A Sure Way to Seize Joy Immediately ~ Zo d’Axa
The Stock Exchange, the Palace of Justice, and the Parliament building have been talked about quite a bit the past few days. These three buildings were specifically threatened by three young men who were fortunately stopped just in time.
Nothing can be hidden from the honorable journalists. They revealed the triple conspiracy, and their colleagues in the police department immediately apprehended the conspirators.
Once again the men of the press and the police have earned the gratitude of that portion of the population that doesn’t yet appreciate the picturesque charm of palaces in ruin, and the strange beauty of fallen buildings.
The public won’t be stingy with its thanks. The services rendered will be rewarded with solid cash. Civic virtues must be encouraged. Secret funds will dance, and the ball will be led by society’s saviors.
All the better! Because it is edifying to see that if there is a small number of clever exploiters among our enemies, the great mass of them is made up of imbeciles who push the limits of naivete all the way to the horizon.
How could these dimwits believe that anarchists would consider blowing up parliament at this time?
1. When the Members of Parliament are on vacation!
You have to be completely out of it to think that revolutionaries would choose such a moment.
If only from common courtesy, we would wait for everyone’s return, after the vacation season.
Still, the other morning, while Paris shopkeepers were arranging their wares, they told themselves, with their robust good sense:
“There can be no mistake. They want to undermine the foundations of our centuries-old monuments. We are faced with a new conspiracy.”
Come, come, good shopkeepers! You are wandering onto the plains of the absurd. This conspiracy you speak of isn’t new. If it’s about tearing down the worm-eaten edifices of the society we hate, well, this has been in preparation for a long time.
This is what we have always plotted to do.
The temple of the Stock Exchange — where faithful Catholics and fervent Jews gather for the rituals and affairs of petty commerce — the temple of the Stock Exchange should, in fact, disappear; and soon.
The money-handlers will in turn be handled by the heavy caress of crumbling stones.
Then the Stock Exchange game will no longer be played. Those skillful strokes that bring millions to corporations — whose reason for being is to speculate on wheat and to organize famines — will be no more.
Those behind the scenes: the brokers and the bankers — gold’s priests — will sleep their final sleep beneath the ruins of their temple.
In this resting place, the financiers will give us pleasure.
As for the judges, it’s well known that they are never so handsome as when they march towards death. It’s a real pleasure to see them then.
History is full of striking sketches of prosecutors and judges who the people made suffer from time to time. It must be admitted that the agony of these men was aesthetically appealing.
And what a superb spectacle, a commotion at the palace of Justice. Quesnay held down by a column that has broken his spine, trying hard to assume the look of a Beaurepaire struck down during the Crusades. Cabot, quoting Balzac with his dying breath. Anquetil, next to the witty Croupi, shouting:
“Nothing is lost…we are lying beneath our judge’s benches.”
The scene would have such grandeur that, good souls that we are, we would sincerely feel bad for the defeated. We would no longer want to remember the ignominy of the red robes — dyed with the blood of the poor. We would forget that the judiciary was cowardly and cruel.
It will be an ineffable pardon.
And if Atthalin himself — the specialist in political trials — with his head slightly cracked, were to ask to be taken to a rest home, we would gallantly grant the sick man’s wish.
In truth, you don’t have to be an anarchist to be seduced by the coming demolitions.
All those who society lashes in the innermost depths of their instinctively wanting vengeance.
A thousand institutions of the old world are marked with a fatal sign.
Those affiliated with the conspiracy have no need to hope for a distant better future; they know a sure way to seize joy immediately:
■ The Case of the Dog
The Clichy Police Station — the one that has served as the stage setting for some legendary cases of the third degree — nearly met its end in an apotheosis of dynamite.
Two cute little copper-red bombs had been placed in a corridor leading to the Superintendent’s office; the fuses had been lit … everything was going along beautifully from the specific point of view of the depositor arguing for the purification of the place, when a dog, the Superintendent’s dog, noticed the a giorno lighting and began to raise his voice. Thus, the alarm was sounded. He barked; he barked, and someone came quickly enough to extinguish the threatening light.
It should be noted that, since the geese of the Capitol, there have always been animals that interfere in things that don’t concern them. The vile beasts — this is an image — always cry out: “Watch out!” at the smallest shake-up.
