Les questions de Notre-Dame

Le Sunday National m’a demandé d’expliquer à ses lecteurs les réactions à l’incendie de Notre-Dame, le 15 avril dernier. J’ai décrit l’émotion sincère face aux dommages subis par un monument cher au coeur des Français mais aussi le malaise face au déferlement de millions débloqués comme par miracle. Je reproduis ci-dessous l’article publié ici.

Pascale Caussat: Notre-Dame fire raises important questions

PEOPLE of Glasgow know what it is to cry over a national treasure. When the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, was destroyed by the flames not only once but twice, you felt a sense of loss similar to mourning for a loved one.

You didn’t only lose the intricate carvings of wood and stone, the delicate pieces of furniture and interior design, the amount of skills that came into the conceiving and manufacturing of the space.

You also recalled the moments you spent there, the people who studied between those walls, the time and passion that were put into the renovation.

On top of that, you felt anger for the recklessness that could let that tragedy occur.

All the emotions felt towards a 19th century building are multiplied when applied to a cathedral that was erected 850 years ago. Last Monday, the images of the fire engulfing the roof of Notre-Dame and raging dangerously close to the two bell towers were a heartbreak.

When the 93-metre-high spire of wood and lead dramatically collapsed, you couldn’t help but think of the Twin Towers in New York -of course and luckily nobody was hurt this time, apart from a firefighter and two policemen whose bravery was celebrated worldwide.

Although it dated “only” from 1860, the Viollet-le-Duc addition was a totem of Paris. Like the Eiffel Tower or the Invalides, the landmarks of the French capital are mostly visited by tourists and not Parisians, yet you feel reassured to see these familiar outlines on your journey across the city. Personally, I enjoy the view towards Notre-Dame and the Île de la Cité – the historic centre of Paris – each time I cross the Seine. I always remember that some people may see it only once in their life and make it the holiday of a lifetime, when I am lucky to be able to admire it anytime I want.

Notre-Dame de Paris may not be the most beautiful cathedral in France – I find Chartres to have more spiritual grandeur – let alone in the world – il Duomo in Milan is like no other.

But it is the most visited monument in the most visited city in the world and has inspired numerous artists, from novels to paintings, musicals and films. To think that you might have lost it forever and with it the magnificent rose window, the impressive organ and all the works of art it contains, makes you shudder. You realise that the beautiful things you’ve always had in front of your eyes may not be there forever.

The 13th-century “forest” of oak that supported the roof is gone, along with the sweat and blood of the medieval tradesmen and women who carved it, and sometimes signed their names on it.

Whether you believe in God or not, you can’t help but feel in awe of the skills of our distant ancestors who embarked on that project knowing they wouldn’t see the end of it in their lifetime. I think that’s what moved people the most in a secular and mostly faithless country like France: that humanity was able to build such an ambitious work of art and that we may never be able to reproduce this level of craftmanship. Or may we?

In French, we have a phrase to say ‘‘Let’s hurry up’’: On ne va pas attendre 107 ans. It means we are not going to wait for 107 years and refers to the time it took to build the cathedral. It shows how the site has infused our language and our popular culture.

A day after the fire, President Emmanuel Macron stated that the cathedral would be rebuilt in five years. According to specialists, this is not impossible. The renowned architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte explained on the national radio that the deadline could be met ‘‘if we make the right technological choices. We don’t have to use lead, which is very heavy, we don’t have to use oak, since the framework is not visible”.

France has a plethora of skilled carpenters, stone-cutters and masons, who learned their trade in the prestigious Compagnons du Devoir apprenticeship programme, and who would be honoured to take part in such an exciting challenge. For the spire, the government has launched an international architecture contest to decide whether to rebuild it in its original (19th-century) form or to adapt it “to the techniques and challenges of our era”. No doubt thousands of inspired drafts will rush in.

Money is not an issue either. In less than three days, more than €1 billion was raised by various sponsors – luxury mammoths LVMH and Kering, L’Oréal, Apple, the oil company Total. When you shop at Monoprix, a chain of supermarkets, you can round off your ticket to contribute to the funding of the reconstruction work.

The ashes were still hot when the controversy started in the media and on the internet. This sudden outpouring of millions is shocking at a time when the yellow jackets are demonstrating for a better standard of living.

Ingrid Levavasseur, one of the leaders of the movement, denounced ‘‘the inertia of big companies in front of poverty, when they are able to raise a staggering amount of money for Notre-Dame overnight’’.

