly subsided, since the country had drowned in its waters long since. Besides, one thing is sure. Even if Western-style law had survived, with its weighty decisions about justice as we knew it, the courts would have judged each one of these crimes as quite defensible on social grounds, going through the motions—for appearance’s sake—and handing down suspended sentences, or light ones at most.

The first such crime was a model of the genre. It was staged in Bicêtre, in the slaughter room of a pork-packing plant, Charcuteries Olo by name. The three Africans who worked there—stunner, hoister, and slaughterer, respectively—could go through an average of a hundred ninety pigs an hour, in two or three cut and dried moves, each one repeated a hundred ninety times. A grisly and gory job, and one that the regular help would have no part of. Several hundred workers depended on these three men: the ones on the sausage line— stuffers, stringers, sorters—the ones on the tinned pâté line—packers and sealers—not to mention the various supervisory personnel, the wholesalers, the retailers, as well as an assortment of executives and stockholders. Let one of these three indispensable killers suddenly have to take himself a pee, and the whole production would slow to a crawl. Such breaks, therefore, were quickly forbidden, in return for which the three were rewarded with a few extra francs per day—what the front office jokingly referred to as “bladder compensation.” Now it happened that, just that night, the management, sensing the troubles to come, and the shortages sure to follow in their wake, came to the conclusion that food would be trumps, and that the industry stood to make a killing if only huge stockpiles could be laid away in time. And so, the order went out through the plant to step everything up. It reached the slaughter room, moments after the end of the President’s speech, on the lips of the assistant production manager himself, with the promise that the bladder bonus would even be doubled. “Sure ’nough boss,” one red-spattered black assured him, “we can sure ’nough do one more at least…” The white man felt no more pain than any of the other pigs in the line. Stunned, hoisted, slaughtered … And hanging from his hook, between two blooddrenched hogs, he started into production. As he moved along through each successive phase, growing less and less like man and more like pork, he caused a certain amount of interest, but no special disgust. They had seen such things before, after all. At market, in the Congo. (Except, that is, for a few white women, who promptly took to their heels, or swooned dead away. As for the foremen, they just turned and ran. They had read the blank looks on the faces of their slaves, and had gotten the message.) The Third World workers went on with their jobs, conscientious as could be, even unto the final labeling of the tins where the white man’s remains ended up as pâté. Perhaps we even ate some of him ourselves. As time went by and conditions grew worse, we tended to be a good deal less fussy … Worth noting, in passing, was a certain worker-priest, sausage stringer by trade, who said a little prayer as he tied his last knot, and then murmured: “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.” At which point, the production line stopped. Since all the police headquarters, that night, were deluged with complaints of much the same kind (which they found rather hard to believe), and since the commissioner, left to shift for himself with a pack of demoralized men, had decided to wait until morning to look into the matter, the officials of the plant were quick to agree that the whole affair must have been an accident. An explanation, in fact, that they likely put forth themselves. “Well now,” the manager ventured, after a minute of silence, “shall we all get back to work?” “Sure ’nough, boss!” replied the trio of killers, turned labor leaders all of a sudden. “Like ninety pigs an hour, man. Right? So France’ll just eat less. Tough shit!” And they added, with their calmest and pleasantest of smiles, “Of course, man, from now on we get half the take Five minutes later, having emptied out his safe and handed a few envelopes to his faithful watchdogs, the manager snatched his family on the run, and made a dash southward, heading for Switzerland, only to be swallowed in the great glut of cars and the shortage of gas. Once again, if the reader wants a few more details, just for the record, we might mention that the gentleman was spotted for the last time, on foot, not far from Saint-Favier, of all places (where the Arabs, not content to have the swimming pool to themselves, had co-opted their way onto the town council as members of the dominant minority, and had finally taken it over). The poor man would never be heard from again. … All of which explains how Charcuteries Olo, of Bicêtre, finally came to be run by the workers.

