Maybe I Have a Brother

In Toulouse it was cloudy, raining, and too cold to don the Ultra Chômeur costume, so I just put on the mask and opened my shirt to reveal the U on my chest. I teamed-up with Ivan and Marine from Presque Lune and we headed to the bookstore.

We met Jean-Pascal, one of the owners of Terres De Legendes. As we talked, I recognized in Jean-Pascal both the entrepreneurial spirit and the passion of someone devoted to his work. For those of you who don’t remember, George W. Bush once said that the trouble with France is they don’t have a word for entrepreneur (which is the French word for, um, that).

When we sell Ultra Chômeur to people here, one of the main selling points is: It’s a critique of the American financial system. When those words are spoken, people visibly warm to the book. In America, saying those words in a such a matter-of-fact way feels like criticizing Larry Ellison on Lanai.

Recently, comedian Louis C.K. was talking about global capitalism and said (I’m paraphrasing) it’s grown so predatory and grotesque, that the guy who started Wendy’s is a like a hero now. In an age when multinationals extract and destroy all in their path, we look back fondly on businesses that were merely stultifying and ubiquitous! And we look back most fondly on the proprietors of small businesses—people who live to serve the public, with no desire to go public.

Jean-Pascal asked me to dedicate several copies of the book to customers who weren’t there because he knew they’d want a copy. One of his customers, Halim Mahmoudi, arrived. He already had a copy of the book and loved it. Halim is the author of Un Monde Libre. Jean-Pascal handed me a copy and I opened it. In the background were beautiful resort hotels, and in the foreground were the gritty lives of people living there. I told Halim I understood because I grew up in a tourist town. He smiled and turned to Marine and said: Maybe I have a brother.

Since my American ear isn’t good at hearing the nuances of French, I hand people a notepad and ask them to write down the name of the person they want the book dedicated to. Below is a partial list of people the book has been dedicated to here in the Midi-Pyrenees.

Laure
Claire
Floreal
Céline, Jahco & Nino
Bruno
Quentin
Jean-Rene
Marine
Adrien
Sophie & Manu
Sylvain
Thomas
Rimka
Yan
Nicolas
Sébastien
Marjorie
Christophe
Alain
Etienne
Jean-Paul
Jean-Christophe
Phillipe & Maryline
Cedric
Regis
Nathan
Sylvie
Jean
Stephan & Gabin
Julien & Lucie
Alex
Christophe
Patrick
Valentin
Matthieu
Cecile
Vladimir
Antoine
Sarah
André
Jean-Marie
Damien, Zelda & Gaspar
Yoann
Fabrice
Christine
Jean-Pascal

And below these names, I inscribed the following.

NOUS SOMMES TOUS
DES HEROS, ET NOUS
POUVONS CHANGER
LE MONDE—ALORS
AU BOULOT!

Or…

WE ARE ALL
THE HEROES, AND WE
CAN CHANGE
THE WORLD—SO
GET TO WORK!

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