Netgalley Review

Who is Charlie: Xenophobia and the New Middle Class - Emmanuel Todd

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                When PEN decided to award Charlie Hebo a freedom award, it led to some PEN members withdrew from the dinner and presentations in protest.  They saw the magazine/newspaper as racist.  This led to a quasi public spat that included authors like Rushdie, whose point you can’t only defend that which you don’t object to is valid.   But it also raises the question of you should know what you objecting to and who you are supporting.


                In many ways, this is the point of Todd’s book.  The title question is targeting those who marched in support of the paper, and the book itself isn’t about free speech rights as it is about France’s current political and social divisions.


                This means that if you are reading the book for a blow by blow account of the attacks or a freedom of speech discussion, you are going to be disappointed.  Todd’s analysis, however, does take into account the attack on the Jewish market as well, and it is also ties into the current refugee crisis.


                It is this last bit, unintentional it must be, that in many ways seems the most important.  Watching the news broadcasts, a viewer notices that some Europeans are welcoming and some are not.  It is understandable, if only from an economic view, why some governments are hesitant about welcoming over 5,000 people in a single day.  What is interesting is the view that is sometimes subtly transmitted that the refugees are poor and uneducated, terrorists in waiting.  While the charge of poverty must be true for some of the refuges, one should wonder.  For instance, how come it seems so easy to find those refugees who speak English?  Doesn’t that imply education?  If it costs a large sum of money to make the journey then doesn’t that mean that more middle or lower middle class groups?   (Because the rich would have already left).


                This is touched on in part in the book.  Part of Todd’s point seems to be the question of assimilation, what the term actually means.   Todd considers what it means to belong French society means.  Does it mean adopting French values and beliefs that according to some of the data presented in this book aren’t even currently used by the real French.  This value group is very vocal and votes.  It keeps outsiders out.  The press and politicians play to it.


                SO it’s the tea party, I think.


                It also enforces the status quo and keeps those who are different as second class citizens or dominated religions.  This, in turn, leads to more division.  It also leads to compliancy.  And then it ties to the rise of Anti-Semitism because of this division.


                At least, I think that’s the point I could be reading it wrong.  The translation could be off.


                The point is also whether something or a group that is exclusive pretending to be inclusive.  Which is also a good point.  If anything Todd’s book is about knowledge.