nathalie quintane - speech on may 14, 2014

“There have always been cancers, we just didn’t call them cancers; nonetheless there have never been so many cancers. It is rare to get up in the morning and by evening not to have heard the word cancer at least once. There’s nothing you can do about it, the best thing to do is to get used to the idea of cancer, all the while keeping an eye on what you feed it: you drink green tea for example; avoid red meat, then white meat too; you choose fish, and, of the different kinds, mackerel. Eggs are also disgusting. Maybe you can avoid the worst by choosing your eggs carefully. Shells that are too thin: unreliable.1 Eggs that break as soon as you take them out of the carton. Vile corporations make stacks of money off us by selling crumbly2 eggs — obviously no one deliberately produces crumbly eggs in order to poison the population, but it amounts to exactly the same thing: by calculating how many square metres can be scrimped3 by increasing the number of hens per square metre and how many kilos of chicken-bone meal these same hens can devour in order to feed themselves and lay eggs that are therefore crumbly, the eggs produced are deliberately crumbly. I can’t see how we can eternally say that everyone is innocent regarding this issue. Admittedly not everyone is guilty. We are all a little bit guilty. But should I stop eating eggs? Should I therefore no longer eat omelettes, cakes, sauces? I’m not personally trying to limit the amount of hens per square metre. The safest thing to do is to buy eggs from as close to where I live as possible (even though the worst poultry farms could be right at my door). More expensive eggs, for sure — but the time has come to decide: either an egg a week from just around the corner, or an egg a day from further afield. Do you need an egg a day? It’s possible to live simply. How can you tell if the horse meat in your Hungarian dumpling is Hungarian? It’s the horse meat scandal — you could see it coming. And the Hungarians have a completely different political system to us, they have fewer sanitary inspections, less verve for that sort of thing. If Europe was actually unified, its health regulations and control of (animal) populations would be unified — and then, maybe, we could eat Hungarian dumplings. Obviously the working poor cannot not buy these dumplings. It’s the working poor who eat and buy Hungarian dumplings and eggs that are crumbly and practically rotten. The working poor who eat unhealthy and rotten food also end up becoming unhealthy and rotten themselves, by adopting the Hungarian diet or by being enthralled by it. Only octogenarians don’t want to go on the Hungarian diet. But there are also 15-year-old minors, adults in their 30s or 40s. Let them come. Let them try. And let’s hear no more of it. Because we are all sick of being potentially in Hungary. Hungary, once and for all. Let those who don’t want to become Greece, Italy or Spain, but who say that they are no better or worse than Greece, Italy, or Spain, potentially, reject the Hungarian solution if they want to. A solution presents itself to everyone: it is Hungarian, it is radical. We’ll have to see how it turns out. It takes a long time to decide, but we are patient, even if things are urgent. Because people are dying — from eggs, poverty, unsanitary housing. Naturally this has nothing to do with the period after the war, the one the Nazis didn’t win. Hardly anyone remembers living through this period after the war, they were too young, still in diapers, but they declare that they knew it, that they can describe it, to wit: housing without bathrooms, where people washed at the sink but were still clean, ridiculously small housing — but obviously not as small as most of the former maid’s quarters where we now house our students, interns, workers, retirees, dogs and children — , soon to be replaced by McMansions in the suburbs, veritable suites where everyone has their own room, not just a bathroom but an actual bath, for wages that allow you to throw a whole lot of other stuff into the bargain,4 to buy a TV, no, a radio first, then a TV, and washing machines, dishwashers, and why not a dryer too, housing covered in cracks now, splitting right down to the cellar, housing split with boxcutters, bombed, housing chock full of a whole lot of other stuff thrown into the bargain,5 chock full of gaming consoles, computers, screens, smartphones, iphones, all off the back of a truck, enough Nikes to supply the whole of Africa if it weren’t Asia that supplied us with shoes. And this is the