In the hellish hubbub of the Quai de Javel, in Paris, where Third World labor amounted to better than eighty percent, the revolt took on a liturgical form, like a mass or a ritual sacrifice. When you take into account the fact that the profit potential of the automobile industry relies on assembly lines, strictly timed and paced, it’s no surprise that poor, uprooted, illiterate folk, subject to all the concentration- camp fancies of a wildly disparate retribalized existence, should have endowed the timers—those high priests of clock almighty—with all the coercive and sacred powers of a religion forcibly imposed by the masters. Their resistance to this new faith depended on a kind of secret intrigue, replete with a whole spate of catacomb rites. If they wanted to catch their breath on the line, or settle their nerves—or just stop for a moment and muse on their distant palm grove, or the big muddy river running its course between grasslands and dunes—they would rush the prescribed moves through, then loll over the conclusion, as if they hadn’t finished, daydreaming without letting on, hand resting on the tool in question, pretending to work. And during those precious moments, they would cast quick glances among themselves, fraternal glances that bespoke the same loathing of the clockers’ steady pace, as much a rejection of the new religion as a need to rest. But the clockers were always there watching. No room, after all, for two cults at once. And they would speed up the rhythm, or divide the jobs to make them simpler and quicker. When you’re manufacturing cars, it’s no good to dream of exotic palm groves, or of kneeling down nightly in prayer, facing Mecca. And so, when the redemptive myth of the Ganges burst onto the scene, it was toward those million messiahs that all hopes secretly turned. This became quite clear at about the time of the São Tomé affair, when the armada had reached the height of fashion, and the famous slogan “We’re all from the Ganges now” was dished up for every political and philosophical cause. Huge demonstration, but rather short-lived. Some eighty thousand workers, massed by their motionless assembly lines, shouting two slogans that seemed, on the face of it, wholly unrelated: “Get-theClockers-Off-Our-Backs, We’re-All-From-the- Ganges-Now!” Then things calmed down and returned to normal, though the unions, surprised by the spontaneous uprising, had tried to keep the movement going so that they could take it over. Failing that, they settled for adopting the strange Manichaean battle cry that pitted Ganges refugees and clockers against each other as symbols of the eternal struggle between Good and Evil; the cry that they shouted through this plant and that, just to show that they were still a force to be reckoned with, in spite of the social tranquility decreed by the beast to lull world opinion to sleep. (The clockers, at least, were given a bonus for the risks they faced.) And days went by. Until that night, when one of the time gobblers, chosen among the most ruthless of the lot, was trussed up like a sausage and laid on a piece of sheet metal en route to the body assembly, with a sign in Arabic around his neck: “For now the thousand years are ended.” When the massive drop hammer fell against the metal to stamp it into shape, the clocker was nothing but a puddle of blood, quickly dried in the heat. A great roar went up and the assembly line stopped, as thousands of Arabs, next to their machines, fell prostrate toward Mecca, and gave thanks to Allah. The “underdogs” had had their scapegoat, and that was that. There were no other crimes in Javel that night. They needed only one, and everyone understood it. If we want to pursue the historical facts a bit further, here too—again, 1ust for the record—we might point out that cars are still coming off the lines at the Javel plant, though they’re awfully expensive and terribly scarce. They’re reserved, first choice, for the officials of the new regime. To buy one himself, a worker in one of those people-run plants would have to pay ten times what he makes in a year. A pleasure he can ill afford. (He can take consolation, however, in using our public conveyances, chaotic and decrepit, or in joining the rest of the ill-shod pedestrians thronging the streets.) When the author of these lines returned to Paris after a lengthy stay in Switzerland, his car was surrounded by breathless little urchins, as if it were some new kind of toy. Of course, when they saw the Swiss plate, they all jeered and sneered. There’s no changing that! But we mustn’t digress …

