Tuesday, February 12, 2008


My first impressions of Marseille suggest that it is a bit like our home in Hamilton. There are teenagers milling about on street corners here like lost and lazy herds of cattle, just as we see at home. They’ll be out there until late in the night when they get tired and go inside. There never seem to be any parents around and the kids wander around like confused nursing home residents lost on the grounds. Claire remembers being shocked at the sight of a preadolescent playing hockey alone in the street one Tuesday around midnight. As if to add to the pathos of the scene, he was practicing in front of the local “massage parlor” while the prostitutes mingled inside.

In Marseille and Gardanne you see the same groups of teens, all wearing the same track suits like they do in Toronto, and listening to exactly the same pop music, all with exactly the same beat. You could add that beat to the Horst Wessel song and they would play it on the radio. Interestingly enough, people here know very little English, but they all listen to American pop music and hip-hop. I hadn’t heard Ice Cube for ten years until I came here. Fergie is popular, along with 50 Cent, and several artists in the same genre. Sitting on the bus yesterday, I only heard one French song on the driver’s radio; the rest were American.

I suppose that the American government could make good use of the universality of hip-hop, if they had the sense to. All over the world, you hear this music, even in places that hate Americans. This could be good PR for the war on terror. At the very least, George Bush should cut a single. “You’re either with us or against us” already sounds like the title of an album by a multi-member hip-hop crew. And Vice President Cheney has already demonstrated a certain ease with profanity.

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