A healthy reminder?

Letter to my French friends

Ten years ago, my country has experienced an electoral thunderstorm which is still affecting the Algerians in their flesh. I am writing this as a foreword because I want to tell you that France is lucky, as it is now getting a free-of-charge warning, a healthy reminder to regain self-control, a slap in the face that should help to hold the head high and not to be overwhelmed by low spirits, blind anger or panic. Tell me, what happened that made you so doubtful of your country? How can you abstain from voting whilst so many peoples don't even have access to this fundamental right? I do not unerstand your obsession of a declining France, nor do I grasp your cynical disillusion that constrasts so vividly with the enthusiasm you were showing in July 1998. Your country is wonderful, it is rich, it is hard-working; what it perhaps requires is less egoism and nonchalance, and a more critical attitude towards demagogues. Furthermore, and this may be the most important, beware of easy hatred and blind pock-marking. One can get rid painlessly of some crevices and bad habits with generosity and empathy, but these can be converted to pits of violence when hardness and anathema are used. Uncompromising speech should be reserved to those sowing vulgar and mediocre ideas in each TV programme and to those sorcerer apprentices who deliberately staged the obsession of insecurity in every evening news. Forget the talk shows, tear off trash literature, don't let opinion polls decide for you. Being ashamed is useless; just re-discover the beauty of your country and its people.

Akram B. Ellyas,
Algerian journalist

Libération, 23 April 2002

Translated by F. de Dardel

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