The presumed accident happened minutes before President Macron was due to broadcast a national address aimed at providing answers after the social unrest of the past months. Conspiracy theories soon arose to claim that the fire was staged by the government to divert the conversation. That was to be expected. It was also the case after the terrorist attack on Strasbourg last December.

The image of billionaires who “unblock” millions like pocket money definitely leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Charities such as Fondation Abbé Pierre (a Catholic priest who was buried in Notre-Dame and fought for the poor) claimed that only 1% of the sums would make all the difference for France’s less privileged people.

Commentators stressed that donations could be put against tax, which ultimately puts the effort on all taxpayers. Big corporations are already champions of tax evasion. LVMH and François Pinault (owner of Kering) promptly stated that they wouldn’t claim a tax deduction. ‘‘It is appalling to see that in France, you are criticized even when you do something [to help],’’ said Bernard Arnault, the owner of LVMH and the wealthiest man in France.

Then there is the question of timing. Rebuilding the cathedral in five years would make it just in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. For what purpose? Will we see a giant Coca Cola logo on the spire, or a Louis Vuitton cafe at the entrance? Not to forget the controversy on the ‘‘white privilege’’ – the fact that the world gathers in support of a centuries-old European monument, when the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro has only raised €250,000 euros for its rebuilding eight months after a fire almost entirely destroyed it.

‘‘The point is not to compare Notre-Dame and the Brazilian museum’s respective places in each people’s history and identity, but to admit that there are still huge differences in the way countries are treated, and this world order is less and less accepted,’’ commented the journalist Pierre Haski, a specialist in foreign affairs.

You could see things in a different way, and consider that France cherishes its cultural heritage the way New World countries should too. Brazil has no shortage of millionaires who could come to the rescue of their national museum. In a globalised world, the fragility of a medieval masterpiece is as heartbreaking as the destruction of Palmyre by Isis in Syria. Why create a competition between the two?

The French love controversies and many of them are relevant. But maybe this sad event can humble us for once. The sincere emotion of millions of people in Paris and around the world, rich or poor, young or old, Christians or else, was not a publicity stunt. After the terrorist attacks and the violent protests on the fringe of the yellow jacket movement, Paris has had its share of suffering. It needs some peace and quiet for a change.

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Sauvons les abeilles !

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Il est facile d’aider les abeilles dans leur tâche en semant des plantes mellifères dans son jardin ou sur son balcon (photo libre de droits)

C’est en discutant avec une amie qui travaille avec un apiculteur que j’ai eu l’idée de proposer ce sujet sur les ruches en ville. Les abeilles passionnent car elles sont le symbole de la biodiversité menacée, leur organisation hiérarchisée est d’une efficacité redoutable et leur miel est un concentré de bienfaits. Ce que je retiens surtout de cette enquête et que nous pouvons tous aider les abeilles dans leur pollinisation, même et surtout en ville où l’on rencontre moins de pesticides, en semant des plantes mellifères sur son rebord de fenêtre (thym, lavande, tournesol, pas de rose ni de géranium).

Cet article est paru le 18 novembre dans Le Journal du dimanche.

James Heeley, an Englishman in Paris

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Un jeune homme du Yorkshire – photo DR

James Heeley est un dandy anglais, élégant et bien élevé. Mais la « stiff upper lip » de façade cache un tempérament passionné qui l’a fait passer d’une carrière toute tracée d’avocat à une vocation d’artiste. Design, parfum, ce touche-à-tout autodidacte a débuté en dessinant des vases pour le fleuriste Christian Tortu qui lui a fait rencontrer Annick Goutal et l’a mené aux compositions odorantes. Si ses études de droit lui ont appris la rationalité nécessaire à la création d’entreprise, « j’avais envie de faire quelque chose de créatif » confie le jeune homme dans son bureau du passage du Désir, près de la gare de l’Est à Paris.

Distribuée d’abord chez Colette, sa marque est présente en Allemagne, en Italie et dans des parfumeries indépendantes françaises comme Jovoy et Nose… mais pas encore à Londres, où l’accès aux grands magasins est difficile. Cela devrait changer grâce à un distributeur local.

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Chypre 21, un hommage à un Paris nostalgique – photo P.C.

