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Cette année, avec mes classes de Premières, je me suis amusé avec le film V for Vendetta – réalisé par les frères Wachowski et inspiré des personnages créés par Alan Moore et David Lloyd – pour illustrer la notion Seats and Forms of Power.

Nous avons abordé la notion sous l’angle pouvoirs/contre-pouvoirs et on s’est demandé comment le peuple pouvait se rebeller contre un ordre établi qui pourrait s’avérer despotique totalitaire et dictatorial.

J’aime bien cette notion, c’est pour moi la seule qui permet réellement d’entendre l’opinion personnelle des élèves et un semblant de réflexion sur les libertés individuelles et ce qu’est vraiment la démocratie. Elle permet de se projeter et d’analyser notre société un peu plus sérieusement, de se poser des questions et d’exercer un peu de sens critique.

Et cela permet aussi de travailler sur la langue et les figures de style, comme cette magnifique introduction de V à base d’allitérations en “v”, d’accumulation et de gradation:

Et dans un registre soutenu en plus. Un vrai régal pour qui aime les lettres.

En ce jour un peu spécial étant donné les évènements de ces derniers jours en France, voici Fink interprétant This Is The Thing :

I don’t know if you notice anything different.
It’s getting dark and it’s getting cold and the nights are getting long
And I don’t know if you even notice at all
That I’m long gone

And the things that keep us apart
Keep me alive
And the things that keep me alive
Keep me alone
This is the thing

I don’t know if you notice anything missing
Like the leaves on the trees or my clothes all over the floor
And I don’t know if you even notice at all
‘Cause I was real quiet when I closed the door

And the things that keep us apart
Keep me alive
And the things that keep me alive
Keep me alone
This is the thing

And I don’t know if you notice anything different
I don’t know if you even notice at all

This is the thing

Les ministères de l’Education nationale et de l’Enseignement supérieur viennent de lancer un appel d’offres pour assurer une «veille de l’opinion». En d’autres termes, suivre tout ce qui se dit et s’écrit dans les médias sur les sujets les concernant. Le premier y consacre un budget de 100 000 euros, le second de 120 000 euros.

A l’origine, ce dispositif a été lancé sous l’ère Gilles de Robien alors qu’il n’y avait qu’un seul ministère. Il a été poursuivi par Xavier Darcos (nommé en mai 2007) et par Valérie Pécresse, qui récupère alors l’Enseignement supérieur. L’an dernier, le budget consacré à cette «veille» était déjà de 220 000 euros.

Certains craignent que le ministre cherche à identifier les courants de pensée qui agitent les salles des professeurs afin d’anticiper des mouvements de grogne.

Introduction

Civic liberties and parliamentary institutions represent one of the major cultural legacies: England left to the civilization of the world. The first document protecting individual liberty and the prototype of modern Parliament appeared in England as early as the 13th century. But effective protection against arbitrary power and the first parliamentary regime emerged much later in the 17th. However the modern notion of democracy, which implies full political citizenship for everyone (no one deprived of the right to vote) took much longer time to take route in Britain than elsewhere in the world. The pioneer of Parliamentarism took the slow road to universal suffrage. As the American claim for independence and liberty showed in the late 19th century, English liberty celebrated by the most famous philosophers (Voltaire and Montesquieu) was more a myth than a reality.

I. Origins of Parliament and Civil liberties.

In Britain, there is no written constitution to protect civil liberties and define the rules of the political game. Yet, several traditions, constitutional agreements and political conventions exist and constitute the pillars of the regime. One of those document is the Magna Carta (Great Charter) granted by King John in 1215 under the pressure of his aristocracy and clergy. This document excluded very early in English history the practice of political absolutism and excessive use of the royal prerogative). Moreover, after Magna Carta, no excessive demand for money could be made by the King without the consent of the aristocracy and clergy. British and American tradition of vote on taxation finds its origin in this event. Finally, concerning individual freedom, after Magna Carta, no arrest in prison or punishment could be performed on aristocrats and clergymen without a trial by similar kinds of people, according to the law of the land. It is the starting point of the notion of trial by peers.