big difference: now Asia supplies us with shoes. A kind of reversal took place that we can’t do anything about. We can only acknowledge the humiliation of having to wear shoes that aren’t our own. All historical and geographical conditions since antiquity combined to ensure that we wouldn’t have to suffer this humiliation. First it was brute force, then much more subtle measures, all with the same goal: to spare us humiliation. But there you have it, something has turned around if you will, and it is not without reason, not without cause that it now falls to us to decide with the only possession we have left, which authentically belongs to us and which will never be taken from us: intelligence. Thanks to my intelligence I can retrace the steps of this reversal, to understand why this country is at risk of sinking into Greek nonsense, or Spanish or Portuguese nonsense, or the funny Italian sort. On the one hand, we wont have a buffoon in government; let the buffoons already there laugh if they like — but we won’t have a certified buffoon in government. Am I incapable of carrying a cinder block? Am I incapable of cleaning toilets with a brush? Would having to scrub other peoples’ toilets really hard be unworthy of me? So there are worthy and unworthy jobs then? Take the damn brush off them! Take the cinder block off them! Take the broom off them, take the rubbish off them! When something happens in Ukraine, doesn’t something happen in Ukraine and on TF1 and ARTE? When the peasants are unhappy, aren’t they the same peasants as the ones on TF1 and ARTE? When a bank closes up shop and when it opens up shop again the next day, doesn’t it open up the same shop as the one on FT1 and on ARTE? When someone dies, don’t they die everywhere? If they announced that the ice caps were advancing, well, that’d be unheard of. The heating bills are not going down. At the first quivers of spring, I’m happy. Through the window I see my rosebushes just slightly bending in the breeze, in my garden, my spruce, and this bush whose name I forget, which had such a hard time taking root because I didn’t water it enough and which has been growing branches every which way for a year, so much that it’ll have to be cut back. An extremely old feeling makes us cheer spring and boo winter. Whatever happens, we won’t boo spring, and we won’t cheer winter. They can tell us what they like, try to convince us or manipulate us, but no one here will ever cheer winter. Something returns, every spring, something stronger than us. Surpasses us. Something we don’t talk about. We don’t talk about everything. Let the working poor educate and instruct themselves. We’ll call it ‘further education’. Rehash everything; everything’s obsolete; throw everything out; gotta re-do everything. Gotta re-do everything not after 18 or 20 years but after 2. After 2 years is no longer good enough. Things have been done that shouldn’t have been; the child ran around too much or sat around too much. He sits too long in front of a screen or else he runs in the corridors. The one sitting has to stand up, the one running has to sit down. There is no one to say stop. Laws in a shambles. Laws decided on far away, in extra-national buildings. On the other hand, and this with infernal headaches, a state deciding on everything, but which? Or else the same one deciding on pretty much nothing but sabre-rattling. A whole people rattling sabres. Anywhere you go abroad, people will tell you that you belong to a sabre-rattling people, that that’s how they recognize you, they connect you with it from the moment you step off the plane or out of the hotel. And indeed, when I envisage myself I see a sabre-rattler. And in all of Europe: Portuguese this, Albanian that, Danish this, Norwegian that, Belgians this, Germans that, Swiss this, Italians that, Austrians this. I heard there were riots now in Vienna. Vienna in Austria or Vienna in France? I head the Portuguese working poor are rioting now in Portugal, Malta or France, destroying shops, banks, and we approve (they should be brought to order). We approve of disorder, we approve of order, we approve of disorder being brought to order and of order being brought to disorder. Public opinion on GMOs has shifted according to two news flashes since Sunday.”

[source: nathalie quintane (2014), ‘discours du 14 mai, 2014’, in les années 10, la fabrique éditions, paris.]

  1. “pas fiables” 

  2. “friable” 

  3. “gratter”, which also means to scratch, like chickens do 

  4. “permettant de s’acheter par-dessus le marché” 

  5. “bourrées par-dessus le marché”