Why Don’t The Irish Speak Irish?

Whistling In The Wind

The Danes have Danish, the French speak French, the Slovakians talk in Slovak yet the Irish don’t speak Irish, but rather English. Almost all nations and people have their own language yet the Irish are one of the few nations who have a language that very few of its people can speak. Ireland is one of the only countries in Europe whose primary language is that of a foreign country. In fact, more people in Ireland speak Polish on a daily basis than Irish (and French is close behind). When I’m abroad I’m often asked if there even is an Irish language or if anyone still speaks it. Someone who only spoke Irish would have a very difficult time getting around in Ireland. But why is this the case?

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Facebook and far right groups in France


I eat pork and… fuck you! Ordinary anti-muslim propaganda on Facebook. This page now has 90k members.

Far right movements are on the rise in Europe and France is no exception to that. These groups can be broadly defined by: their opposition to immigration, their belief that Islam threatens European  and national values, their conspiracy theories and strong anti-establishment views . The French far right is often reduced to the Front National, but there is a number of small/medium sized groups (Bloc identitaire, Jeunesses Nationalistes) which are very active (street based activites). In this post I will explore the relationship between far right groups and Facebook.

Far right groups on Facebook: racist rhymes with fabulist

téléchargement (1)

On Facebook, a huge number of far right groups post a constant flow of articles describing how immigrants are the cause of France’s problems. Muslims are their favourite targets. Some ridiculous stories  can be read such as: « muslim immigrant gets 3000 € from the state while 96 year old french woman only receives 400€/month » or « mass immigration transforms France into a third world country ».

The usual us/them narrative is widely used. These reports are often unverifiable, oversimplifications of the reality and most of the time pure lies (see Le Monde for a number of far right news on Facebook/Twitter that proved to be fake here)

Comments are an important feature on Facebook. Just when you thought that the report was bad enough you start reading the comments. Often full of grammar and spelling mistakes, they are most of the time short and straightforward, and it looks like the more offensive a comment is, the more popular it gets.

migrants-france1For instance one can read under this picture: « Look at the pic, is that what we really want for France? » or « islamists are sending these on purpose to invade Europe » « they look like cockroachs invading our country ».

The French justice minister Christiane Taubira is more frequently abused on Facebook than any other member of the government. A Front National candidate posted this shocking picture earlier this year: taubira-guenon-fn-sista-diaspora The author was later sentenced to 9 month in jail for this post. If you want to know more about the abuse received by Christiane Taubira you can watch this video from France 24: France 24 video (in english)

The audience: numbers, growth, identity

 These appalling publications would have little or no meaning if they had no significant audience. Facebook gives indicators (likes/comments) enabling us to conduct a small audience analysis. The figures involved are quite astonishing. For example the page La gauche m’a tuer boasts more members (170k) than the ruling Parti Socialiste (100k). A quick research shows that there are many  similar groups around 50k members. The openly anti-muslim « I eat pork and f*** you » has 80k likes. « Contre ceux qui crachent sur la France » even reaches 293k.  Another group called « Hollande dégage » claims 570 000 followers. Using data offered on these groups, I wanted to determine whether what happened in France in January 2015 had had an impact on the statistics of this type of pages.

Number of Facebook members of: « I eat pork and fuck you! »

Surprisingly the stats don’t show any correlation between the « Charlie » events and the membership of this group. The growth is quite linear. Further analysis is required to assess the relationship between real life events and social media activities. I was quite amazed by the number of young people (mostly men) in my friends list (not anymore) sharing such views. Previous studies on the subject confirmed my feeling, according to Bartlett et al. : « Online supporters are primarily young men: an average of 63 per cent are under 30, and 75 per cent are male » (Bartlett et al., 2011, The New Face of Digital Populism).

Why Facebook boosts the rise of far right propaganda

Résultat de recherche d'images pour

Far right propaganda, by Le Front National

Social media arguably played a major role in the rise of anti-immigration movements in France. My personal view is that a number of intertwined dynamics have led to a banalization of anti-immigrant discourse.And social media certainly is one these dynamics. Facebook has proved an unexpected ally for far right groups.

Early theories of social media argued that one of the main characteristics of this new form of media was that people would no longer be passive towards information. This had the potential to boost political participation: « Media users not only create media content themselves, but the new technology also enables them to become political subjects » (Nilsson, 2013, Swedish politicians and new media: democracy, identity and populism in a digital discourse). To a large extent the dream that social media would bring more democracy has turned into a nightmare for a number of reasons (in France and elsewhere).

First, far right pages writers/administrators are often anonymous and have no ethical guideline to follow which leads to poor information standards. Their goal isn’t to inform but to convince people. Facebook provides instant feedback on your persuasion and communication skills (likes, comments).

Second, those who like these far-right pages find a space where they can freely express their opinion. They know that other members (the audience) share similar beliefs. In other words these pages play the role of a community: it gives members self-assurance, support…

Third, instead of rational debates we are more and more confronted to hoaxes and manipulation as highlighted above. Social media « lends itself to a quickening of political discourse which is in some sense the currency of populists »  and « the ease and the speed with which that misinformation spreads on these networks is remarkable » (Bartlett, 2013, Report from seminar: Liquid democracy or Populism?)

Far right movements saw platforms such as Facebook as an opportunity to break away from mainstream media. Patrick Rundell points to  « the deeply rooted scepticism and suspiciousness (of far right parties) towards mainstream media » (Lundell, 2015, Mistrusting the media – now and then). The audience is equally suspicious.  77% of the French population don’t trust mainstream media reporting (IPSOS, 2014, Fractures Françaises).Interestingly, the exact same percentage of the population mistrusts politicians. For far right groups, social media provides a costless platform to challenge mainstream media, and a great opportunity to reach huge audiences. For the audience, these groups provide the free alternative newsreporting that they look for.

Facebook is a favorable environment for the growth of far right groups. One particular statistic underlines the particular relationship between social media and far right groups:

« For mainstream political groups, the ratio of formal members to facebook members is three-to-one. For every one facebook member there are three formal members. For far right groups, that ratio is reversed: there are three facebook members for every formal member. » (Carl Miller, 2012, Research Perspective)

This is obviously a major source of concern. Our digital involvement is likely to grow in the coming years and it looks like far right groups have gotten the most out of the process so far.

Marine le Pen’s campaigners?


The Front National is increasingly popular and a number of polls suggest that its ideas are also gaining more and more supporters. A large majority now believes that the state offers more help to immigrants than to natives, a recurring theme in anti-immigration propaganda on Facebook.

Question Agree (2006) Agree (2013)
More help is offered to immigrants than to natives 40 67
Immigration is an opportunity for France 49 37
Enough is being done to tackle clandestine immigration 45 24

Source: IFOP, 2013, Les Français et l’immigration (http://www.ifop.com/?option=com_publication&type=poll&id=2393) This poll shows a clear hardening of French public opinion on immigration. Anti-immigration groups on Facebook are strongly suspected to have played a part in this process, especially in the 18/30 year old age group.