Son nouveau parfum, après une vingtaine de créations en dix ans, est un chypre, hommage aux premiers parfums modernes signés Coty et Guerlain. Chypre 21, comme XXIe siècle, reprend les ingrédients emblématiques de cette famille olfactive, bergamote, rose, patchouli, mousse de chêne, dans un traitement frais et transparent. Le safran, dénué d’allergènes comme la mousse de chêne pour répondre à la réglementation actuelle, apporte une touche orientale.

« Pour moi, le chypre évoque le chic parisien du 16e arrondissement. J’ai pensé à un glamour rétro, incarné par Grace Kelly ou Elizabeth Taylor. Le chic, ce sont les bonnes manières, le respect des autres, ce qui rend la vie plus agréable. Je suis un peu nostalgique et romantique », reconnaît-il. Dans son quartier hipster du 10e arrondissement, son hommage à Paris résonne joliment comme une passerelle entre les cultures et les générations.

« Parisians’ lifestyle cannot be a shield against an AK-47 »

Déjà cinq articles sur les attentats en France pour le Sunday Herald de Glasgow depuis janvier. Et moi qui voulais leur proposer des sujets sur la COP21… Je publie ici le lien vers l’article paru hier.

Après Charlie Hebdo j’avais écrit sur la liberté d’expression à défendre, sur le Paris que j’aime profané. Ce sont les mêmes endroits, les mêmes êtres humains ouverts et joyeux qui ont été touchés. Aussi incroyable que cela paraisse, à quelques mètres du Carillon et de La Belle Equipe, les gens sont en terrasse, les commerces fonctionnent. La vie a repris très vite, parce que c’est la seule chose à faire quand on se sent impuissant. Alors je reprends mes articles, un peu plus lentement qu’avant.

« Mamie Danielle » et le storytelling des jours d’après

Depuis les attentats du 13 novembre, l’actualité s’emballe et le cerveau a du mal à intégrer tout ce qu’il reçoit. En tant qu’utilisatrice active de Facebook et Twitter, en tant que journaliste qui écrit aussi sur ces sujets, je suis à la fois actrice et spectatrice de cette accélération. Je lis, je retweete, je commente parfois. Et je constate la volonté forcenée des médias traditionnels et sociaux sans distinction de faire émerger des figures positives au milieu du tumulte.

Il y a le petit garçon mignon qui constate que « les méchants c’est pas très gentil ». Il y a « Mamie Danielle » qui prononce un message de fraternité et d’unité (la vidéo est à retrouver ici précédée de 20 secondes de pub réglementaire). Il y a le jeune homme « mort en héros » en protégeant une amie.

Il y a la lettre d’un père endeuillé aux terroristes, jurant qu’il ne leur fera pas le plaisir de les haïr.

Autant de mots, d’images, qui tournent en boucle, commentés, relayés des milliers de fois, comme la preuve que l’humanité subsiste dans ce désastre.

Difficile de ne pas y voir la tentative de raconter de belles histoires pour mettre à distance la brutalité du réel.

Prenons l’exemple de « Mamie Danielle », cette grand-mère idéale qui nous touche tant. Il s’agit de Danielle Mérian, une avocate qui a lutté toute sa vie pour les droits de l’homme. Pourquoi la réduire à un personnage de Mamie Nova quand sa personnalité mérite tellement mieux? Les médias n’ont-ils vraiment d’autres choix que de céder aux simplifications?

Prenons le jeune homme « mort en héros ». J’ai été touché par les mots de son frère, qui aurait préféré « qu’il soit un lâche mais qu’il soit toujours vivant ». Quelle meilleure expression du sentiment de perte irrémédiable? Quelle différence pour sa famille qu’il ait été courageux?

Les réactions au texte d’Antoine Leiris, publié sur Facebook, reprise en une du Monde et relayée à la télévision, m’ont mise particulièrement mal à l’aise. Bien sûr, on ne peut qu’admirer la dignité de cet homme, à la hauteur d’un Martin Luther King. Mais pourquoi le désigner en icône de la résilience, en porte-parole de la grandeur d’âme cachée en tout être humain, en thérapeute de toute une nation comme l’ont fait certains commentaires? Comment se sentir réconforté par de tels mots, écrits avec le coeur brisé?

Je ressens le même malaise qu’avec la photo du petit Aylan échoué sur une plage reprise et détournée des millions de fois. J’avais écrit là-dessus en septembre. Deux mois plus tard, Libération titrait « Deux Aylan par jour ». La une n’a pas fait le tour du web.