In all fairness, I’d like to make clear that the dog’s case could be pled: however dishonorable his master’s function may be, this faithful quadruped seeks to protect him. One should appreciate such complete devotion, and not cast solemn blame on the puppy who prevented things from totally blowing up.
In any case, it’s optional to fear that that the people of the Clichy police station — those worthy representatives of authority who, on May 1 and July 14, conquered a bloody reputation as executioners in the poor suburbs — only backed up in order to better blow up …
They talk of anarchy.
The dailies are roused. Comrades are interviewed and “L’Éclair” among other things, says that there is a split among the anarchists. It’s on the matter of theft that opinions are divided. Some, it is said, want to build it into a principle; others irrevocably condemn it.
It would be impossible for us to take a stand on such a terrain. This theft might seem good to us and deserving of approval; that we might find that one violently repugnant.
There is no Absolute.
If events now lead us to specify a particular way of understanding and being, every day, in the lively articles of our expressive collaborators, our desire has been clearly stated:
Neither in a party nor a group.
We go our way — individuals, without faith, which saves and blinds. Our disgust with society doesn’t engender in us any unchanging convictions. We fight for the joy of the battle, and without any dream of a better future. What do we care about tomorrows that won’t come for centuries! What do we care about our grand-nephews! We are outside all laws, all rules, all theories — even anarchist. It’s from this instant — right away — that we want to abandon ourselves to our pity, our outbursts, our gentleness, our rages, our instincts — with the pride of being ourselves.
Up till now, nothing has revealed to us the radiant beyond. Nothing has given us a constant criterion. Life’s panorama endlessly changes, and events appear to us under a different light depending on the time. We will never react against impulses or launch, in our turn, contradictory points of view. It is simple. The echo of vibrant sensations resounds here. And if ardor sometimes disorients in its unexpectedness, it’s because we speak of the things of our time like primitive barbarians who have suddenly fallen among them.
It would never occur to us to pose us judges. There are thieves we don’t like, that’s for sure; and those we’d attack, that’s likely. But that would be for their appearance rather than for the brute fact.
We will not put eternal Truth — with a capital T—into play.
It’s a matter of impressions.
A hunchback might displease me more than a likable recidivist.
To the Voters
[The following is a document from La Feuille’s campaign to run an ass named Worthless for the Parliament]
In presenting myself for your votes, I owe you a few words. Here they are:
I come from an old French family — I dare to say — and am a pedigreed ass, an ass in the good sense of the word: four hooves and hair all over.
My name is Worthless, as are my rival candidates.
I am blank, like many of the ballots that they persist in not counting, but which now belong to me.
My election is assured.
You understand that I am speaking frankly.
You are being fooled. It is said that the last Chamber, made up of imbeciles and swindlers, didn’t represent the majority of voters. This is false.
On the contrary, a Chamber made up of idiotic representatives and cheats represents you as voters perfectly. Don’t protest; a nation gets the representatives it deserves.
Why did you elect them?
You aren’t embarrassed, among yourselves, to admit that the more things change, the more they stay the same; that your elected officials mock you and think only of their own interests, glory or money.
So why would you elect them again tomorrow?
You know quite well that those you send to sit for you will sell their word for a check and will trade in jobs, positions and tobacco shops.
But who are the tobacco shops, positions and sinecured jobs for if not the Electoral Committees that are paid in this way?
The shepherds of the Committees are less naïve than the flock.
The Chamber represents the lot.
A parliament of idiots and crafty devils, of old fools and Robert Macaires is needed to personify both professional voters and depressed proletarians at one and the same time.
And that’s what you are!
They are fooling you, good voters, they are deceiving and flattering you when they tell you that you are beautiful, that you are justice, right, national sovereignty, the people-king, free men…They harvest your votes and that’s all. You are fruit for the picking… Pears.
They keep on deceiving you. They tell you that France is still France. This isn’t true.
With each passing day France loses all meaning in the world, all liberal meaning. It is no longer a nation of hardy, risk-taking, idea-spreading, cult-smashing people. It is a Marianne kneeling before the throne of autocrats. It’s corporalisme reborn more hypocritically than in Germany: a tonsure under the kepi.
They fool you, they never stop fooling you! They talk to you about ‘brother’, when the struggle for bread has never been sharper or bloodier!
They talk to you about patriotism and our sacred patrimony—to you who have nothing.