Studies have shown that online involvement leads to increased political participation in real life (Nilsson, 2013). These groups are platforms where anti-immigration, racists beliefs are constructed, strenghtened. There is little or no challenging debate, and the fact that most members share the same ideas  transforms ideas into beliefs and beliefs into truths.

Of course the main magnet of these negative energies is Marine le Pen. One can notice a countless number of messages openly calling for a Marine le Pen vote. She is portrayed by many as France’s saviour. However I would argue that a significant fraction of Les Republicains (formerly UMP) electors have very similar views on immigration.

I eat pork and…fuck you! (again) calling for a Front National vote (March 2015)

As shown above, many of these groups are playing an active campaigning role. Administrators are often directly asking their followers to vote for Marine le Pen.

The Front National is posing a serious challenge to mainstream parties, and the role of social media in this process should not be underestimated. Far right groups on Facebook contribute to the radicalization and the popularisation of a nauseous ideology. They are directly and indirectly campaigning for Marine le Pen. This trend, along with the incapacity of mainstream parties to tackle the constant deterioration of the economic and social situation make 2017 presidential election very uncertain. Given the climate I expect Nicolas Sarkozy to lurch to the right once again. However this time his most serious rival will probably not be Mr Hollande but Mme Le Pen. This should lead to fascinating Facebook posts.

Mais d’où vient le Poor Scouser Tommy?

Le Liverpool FC, ce n’est pas que You’ll Never Walk Alone (qui ne lui appartient pas particulièrement d’ailleurs). Au delà de cet hymne légendaire se cache une richesse incroyable de chants. Je voudrais parler aujourd’hui d’une chanson qui n’est peut-être pas très connue de tous les fans francophones du LFC, mais que je trouve remarquable: Poor Scouser Tommy.

Si vous ne connaissez pas, je vous laisse l’écouter, si vous connaissez la réécouter:

Il s’agit d’une chanson assez unique, même à Liverpool, mélange d’Histoire, de légende, de football et de musique. Dans cet article, je vous propose d’en découvrir la génèse.

The Sash ou Red River Valley?

Les vieilles mémoires du club, qui pour certaines côtoient le Kop depuis plus de cinquante ans, s’opposent sur ce point. Quelle est la chanson dont s’inspire Poor Scouser Tommy?
Pour une minorité il s’agit de The Sash my father wore. (L’écharpe que mon père portait)

Même si on saisit une certaine similarité au niveau musical, cette hypothèse semble peu probable. En effet, The Sash est une chanson très marquée historiquement, qui célèbre notamment la victoire des protestants sur les catholiques irlandais en 1690 lors de la bataille de la Boyne.

Depuis elle est très appréciée parmi les loyalistes d’Irlande du Nord, les Orangistes (ceux qui veulent faire partie du Royaume Uni), qui commémorent encore le souvenir de la victoire par des défilés qui sont considérés comme des provocations par les catholiques.Bien que la bataille ait eu lieu il y a plus de 300 ans, c’est toujours un sujet sensible en Irlande.
Mais quel rapport avec Liverpool me direz vous? Il se trouve que Liverpool a connu plusieurs vagues massives d’immigration irlandaise qui ont eu une grande influence sur l’histoire de la ville et notamment du côté d’Anfield. Ainsi le fameux Fields of Anfield Road vient directement du Fields of Athenry, chanson irlandaise pur jus.

Par conséquent, il paraît très peu probable qu’une chanson aussi populaire à Anfield soit tirée d’un chant anti-catholique.

L’autre piste, soutenue par la plupart, mène à Red River Valley. C’est une chanson folklorique américaine de style « cow boy ».

Cette chanson, plus neutre historiquement, paraît très proche musicalement de Poor Scouser Tommy. A certains moments, elle fait aussi penser aux Fields of Athenry.
Une troisième hypothèse serait que la première partie de la chanson est inspirée de Red River Valley et la deuxième du Sash. Difficile à savoir. Il est vrai que la fin de la chanson, à partir de « Oh I am a Liverpuldian » a un rythme plus proche du Sash. Difficile à savoir. Dans le doute, point accordé à Red River Valley.

 Le making of d’un chant à Liverpool

the albert

Malheureusement on ne sait pas qui a écrit Poor Scouser Tommy. D’après un forumeur du Red and White Kop (RAWK), il a été chanté pour la première fois en 1975 à Anfield. Un autre ajoute que comme bien d’autres chants, Poor Scouser Tommy fut d’abord chanté dans les pubs avant d’être repris par le Kop:

I first heard this in about 75 in the Liver, Waterloo. One Friday night before a home game, a few bevvies, and loads of Liverpool fans in, totally chocker, and a few started it up, it got picked up, and I remember there being the words there on a table, but wouldn’t have dreamed of keeping them being as by the time we’d finished they’d been lying in beer sodden tables and floors for a few hours. Well done 12C for keeping a copy. I do deffo remember singing it on the Kop the next day, but cannot remember what game it was. (Redrebel54)

A bien des égards, les pubs peuvent être considérés comme la 5ème tribune d’Anfield, une sorte de studio musical qui produit, saison après saison, de nouveaux hymnes. Quand on connaît le côté festif des Scousers, on ne s’étonne pas que le nom de l’auteur original de la chanson ait été perdu.

Qui est Tommy?

The Highland Divison, dont aurait fait partie Tommy

The Highland Divison, dont aurait fait partie Tommy

Tommy ne désigne pas un joueur, ni un entraîneur. Il s’agit d’un supporter de Liverpool, qui fut envoyé au front pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. D’une certaine manière, c’est un hommage des supporters à eux mêmes. Tommy incarne le supporter des Reds, valeureux, courageux, mais surtout fier de son club.
Ainsi, au moment où il est abattu par un fusil allemand, ensanglanté, il trouve la force de chanter à la gloire de « l’équipe en rouge ».
La part du mythe est grande dans cette histoire comme le dit Dave Kirby:

« Tommy est un nom fictif, auquel on peut tous s’identifier. C’est un personnage qui permet de ne pas oublier tous ceux qui ont donné leur vie pendant les Grandes guerres ».

Si aucune bataille précise n’est mentionnée, on comprend à travers les paroles que Tommy fut engagé dans la Guerre du Désert: ‘old lybian sun » « nothing to see but the sand ».

Lieux principaux de la Guerre du Désert: Egypte, Libye

Lieux principaux de la Guerre du Désert: Egypte, Libye

Cette guerre, est un sous-conflit de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale, qui opposa de 1940 à 1943 l’armée coloniale libyenne de l’Empire italien à la huitième armée britannique qui gardait l’Egypte. La Highland Division participa à ces combats, avant d’opérer en Sicile et en Normandie, ce qui a forgé la légende de cette division d’infanterie.

