As I was wandering along the rue Belgrand off the rue de Pyrenees Saturday, lost in the world’s longest outdoor market, a flyer pasted to a telephone pole caught my eye: Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a.k.a. Danny le Rouge, leader of the May ’68 student riots in Paris, and lead candidate for Europe Ecology a.k.a. the Greens for the Ile de France in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections (what does that parliament actually DO, by the way? It doesn’t seem to be able to impeach the betises of Brussels, nor permitted to propose new laws.) would be speaking in my neighborhood that afternoon, in a ‘debate’ on the topic “L’outre-mer c’est aussi l’Europe.”
L’outre mer or outer Ocean isn’t actually in Europe, being constituted by French domaines and territories like Martinique, Guadalupe, the Ile of Reunion and Guyane. It’s also sometimes referred to as the DOM-TOM, which I think stands for domaines outre mere and territories outre-mer. They’re former slave colonies in which, in the eyes of some — notably many of those who struck for two months earlier this year to protest high prices — the lighter-skinned descendants of slave-owners now own most of what’s ownable even if they constitute a minority of the population, and the darker-skinned descendants of slaves work for them and have to buy their over-priced goods at stores owned by the descendants of their ancestors’ slave-masters. In other words, the DOM-TOM’s are a relic of colonialism.
If that wasn’t enough, even though they’re not in Europe, the DOM-TOM countries, or at least the DOM, are also strapped by Brussels, a.k.a. the European Commission. So, as one representative explained at the debate Saturday, a DOM country can find itself bound by, say, different rules of the Ocean than the island right next door.
Danny le Rouge showed up an hour late for the debate in a small club here in the trés cosmopolitan 20th arrondisement of Paris, in time to hear some of this and to deliver a rather pat polemic (“Europe needs to take a look at the ex-colonies.” Duh!) which began by his admitting that he’d actually never been to any DOM or TOM countries. It was also a bit bizarre to hear the most famous student leader of the 1960s this side of Mario Savio and Tom Hayden excuse a memory lapse by a reference to Alzheimer’s.
I’d have been curious to learn what Danny the Rouge thinks of his putative descendants, the students who for four months this Spring were not content to just boycott school themselves, in a vague protest of new policies proposed by the government including autonomy for the universities (uh, what’s wrong with that?), no, they had to BLOCK access to classes by any other students — many of whose parents had paid dearly for the privilege of an education for their children — even those not in accord with them. (Whatever happened to Democracy?) This so-called movement seems a perversion of May ’68, with, from what I’ve seen on t.v. and heard on the radio of the manifs, the students seeing it as just one big protest party.