Je ne voudrais pas gâcher l’ambiance, mais quand Antoine Leiris affirme qu’il ne ressent pas de haine, que sa douleur sera de courte durée, je me permets d’en douter. Le deuil dure longtemps, la colère en fait partie, elle est même souhaitable pour se reconstruire. Après la sidération, ce jeune veuf se réveillera avec la prise de conscience du manque irrémédiable, et il aura mille fois le droit de ressentir de la haine.

La bonne nouvelle, s’il y en a une à ce stade, c’est que la joie de vivre reviendra, pour son fils, parce que la vie est plus forte que tout. Mais pas tout de suite… Les médias et les internautes vont si vite, qui voudraient déjà que le processus soit achevé.

Quant aux mots du petit garçon apeuré, qui pense qu’il va devoir changer de maison, j’y vois l’image de l’innocence confrontée trop tôt aux horreurs du monde. Parmi les messages et les bougies aux abords des lieux des fusillades (transformés en cimetière), j’ai été particulièrement touchée par les dessins d’enfants, certains sans doute qui ont vécu la nuit du 13 novembre de très près tant leur trait est précis. Sommes-nous nous aussi des enfants qui ont besoin d’être rassurés par des doudous symboliques?

Notre monde d’images mêle sans distance l’actualité la plus crue sur les chaînes d’infos en continu et une sentimentalité de film hollywoodien parce qu’il faudrait rester positif coûte que coûte. Quand j’apprends qu’un survivant du Bataclan est capable de poster sur Instagram son brunch du dimanche matin, parce que la vie continue… J’ai du mal avec cette époque.

Je retiens l’image de la serveuse de la pizzeria Casa Nostra qui s’est réfugiée avec une cliente derrière le bar pendant la fusillade. Son récit sur Facebook est insoutenable.

Elle s’appelle Jasmine, elle a 20 ans, elle va vivre avec ces instants toute sa vie, quand les internautes qui cliquent à tout va et les médias en mal d’audience seront déjà passés à autre chose. Ce n’est pas une belle histoire, mais elle est vraie.

J’ai testé… l’Oculus Rift avec The View from The Shard

Même si je n’ai rien d’une geek, tous les joujoux électroniques m’intéressent. J’étais à la récente Paris Games Weekj’ai testé les Google Glass avec Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, et j’ai sauté sur l’occasion d’essayer l’Oculus Rift à l’invitation de l’agence de relations presse Interface Tourism.

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Rendez-vous était donné dans un bus à impériale devant l’Opéra Garnier – photo P.C.

Celle-ci travaille pour The View from The Shard, l’attraction située dans la pointe de l’immeuble The Shard à Londres, qui offre une vue à 360° sur la capitale britannique. Inauguré en février 2013, il doit encore se faire connaître face à d’autres lieux touristiques comme le London Eye (qui est génial car il bouge, mais est bien moins haut) et propose pour les vacances de février deux billets enfants gratuits pour un billet adulte acheté.

Pour relayer cette opération, l’agence avait réuni quelques journalistes et des « blogueuses mamans » par un beau dimanche ensoleillé dans un bus à plateforme. L’occasion de jouer les touristes à Paris et de découvrir une animation multimédia sur un Oculus Rift Samsung. Marie, d’Interface Tourism, nous a mis en garde sur les risques de vertige mais bien assis sur son siège et même dans un bus en mouvement on ne ressentait aucune gêne. En tournant la tête à droite, on démarrait la session, en regardant en bas, le signe Exit s’affichait comme sur une piste d’atterrissage d’hélicoptère. Dans l’intervalle, on pouvait admirer « la vue depuis le Shard » sous tous les angles, y compris derrière soi. L’immersion est totale, la perte d’équilibre certaine si l’on se tient debout, l’usage prolongé déconseillé pour les enfants.

Verdict : l’expérience d’être à la fois aveugle et plongé dans l’image est saisissante. Mais c’est clair, on n’a pas l’air très intelligent avec ce casque sur la tête!

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How did we get to this? Where do we go from here?

Comment réunir dans un même article Charlie Hebdo, Eric Zemmour, Patrick Modiano et Arnold Schwarzenegger? Démonstration avec l’article paru le 11 janvier dans le Sunday Herald.

Since Wednesday at 11.30am, France has been at a standstill.