De nombreux points du chant sont fictifs, mais qu’importe, quand il s’agit de chambrer un peu les voisins d’Everton, tous les anachronismes sont permis:

« We played the Toffees for a laugh
And we left them feeling blue – Five Nil ! »

Cela fait référence à une victoire cinglante des Reds face aux « bitters » en Septembre 1965, soit plus de vingt ans après la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Quel devin, ce pauvre Tommy!

Résumé du match:

Par la suite, le LFC infligera d’autres défaites cuisantes à son voisin, et notamment en Novembre 1982, 5-0 encore avec un quadruplé de Ian Rush s’il vous plaît! Les supporters des Reds se sont empressés de rajouter un couplet à « Poor Scouser Tommy »:


Rush scored one
Rush scored two
Rush scored three
And Rush scored four!

En prime, le résumé du match:

En conclusion, je dirais que cette chanson correspond bien à l’ADN du LFC, l’importance de l’Histoire, la musicalité (Poetry in motion),la gloire mais surtout du football, jusqu’à la mort. Alors, à la question d’où vient le Poor Scouser Tommy, je répondrais tout simplement: de Liverpool.


Sources non citées:




Malassezia theory, the oil paradox and how asthma could improve our understanding of Seborrheic Dermatitis


The Malassezia theory :

As shown in my previous article (https://morganwlfc.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/dermatology-a-review-of-scientific-litterature-on-the-causes-of-seborrheic-dermatitis-s-d/), there is still a lot of uncertainty around the causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis. However a majority of studies point towards the role of Malassezia. This yeast is lipophilic (its food is lipids). That’s why SD is mainly found in sebaceous gland areas. Indeed sebaceous gland produce sebum, which is rich in lipids (triglycerides).

Malassezia is on everyone’s skin. But for some reason, only some develop the condition. Basically, Malassezia breaks down the triglycerides into free fatty acids. Then the free fatty acids initiate an irritant response with flaking and inflammation (redness) (Dawson Thomas, 2007, Journal of Investigative Dermatology)

This response is seen only in those who suffer from Seborrheic Dermatitis (still Dawson Thomas):

Role of individual susceptibility

We have shown that a fatty acid metabolite of Malassezia, oleic acid, induces flaking in dandruff-susceptible patients, but not in non-susceptible patients (Ro and Dawson, 2005). This finding provides evidence of role of these fatty acid metabolites in dandruff development and suggests an underlying difference between individuals that predisposes some to the development of dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Additionally, immunodeficiency such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome allows excess Malassezia proliferation, resulting in severe D/SD. Physical factors, nutritional disorders, drugs, and neurotransmitter abnormalities are additional aggravating factors. The difference between dandruff-susceptible and non-susceptible individuals remains unclear. Multiple possibilities exist, including innate differences in stratum corneum barrier function, skin permeability, and immune response to free fatty acids or proteins and polysaccharides from Malassezia. Further work will be necessary to fully understand the susceptibility response.”


Degraded by Malassezia

Fatty acids

Irritant and desquamative response due to personal predispositions

Table illustrating the Malassezia theory

This theory can explain a lot of things patients have observed. For example, why antifungal treatments are not treating the root cause of SD. Many have noticed that when the antifungal is withdrawn the yeast comes back, and so does SD. Not even mentionning the fact that the yeast can develop a resistance against the topical treatment.

Many SD sufferers have noticed that treatments are not effective in the long term. Even worse, many of these treatments have considerable side effects. We must keep in mind that SD is a chronic disease. The fact that the majority of studies made to test the efficiency of treatments don’t exceed a few weeks is shameful, and is certainly not good enough for SD sufferers. But at least, if this theory is right, the search for the root cause of SD would be dramatically narrowed, as Dawson says “further work would be needed to understand the susceptibility response”. It turns out that I have an hypothesis to further explain the susceptibility response. But before I develop this hypothesis, there is at least one thing that I think isn’t consistent with the Malassezia theory, which I call the “oil paradox”.

Here is the beast, err yeast:


Photomicrographs of different Malassezia species stained by methylene blue. (a) M. furfur(b) M. globosa(c) M. restricta(d) M. slooffiae; and (e) M. sympodialis. Magnification 1000X

(from Rudramurthy SM, Honnavar P, Dogra S, Yegneswaran PP, Handa S, Chakrabarti A. Association of Malassezia species with dandruff. The Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2014;139(3):431-437. )

As you can see there are different species of Malassezia. No one really knows which type is most important in SD, although most studies point towards M. Globosa and M. Restricta. Now let’s focus on the oil paradox.

The oil paradox:

Now that we have seen the Malassezia theory, it’s quite interesting to test if the theory works in practice. SD patients are very open to the idea of trying new treatments, creams etc. They are even more open to natural treatments, as they believe that it can’t do any harm. Many of them have tried putting olive and coconut oil on their skin.

The starting point of those who use these is the following: “my skin was dehydrated and that was the underlying problem » (http://www.curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=1867304). Indeed, those who suffer from SD often have a very dry skin on lesional areas. So putting an oil, be it olive or coconut oil, may rehydrate the skin. However, if you look at the theory above, you would think putting oil is crazy. Both coconut and olive oil will feed the Malassezia yeast, as they are rich in triglycerides as Elaine Siegfried pointed out :

« While oil application may be risk free, a potential concern arises when considering a possible Malasseziavirulence factor regulated by its metabolic lipid pathways. In vivo, Malassezia digests sebum into saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.1 Only the saturated molecules are essential while the unsaturated fatty acids are a by-product.1 Organic oils (such as olive oil) contain both saturated and unsaturated lipids and may be counterproductive to treat a condition whose etiology is linked to Malassezia. In fact, olive oil is a standard in vitro culture media for Malassezia.7 Saturated fatty acids likely encourage Malassezia overgrowth and excess unsaturated fatty acids may induce inflammation and scaling. As nondigestible oil, mineral oil may provide a triglyceride-free alternative to organic oils.

Based on the evidence currently available, it may be prudent to avoid organic oils, especially olive oil, when treating seborrheic dermatitis or other inflammatory skin diseases triggered by colonizing microflora. »

Siegfried E, Glenn E. Use of Olive Oil for the Treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis in Children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med.2012;166(10):967. 


So by applying these oils on the lesions, you are actually likely to make your SD worse. And it did for me, and a good number of people I’ve talked to on forums or Facebook. But what is intriguing is that in some cases, against all odds, applying coconut or olive oil IMPROVED their SD. Look at this Curezone thread on olive oil for example (http://www.curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=1867304). There is even more evidence on coconut oil.

