Tattling ta-ta!

Bold reality.

Each nation has its history and consequently its own reference scheme. As you might have noticed on my new profile picture, I am not the hairiest people in the world and to be frank I have never been. When during a biology class in high school we learned about heredity, it became clear to me that it was no point getting into heavy metal as my head-banging would become everyday less spectacular anyway.

As a result, I have always worn short hair. And one day when I got fed up with both gravity and biological determinism, I decided to shave my head for good. I was in my late 20s, shaved heads have become more common with some iconic figures like Fabulous Fab.

Barthez, the Divine BaldNowadays the traditional pejorative nickname "Crâne d'Oeuf" (literally Egg head) has more or less disappeared, as there would be more than a dozen to mock. On the contrary, I remember people flattering with favourable comparisons to Zidane, Bruce Willis, Hitman or other iconic bald heads. It has become kind of fashionable or at least acceptable to walk bear head. After all, weren't some of the most admirable people like us? Think Gandhi, think Dalai Lama and his cohorts of bonzes... Not pretending to be on par with them anywhere else than on capillary topics though.

Impact of the past

In fact the only person who had a negative reaction was my grandma. When discovering my new hairstyle, she welcomed me in a shivering "Hmmmm... Frightening!". She never expanded on her reaction, and like any grandma she has since decided to ignore it. However, I might have my idea on why she reacted like that. As I said in introduction every country has its history, and let's face it our elderly people are living witnesses of these previous times. Their references are therefore exacerbated as historical facts are for them memories, not words on school books.

My Grandmother is now in her 80s, and she was living in the French Alps during the second world war. The region around Grenoble has been renowned for its active contribution to the Resistance against German Occupation. And my family took part in it, nothing outstanding but still enough to have their hotel burnt by the German troops like many other. Do I have to remind you that the Waffen-SS were not specifically famous for their grungy hair style? First trauma certainly.
Resistance - Aux armes citoyens!I will fast-forward to mention some events that occurred right after the end of the war in 1945. In such circumstances, people tend to have short-lived memories and to ignore their own transgressions. The result is that witch hunts are common practice after years of war. You need to find some scapegoats to expiate the sins of a nation. In France, some shameful demonstrations happened straight after the liberation. Women who had "close relationships" with the enemy had their head shaved in public, hence losing their womanhood, the face and their honour all at once. Although some women took actively part in this witch hunt, I imagine that most projected themselves in their victims. Is not that the purpose of an expiatory victim? So that is probably a second negative iconography associated to my hairstyle. And you could also think of the concentration camps and the tragic images that spring to mind... Anyhow, I think you got my point here: it becomes more understandable that some people could associate negative images to certain symbols, especially when they lived the bespoke events.

Common unconsciousness.

The interesting thing is that those influences have the ability to travel across generations. I am two generations away from these events, I love Germany where I have lived some marvellous moments, and it's even my Grandma who encouraged me to learn German... But there are some feelings and learnings from those years that still impact our living modes nowadays. And these became particularly obvious to me when I arrived in the UK and heard some adverts on the radio...

One of the key collective trauma at that time has been denouncement: the fact that some citizens delivered information to the enemy against a reward (money, privileges or sometimes a jail release). The type of information is obvious: who is Jewish? who is taking part in the resistance? where are they? etc. The moral issue around this phenomenon was even more critical that it has been encouraged by French officials who had rallied the German interests and wilfully collaborated.

Since then, it has become a very dubious behaviour to encourage such practices... So you can imagine what kind of feelings on my chest when I hear radio spots or billboards about Tax Fraud asking British citizens to report any people who they think is dishonestly acting against the tax law. And there is a whole lot of services to proceed: a 24/7 hotline, a website... Everything you need to alert the institutions.

The informer.

On the one hand I can understand such liberal an approach: these people are evil as they benefit illegally from the government and indirectly from us, so by denouncing them we are defending ourselves. But on the other hand, the French one, asking me to report a misbehaviour from someone else makes me feel really uneasy. Having written that I realise that it might seem absurd, but I cannot even rationalise it. It is a feeling that is deeply embedded in me. And this is why I introduced this article with this notion of common unconsciousness and history-inspired culture.

As a matter of fact, I assume that the same issue would be tackled differently in France due to our background. The communication would ask directly the defrauder to wilfully pay their toll and remember them that they risk an investigation and legal actions. The State against the crooks. The other civilians are not to be personally engaged in this, as the State is their representatives. You cannot ask and of course force someone to incriminate another person. Any action in that sense is heavily disregarded by anyone in France. For example, an hoax site has been created to laugh at the authoritarian actions of current President Sarkozy at that time in charge of the national security...

I agree this sounds a bit utopian to even think that under the moral pressure the wolves will turn into sheeps. But after all maybe was Thomas More a little bit French?

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