Celine on The Value of Education

I was recently listening to someone on the radio who had worked with the Rwandan truth and reconciliation commission and she was saying how one of the things that surprised her was how the people who participated in and fomented the genocide were often the best educated. Priests, doctors, teachers. The heros she found were often simple people.

That got me thinking of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books (Journey to the End of the Night by Céline), also speaking of Africa:

“The natives, they don’t do anything without being beaten with clubs. They retain that dignity, whereas the whites, perfected by public education, they work on their own. The club ends up just making the one who wields it tired, while the hope of becoming rich and powerful force fed to the whites costs nothing, absolutely nothing.”

Or, in the original:

“Les indigènes eux, ne fonctionnent guère en somme qu’à coups de trique, ils gardent cette dignité, tandis que les blancs, perfectionnés par l’instruction publique, ils marchent tout seuls. La trique finit par fatiguer celui qui la manie, tandis que l’espoir de devenir puissants et riches dont les blancs sont gavés, ça ne coûte rien, absolument rien.”

Louis-Ferrand Céline, Voyage au bout de la nuit<, p. 175, Denoel et Steel, Paris, 1932.

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