After the Americans left, everything had changed. The chidlren had become much more on the ball. Marie was certain that they now understood better what made a teenager what he or she was. The regeneration of the youth by the system would take the most humiliating, treacherous unbalanced form. They seemed to know this.
In 1969 the prime minister declared that Our new society will have a face of youth. they sold products to them expecially made for them, even going as for as nearly giving them away: three years ago at the exit of some Lycées they sold joints for a franc. This satisfaction at such a cheap price no doubt led many into a life of addiction. Some weeks ago Dorothée returned home with in her satchel Collete's copy of the magazine Gigi. On the cover there was a pretty girl croutched on a low settee sucking her thumb with a mischievous air about her. Marie thinks it was the Elf company that was doing just that.
The youth form the core of shock tactics in advertising. If they are not selling directly to the youths, then the parents are targeted. Detergent which keeps your hand young, ciggarettes which make you young, drinks for the youth, cars for the youth. The woman in the Tampax adverts holds a child in each hand. The 'youth' is associated with 'modern' and it is the way into many wallets.
they create needs which the system can satisfy. They are confused by the conflict of their rebelliousness and the articicial desire for pop records, films, record players, Carambars and joints. Entering into adolescance they are aware of the culteral and economical imperialism that leads them on by the ends of their noses. They are not yet mature enough to find a solution.
Cécile talked with Marie expressing dislike that the governemet are forcing important decisions on her age group. Marie replied that she has to start taking responsibilites like that and that they do not understand the power the youth has, that the people are interested in them. Cécile said that their leaders had been kicked out of college so there was nothing they could do. Marie claimed that leader are expendible, if there is no leader then you are either biding your time or you do not have the conviction. Cécile said that she did not want a violent revolution. Marie then asked what did she want? as small reforms that conform to your petty needs do not happen. It is all or nothing. Cécile said that it was too serious for them. Marie replied that they were capable of taking the responsibiliity of going on the pill but not in their teaching and upbringing. They think they are revolutionists because they do whatever they want but thats the opposite of revolution. Cécile avoided political debate saying that she was too young to make decisions. Marie just says that this is the smoothtalk of Jaques Chirac.
Some leftists come into the house form time to time in the evenings. They are young working class or students becoming working class. They are hardcore militants, Marie does not know any of their names. The children hate them, They treat the house as if it was their own and take no interest in the other's views. After they leave the children ask why Marie puts up with them as they only come to get money out of her. Marie replies that she likes their cause and the fact that they they have a purpose. Marie does not like the 'nothing matters, everything is stupid' view. If they do not like society, they turn their back on it but they do not sit around thinking about it all the time, that is just giving society more importance than it is worth. The children replied that they did not think so, you only had to look at the Russians and what they had become and even Mao and his grip on the USA. Look at France, everyone is equal in rights yet only thirty four in a thousand working class go to university. So Marie asked what they were going to do to change that, they did not know and just asked her back.
Marie thought that she had not really made an impression on them.
Marie could never have lived through this period if the neighbours had not been so understanding. They did not mind the noise so much and thanks to them she could devote her time to guiding the children as the only adult.
Marie blames the terrible period when Grégoire was nine to twelve years old on neighbours who did not like children and would complain. Grégoire at this time had a reckless temprement and attracted may bitter-sweet remarks and telling-offs. Marie was affected by this oppression and had become strict and nervous rather than explaining to Grégoire what he was doing wrong. As Grégoire was was not a passive child, it worsened until it came to the point that Marie wanted to send him to boarding school. She remembers slapping Grégoire once because he was singing in the bathroom at six in the morning and she did not want the man upstairs at her door complaining.
Marie felt that after the Americans had left and the household had changed she needed to be more open, friendly and honest with the children in order to not distance herself from them as they become less trusting. She feels that this is a difficult task for her as it has been inbuilt within her since childhood with the bourgeoise education.
In her youth Marie learned that certain lies were acceptable. Pious lies or lies to avoid unecessary hurt to others. As an example she describes how she went to visit the family of three sisters who were chambermaids. Her mother told her to compliment the house even though when she got there it was everything she was taught was in bad taste: artificial flowers, dolls left on the bed, knitted table mats, Galeries Barbés furniture, yet compliments were made as soon as they arrived. Marie commented that the flowers were more beautiful than last year, such a compliment at such a young age was a sure sign of accpetance in Christian-bourgeoise circles. It was as though this pious lie was putting her on the rightous path of Jean of Arc or Blanche de Castille. She would sit on the chair with the doll on her knee smiling all over with her mother looking on approvingly, yet underneath she was repulsed by the made-up doll with its ballgown and cheap perfum smell she felt like a martyr. Her mother was the same, they had been fed spanish pastries before leaving, when in the car and making sure the window between them chauffer and them was firmly shut she said that they ate too much, it would make them ill and ugly, it was unfortunate.
