Nausea in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
At that time I was twenty years old… I was studying at Sciences Po, temple and incubator of well-thought. The promos of my generation communicated in the cult of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Olivier Duhamel, and Richard Descoings. So brilliant, so seductive, so powerful… The large Boutmy lecture hall hosted their lectures or their back-to-school speeches, and the growing promotions (in number) vowed them a real veneration. I wasn’t in it, but wasn’t really insensitive either. Of course, there were rumors, not about everyone, not all the time, and we put it down to the gossip that always roars this kind of environment, fed by sorrowful spirits.
The rue Saint-Guillaume has moved away, the years have passed, and with them their battering, for as many unbolted idols. 2011, fall of DSK; 2012, death of Richard Descoings; 2015, release of “Richie“, which had already challenged me on the disturbing practices of a well sketched microcosm. And now 2021, the bomb of book by Camille Kouchner.
I’ve just finished it, swallowed in one go with a mixture of disgust and fascination, a bit voyeuristic. And find myself sickened, mistreated by this reading, which reveals the radical distortion between the image, belonging to a so-called intellectual milieu, and the sordid reality of a decadent family. We show a certain moralization on the tails side and we lead a double life on the head side. A confusing and unsuspected way of life for the student that I was.
Family first. The eponymous “familia grande”, a chilling formula in view of the revelations contained. Parents or step-parents who swear by a claimed and absolute “freedom”, to justify everything. Accept everything. Don’t refuse anything. Children are allowed to do everything but are above all ordered to imitate parents, even in their most extravagant acts, under the guise of emancipation, a sixty-eight heritage mentioned in the book. Thank God, this education which sanctifies a “freedom” for all, spared many. Reading the book, I realize that some parents from a certain background do not know any limits for their children; their moribund freedom prevails. “My freedom is not the right one” …
In this happy Babylonian context, my former teacher is erected as a natural, charismatic and adored clan chief. “Freedom” has a good back when it comes to cover, even justify, the worst horrors that one can commit on earth … The threat and the guilt then make it possible to win the silence of the victims to ensure the predator the right to free himself from the courts. Until prescription, as a pledge of impunity and eternal immunity.
A strange system of values for this man who taught us human rights and “Political Institutions”… Heave.
My mind is constantly going back and forth between this time and the present. And ten years ago? And today ? And now ? In this turmoil for the famous Parisian school, the current director, Frédéric Mion, judge and party, is in a delicate position. He condemns but had been alerted, destitute he says to him. He initially denied having known …
The middle then. We know it is in reality a small world which revolves around the director of the institution. Whether his name is “Richie” or nicknamed “King Mion”, our director has always embodied a “Jacobin” power and assumed a very centralized “house” governance. Sciences Po presents big names from a mainly Parisian intellectual background from the lectern of its famous lectures. Renowned academics, politicians retrained in teaching between two terms of office, glitzy media figures… It’s a whirlwind of elevator dismissals and “insider trading”.
All are obviously not from the same barrel, but it is clear that between oneself and the associated drifts have not shocked anyone for decades. We meet in the same concentric circles of power, we rub shoulders on television sets or on vacation, we exchange a slipper for a rattle, a cheese for a privilege, a promotion for a program, a chair for a decoration . It’s hard to imagine that the herd separates from the black sheep. On the contrary, the figure placed on a pedestal seems unbreakable. The longer their reign, the more violent their downfall and the more inconceivable the scandal revealed.
More worrying still: the trigger for these revelations is always external, exogenous. The chance of circumstances in a scene in a New York hotel room, or the courage of a victim who over time overcomes the leaden cover of silence, his own and that of his environment. We cannot help but wonder: for these three emblematic figures, how many others have escaped the ax?
Camille Kouchner signs a book with a sober and sharp style. We detect the saving childbirth but the admission of too long a denial. Her writing sometimes reflects the restless character of her author, far removed from the barbaric style of acts committed by her stepfather. She has chosen to write her story with elegance, without embellishment, without excessive crudeness. All that remains is the substantive core of the story, which advances quickly, very quickly.
This book resonated in me like a larger-than-life play. Big family say shit … Palliative to the lack of live performance that has been inflicted on us in recent months? In this contemporary drama, the reader happens to be the hostage, and the student that I was, the turkey of the farce: painful sensation, yet very derisory compared to the suffering of the victims, destroyed by a deranged person, on which no one has dared to cast the opprobrium, this “privilege” of popular criminals – there is the murky pedocriminality of Outreau or Yonne, and the chic pedophilia of the 6th arrondissement. There are the rapes of the dreadful Réacs or populos, and the euphemistic “incest” among those who reign on the left bank. There are the sordid affairs of inhospitable regions, and the “servant’s troussage” of golden anterooms. Would the moral vary with the height of the ceiling?
It is to these victims that our thoughts must first go, because unfortunately it is not theater but an essential drama to tell to end a silence from an all-powerful, untouchable background.
But, retroactively stunned, I can’t help but wonder if we, students, were not also victims? To what extent do these led double lives show up insidiously in their teaching, in their way of training the new generation, like the wolf in the fold, which remains hidden in the shadows?
We close this book by thinking of this “freedom” and the aura granted by mistake to this man, until we knew. In the figure of landowner which we once admired but which here makes you want to cry: persona non grata now, who has spent hours teaching the law that he himself allowed himself to gleefully trample on… To all this caste who “lectured” us, in every sense of the word… Who is really going to pay? To our disgusted comrades and our lost illusions. So hard !
And by wondering until when, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, we will have “dirty hands”.
Laura Peterschmitt is a former student of Sciences Po, graduated in 201 ?.