So here we have a problem. Why are olive oil and coconut oil working for some ? Of course you might argue that the quality of the evidence (testimonials on Facebook or Curezone) is very weak compared to scientific trials. How can we be sure that these people really suffer from SD ? Are they telling the truth ? We have seen false reviews in the past, but I don’t see why someone would post a false review on the effects of olive oil. My opinion is that their claim has to be assessed. If they are right the Malassezia theory would be seriously challenged. From my own experience (very subjective I know) coconut and olive oil help more or less 50 % of people, and worsens the condition for the other half. Does that mean that there are two (or more) subtypes of SD ? I don’t know.

Further research is required to understand why some people improve their SD with these oils.The results might change drastically our knowledge of Seborrheic Dermatitis. On the other hand, the fact that olive and coconut oil worsened the situation in many cases shows that the theory is right in many cases.

This oil paradox shows that there is still a lot of work to be done before we can fully understand how SD works. Meanwhile patients have to find out by themselves which treatment works better for them, if any at all. Actually it’s a shame that this oil paradox weakens the Malassezia theory. Because I think that I have found a very appealing hypothesis to explain how the « susceptibility response » works.

Striking similarities with asthma and my hypothesis:

I do a lot of research on SD, and therefore I spend a lot of time reading forums and talking with fellow sufferers on social media. Many (including me), believe they have identified what can trigger their SD. No scientific proof here, but a lot of observations. If you are new to the condition, this list might help you to identify yours.

– mold

– wood burning

– hormones

– dampness

– cold weather

– foods : wheat (and other foods containing gluten), milk very frequent. Eggs, peanuts and many others (rare)

– alcohol : beer

– antibiotics: some have noticed that their SD first appeared shortly after taking antibiotics.


This is NOT the cause of SD

I have probably forgotten a few, contributions are very welcome. If you can spot your triggers, avoid them at any cost. Easier said than done I know. For example it might be difficult to avoid the cold weather or a mouldy house. My own experience is that when I remove my own triggers my symptoms are decreasing by more or less 90%.

These triggers are very interesting, and are not really discussed by scientists at the moment, despite the huge body of evidence given by patients.

I argue that triggers can fit into the Malassezia theory. As one can observe, these triggers are very similar to the ones causing asthma. Some asthma researchers believe that :

« The asthma genes are triggered by something in our surrounding environment so that the asthma symptoms emerge in the unfortunate children » (http://sciencenordic.com/new-asthma-susceptibility-gene-identified)

You can read more on the gene-environnement interaction here😦http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene%E2%80%93environment_interaction)

Is seborrheic dermatitis influenced by the same pattern ? The idea is definitely appealing. The personal predisposition would be in our genes, and these genes would be activated by our environnement, explaining the flares and remissions. This is consistent both with patients’ reports and the Malassezia theory, but there is a long way to go before anything can be proven scientifically. Moreover the oil paradox has to be explained too. In the meantime if you can identify your own triggers I believe that you can significantly improve your condition.

Dermatology : A review of the scientific litterature on the causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis (S.D.)

In this first article, I would like to describe the causes of Seborrheic dermatitis according to science. We will discuss a number of potential factors (yeast, weather, sebaceous glands, oxidative stress). Seborrheic dermatitis remains mysterious for a lot of reasons. It is estimated that 5 % of the total world population suffers from it (that’s a lot). It is a complex disease, but as Alfredo Rebora and Franco Rongioletti, MD point it out « Dermatologic researchers have long neglected SD despite its frequency ».


Let’s have a look at the scientific litterature.

A lot of factors :

Despite an outstanding number of publications, no one truly knows what causes Seborrheic Dermatitis. This text sums it up quite well. A lot of factors are proposed, but no clear answer, probably because there is not one single cause, but rather an addition of factors. Is it a yeast ? Is the immune system at fault? What about the weather ?

Okokon EO, Oyo-Ita A, Chosidow O. Interventions for seborrhoeic dermatitis (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD008138. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008138.

The disease is caused by an interaction of endogenous (individual), environmental, and general health factors (Johnson 2000). The increased presence of the yeast, Malassezia species, which normally lives on the skin, is a constant finding (Bergrant 1996Rigopoulos 2004). Changes in seasonal humidity are believed by some to worsen the disease condition (Scheinfeld 2005).

The fact that seborrhoeic dermatitis responds to anti-fungal medications strongly supports the role of yeast as a causal factor (Johnson 2000Scaparro 2001). This theory is further supported by the reduction in the number of the Malassezia yeast during treatment and this correlates with clinical improvement (Gupta 2004). Recurrence of the disease is observed following a rebound in the number of Malassezia(Parry 1998). There is evidence from research that human sebocytes (fat-producing cells) respond to androgen stimulation and their increased activity worsens the severity of seborrhoeic dermatitis (Johnson 2000).

Risk factors for this skin disorder include stress, fatigue, weather extremes, oily skin, obesity, infrequent skin cleaning, and skin disorders such as acne. Those with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cranial nerve palsies, and head injury appear to be more prone to this disease condition (Schwartz 2006). Where co-existing conditions occur, seborrhoeic dermatitis tends to be more extensive and does not respond to treatment (Johnson 2000). Conflicting findings have been reported from various studies which have explored the role of the immune system in the cause of this disease. Though evidence for specific immunological influence remains inconclusive, the correlation with HIV infection gives credibility to this (Parry 1998). Occurence and severity of seborrhoeic dermatitis increases with progression and severity of HIV infection (Parry 1998). HIV infection increases prevalence to as much as 83% (Bergrant 1996Scheinfeld 2005).

A variety of drugs have been known to provoke the eruption of this rash, and these include; chlorpromazine, cimetidine, ethionamide, gold, griseofulvin, haloperidol, interferon-a, lithium, methoxsalen, methyldopa, phenothiazines, psoralens, stanozolol, thiothixene, and trioxsalen (Scheinfeld 2005).

On sebaceous glands:

I picked this one, because it argues that SD is not a disorder of sebaceous gland, despite the fact that many believe it is. However the author admits that the process remains mysterious.

Valia R G. Etiopathogenesis of seborrheic dermatitis. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2006;72:253-5

Seborrheic dermatitis is not a disorder of sebaceous glands.

Although correlation between yeast density and severity of SD has been reported,[15] it is not certain that SD patients have higher Malassezia counts than controls.[16]Also, some investigators have found no difference in the amount of Malassezia yeasts in lesional versus non-lesional skin of SD patients. Moreover, the response of SD to antifungal drugs like azoles and imidazoles may be due to their anti-inflammatory action.

How Malassezia yeasts initiate the inflammation of seborrheic dermatitis is not clear. They or their byproducts may cause inflammation by inducing cytokine production by keratinocytes[17] or through involvement of Langerhans cells and T-lymphocyte activation.[4] However, the occurrence of SD in early HIV infection, where the cell-mediated immunity is impaired, goes against the hypothesis that SD is mediated by T-lymphocyte activation by Pityrosporum ovale. 