Marie sees it as her job to help the children get work or gain an interest in work. They do not like to work, not necessarily out of laziness but because of discrimination against them. They hate the society they live in. They mostly reject politics despite it being the only way to change society. They do not have the confidance to create and impose new behaviours on themselves and others that would benifit them. They are stuck in a rut being messed around with, knowing all too well who is responsible. This unwillingness to act only seems to affect the bourgeoise, those who have to meditate and dream and do not have to search for a roof over their heads.
For the other youths, however it is the same, if formulated differently or less precisely. Need pushes them to become sheep. The fear of the gendarmes, the weight of generations of poverty before them means they are more used to lowering their head and bowing to submission. Others however become fierce political reactionaries and then there are those who become hooligans.
The hooligans are everywhere in Paris, and its surrounding towns. Marie took Pierre Perret leaving the Bobino as an example of a pointless beating. It was violence for violences sake, not even to steal from him. The press picked up on it because he was a celebrity.
Each day, the lads the children call Loulous (Spitz) attack people indiscriminantly outside the metro stations. They are usually aged between fourteen and eighteen. Some girls mix with them but only serve as the 'brains' of the group. They hang around in the roads, coming from shanty towns or the tower blocks in the suburbs. They are scary, spineless brutal and big. Like a horde of starving, abandoned animals.
At one time there was violence between the Loulous and the New Order a group of neo nazis. The neo nazis would do hit and run attacks with truncheons, the Loulous retaliated by taking the leftisist's side and attacking any member of the new order that left the Lycée. It had to be said that the leftists were no saints and took part in this willingly although they had now become, in the public opinion, hooligans.
The police knew all about this and let it be. The Loulous did not steal, only attacking for pleasure and by chance. The police took the stance that there was no point in arresting them as they need to be with their families, available for employment and be able to communicate in order to reform. Putting them in prison would only make them worse. However Marie claimed these people could not be reformed, they were killers and thieves through and through, it is them that is making society poor.
Marie had a real need for solitude and silence. It seemed that her children would never grow up. She decided to go to Montréal to see Jean-Pièrre for three weeks in a snowy Canada. It was the first time she had left her children. For the first few days she clinged on to her daily routine, of getting up at seven to get things done. By nine though she had no more work to do and worry set in, Had they got up?, had they got to school? was Grégoire attending work regularily? etc. Seding message by post took too long and the telephone was expensive, so direct communication was difficult, Marie felt helpless like she was stuck in neutral.
The house was hot and peaceful, she only had to look after herself and when she felt like it she wrote, slept, listened to music. She thought it pleasant and realaxing to be alone with a husband she had forgotton.
She kept reffering to all three of her children and Jean-Pièrre had to keep repeating to her to have confidance in them. She benefitted from the stay greatly.
Upon returning she found them all waiting for her, those who were not there rang her up to catch up on things. That moved her.
They had changed the house around, digging out old forgotton things, tacking Indian scarves onto the wall. she said would certainly keep the 'music corner' they had created, however other things did not please her so much. In her bedroom they had reversed the entire room around. The desire to change things around was healthy, but the house was dirty. The children asked how she liked the changes, she said that she did not like the poster of the first communion that was her mothers in the living room. They said that it was trendy, Marie however said that it brought back bad memories, they asked if there was anything else and Marie said it was dirty. They did not know what to say.
The day after her return she realised that her silverware had dissapeared including teapots, cafetières and a large samovar. Asking one of the children she found out that some lads from Avignon had taken it. Charlotte said she saw them at the demonstration where Pierre Overney was killed, once they saw her they hid themselves in the crowd. Marie said that she was going to get the police onto them. Charlotte said that Marie had always told them that you should not become attached to material objects however Marie said it was not because they stole from her but because they were using her. They stopped over, they ate, they took money. The house should not be confused with a charity. She left the key in the door so that youths could express themselves and communicate. She feels that they are mocking her by acting like that.
