L’anthropologie du mensonge

Il y a un arrêt sur la ligne une à Paris – je me rappelle plus lequel exactement, c’est vers la Défense – à côté duquel se trouve un bâtiment occupé par les services secrets de la République. Si, par hasard, on se trouve à cet arrêt vers 8h45, on peut se régaler du spectacle de tous les espions de la République qui descendent du train pour aller au taff; des rangs serrés d’anciens militaires insérés dans des costumes de mauvaise taille. C’est hilarant… Ben… si on est, comme moi, facile à amuser.

Le britanniques sont souvent étonnés de savoir que leur vieux ennemi leur attribue un capacité de subterfuge plus tordu que le Mossad, plus impitoyable que le KGB. En effet, il est vrai que les espions britanniques ne ressemblent pas à des espions. Ils ressemblent à des prêtres et des informaticiens et, assez souvent, à des vielles tapettes picolées. La plupart du temps ils ressemblent également à des idiots, mais ça c’est normal; c’est une sorte de tenue tribale traditionnelle chez les rosbifs .

Les espions français, par contre, ressemblent toujours plus ou moins à des espions. Pourquoi?

Le premier problème sur lequel nous tombons est celui auquel a du faire face Socrate dans la République : un menteur habile ne ressemble pas à un menteur. Continue reading

Limits

An NGO closed down all its activities for lack of money. Bad management? Unavoidable problems linked to the economic crisis in Europe? I do not know and there is no point in trying to walk on the slippery ground of mistakes, guilt, scapegoats & co.

They closed down and the expats working in the country left in hurry for fear of becoming victims of the (more or less fair) claims from the employees and various creditors.With no more money left the only thing to do was to sell the remaining belongings in order to pay the last salaries. Pretty logical.
Did they leave one person responsible for that or choose an external agent with the mandate of managing the exit strategy? No.
They wrote and signed a paper where – in one paragraph – they named a local staff delegate in charge of selling the remaining goods of the NGO and distributing the money to her colleagues. Orally, they told her to take a percentage as “compensation” (her contract, and her regular wage with it, had ended along with all the others) and that was all.

It is maybe just my personal point of view but leaving a person with such a responsibility without a clear mandate and no help of any sort led me to think about how difficult it can be to trace the line between stupidity and criminal act.  Continue reading

Ramblings of a football fanatic

“Mourinho! Mourinho!Mourinho!” was the chant from the euphoric crowd. Replica jerseys were whipped around in a sweat-drenched frenzy. Real Madrid had just beaten Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey for the first time in 20 years and it was pure ecstasy for the fans. For 2 hours they had watched, mesmerised and nerve-wracked on the edge of their seats, as the two Spanish giants battled it out. When the winning goal was scored, an explosion of whooping and hollering drowned out everything else and the celebrations continued long into the night.

But the setting was not the Fontana de Cibeles in Madrid, where Real Madrid fans traditionally gather to celebrate their team’s success, or even a bar anywhere in Spain. Instead, we were in the middle of Guinea, in a tiny ‘video club’ –small buildings, or even huts, in which televisions have been set up for screening sporting events. In one corner lay the bed of the owner and, in the front centre of the room, two small-screen TVs. The rest of the room was entirely occupied by rows of benches, tightly squeezed together to cram as many avid fans as possible, each one having paid a small sum for this privilege. In these rooms, the temperature rises by 5-10 degrees just from the sheer volume of human congestion. It’s humid, sweaty, smelly, and there’s a very high risk of becoming intimately acquainted with your neighbour’s armpits. Continue reading

Comment passer le concours du Quai pour les nuls

I was going to write this in French, on the basis that anyone who’d be remotely interested speaks French, but I started to get bored about three words into the title and changed my mind. I was also going to structure it. Then I realised that il faut être résoluement post moderne, and structure is for pussies. So here’s my guide to taking the exams for the Quai d’Orsay.

1. I can see you. Yeah. You, right there. Trying to intimidate me with your little foreign drinks bottle, acting like you just got back from an important job in Foreignistan. Let me tell you, I’ve been intimidated by far better men than you, and they didn’t need a bottle of Russian orange juice to do it either.

You want high level strategic thinking? Well we’ve got this.

2. The language exam where you have to write a synthesis in a foreign language of foreign newspaper articles only looks intimidating. It’s basically a test of your copying skills. Quotes, stats, whole sentences. Jam ’em in there. If you’re really good the only parts you have to come up with yourself will be the conjunctions. Sure, you have to juggle them round a bit, but unless you just copy out an article wholesale it’s basically impossible to be too shameless. This is called having an esprit de synthèse.

3. Quite often in the multiple choice part of the language exam they put the easiest questions at the end. Yes, this is precisely the sort of team you’re going to be joining. Continue reading

Retour

Ca fait déjà quelques années que j’ai quitté la ville où j’ai grandi. Depuis, mes retours ne sont jamais très longs mais ils se succèdent avec régularité, une régularité dictée surtout par mes origines et statu familial: italien, fils unique. Pour ceux qui connaissent assez l’Italie et les italiens il serait superflu d’en ajouter d’avantage, pour les autres on renvoie à la littérature spécialisée (Discipline: sociologie ou psychologie. Mot clé: “mamma”).

La dernière rentrée, bien que marquée par plusieurs épisodes plutôt intenses, n’a pas manqué de me rappeler comment certaines étapes clés restent des passages obligatoires dans cet étrange rituel qu’est le “retour”.

La première étape, un grand classique, est franchie environ une semaine avant le départ et vois ma mère qui me pose pour la première fois une question qui se répétera jusqu’au jour de mon départ, avec une appréhension grandissante et jamais très bien dissimulée:  “tu veux quoi à manger???” Continue reading

How to negotiate your own salary

Let me start off by saying I have no idea. Certainly not when I don’t have the career experience that would allow me to gauge the monetary value of my labour and give me the confidence to demand it. I find the whole subject awkward (hence how I last ended up working for 6 months without a contract!). I was recently forced to deal with it head-on, though, when I found a job application for which I could actually consider myself vaguely qualified (not requiring a PhD and 10 years of experience as Director of a UN agency). It all seemed great till I scrolled to the very bottom of the page:

“Salary: commensurate with education and experience.”

No range, no hints, nothing. In your application you are required to state your minimum salary requirements. Continue reading

Selamat datang ke Singapura*

Chronique d’une enfant d’Afrique en Terre Asiatique #1

“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings.” — Hodding Carter

J’ai eu la chance de voyager beaucoup, et de vivre dans des pays/villes/quartiers aux antipodes les uns des autres. Edéa, Soa, Yaoundé, Douala, Abidjan, Paris… autant de destinations marquantes que d’étapes déterminantes sur le chemin de ma petite existence. On a toujours des raisons de partir; un engagement à une cause, le plaisir, la curiosité…

Concernant Singapour**, lieu de mon dernier exil temporaire il s’est agit tout d’abord d’un choix de raison. Des raisons académico-professionnelles, la montée de la Chinafrique, les pays émergents el dorados d’aujourd’hui et demain, une jolie ligne sur mon CV, de belles perspectives en somme… Je partais à la conquête d’une place économique pleine de promesse pour la future ex-re-étudiante que je suis! Oui, c’est vrai. Mais l’autre raison de ce départ, la moins glamour, celle qui -je l’avoue en secret- me faisais le plus vibrer en attendant mon prochain décollage était la fuite, tout simplement. Continue reading