Another factor that may cause inflammation is the lipase activity of P. ovale, which generates inflammatory fatty acids from skin lipids.[18] Though qualitative abnormalities in the composition of sebum have not been demonstrated in SD, mild abnormalities in the surface lipids could result from the ineffective keratinization that is often demonstrated histologically…

…Though antimycotics ‘clear’ the condition with a reduction in the number of the organisms, recolonization and relapse occur on stopping treatment. This could be explained by an underlying immunological deficit. The increased prevalence of seborrheic dermatitis in HIV-positive patients also supports the hypothesis that seborrheic dermatitis has a strong immunological basis.

There may be a defective cell-mediated immune response to Pityrosporum ovale in patients with seborrheic dermatitis, although the evidence for this is incomplete and confusing.[22],[23],[24],[25],[26] Though the relationship between seborrheic dermatitis and Malassezia yeasts is not yet completely understood, these studies support the postulation that strong skin colonization with P. ovale in seborrheic dermatitis is due to altered cell-mediated immunity and that the development of seborrheic dermatitis depends upon the way the patient’s immune system reacts to antigens derived from P. ovale .

The cause of SD is yet to be resolved. Until then, the choice of therapy in SD will be between antimycotics, topical steroids, sebostatics or their combinations. The future may see more studies with topical immunomodulators[32] or other nonsteroidal agents like metronidazole,[33] whose mechanism of action is yet to be elucidated.

Weather, sunshine…

The following study is very interesting, it looks at the seasonal variation of Seborrheic Dermatitis. As expected, S.D. is less pronounced in the summer, which may mean that weather may play a part aswell.

Hancox, J. G., Sheridan, S. C., Feldman, S. R. and Fleischer, A. B. (2004), Seasonal variation of dermatologic disease in the USA: a study of office visits from 1990 to 1998. International Journal of Dermatology, 43: 6–11. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2004.01828.x

Table 2.  Dermatologic office visits ranked by seasonality for meteorological seasons

Peak season

% of annual visits

Trough season

% of annual visits

P value

  1. NOS, not otherwise specified.

All skin conditions






Actinic keratosis


















Seborrheic dermatitis






Common wart






Contact dermatitis






Seborrheic keratosis
























Benign tumor






Skin cancer NOS






Atopic dermatitis












Wart NOS


OK, so now we know that weather might play a role. But more precisely, what kind of weather triggers S.D.? This Italian study from 1991 can be linked to the previous one. The scientists believe that UV light and melatonin could play a role in SD, which would explain why SD decreases in the summer.


Maietta GRongioletti FRebora A. Seborrheic dermatitis and daylight.Acta Derm Venereol. 1991;71(6):538-9.

Patients with mood depression have been found to have a higher prevalence of seborrheic dermatitis (SD), possibly related to their tendency to live indoors. The prevalence of outpatients with SD has now been found to be directly related to the number of gloomy days in the area. Since UV light might not be the only reason for the well-known improvement in SD in summer, an explanation possibly related to melatonin is envisaged.

Oxidative stress

This one looks at the potential role of oxidate stress. Oxidative stress is a hot topic at the moment, so I thought it would be interesting to mention this study despite the fact that I did not have access to the full text. Here is the abstract :

Ahmet MetinDuriye Deniz DemirserenGulsen AkogluAynure OztekinSalim NeseliogluOzcan Erel, Selma Emre, The association of oxidative stress and disease activity in seborrheic dermatitis, Archives of Dermatological Research November 2012, Volume 304, Issue 9, pp 683-687

The pathogenesis of seborrheic dermatitis (SD) has not been clearly identified, and many factors are thought to play a role in its development. Recently, new studies have focused on increased oxidative stress (OS).In this study it was found that OS was significantly higher in SD patients than in healthy subjects. In conclusion, our findings point to the possible role of the OS for the etiopathogenesis of SD.

How can we explain this confusion?

The number of potential factors causing seborrheic dermatitis is impressive, and it is difficult to find out how important each factor is in the making of SD. This incertitude makes it difficult to find an accurate answer, and definitely requires more research to be done. Why does 21st century science struggle to find the cause of a very common skin disease?

I think that there are a number of reasons:

– the first reason is that S.D. has long been neglected by scientist. More generally I would say that dermatology has been neglected because most of the time these issues are not life-threatening.

– second, science is a difficult field. Even if more research was conducted, it takes a lot of time to find answers. Look at the war against cancer. Despite billions being spent since the end of the twentieth century, cancer is still misunderstood, and no miracle treatment has been found.

-finally, my personal view is that each person is unique. These studies are often looking at big numbers, trying to find out what they all have in common. Maybe that every S.D. patient has his unique set of causes. This is a big problem. First, the doctor would need a lot of time and patience to find this unique set of causes. Then, the pharmaceutic industry would be in trouble too, individualized treatment isn’t as profitable as standardized treatment.

In my next post, I will look at the treatments available. We’ll see that there is very little research on natural treatments, despite the very poor record of chemical treatment among patients.

Ukraine crisis divides France


In this article, I would like to describe the lines along which France is divided over the Ukrainian crisis. The media, the political sphere and the public opinion seem equally divided.
The crisis started more than one year ago, with the events in Maidan, followed by war in Crimea, leading to its annexion, and now war in eastern Ukraine, with the very fragile Minsk peace agreement signed on the 12th of February.
Two very different, contradictory views of the events are fighting each other.

Whose fault is it?

It’s all Putin’s fault:

According to large parts of mainstream media in France, the crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Vladimir Putin. Le Monde is considered by many as the most influential newspaper in France. It isn’t afraid to criticize  Vladimir Putin, using some strong words: « a dictator at the head of a corrupted state » (http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2015/02/23/la-russie-considere-l-union-europeenne-comme-son-veritable-ennemi_4581441_3232.html).

Here is a video made by Le Monde, titled « why Putin wants chaos for Ukraine »

It argues that Vladimir Putin wants to resuscitate a « New Russia ». Putin supposedly backs the separatists with weapons and money, and therefore is responsible for attacking Ukraine’s sovereignety.
A similar stance is adopted by the ruling Parti Socialiste, and the EU. Both believe that Russia should be held responsible: on its website one can read  » In response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country, the EU has imposed restrictive measures against the Russian Federation. »


The French Foreign Affairs minister, Laurent Fabius, told Russia it would face more sanctions if Mariupol is attacked (despite the fact that fights have been taking place in this area since the end of January). Clearly, the crisis is blamed solely on Russia.