Each day, each hour almost, has brought a new ­milestone, ­unprecedented in recent memory. Journalists shot in their office during an ­editorial ­meeting. A policeman executed at close range in the street. Place de la ­République in the heart of Paris transformed into a local Ground Zero, covered in flowers, candles, ­drawings – and pens. A quiet village in Picardy, north of the capital, under siege. ­Shoppers held hostages in a ­popular kosher supermarket just before ­Shabbat, four of them dead. Children locked inside their schools.

All of this in France, in 2015. It seemed eerie, like an episode of 24 or Homeland. Friday was particularly surreal, when two hostage crises took place at the same time. For a few hours, the world was holding its breath. Across Paris, people called their loved ones to check if they were safe. Parents had to collect their kids at the school gate; sometimes they were asked to sign a register. A column of police cars would suddenly pass by with blaring sirens. You would find yourself saying to friends « be ­careful » as well as « Happy New Year ».

Among the madness, you would catch a snippet of news like something out of a crazy Hollywood script: Arnold Schwarzenegger is ­subscribing to ­Charlie Hebdo! Over these few days, ordinary lives have been turned inside out, right on your doorstep, when you should have been listing your new year resolutions and kicked off the sale season. And all the time, citizens would ask, « How did we get to this? », « What can we make of this? » and « Where do we go from here? »

There is a strange feeling in France at the moment that things had been ­building up over the years; that a conjunction of causes and events have made this tragedy possible.

In 2011, Charlie Hebdo was the subject of an arson attack and its editor was placed under police protection, a shock in the country of the freedom of press. That came after publication of a special issue renamed « Charia Hebdo » in which Prophet Mohammed was shown stating: « 100 whiplashes if you don’t drop dead laughing. »

In 2012, Mohammed Merah, a French-Algerian from Toulouse, killed three soldiers and four other people – ­including three children – at a Jewish school.

In May 2014, the killer of three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels turned out to be Mehdi Nemmouche, another French-Algerian from Roubaix, near the Belgian border.

Both were described as young men with a history of petty crime who ended up at some point in Pakistan and Syria. They were called « lone wolves » and « freaks ». It turned out they were ­organised on an international level.

Then in September 2014, Hervé Gourdel, a mountain guide from Nice, was held hostage and executed while ­trekking in Algeria by a group linked to the Islamic State group.

France has the largest Muslim community in Europe, estimated at five million people, or two million ­regular worshippers. As a secular republic, public affairs and religions are separated by law in this country.

Yet parts of the French Muslim community feel segregated, stigmatised – it is forbidden to wear an Islamic veil in schools and in public service roles. Charlie Hebdo was a strong supporter of secularism and derided all religions. Some deemed it racist. Under the ­influence of radical ­Islamism ­represented by al-Qaeda and IS, a minority estimated at 1000 jihadists is ready to take up arms against French values.

« There is a French complex towards its immigrant population that has never been tackled by authorities, » said ­Christophe Ginisty, a blogger and specialist of online reputation. « Former president Nicolas Sarkozy tried to do something when he launched a debate on national identity in 2009, but it ­backlashed into a debate about the place of Muslims in France.

« French society needs to do its own psychoanalysis or nothing will change. We need a major soul-searching at all levels about what it entails to live together, and it’s not up to the state to organise that, it must come from ­citizens themselves. »

Current president François Hollande is hugely unpopular, in large part because the unemployment rate remains at an alarming 10% of the working-age population. A word was coined – « déclinisme », as in the unstoppable decline of France’s economic and political power.

The frontman of that theory is ­polemist Eric Zemmour, whose essay Le Suicide Français (« French Suicide ») sold 400 000 copies last year, making it the second best-selling book behind Valérie Trierweiler’s account of her break-up with the president.

Meanwhile, the far-right National Front has called itself « le premier parti de France » (« France’s first party »), with 25% of the vote in the latest European election. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, is credited for projecting a more modern image and is cashing in on the fear of downgrading among working- and middle-class voters. Amazingly, the French regularly stand out as one of the most pessimistic people in the world, according to a survey by US think tank the Pew Research Center published last September.

and yet France has a lot to boast about: its aeronautics and luxury industry, its vibrant cultural scene. Last year, it scooped two Nobel Prizes, Jean Tirole for economics and Patrick Modiano for literature. Only this week it shone at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, with a cluster of innovative start-ups. The most popular film of 2014 with 12 million filmgoers is the comedy Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu?, where a bourgeois couple see their four daughters marrying men from different cultures: a Jew, an Arab, a Chinese man and an African from Ivory Coast. « Just as well you don’t have a fifth daughter, she would have married a Roma, » jokes one of the sons-in-law. A risqué sense of humour not unlike Charlie Hebdo’s that essentially portrays France as it should be proud to be: a mixed, colourful, open-minded nation where all communities respect each other.