She left for the office allready being late, she was there for less than an hour before Grégoire called her on the telephone. He pleaded for Marie not to call the police saying that one of the girls was from a small town and her father was the mayor and it would seriously harm their reputation, he also said the the police were horrible to youths, he even started to cry. Marie suspected he was on drugs or something. He said that they would come to the house and misunderstand how they lived and that they should avoid the system at all costs. Marie was furious, because in a sense Grégoire was right. She was torn as to whether she should conform to the system or live freely amongst such crime. There is only a politcal solution to the problem and the youths do not want to act upon it. They do not want revolution. Marie wanted to shake them up, they were okay about her earning a living from the system, yet they did not want her to ring the police. She thinks they are merely bourgeoise who just do not want the bourgeoise image, only the image.
Marie had returned between the assasination and burial of Pierre Overney, ther was endless discussion about it in the house. Charlotte put on her red and black armband saying that she was less and less for the extreme left stating that they were nearly worse than the bourgeoise. Marie asked what that meant for her, she did not know.
Dorothée herself wanted to go to the burial. It was the first time she had taken part in a protest. The other gave her advice. They told her to stay in the middle of the group as the risk of arrest was much lower, also if they rout the group then she should go into a Metro station, it tends to be safe in there. They left at one in the afternoon and returned at seven, the whole time marching and stamping around. Marie thought back to what a journalist had said about the May 68 riots saying that revolutions were incomplete without lots of blood being spilt. Already with Richard Deshayes, people were taking note, now with Pierre Overney it was starting to really take hold as he was one of the working class.
Death is often a topic of conversation within the house. Not peaceful death from old age but violent death such as suicide, road accidents and war. Last year one of Dorothées few friends, Catherine, was decapitated in a road accident. Dorothée stayed for two days in her room reading. She never mentioned the name of her friend and never left her bed. Afterwards she avoided Catherines parents, for everyone else in the house it had had the same effect.
In their favourite records and films, the question of death was often raised. Marie found it odd that the Anglo-Saxons see so little of the dead, keeping them in waiting for burial in funeral homes and even more that they try to deny the death by applying make-up. When the Americans were over, Emily, who had an infectious laugh and told the story of the girl who cooked her brother, had seen coffin in the corridor and asking what it was, was shocked to hear that the French kept the coffin in the house whilst waiting for burial. Marie did not understand why.
What really gets to them is absurdity and relativity. For example, nothing is really important, yet nothing is really unimportant.
War digusts them, they cannot bear to die to fuel a market in weapons or to get some doubtful political leader in power. Marie has never met anyone who wanted to serve their military service. The collapse of the army at the end of the war against Algeria raised little money and what little money was raised was put back into the military. When adults speak of war they mean the first and second world war, the youths though talk about the guerilla warfares of Vietnam, Ireland and Bangladesh.
Marie is not a patriot. When she was taught that her Gaulish ancestors had blond hair and blue eyes, she was sat in a room of brown haired pupils. Coming up to Christmas, in her textbooks she saw ideal pictures of happy people skating, in a snowy landscape and this surprised her as much as hearing about oriental countries with pagodas and legends of dragons.
She wonders what attitudes to take with the boys as regards military service. She does not have a stance. She thinks that if she was in their place she would probably have the same views as they do.
When Marie still lived in Algeria, upon leaving a doctors, he had recommended to her mother that Marie go to a French boarding school as soon as possible. As they drove away Marie was glad there was a war on and that she could not go for the moment, she did not like France. She was twelve.
France was seen by her family as the sacred homeland, Marie feared it as much as she did God. It was self important in its own history. After the war, each winter they would visit to see family, for health reasons and for patriotism. It was good for body, mind and soul. They would make the pilgrimage to Napoleons tomb, visit the Pleyel concert hall to listen to Versailles, Mass at the Notre Dame for a sermon by Reverend Father Machin, Guerlain and Chanel, the tomb of an unknown soldiar, the Arc de Triomphe, The Grande Maison de Blanc, Old England, dinner in a Bois or Fouquet restaurant. Seeing all sorts of specialists to check the health was in good order, they would say that she was growing too fast and her liver was a bit sensitive, the French air would do her more good. All the time having to dress up in velevet shoes and silly outfits and obey rediculous table manners such as eating peas of the back of the fork and not speaking at the table.
It was always a relief to see Algeria again and thanks to the war, she would not have to go to France this year. She could speak freely and walk bare foot on the beach. She has not changed her views much since then. She as not interested in all the training of troups and investing atomic warfare. She did not really see why they should protect France. The Resistance is not remembered any more by anyone but the generation before Marie's, for the generation of now it is history. If they see a programme on the television about the Resistance, they change the channel.