They talk to you about integrity, and here they are, pirates of the press, journalists willing to do anything, master deceivers and blackmailers, singing of national honor.
The supporters of the Republic, the petit-bourgeois, the petty lords are tougher on beggars than the masters of the old regimes. We live under the supervisors’ eye.
Weakened workers, producers who consume nothing, are content to patiently suck at the bone without marrow that is thrown to them, the bone of universal suffrage. And it is to tell lies, to engage in electoral discussions, that they move their jaws, jaws that no longer know how to bite.
And when, on occasion, the children of the people shake themselves from their torpor they find themselves face to face with our brave army like at Fourmies…and the reasoning of the Lebel guns puts lead in their heads.
Justice is the same for all. The honorable thieves of Panama travel in carriages and don’t know the cart. But handcuffs squeeze the wrists of old workers who are arrested as vagabonds.
The ignominy of the present moment is such that no candidate dares defend this society. Bourgeois-leaning politicians: reactionaries or partisans, republican masks or false noses, proclaim that if you vote for them things will go better, things will go well. Those who have already taken everything from you ask for even more.
Give your votes, Citizens!
The beggars, the candidates, the thieves, the vote-squeezers all have a special way to make and re-make the Public Good.
Listen to the good workers, the party quacks; they want to conquer power…in order to better abolish it.
Others invoke the Revolution , and they fool themselves while fooling you. Voters will never make the Revolution. Universal suffrage was created precisely to prevent virile action. Charley has a good time voting…
And even if some incident launched men into the streets; and even if a group went into action in response to some police or military attack, what could we expect of the swarming crowd that we see, the cowardly and empty-headed crowd?
Go on! Go on, you men of the crowd! Go on, voters! To the polls…and stop complaining. It’s enough. Don’t try to inspire pity because of the fate you imposed upon yourselves. Afterward don’t insult the Masters that you gave yourselves.
These masters are worth as much as you, while they steal from you. They are probably worth more: they’re worth 25 francs a day, not counting their small profit. And this is as it should be.
The voter is nothing but a failed candidate.
The people at the bottom — with small savings and small hopes, rapacious small merchants, slow-moving domestic folk — need a mediocre parliament that will bring together and make money from all that is vile in the nation.
So vote, voters! Vote! The Parliament emanates from you. A thing is because it must be, because it can’t be any other way. Create the Chamber in your image. A dog returns to its vomit. Return to your representatives…
■ He Is Elected
Good people of the city,
Listen to the edifying story of a pretty little white ass, candidate in the capital. This isn’t a Mother Goose rhyme or a story from Le Petit Journal. It’s a true story for old kids who still vote:
A burro, child of the country of LaFontaine and Rabelais, an ass so white that M. Vervoort mistook it for a blancmange gluttonously ate it, aspired to a seat in the legislature in the electoral game. When election day arrived, this burro, a typical candidate answering to the name of Worthless, pulled off a last-minute maneuver.
On this hot Sunday morning in May, as the people rushed to the polls, the white ass, the candidate Worthless, perched on a victory wagon drawn by voters, traversed the streets of Paris, his fine city.
Standing on his hoofs, ears to the wind, looking proud in his vehicle, gaudily painted with election posters and shaped like a ballot box, holding his head high between the water glass and the presidential bell, he passed through the anger, the cheers and the gibes.
The ass looked upon Paris as stared at him.
Paris! The Paris that votes, the crowd, the people who are sovereign every four years…the people foolish enough to believe that sovereignty consists in choosing its masters.
As flocks of dazed voters parked in front of the town halls, fetishists holding little cards in their hands with which they said: I abdicate.
Mr. Such-and-such will represent them. He will represent them all the better in that he represents no ideas. And it’ll be fine. They’ll make laws, they’ll balance the budget. The laws will be more chains; the budget, new taxes…
Slowly the ass went through the streets.
Along the way, members of his committee covered the walls with posters, while others distributed his proclamations to the crowd:
“Think clearly, dear citizens. You know that your representatives are fooling you, have fooled you, will go on fooling you — yet still you go to vote. So vote for me! Elect the ass!…I’m not any dumber than you.”
This frankness, a bit brutal, wasn’t to everyone’s taste.
“He’s insulting us,” some of them howled.