For those not born and bred in France, it is difficult to understand the spirit of Charlie Hebdo, a mix of Private Eye, Robert Crumb and schoolboys’ naughty jokes. Commentator Thomas Legrand described it on Friday morning on France Inter, the French equivalent of BBC4: « It is the symbol of a free-thinking movement the French are particularly attached to. This rebellious, moaner, mischievous, irreverent spirit is specific to our country. »

Charlie Hebdo’s political incorrectness doesn’t translate well, but Mathilde, a university lecturer living in Glasgow, tried to explain it to her Scottish friends on Facebook: « The cartoonists who were murdered in Paris were not racists. They were not sexists or misogynists. They were not homophobes. I wish I could find the right words to describe their ­typically French left-wing humour. I grew up reading Cabu’s and Wolinski’s cartoons. Me and my siblings would hide to read them because they were very rude and very exciting. »

Among the outpourings of condolences surrounding the death of the beloved artists, someone called Gilda was the most eloquent on the social network: « They were spiritual fathers, such humane people that I can’t accept that they are gone. Cabu was the cartoonist of my childhood, his cheeky smile was a regular fixture on kid’s TV programmes.

« At 12, I discovered François Cavanna [writer and co-founder of Charlie Hebdo in 1969, who died a year ago], a must-read for every teenager. In 1992, I rejoiced at the rebirth of Charlie Hebdo. It was mind-opening, a different view on the news, a literary breath of fresh air. »

The killers of Charlie Hebdo’s staff didn’t understand that sense of humour. Although they were raised in France, they confused caricatures in a struggling paper – « a fanzine », said Luz, one of the survivors and close friends of the deceased – with racism, the contrary of what it was about. And they were ready to kill for it.

Even as the country is coming together in grief, discordant voices are heard in the streets, in ­classrooms, on social media: « It had to be expected », « You don’t insult a religion without consequences ». On Wednesday, near the site of the killings, a grey-haired man lectured a younger passerby who was voicing such an opinion. « If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, nobody forces you to read Charlie Hebdo, » the youth was told. « But you can’t kill people for making drawings. »

It is 2015, in France, the country of Voltaire and Victor Hugo, and you have to explain freedom of speech to the young generation. Two days later, in the same spot, as news of the hostage crisis in nearby Porte de Vincennes broke, a young woman with a fair complexion said calmly: « My husband is from Mali, he’s Muslim and I will vote Marine Le Pen in the next election. Back in Mali, his uncle had his hand cut off by Daesh [IS]. You can’t compromise with these people. I wish we had the death penalty. »

The victims of Charlie Hebdo were as far removed from these views as could be. Yet their pens were ­helpless against the rifles of fanatics. So where do we go from here?

Marc is the head of a business school. In his job, he has seen third-generation immigrants creating successful ventures « but the media don’t talk about it. Mohammed Merah [who killed seven people in southwestern France in 2012] has become a hero to some, while nobody knows an Arab entrepreneur. We have to break that pattern.

« It is important that leaders of the Muslim community in France – clerics, artists, sport and business personalities – stand up against terrorism and say, ‘Not in my name, they don’t represent us, they can’t divide us’. It is strategic: against the power of influence of extremists, they have to display a counter-power. They have to show young, deprived members of their community that terrorists are scum. Some object that innocent citizens shouldn’t have to wear the burden of the mad acts of fanatics. ‘Pas d’amalgame’, they say, ‘No confusion between peaceful and hateful Islam’. But silence brings doubt. In this place and time, it is ­irresponsible to take a back seat. »

Back to Place de la République, the starting point for the demonstration planned for this afternoon, people stand in line to sign a register of condolences. Among teddy bears and incense sticks, strangers have written powerful messages: « Liberté, égalité, dessinez, écrivez » (« liberty, equality, draw, write »); « Be a free man, don’t have certitudes »; the letters « Charliberté » moulded in clay. Under the cold rain, it feels incredible that art, education, freedom are values that have to be reaffirmed over hate, ignorance and violence. In France, in 2015.