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Politics

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Pour le candidat de la droite, « on naît pédophile »

by Laurent Mouloud

For France’s Right-Wing Candidate, “Paedophiles are born, not made”

Translated Thursday 26 April 2007, by Claire Scammell

It went by practically unnoticed, but an interview with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French right-wing presidential candidate, casts a light on his elitist ideology. He attributes greater importance to the role of genes than to social circumstances.

Even some of Nicolas Sarkozy’s supporters have been left rubbing their eyes in disbelief … In its April edition, Philosophie Magazine presents an eight page “dialogue” between the French philosopher Michel Onfray and the presidential candidate for the ruling centre-right party, the UMP. Where, between several fascinating existential reflections from the ex-interior minister such as “human beings can be dangerous” and “I think of the population as a person”, a tirade on genetic determinism crept in, threatening to leave many people spluttering with indignation, including those in his own camp.

On page 35 the two men begin a lengthy discussion of free will and the way in which human beings are influenced by what is innate in them and what they acquire. Michel Onfray offers his view: “I think that we are moulded, not by our genes but by our environment, by the domestic and socio-historic conditions in which we develop.” Nicolas Sarkozy responds immediately: “I disagree; I am inclined personally to think that people are born paedophiles, and that it is a problem that we do not know how to treat this pathology.”

And the presidential candidate continues: “Every year in France between 1,200 and 1,300 young people commit suicide; it is not because their parents have looked after them poorly! But because they have a genetic fragility, a preconditioned pain. Take smokers for instance, some develop cancer while others do not, those who do have a hereditary physiological weakness. Our circumstances are not the only factor, what is inborn in us plays a huge part.”

Is this Nicolas Sarkozy claiming that adolescent suicides and paedophilia are genetically predetermined? There’s no hint of a hoax about it. For five years now the presidential candidate has shown himself to be a keen supporter of behaviourist theories, developed in particular in the US. Put plainly: our genes rule most of human behaviour and our domestic and social environment is but a marginal influence. Since the end of the 19th century, this widely contested ideology has often served as an argument for supporters of an ultra-liberal and elitist society (the genetician Axel Kahn raised this point in an interview published by l’Humanité on April 4th). The reasoning is simple: every action is solely a matter of individual responsibility, the cause of disturbances – violence, delinquency – cannot be attributed to the system, but to a “natural” maladjustment of certain individuals, who have “deviancy” almost ingrained in their DNA.

Without saying as much, Nicolas Sarkozy clearly follows this line of thought. He has already shown this same “social Darwinism” with the “Domestic Security” law of March 18th 2003. “Under this law, prostitutes, beggars, the homeless and youths from the suburbs are punished as though they are delinquents, thus turning penal violence back on the victims of social violence”, observed the French magistrate Évelyne Sire-Marin. In the same vein, the 2004 report by the UMP deputy Jacques-Alain Benisti aimed to establish a pseudo-scientific “graph of a youth’s deviation from the correct path.” The real future of a delinquent, starting out, very young, with trouble speaking French, ends up, as an adult, committing “robbery with violence”…

Without developing entirely this reasoning, Nicolas Sarkozy has attempted, over many long months, to establish in early drafts of the bill for the “Prevention of delinquency”, the principle of an “early detection of behavioural problems which may lead to delinquency” in all 3 year-olds. He was supported in this goal by the infamous report produced by INSERM, the French National Institute for Medical Research. Published in 2005, it advocated studying children from the age of three or four years for “predictive” signs of a future delinquency. Among these, “emotional coldness”, “unruliness”, “impulsiveness”, or any other “indications of low morality”…

Faced with the powerful mobilisation of the collective behind the “Pas de zero de conduite” petition which opposed this measure, the ex-interior minister has finally dropped it, at least for the time being. As for INSERM, the institute was rebuked on the 6th of February, by the CCNE, the French National Consultative Bioethics Committee. “The history of science shows us the futility of attempting to reduce the determination of an individual’s future to such and such criteria”, wrote the CCNE. A point of view which clearly, Nicolas Sarkozy has not considered.


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