As the world of culture is still at a standstill, we relay the open letter of Martine Wijckaert published in the context of the occupation of the National Theater. It dates from April 13, but while Codeco will focus on the world of culture on Friday, it remains deeply relevant.

A city of zombies, Mr. Prime Minister, what an admirable achievement that is. However, it is not worth even a second place.

I’m going to speak to you here in my capacity as a woman of the theater. However, you should know that the art of theater is, intrinsically, an open heart, a mouth, eyes and ears darted on the human being, a perpetual, unquenchable conversation with the world of which we, the comedians, are part.
It is therefore this ineffable substance that will be in question here, an ineffable substance, Mr. Prime Minister, that you are cheerfully trampling on with consummate cynicism.

So here we are for a year, locked up in a sheet of metal, our heads stuffed with the torturous regularity of an authentic brainwashing of figures and curves underlining the necessary and never sufficient effort of a solidarity. The word makes me smile bitterly, because when it comes to solidarity, it is only a façade. This is ultimately a two-tier solidarity, expressing — if it were still necessary — the profound choices that are at work here.

We thought, modest and naive as we are, that the crash of this pandemic would finally sound the death knell for the predatory ultraliberal behaviors that have brought us to the brink. Deaf for the time being, you as much as the radiant European community, to the repeated calls of a whole society which did not wish to assist with arms swinging to the dismemberment of the living and its biotope by the ogresque activity of the sacrosanct finance, here is thus that we accuse together the return of crank in full mouth. Fragile, we are fragile. But that this fragility could have been, however, even if only for a moment, a source of reverie and fertile amazement was obviously a pious wish. The conquest of all the domains of the living does not authorize it; worse still, this conquest reduces the notion of progress to the level of a perfidious weapon, a device of separation and brutal cleavage between beings. A weapon of absolute supremacy for some, progress has become fatality for others, a paradox as cynical as it is vulgar.

Yes, certainly, profound choices are at work, those of division, of segmentarization, I would dare say of castration. However, the period of the first confinement had placed us in forced stupefaction, leaving us helpless in front of our incapacity to be, quite simply. And this was probably a good thing, at least the awareness that stopping was possible, probably even that listening and consideration still existed. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the systems in their current state would not allow for the development of these obvious facts, which had been won back by force of circumstance; the lobbies are powerful and the political mechanisms their willing hostages. Murderous blindness, indignity. And the setting up of a very bad soap opera full of false suspense but where it will be demonstrated that the weakest will be even weaker, the free of charge severely chased, the human time trampled as never before, the work always more mistreated, amputated of the last remnants of its nobility, via in particular the generalization to excess of the telecommuting, weapon of a new hostage-taking of our lives and a disturbing despoliation of the spaces, without counting the « side effects » with delay: withdrawal into oneself more and more debilitating, forced individualism, concretization of the pre-square, in short notorious metaphysical deficit…

It’s true, Mr. Prime Minister, you are trampling on us. The long term is of little interest to your purely economic philosophies, which are better suited to the brutality of one-offs.

How else can we explain the government’s stubborn neglect of the health sector, which has been privatized at breakneck speed and has found itself thrown into the front line and in need of everything like cannon fodder. At the end of the « first wave », one could have legitimately thought that the lesson had finally paid off, that health and the human and material resources it requires are a right, a fact of civilization, in short a duty of the state. But this was not the case, the march of profit remained sovereign, the privatization of the health care systems was not questioned and it was quite pleasant to put the blame on us by treating us as irresponsible children on whose attitude the smooth running of the hospitals depended…

How else to explain the complete mess presiding over the vaccination which proudly walks backwards, if not to see in it the major disorder of a crass unpreparedness as well as the deleterious effects of a political body entirely subservient to the lobbies (in this case, pharmaceutical).
It is true, to govern is to foresee and politics, let’s remember Plato, having for goal to take care of the soul of the citizens, is the science of the good in general. Unfortunately, we are far from it.

In the meantime, it is now a year since all the domains which ensure the social link in our societies are damaged, worse, denied. I am obviously thinking of cafés, restaurants, concert halls, theaters, cinemas, all places of conviviality and exchange, where the taste for chatting and peregrination is exercised, this same peregrination that allowed humanity to meet between different groups and to enrich by this very fact the knowledge that, brought in the common pot during these crossings, contributed to the elaboration of a more phenomenal knowledge, but also to the learning of its transmission, as well as to the elaboration of the transactional object, premise of a symbolic network, premise also of the first « re-presentations » of the world, literally « looked at » together, discussed together. Human groups did indeed gather around various manufactured objects whose exchange and examination allowed for the first time a social tightening and a conception of space as abstract as it was tangible.

Conscious that we were of our respective missions, these places thus of the user-friendliness and the social link put forward sanitary measures of the most rigorous. Our theaters were transformed into strange labyrinths, into aseptic cabinets of curiosity, the hydroalcoholic gel flowing, the gauges were constantly readjusted with the laconic and contradictory information following one another and transforming us into acrobatic managers of space. Schedules made and unmade day after day, with the permanent concern of allowing the artists to maintain themselves. We have done this with the rigor that characterizes us, accustomed as we are to constructing utopias and irrationality precisely through rigor. Because a show is built, it is a building. And my goodness, Mr. Prime Minister, if we had had to manage our respectable clowns the way you manage yours, we would have been turned away a long time ago, head over heels.

However, our doors had to remain closed and, while everyone could see the crowd of consumers rushing elbow to elbow in the crowded commercial arteries, we wondered in our empty theaters, in front of our extinguished bistros with chairs on the tables, if the world was walking on its head or if, more simply and obviously, all this did not proceed from a deliberate will, that to enclose the life, the exchange, the thought so that the business turns obviously passing by the revival of a forced consumption. Then came the moment when the word culture was no longer pronounced. This culture pulsates as much at a bistro table as on the edge of the stage. Had we suddenly fallen into non-existence?

As I write these lines, the press conference of March 24 does not mention for a moment the situation of the places of culture and their potential reopening; the word culture is pronounced once, under the title of village festivals…

Here we are, people of the scene, confined in our rooms, prodigious tools, factories of dreams and insoumissions, we are there but muzzled because the living art exists only by the blessed mediation of the eye and the ear which savor it. It is this collective ritual that is then at work, in the choral fabrication of a story, of a myth, conducive to time for reflection. We touch here on the fundamental necessity of the collective memory, the only possible bulwark against the predation of a system feeding on an amnesia, as uncomplicated as it is uncomplicated.

The times to come will therefore be, have no doubt about it, Mr. Prime Minister, increasingly heavy and the summer glow that you are hoping for at the cost of increasingly incoherent sacrifices will be nothing but dull and decerebrate drunkenness. For life in its human quintessence will have been sacrificed for too long on the altar of blind profitability and its subsequent irresponsibility. Toxic crop. For a world of zombies, disenchanted, lonely in jars of anxiety and acculturation.

It is true, Mr. Prime Minister, we are extremely angry. This is undoubtedly dangerous because, ultimately, there is no such thing as absolute impunity.

Martine Wijckaert, director, author.

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