It’s all the US and EU’s fault:


On the other hand, some have a diametrically opposed account of what happened in Ukraine, arguing that the West (the E.U. and the U.S) is responsible of this crisis. Jean Luc Mélenchon (Front de Gauche) recently said that « war rumbles in eastern Ukraine, at the hands of neonazis and american agents ». A well known blogger, Olivier Berruyer, has written an impressive list of articles, backing these claim:


He believes that the E.U. should be blamed for the crisis because it urged Ukraine to make a choice between signing a trade agreement with the E.U. or Russia, despite the fact that Ukraine’s economy is hugely connected with both. He also says that the EU works hand in hand with Neonazis in Ukraine in order to pull Ukraine away from Russia.
On the other side of the French political arena, Marine Le Pen adopts a similar position: « Regarding Ukraine, we behave like American lackeys, », according to her « Europe is clearly responsible for this crisis ».

Sarkozy’s interesting position:


Interestingly, Nicolas Sarkozy, former president, and favourite for the next presidential election, apparently criticized  the E.U’s handling of the situation: « the separation between Europe and Russia is dramatic, we don’t want a new Cold War between Europe and Russia ». On Crimea he added « Crimea chose Russia » despite the fact that the referendum had not been recognized by the E.U. Despite being usually very U.S. friendly he also added « if Americans want Europe and Russia to be divided that’s their problem, but that’s not in our interests ». His close friend, Henri Guaino also said « to attract Ukraine towards the E.U. was a big mistake, it was always going to rip this country apart ».

Public opinion:

We can see how much France’s political elite is divided over Ukraine. What is the impact of this debate on the French public opinion?
One year ago, according to a poll, only 14% of French people had a positive image of Vladimir Putin. We know how important public opinion is in times of war.  A more recent poll made by ICM Research found that French people were also divided over the sanctions against Russia, with 30% thinking that the sanctions had a negative impact on the situation in Ukraine, and 23% thinking the opposite. The rest probably had no clue.

France plays an important part in this conflict, this has been underlined by François Hollande attending the Minsk summit with Angela Merkel. France is also a key member of the EU. The support received by Putin from all over the political spectrum (from Sarkozy to Le Pen and Mélenchon) contrasts with the criticism from the mainstream media. From a French political perspective, there is no surprise in seeing Marine Le Pen or Jean Luc Mélenchon criticizing the E.U.’s foreign policy, but Nicolas Sarkozy’s statement was quite surprising. The gap between both camps and their contradictory claims makes it difficult for the average citizen to have a clear idea on the situation, and for a balanced account of the situation to emerge.

The Okinawa diet: principles and foods (2/2)

In my previous article I underlined how the Okinawa diet helped many locals become centenarians, with very low levels of cancer and heart disease rates.

What is the Okinawa diet?

The Okinawa diet is based on:


(Willcox et co.)

They tend to eat more fish than meat, although pork is very popular in Okinawa. It is also important to know that gluten does not feature in the Okinawa diet, which seems to give more credit to the gluten free advocates. The low glycemic index grains would rather be rice.

Sweet potato is a popular carbohydrate source in Okinawa and rightly so. Sweet potatoes are the most nutritious of all vegetables, mainly for their content of dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars, protein content, vitamins A and C, potassium, iron, and calcium, as well as its low amounts of fat (especially saturated fat), sodium, and cholesterol.The Okinawans circa 1950 ate sweet potatoes for 849 grams of the 1262 grams of food that they consumed, which constituted 69% of their total calories


Okinawans also eat an average of three ounces of soy products a day, mostly in the form of tofu and miso (soy paste). Other foods such as seaweed, curcuma, or hihatsu (Okinawan pepper) are also widely used in the Okinawan cuisine.

The high consumption of vegetables in Okinawa partially explains the low rates of heart diseases. Fish also provides omega 3 fat, which plays an important role in cardiovascular health.

Interestingly, milk is not very popular in Okinawa.

Low calories intakes

Low calories intakes are often associated with starvation. However Okinawans eat an average of two kilos of food per day, pretty much the same amount as average Americans. Yet their calories intakes are much lower, about five hundred calories less. This can be explained by the concept of caloric density. Vegetables have a low caloric density, and are heavily consumed by Okinawans.

So the good news is you don’t need to starve yourself to be healthy. You just have to pick the right foods and make them tasty. The bad news is that the right food will often be vegetables (Okinawans eat at least seven per day!). My advice would be to consider the eastern traditions of cooking vegetables. I hated spinach till the day I found out how the Chinese cooked them. Soups, stews and fibers rich foods are also good low-density foods.

Relaxed atmosphere


The atmosphere that surrounds you during your meal is as important as the meal itself. In Okinawa, and more generally in Japan, meals are taken in a very relaxed atmosphere. No TV and no heated discussions. Eating is not a race, enjoy your food and take your time.

A good base to build on

The Okinawan diet, with centuries of experiments, provides a good base to build your own diet. Of course, you will hardly eat the exact foods as Okinawans as some foods can only be found there, but you can easily incorporate some aspects into your own habits (low caloric density, sweet potatoes, seaweed, relaxed atmosphere).

I have also noticed the striking similarities between the Djokovic (https://morganwlfc.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/djokovic-and-thoughts-on-nutrition/) and the Okinawan diet.


If you’re interested in the Okinawan diet, you can watch this video:

Alternatively, you can read this book:

The Okinawa Diet Plan: Get Leaner, Live Longer, and Never Feel Hungry by Willcox et co.

In french: Okinawa, un programme global pour mieux vivre par Dr Jean Paul Curtay

What is the best diet to follow?

Many people believe that they hold the secrets of a perfect diet. High protein diets, vegetarians, vegans, paleo, living food advocates all think that they have the scientific evidence that proves that their eating habits are the best, which can be so confusing for the average citizen.

Many people know that there is a strong relationship between food and health, and are willing to make changes in their diets to improve their wellbeing. The amount of information that we receive is huge, whether it’s on TV, in magazines, newspapers or Internet.

However how confusing and contradictory is this information?


Eggs: good or bad?

Let’s take the example of eggs: a few years ago eggs were branded as the new public enemy. It was argued that eggs were raising cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risks. So avoid eating eggs. And then a few years later: oh actually no, eggs are good for you, research has proven that consuming eggs every day is not associated with cholesterol problems or heart disease. And after that, it was claimed that organic (free range) eggs were better than agroindustrially produced eggs. Then, we were told that free range weren’t actually better, and then they were again. So confusing.

Don’t get me wrong. I love debates about food, and I support scientific research on foods, I think it is a fantastic area of research and one that should be much more supported financially. However, the findings of researchs should be analysed more carefully especially by journalists. Journalists always tend to promote and sell scientific studies as breaking news, game changers. As the world of  food science is made of studies and counter studies my view is that we should give ourselves a  little bit of time before applying potential groundbreaking scientific findings in our own lives. What’s true today might not be so true tomorrow in the arena of science. It’s true for eggs, but the same can be said about lots of other foods.

Diet trends


As I said before, so many different diets are offered, and these diets are often in contradiction (vegan/high animal proteins diets). It seems like every year brings its new diet plans. Most of these diets are probably very good for you, considering how poor the average eating habits are in many countries. However nutrition must be taken seriously, there is no place for apprentice wizards as the potential consequences of a wrong diet can be terrible.