“He’s mocking universal suffrage,” others more accurately cried out.
Someone angrily shook his fist at the ass and said:
But a resounding laugh broke out. The crowd cheered for the candidate. Bravely, the voters made fun both of themselves, and their elected representatives. They waved hats and canes. Women threw flowers…
The ass passed.
He descended from high in Montmartre towards the Latin Quarter. He crossed the great boulevards, the rue Croissant where the clichés that sell newspapers are cooked up without salt. He saw Les Halles where the starving, the Sovereign People, go through piles of rubbish; the Quais, where the voters choose bridges as lodgings…
Heart and Mind! This was Paris! This was democracy!
All are brothers, old vagabonds! Pity the bourgeois! He has gout… and he’s your brother, you people without bread, jobless men and worn out mothers who will go home tonight to die with your little ones…
All are brothers, young draftee! There’s your brother the officer, with his girl’s corset and blocked forehead. Salute! Present arms! In line! The Code watches over you — the military code. Twelve bullets in your skin for a gesture. It’s the republican tariff.
The ass reached the Senate.
He rolled by the palace, where people rush out from their posts willy-nilly. He continued along on the outside (alas!) of the green, green gardens. Then he reached the Boulevard St-Michel. On the café terraces people applauded. The crowd kept on growing and grabbed copies of the proclamations. Students latched onto the wagon, a professor pushed the wheels…
Now, as three o’clock sounded, the police appeared.
Since 10:00 am, from an extension in the police station, the telegraph and telephone marked the strange passage of the subversive animal. The order to bring him in was issued: Arrest the ass! And now the city officers on watch blocked the candidate’s route.
Near the Place St-Michel Worthless’s faithful committee was summoned by the armed forces to bring the candidate to the nearest police station. Of course, the Committee overruled this order, right over the Seine, where the wagon soon stopped in front of the Palace of Justice.
More numerous, the city officers surrounded the imperturbable white ass. The Candidate was arrested at the gate of the Palace of Justice from which representatives, swindlers and great thieves of all kinds exit as free men.
The wagon lurched from the crowd’s movement. The officers, with the corporal in the lead, seized the shafts and put on the breast-harness. The Committee didn’t force the issue; they harnessed up the city officers.
This was how the white ass was let loose by his most ardent partisans. Like a common politician, the animal went in the wrong way. The police took him in tow, and Authority guided his path …From that moment on, Worthless was no more than an official candidate. His friends no longer knew him. The police commissioner’s office opened wide its doors, and the ass entered as if it were his home.
…We speak of this today to let the people know — the people of Paris and the countryside, workers, peasants, bourgeois, proud Citizens, dear gentlemen — that the white ass Worthless has been elected. He has been elected in Paris. He has been elected in the provinces. Add up the unmarked white and the voided ballots, add up the abstentions, the voices and the silences that normally come together to signify disgust or contempt. A few statistics, if you pleas, and you can easily confirm that in every precinct the gentleman who was fraudulently proclaimed representative didn’t receive a quarter of the votes. From this, as circumstance necessitates, we derive the idiotic phrase, “Relative Majority.” You might as well say that at night it’s relative day!
And in this way, the incoherent, brutal universal suffrage, based on numbers — which it doesn’t even have — will perish in ridicule. Speaking of the French elections, newspapers throughout the world, without any malice, linked the two most notable facts of the day:
“In the morning, around 9 a.m., M. Felix Faure went to vote. In the afternoon, at 3 p.m., the white ass was arrested.”
I read this in three hundred newspapers. I was encumbered with clippings from The Argus and the Courrier de la Presse. There were reports in English, Wallachian, Spanish…which I nevertheless understood.
Every time I read Felix Faure, I was sure that they were speaking of the ass!
La Feuille Editor’s note: During the electoral period the program-poster was really pasted up on the walls, and election day the satirical candidate really traveled through Paris, from Montmartre to the Latin Quarter, cutting through the enthusiastic or scandalized crowd that expressed itself loudly. On Boulevard du Palais, the ass was duly apprehended by the police, who set themselves to drag him to the pound. As the newspapers of the time reported, there wasn’t a fight between the ass’s partisans and the representatives of order thanks to the editor of La Feuille who cried out: “Don’t force the issue; he’s an official candidate now.”
Translated by WM, play additions & slight changes, by Fiona
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