Later on, in 1265, Edward I was forced by his aristocracy to assemble (summon) the first Parliament in English history, which took the name of Model Parliament. The very notion of Parliament, from the French word "parler" implies a discussion on every legislative decision and therefore, the possibility for a diversity of opinions. English Parliament was the first to include representatives from outside the clergy and aristocracy. It was established in a very pragmatic way, simply for the King needed the support of the whole nation for his military campaigns against Wales, Scotland and France. Thus, it was necessary for him to raise money through taxation. So, before being a full legislative body where law is made, Parliament rests on the principle of no taxation without political representation.
From its origin, the Parliament started to meet in two separate chambers located in the Palace of Westminster:

  • The Upper House or House of Lords, organized according to the principle of heredity (by birth, not by elections).
  • The Lower House or House of Commons, organized by elections and receiving the representatives of taxpayers and landowners (= the rich).

The Parliamentary institutions founded in the Middle Ages have a paradoxical nature. The Model Parliament was the first representative political body in Europe, England was called the Mother of Parliament but the right to vote (= the Franchise) and the right to be elected (= Eligibility) were defined as a privilege either of birth or property and money, not as a universal right. It took several centuries for England to reform this initial trend.

II. The Glorious Revolution of 1688

In the first part of the 17th century, abuse of authority from the King led to a re-statement of rights whose origins could be found in English story. At the end of the 17th century, after a period of Civil War and a peaceful revolution, the tradition of parliamentary sovereignty became past of the legal framework of the English constitution. In 1628, the Parliament opposed a petition of rights to the King, claiming for political guarantees against money for Charles I’s European and colonial wars. The King’s refusal to renounce to this prerogative led to a civil war and to the King’s execution in 1649.

The principle of the petition re-emerged in the events of 1688, called the Glorious Revolution for it was bloodless. The current King James II was forced to leave the country and was replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband William on the condition that the two would accept a declaration of rights in exchange of the throne. The contract was instituted: political power against rights. After it was approved, the declaration was known as the Bill of Rights in 1689, which constituted the first constitutional monarchy in the world by stipulating once for all:

  1. The King can’t suspend a law voted in Parliament
  2. The King can’t raise taxes or maintain a permanent army in time of peace without a vote in Parliament.

The new institution created the notion of Government by the leaders of the country’s majority and led to the formation of two political parties alternating in power as the majority and the opposition. The name of the first party is the Whigs: they supported the new regime and represented the world of business and commerce. In the 19th century, the Whigs became the Liberal Party. The second party was the Tories, who supported a more authoritarian definition of the monarchy. They represented the class of agricultural landowners. In the 19th century, the Tories became the Conservative Party.

In the field of individual rights, before the Glorious Revolution, a piece of legislation passed in 1679 and called the Habeas Corpus aimed at protecting subjects against royal absolutism alongside the lines first defined by Magna Carta. The Habeas Corpus banned arrest and detention without trial but freedom from custody could only be obtained after came on an amount of money, given as a guarantee and called a bail. Therefore, by the end of the 17th century, England has become the first representative government in Europe. The King’s right to suspend legislation (= to refuse to give assent to a bill accepted by both Houses of Parliament) became purely theoretical: this right of veto was last exercised in 1707. Later on, the tradition of cabinet government and the position of Prime Minister progressively emerged and later became an unquestionable right of the British people. The P.M. was the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. He became the real head of Government: British Kings were said to reign but not to rule. Yet, this perfect picture of British liberties needs to be corrected by several remarks.

III. Myth of English liberty

In the 18th century, apart from the Bill of Rights and the Habeas Corpus, no constitution really protected British subjects from political abuses. The King had the full power of creating Lords (= Peers). He therefore had an influence over legislation.