Of course if you feel better when adopting a new diet it surely means that it’s an healthy one, especially if it helps you get rid of illnesses. But you also have to look at the longer run. Most of these diets are relatively young (less than a lifetime) and who can predict their long term effects? Sometimes unwanted effects can take years to emerge. So think twice before engaging in any diet plan: do you want to follow some new exciting trend (even if it seems to be backed by scientific evidence) at the risk of discovering later that this diet wasn’t so great?

The answer will probably be no. My point is that if some scientists got it wrong over whether eggs were good or not, imagine how difficult it can be to make sure that a full diet is good, not only for most people but also for you. Don’t underestimate individual factors, we all are different. We all know of someone who has some weird food allergy.

Food association factors also have to be considered, two foods might be good on their own, but not so good associated together, and the list goes on and on. We have to accept this complexity.

So what do we do, if the cost of changes are so difficult to calculate, does that mean that we should keep our usual diets, the ones making people overweight, uncomfortable with their bodies (70% yes 7-0 of Americans ARE overweight http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm ), and with the associated rise of cancers, heart problems, chronic inflammations and so on?

Of course not. Actually the rise of alternative diets and the constantly increasing interest in healthy foods are, I hope, the first steps towards massive changes in our diets.

But in order to put an end to fight the modern diseases that are overweight, cancer and heart disease just to name a few, massive changes have to take place as soon as possible. This is where the traditionnal Okinawa diet could play its part.

Is the Okinawa diet just another food trend?

One could point out that the Okinawa diet might just be another trend, in the same category as the ones named above. And it is true that the Okinawa diet has been made popular in Europe and the US only recently, with the New York Times besteller The Okinawa Program (Willcox and Suzuki).

But Okinawa’s love story with food is centuries old. The legend says that an ancient Chinese emperor dispatched a mission of explorers to Okinawa with orders to find the elixir of life and bring it to him. In the Japanese and Chinese tradition, food is considered as medicine.  These cultures have tried to understand the complexity of foods that I highlighted above for centuries.

While Japan is known for its longevity records, Okinawa is out of this league: the number of centenarians comes to 53 per 100,000 in Okinawa, which is strikingly high compared with the American national average of 15.

You might say, what’s the point in reaching 100 if you’re unable to walk or have Alzheimer. Not in Okinawa. 97% of these centenarians have never experienced a serious health issue! Okinawa also boasts the lowest death rates from cancer, heart disease and stroke (the top three killers in the US).


( D. Craig Willcox PhD, Bradley J. Willcox MD, Hidemi Todoriki PhD & Makoto Suzuki MD, PhD (2009) The Okinawan Diet: Health Implications of a Low-Calorie, Nutrient-Dense, Antioxidant-Rich Dietary Pattern Low in Glycemic Load, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 28:sup4, 500S-516S)

And I could go on with other impressive statistics for a long time. The Okinawa diet works, it keeps cancer and a long list of modern diseases at very low rates, it isn’t just me or some scientist who thinks so, it is the lifelong experience of thousands of Okinawans that proves it.

In my next article, I will describe the basics of the Okinawa diet, and we’ll see to what extent we can adopt it in our daily lives.

TISA: Le cousin du Traité Transatlantique

Vous avez sans doute entendu parler du TTIP ou GMT, le Partenariat transatlantique de commerce et d’investissement dont les négociations sont à un stade avancé.

Et bien ce n’est pas fini, on apprend, grâce notamment à Wikileaks, que d’autres négociations secrètes se déroulent également depuis un certain temps. Ces négociations visent à la signature de l’accord TISA.



Qu’est ce que le TISA?

TISA signifie Trade in Services Agreement autrement dit Accord sur le Commerce des Services. Les principaux objectifs ce cet accord sont:

– d’empêcher la renationalisation d’un service public qui aurait été privatisé. Ainsi à la manière d’un verrou, une fois qu’une privatisation a lieu, elle ne peut pas être remise en cause. Par exemple si un gouvernement décide de privatiser l’Education Nationale, le gouvernement suivant ne pourra pas revenir sur cette réforme à moins de consentir une compensation financière extrêmement lourde.

– de limiter le droit du travail et la protection de l’environnement.

– la dérégulation des activités financières. TISA vise à faciliter l’introduction de produits financiers innovants, conçus pour contourner les règles bancaires.

– il y aurait également tout un volet concernant les données des utilisateurs internet, avec comme objectif un assouplissement des règles actuelles.

Quels sont les pays compris par TISA?

Contrairement au TTIP, le TISA n’est pas un accord bilatéral. Voici la liste des pays concernés:

– Australie, Canada, Chili, Taiwan, Colombie, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Islande, Israel, Japon, Liechtenstein, Mexique, Nouvelle Zélande, Norvège, Pakistan (!), Panama, Paraguay, Perou, Corée du Sud, Suisse, Turquie, les USA, et l’Union Européenne.

Il semble que les négociations soient impulsées par l’Union Européenne et les USA, ce qui n’est guère surprenant.

Les discussions ont débuté en 2012, et il a donc fallu deux ans pour pouvoir en prendre connaissance grâce à Wikileaks. Pendant que les socialistes français font semblant d’être transparents en publiant leurs déclarations de patrimoine, ils se gardent bien de dévoiler des discussions sur des accords cruciaux qui concernent la finance (l’ennemie honnie de François Hollande!), les services publics et l’environnement.

hollande finance

La finance c’était mon ennemie. Mais ça c’était avant.

Mais après tout, il est sans doute plus important pour le peuple français de connaître le patrimoine de Monsieur Fabius ou celui de Michel Sapin.

Pourquoi ces accords se multiplient-ils?

A mon sens, ces accords révèlent la tension grandissante entre deux grands blocs. D’un côté l’UE et les Etats-Unis se rapprochent de plus en plus, que ce soit au niveau économique ou géopolitique. De l’autre, la Chine semble vouloir s’allier à la Russie, comme on a pu le constater lors de la crise ukrainienne ainsi que lors du forum sur la coopération entre les régions des fleuves Yangtze et Volga.


Hu Jintao et Vladimir Poutine

Le conseiller d’Etat chinois Yang Jiechi a ainsi affirmé lors de cette rencontre

« la Chine est prête à mener une coopération stratégique avec la Russie d’une manière plus étroite, plus rigoureuse et plus approfondie, et à travailler avec son pays voisin pour améliorer la force nationale des deux pays, et pour promouvoir la paix, la stabilité et le développement de la région et du monde »

Dans le même temps, la présidente de la chambre haut du Parlement russe indiquait que le développement de la coordination stratégique sino-russe était la priorité de la diplomatie de son pays.