In other industrial towns—Billancourt, Vénissieux, Le Mans, and the like—the rhythm of Western life floundered and drowned in quite the same way. The fact that it owed its existence to Third World sweat doesn’t change the picture. One can even claim, at the risk of prison or social extinction, that under the Western regime the Third World did work efficiently, at least. It would have been best to take pride in the fact, and establish a just master-servant relationship, instead of groaning with shame at the height of our prosperity. But why complain now? It wouldn’t have made much difference. Not really. With millions of us and billions of them, we couldn’t have held out much longer. Now we’re swept up in the Third World tide, and it’s clear that their instinctual drives have won out hands down. Everything has changed. The way people talk, the way they behave, the rhythm and rhythms of life, the play of emotions, the level of production. A whole new outlook. Even their way of not giving a damn. (Then too, with sexual appetites given free rein, it seems that the white has become Third World, though the Third World hasn’t turned white in the bargain. Clearly, they’ve won.) For every old Ahmed who moans in private that “things were better under the French”—though he hardly remembers if he’s talking about his native Algeria or his adopted France—how many millions scrape by on their share of the monstrous welfare budget, telling themselves that the wheel has turned, and that equality, at last, is no empty word? Such, more or less, was the prophetic vision—unintentional, no doubt—of a young West Indian girl that night, at her job in a Croissy electronics plant, exclaiming simply, as she plunged a screwdriver into her supervisor’s breast: “Plantation days are over!” A remark with a lot of history behind it …

Occupied too, that night, was the hallowed pavement of the Boulevard Saint-Germain, but this time for good. To comprehend fully the scope of the event, we have to go back a few years, to that scene of racial crisis, that Fashoda of black against white, the Café Odéon. Faced with the example of urban America, fallen little by little into total decay, certain observers had seen the confrontation as a sign of the inevitable, though they took care not to say so in print. That wasn’t the kind of thing one wrote those days, nor will it ever be again. The pure of conscience, on the other hand, roared out a mighty chorus. Endless variations, in every key, on the famous theme: “No dogs, no niggers.” (Hyperbole, to be sure. That wasn’t it at all.) What the owner of the Café Odéon had said at the time was this:

“I’ve been running the Café Odéon for almost a year and a half. It’s kind of a bar and ice cream parlor combined. Most of my trade are Africans and West Indians. Anyway, on December twenty-seventh, while I’m out of town, two tough guys go over to this other table and crush out their cigarettes. Right on the table, I mean. So the help kick them out. The next day a lady complains that some character is trying to give her a hard time. One of the waiters—the name doesn’t matter—goes over and tries to straighten him out. He gets roughed up so bad, he winds up in the hospital. When I get back, a week later, I put my foot down. Don’t serve any troublemakers, I tell them. Well, that’s when they start giving me the business. Frankly, I can’t take any more. It’s a losing game. I’d rather close up …”

And he added, without thinking, leaving himself open to the usual epithets and insults: “How do you like that? Calling me a racist! Me, a Jew, who fought against the Nazis, tooth and nail!”

It was easy enough to understand what had happened. The blacks had decided to take over the Café Odéon, and had proceeded to make life miserable for the whites who frequented it. Now, it’s a known fact that racism comes in two forms: that practiced by whites— heinous and inexcusable, whatever its motives—and that practiced by blacks—quite justified, whatever its excesses, since it’s merely the expression of a righteous revenge, and it’s up to the whites to be patient and understanding. There was even that time, in Paris, when an American “Black Power” leader came to the Cité Universitaire to speak at a student rally, and began his speech by shouting: “Now listen, I see we got some black brothers and sisters standing, and some white folks sitting. Come on, white folks, let’s give us those seats!” And the most amazing part of it was that the ones he was talking to got up, meek as lambs, while the others applauded. At the Café Odéon things hadn’t gone that far. The whites had held tight. They weren’t there to make trouble, just to sit and drink their coffee in peace. Still, their very presence rankled, and struck the blacks as a calculated slap. Hence, a string of those nasty harassments that the Paris of the day found it tasteful to condone, at the risk of public censure. The whites, as a result, began to keep their distance. And the owner, seeing his business about to fall apart, thanks to a wholly one-sided clientele, took steps to shore it up by refusing to serve “certain” blacks (and not “any” black, as the papers of the time so shamelessly reported). Poor man! From that point on, every black student in Paris took turns in his café, spitting on the floor, breaking glasses, glowering at the help, crushing out cigarette butts on the walls, and the like. He closed up two days later, and his flight was hailed as a noble victory for the universal conscience. The battleground, however, spread to the neighboring establishments, whose owners—much more clever—hung on in different ways, with endless “rap sessions” and much licking of boots, trying to keep their investments from sinking. The Café Odéon had been sold for half what it was worth, and the value of the building whose ground floor it occupied was already taking a dramatic plunge. That was the way matters stood, more or less, until that Easter Sunday night and Monday morning. The President of the Republic had no sooner finished speaking, than the streets of the quarter, empty all night in anticipation of his address, suddenly came alive. Twenty thousand blacks— students, mainly, and a smattering of young diplomats—streamed over the hallowed pavement. Alsace-Lorraine had been retaken, and this time they would never let it go! They came from every corner. From their West Indian bars, their African dance halls, their rooms at the Cité Universitaire, wherever they had been holed up, waiting, expecting the impossible and hoping for the inevitable. At the Café Odéon, one of them stood up behind the counter and declared, “A round for everybody, on the house!” The example was followed in the neighboring bars, but only in one did it threaten to cause trouble. The owner, not a man to be trifled with, grabbed his ever-ready pistol from the till, and brandished it at the crowd submerging his bar like a great spring tide. At which point, a hulking brute from Guadeloupe—head of some student activist group or other—went swaggering up, hands by his sides, and stuck his chest squarely in front of the barrel. He apparently had a first-rate memory and a talent for imitation, because, standing there eye to eye with the owner, he proceeded, quite simply, to recite. And it was as if the President himself were speaking:

“And so, I am asking every soldier and officer, every member of our police—asking them from the depths of my conscience and my soul—to weigh this monstrous mission for themselves, and to feel free either to accept or reject it. To kill is hard. Even harder to know why. Myself, I think I know. But I don’t have my finger on the trigger, and my gun isn’t aimed point blank at some poor soul’s flesh. My friends, whatever happens, may God help us … or forgive us.”

Having said his say, he burst out laughing, to his friends’ applause. It was a curious moment, as hatred gave way to a subtler emotion, as if they were sorry to see the balance shift, and to lose that antagonism long advantageous to blacks of their position. Rising above the uproar, a voice cried out:

“Come on, boss! Have one on us! And tomorrow, if you’re a good boy, maybe we’ll even pay for our drinks! Cheer up, we all got to live, don’t we?”

“Not at this price,” the owner muttered, shrugging his shoulders. Throwing down his gun, he pocketed the contents of the till. Then he walked out into the night, straight ahead, without looking back, as the crowd stepped aside and let him pass. A moment later, on the boulevard, he found himself forced into a doorway, as a solid mass of flesh came surging over the sidewalk, refusing to give an inch. The drudges of the depths had begun to swarm through Paris.

At this point a little-known event took place, one that historians, in their wisdom, prefer to pass over, since many a feather would doubtless be ruffled in today’s high government circles were it to be discussed. We speak of the frenzied flight of all the coat-and-tie blacks before the army of African swill men, sweepers, troglodytes, and menials. They were led by their witch doctors, needless to say. Especially “the Chief”—that hero of the dismal cellar—and the rag-tag priest—apostle to the slums, latter-day Cardinal Lavigerie himself, evangelist to the Africans and do-gooder of note. Ever since some of their number had begun sweeping gutters—in those wee, small hours, when their gentlemen brethren would pile into their cars, parked all day on the hallowed pavement—the myth of a black utopia had spread through their cellars and under the sheet-metal roofs of their hovels. The tribal princes were the worst offenders. What on earth did they have in common with the “poor nigger” pushing his broom? Skin color? Come now! How maddening it was for these upper-crust blacks, here in the heart of the capital, scene of their social successes, to find themselves—on every sidewalk, by every sewer, behind every rubbish truck—face to face with their ragged doubles, cold and hungry, whose dark skin, peddled so cheaply, offended that black pride of theirs that they valued so much. We should pity them, really. That night they were caught in the midst of a truly unbearable web of hate: abhorrence for the whites; disgust and contempt for their gutter-dwelling brothers; and above all, that loathing for the working-class black, who had tracked them all the way to France, as they managed to escape the fate of the race in the white man’s wake. Yes, the redemptive myth of the Ganges opened many a subtle rift. Nothing seemed clear anymore in those murky waters of impending doom, waters that the beast had blackened by design, like an octopus spewing its ink. Could that be one explanation? … Be that as it may, as soon as the shabby, swarthy troops came trampling the pavement in front of the Café Odéon—and other centers of the black utopia—the battalions of mannequins took to their heels like a pack of scared rabbits. Still, we have to admire their presence of mind. By daybreak they had pulled off an amazing coup and saved their skins. Quite simply, they had made the rounds of the neighborhood—a good one, as everyone knows—ringing all the bells, and saying something like this to each terrified bourgeois couple at the door:

“Monsieur … Madame … We’ve come to help you. Since midnight, you can see the handwriting on the wall. No more of those special rights you’ve always enjoyed. Or, at least, you’re going to have to share them. First, with the Third World workers, and later, with anyone else who decides to join their cause. The streets are full. They’ve already taken over. Who knows? In a few minutes whole families may show up at your door. And, like it or not, you’ll have to make room. They’ll pitch camp in your parlor. Of course, we don’t begrudge our poor, desperate brothers. The ones who break their backs working for you folks, the ones you couldn’t live without. But the rest of us (students, princes, professors, diplomats, intellectuals, artists, trainees in this or that or nothing—take your pick) “…the rest of us are men of taste, steeped in your culture, your style, your way of life. Naturally, we want to preserve that elegance and refinement that we feel we owe so much.” (Clever argument, that. It usually got them.) “Now, the best thing would be if we moved in here with you. Two or three of us, that’s all. Better to share with us—thinking alike, the way we do—than to be invaded by a bunch of poor, ignorant beggars, who don’t mean any harm, Heaven knows, but who just won’t respect things, if you see what we mean. Madame … Monsieur … It’s getting late. When the others come and ring your bell, you’ll really be much better off if they see a black face or two at the door. Come, let us take care of it. You go hide, and leave everything to us …”

They spoke so well and looked so neat—spotless shirt, plain dark tie, horn-rimmed glasses—that the bourgeois couple, backs to the wall, could only agree. The least of two evils. These look all right, after all. And they’re clean, and they smell nice. Better a no-good fancy Dan snob than a plain, dirty nigger, no matter how honest. A gentleman, at least, won’t touch my daughter … And so, with a simper: “Let us show you around. We could fix you a place. Maybe there, on the sofa … A bed, you say? Of course, that’s the least we can do. We have two bathrooms, it won’t be any trouble! And besides, it probably won’t be for long …” Then the deathblow:

“Why yes, madame. For good.

Quite so, for good! The rats won’t give up that cheese called “The West” until they’ve devoured it to the very last crumb. Big and thick as it is, that will take them some time. They’re at it even now. But the cleverest of the rats saved the best part for themselves. (Inevitable offshoot of any revolution.) Yes, privileges there are, born of that historic night, and hailed at the time as avant-garde triumphs. But everyone ignores them, or pretends not to notice. And anyway, on basic issues the new regime stands absolutely firm. Someone, for example, came up recently with a plan for discreet exchanges in the living arrangements. Half an apartment, occupied by blacks, for half of another, occupied by whites. No difference in the democratic use of the quarters, but only in their racial makeup. Certain whites who had managed to put aside some cash have been known to slip rather handsome bribes—sub rosa, of course—to their dark-skinned colleagues. It seems, in fact, that many such exchanges have been worked out in the recent past, to everyone’s satisfaction. But a stringent new law, intended to ensure a proper racial mix, has just put an end to such relics of an age long past. Perfectly logical! No point in abolishing the concept of race on a public level, just to turn right around and restore it in private. That wouldn’t make sense, now, would it? … (As we write these lines, we can’t help but recall an old American law, dating back to 1970, forerunner of all antiracist legislation. The “School-Busing Law” it was called. In those days, in the United States, the black and white races lived more or less apart, secluded from each other. That being the case, it was decided, in the name of integration, to transport a certain number of little white children to black schools, and vice versa, in equal proportion. How many tots traveled scores and scores of miles each day, while others went the same route, exactly in reverse! Well, people protested. In the name of useless fatigue, absurd expense, freedom of choice. In the name of everything you please. But racism? Never! It was too late for that. Why, the very word was distasteful. So busing won out, and now they celebrate “Busing Day” in every school the whole world over …)

In conclusion, a few words about the inevitable appearance, that night, of the idiots, simpletons, madmen, and maniacs. When everything in society suddenly stops functioning rationally, that’s when the misfits crawl out of the woodwork. And with them their resentments, their utopian visions, their neuroses and psychoses. Mad dogs on the loose. A merry-go-round of feeble minds, free at last of all social fetters. Historians faced with the mass of documents concerning that night—some of which reveal quite incredible details came to the conclusion that society of that bygone era must have been oppressive to the utmost, for its breakdown to unleash such a rash of psychic aberrations. (Psychiatrists, by the way, exulted. They had long seen society as fostering mental decay, and had gone so far as to turn the insane back out on the streets, so as not to compound one oppression with another.) None of which, however, takes into account the vital role of the redemptive myth, self-inflicted and sublimated, like drugs in the past … But let’s go on. This isn’t the time for academic debates. Let’s settle for a few simple facts, among thousands.

Sex crimes, small and large, were rampant on that night of nights. From indecent exposure to all the rest. Never had so many organs dangled from so many unzipped flies. While the normal people ran off, or stayed in hiding, the public urinals (in Paris, especially, and in all the big cities) had a sudden surge of traffic, the likes of which they hadn’t seen since the Liberation, in 1944. (It’s no accident, clearly, that two myths of similar nature should produce the same results.) From satyrs to sadists was just one easy step. And so, the same young lady who felt she was being ogled and followed every day—a common enough symptom of the modern urban illness—was killed this time by some hideous sex-crazed slayer. (Even today, years later, they still dig up bodies of women and children from old abandoned building sites. Like those bombs from past wars, that surface in our cities every now and again…) The same outburst spawned a flurry of accusations and denunciations. So many, in fact, that the authorities, to this day, haven’t managed to sift through them all. And when the post office finally came back to something resembling normal, they were amazed at the number of anonymous letters slipped into the boxes that night. Of course, that wasn’t really so unusual. In times of exceptional stress, humanity plumbs its most gangrenous depths. One novel element this time, though: the loads and loads of letters from children, informing on Mommy and Daddy, if you please. Yet even there, no need for tears. In China, after all, during the Cultural Revolution, the youngsters had done much the same, with great abandon, and Heaven only knows how the West heaped praises on them for it! … As for old customs revived, let’s mention just one: shaving the ladies’ heads in revenge. Did such-and-such a secretary sleep with her boss, or this factory girl with her foreman? Next morning, they found themselves bald as a Buddhist monk. Not to mention the other forms of Gallic vendetta. Detestable, one and all! Tires slashed, house fronts spattered, windows broken, dogs poisoned, pastures plowed up, trees sawed in two … Of course, none of it tells us anything new about the consummate baseness of the folk of the time. At least their Third World confreres showed more dignity and style in settling their scores …

And lastly, under the “simpleton” heading, the droll case of three hundred villagers, living outside the Air France flight school at Deauville-Saint-Gatien, invading the airport at three in the morning. To protest in the name of their own jangled nerves? Not a bit! Led by the mayor, in official regalia, the bumpkin band—with pitchforks poised, and flanked by their tousled females, black claws set to pounce—went storming the control tower in the name of the peace and tranquility of their cattle! (Indeed, revolutions have been fought over less. Who knows where man’s noble ideals may be lurking?) The fact was that, with so many jets thundering overhead, the cows had quite simply begun to waste away. Now, in Normandy, if anything is sacred, it’s the cow! The poor peasants had demonstrated time and time again, all to no avail, and their tempers were turning as sour as their animals’ milk. And so, no sooner had the President of the Republic let down his guard on the mayor’s TV screen, than His Honor stood up, tossed off a shot of Calvados, and announced, “This time, men, I think we’ve got them!” Traditionalist that he was, he had the tocsin rung, and no one in the village doubted what it meant. The Ganges fleet was none of their business! We don’t worry about politics here, we don’t meddle in other folks’ affairs! Just sweep up in front of our own front door! But the airport, now, that’s something else! … Ah, what a delightful concept: a momentous, historic night, and that single tocsin pealing loud and clear, to save a bunch of stupid cows …


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