In terms of elections, out of 8 million inhabitants, only 160 000 were voters. Until the middle of this century, parliamentary debates were secret but before 1872, ballot was not secret. Thus, the King could use corruption and intimidation to buy votes. Radical agitators criticized the fact that the British were subjects instead of being full citizens: parliamentary reforms became more and more advocated both inside and outside Britain:

  • The major group of protesters were the American colonists who were not represented in Parliament for they lived outside Britain but who had to pay taxes to the British government.
  • The second major group of protesters was the middle-class dissenters who were refused access public jobs for religious reasons.

British people had to wait until 1832, i.e. several decades after the American and French revolutions to witness some partial changes in their system of representation. Under popular pressure, the 1832′ Reform Act abolished unrepresentative seats in Parliament in order to increase representation. For instance, the mediaeval village of Dunwich, which had totally disappeared from the map still returned an MP to Parliament and the village of Old Sarum had 7 voters who elected 2 MPs!

At the same time, the Act distributed new seats to represent the population of recent industrial centers like Birmingham or Manchester but even after 1832, the numbers of voters represented no more than one fifth of the adult male population. It is only in the second part of the 19th century that the progressive extension of the franchise opened Parliament to the working class. Full universal suffrage for men over 21 was finally reached in 1918 but paradoxically, this very late measure was at the same time an early victory for the cause of women’s rights. British women received the right to vote in 1918, i.e. some 38 years before French women. Voting parity for all citizens, male or female, was finally decided in 1928.

From the experience of the middle ages and thanks to the institutional changes triggered off by the Glorious Revolution, British political culture inspired most modern parliamentary regime. However, the long absence of truly democratic representation was one of the origins of the American Revolution and led to the definition of new political modals.

Sommaire de la série From the Reformation to the birth of the American nation (1534-1776)

  1. The Reformation in the British Isles
  2. English Expansionism
  3. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
  4. The American colonies : Religion and Politics
  5. Birth of a Nation

For crying out loud !Internal Affairs Agent : Hang on ! (zooms in with binoculars)
This is one screwed-up crew…

Special Agent Derrick Vann (Samuel L. Jackson) : Alright… just so that there’s no confusion, here’s the deal : you’re in my world now not yours and in my world your responsibilities begin and end with me.

Andy Fidler (Eugene Levy): And what would these responsibilities be ?

Special Agent Derrick Vann : Well these guys think you want to badgun from them. I need you to meet them one more time and set up a bass so I can bust their ass.

Andy Fidler : Okay, I… I.. I’m developing a slight phobia about meeting these guys. The whole meeting thing, quite franky, is getting irritating – I have to be honest.

Look, I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do. Why can’t I go ? Why does any of this have to do with me ???

Special Agent Derrick Vann : Because everytime these guys meet somebody new, they look out for the man. And you, most certainly do not look like the man.

Andy Fidler : Oooh I don’t look like the man… well thank you because that clears up… absolutely nothing ! Who… who’s the man ?

Special Agent Derrick Vann : The he, the pig, the poh-poh, 5-0, the undercover agent that’s gonna bust their ass ! You’re such a white ray son of a bitch these assholes trust you !

Andy Fidler : Well, you know, people do trust me.

Special Agent Derrick Vann : That’s not a compliment shit-stained !

Andy Fidler : Okay, you know what ? Why do you swear so much ? Do you think it makes you sound tougher ? When you just swear all the time ?

Special Agent Derrick Vann : Fuck you.

Andy Fidler : Okay that’s good. That’s really good. Really quality.

You know I could go around all day saying “f*** you”, “f*** this” and “f*** that” and “f***ing this, you motherf****r” but I don’t because there has to be some civility in the world.

So really there’s a trick you can use to curb that habit : everytime you feel like saying the f word just go ahead and say it and then add “crying out loud” :
“Fuck crying out loud”.
“Fock crying out loud”.
“Fock crying out loud”.
And before you know it, you’re saying “ooooh, for crying out loud”.

The Man

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