Cette logique d’affrontement peut expliquer l’inclusion de Taiwan dans l’accord TISA. Cependant, l’affrontement n’est pas aussi manichéen qu’on pourrait le croire. Ainsi, la Chine aurait demandé à participer aux discussions TISA, ce qui montre qu’elle partage certains des objectifs de ce traité. Cette demande a néanmoins été rejetée par les Etats Unis.

La stratégie européenne est clairement de se rapprocher des Etats Unis, au lieu de jouer un rôle plus neutre d’arbitre, de protecteur de l’environnement et des droits fondamentaux. Ce rapprochement paraît étonnant, puisque le pouvoir américain semble de plus en plus fragile depuis une dizaine d’années (lire Emmanuel Todd, Après l’Empire).

Mais d’étonnement il ne peut y avoir, quand on connaît la capacité de nos dirigeants à se projeter sur le long terme.

Lire la suite

Post Invité: Paul Jorion, La grande transformation du travail


travailJe vous invite à lire ce billet de Paul Jorion. Ce texte est également consultable sur LeMonde.fr (http://www.lemonde.fr/emploi/article/2014/04/21/la-grande-transformation-du-travail_4404661_1698637.html) ainsi que sur le blog de Paul Jorion (http://www.pauljorion.com/blog/?p=64223).

Paul Jorion est un chercheur en sciences sociales belge. Il a enseigné dans des universités prestigieuses comme Cambridge, Bruxelles et Paris VIII. Il a également été fonctionnaire aux Nations Unies. Enfin il a travaillé dans le secteur du crédit à la consommation au début des années 2000.

La grande transformation du travail

Il est demandé à chacun de se trouver un emploi et aux entreprises de créer les emplois que chacun occupera. Voilà la manière classique dont on envisage les choses. Mais l’évolution du marché du travail ne devrait-elle pas nous conduire à modifier drastiquement notre manière de voir ?

Les travaux des champs, la transformation des matières premières, la manufacture de biens, le traitement de dossiers, requéraient tous de la main-d’œuvre en quantité considérable. Cela a cessé d’être le cas.

De temps immémoriaux nous avons cherché à remplacer le travail humain par celui de la machine dans les tâches dangereuses, abrutissantes ou fastidieuses, et nous y avons admirablement réussi. La « machinisation » est devenue « ordinisation » : le robot nous remplace dans les tâches manuelles et le logiciel nous remplace dans les tâches intellectuelles. En décembre dernier, alors que le président Obama plaidait pour un relèvement du salaire minimum, la chaîne de restauration rapide Applebee’s faisait savoir que les commandes seraient désormais passées à l’aide de tablettes intégrées dans les tables, à l’aide desquelles se ferait également le règlement par carte de crédit.

En septembre 2013, deux chercheurs de l’université d’Oxford, Carl Frey et Michael Osborne estimaient dans « L’avenir de l’emploi. Dans quelle mesure les emplois sont-ils exposés à l’« ordinisation » » que 47% de la force de travail occupe un emploi qui sera remplacé à terme par un ordinateur.

Ce chiffre de 47% se révélera sans doute optimiste, un biais de l’étude étant que plus une tâche nous apparaît ardue moins la machine sera à même de la remplir. Or les tâches qui nous semblent les plus complexes sont algorithmiques, impliquant de nombreux calculs mais en réalité les plus aisées à programmer. Par ailleurs, plus une expertise est coûteuse à constituer, plus l’incitation financière est grande à la transcrire en logiciel. Ainsi, sur les marchés boursiers les traders sont déjà remplacés par des logiciels appelés « algos » (pour « algorithme ») dans 50 à 60 % des transactions.

Dans une série d’entretiens à paraître, l’économiste belge Bruno Colmant et moi-même constatons l’existence d’une « loi de baisse tendancielle du taux de travail » : un mouvement en ciseau entre la quantité de travail accumulée sous forme de capital, en augmentation constante, et la quantité de travail effectif à consentir comme avances dans la production et la distribution, qui est elle en baisse en termes absolus.

Or la grande majorité de la population obtient traditionnellement de son travail les revenus qui assurent sa subsistance. La question de l’emploi doit donc être radicalement repensée dans le contexte nouvellement apparu. Il faut tirer les conséquences du scénario qui s’est mis en place : les revenus des ménages vont devoir être dissociés de la force de travail que ses membres représentent, celle-ci cessant rapidement de constituer un atout monnayable.

La représentation de « l’An 2000 » qui était la nôtre dans les années 1950, supposait que tous bénéficieraient en termes de temps libre et d’opulence du remplacement de l’homme par la machine. C’était ignorer que les principes de la propriété privée veulent que les gains de productivité soient partagés, au titre de profit, entre dividendes revenant aux actionnaires et salaires démultipliés et bonus accordés aux dirigeants des entreprises. Les salaires qu’obtiennent ceux dont les avances sont en travail plutôt qu’en capital ou en gestion, sont comptabilisés en tant que coûts, c’est-à-dire envisagés seulement comme grevant le profit dont les seuls bénéficiaires légitimes sont les investisseurs et les dirigeants de l’entreprise. Le chroniqueur Jonah Goldberg ne s’y trompait pas, qui commentait la décision de la chaîne Applebee’s dans ces termes : « Si quelqu’un se lance dans les affaires, ce n’est pas pour créer des emplois, c’est pour gagner de l’argent. Or la main d’œuvre, c’est un coût ». Il s’agit là d’une évidence, que l’on appelle « compétitivité » et dont nos dirigeants semblent aveugles à l’implication immédiate : l’incitation massive qu’il y a là à éliminer l’emploi purement et simplement, laissant ouverte la question des revenus futurs de ceux qui aujourd’hui ne vivent pas des gains du capital ou de la gestion d’une grosse entreprise mais des revenus du travail.

Simonde de Sismondi (1773-1842) proposait que le travailleur remplacé par la machine obtienne une rente perçue sur la richesse que celle-ci créerait ensuite. La forme moderne que prendrait une telle mesure serait une taxe sur les gains de productivité et son bénéfice serait redistribué prioritairement aux victimes de l’« ordinisation ». C’est là la condition à remplir impérativement si l’on veut voir se réaliser un jour l’idyllique « An 2000 » dont le rêve hantait le milieu du siècle dernier.

Le travail et l’emploi sont des enjeux de société cruciaux et méritent d’être jugés et traités comme tels. Au lieu de cela, l’État se contente d’intimer aux salariés « Trouvez-vous un emploi ! » et aux entreprises : « Créez de l’emploi ! », dans un « Que chacun s’y prenne comme il l’entend ! » généralisé, sans que la question soit même posée de comment cela pourrait se faire, ni a fortiori si cela est toujours possible. Doit-on s’étonner si le ton monte de part et d’autre ? Parallèle à la « transition énergétique », la « grande transformation du travail » mérite la même attention.

Vous pouvez également visionner cette séquence de Ce Soir Ou Jamais: