When I was a youngster, I could have been arrested for some of the fantasies I had about Brigitte Bardot. Now the French actress herself may well face prosecution for inciting racial hatred.
In her dotage old Brigitte developed a hysterical love of all living things, having thus expanded her repertoire from just the male of Homo sapiens.
That febrile emotion found a natural outlet in activism and strident attacks on anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Miss Bardot’s anthropomorphic love of everything that walks, flies or crawls.
This particular piety is normally confined to the Left of the political spectrum. Yet Miss Bardot supports Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, which is routinely described as right-wing.
That shows two things: first, that true love knows no political boundaries; and second, that our political taxonomy is grossly inadequate. However, that’s by the bye.
Let’s just say that animal worship ranks high on the list of modern virtue-signalling pieties, especially if linked to the underlying belief that man is just another animal, no better than others if perhaps cleverer than most.
But exactly how high does it rank? All things in life are arranged in some kind of hierarchical order, and pieties can’t possibly be an exception.
This of course only ever becomes relevant in a conflict of pieties, since in the absence of such an order it’s possible to enjoy them all at the same time.
By way of illustration, Islam is good because it’s sort of anti-Western, Third World and hence a victim of white supremacy and colonialism, which are among the worst evils. On the other hand, Muslims tend to treat their womenfolk in ways that don’t exactly fall into the category of virtuous.
This creates a problem for a virtue-signaller, a conflict for which it’s hard to find a peaceful solution. Say something nasty about the way Muslims treat women, and you’re a racist who lacks sensitivity to the beauty of multiculturalism. Say that Islam is wonderful in every respect, and you’re a misogynist.
Not being a pious modern, I can happily be both if I so wish, a racist and a misogynist – and also a misandrist, homophobe, xenophobe, transophobe, misgenderist, ageist, Brexit supporter and anything else that catches my fancy (provided I’m able to self-censor such sentiments carefully enough not to get arrested).
All utterly reprehensible, as I’m painfully aware. But at least I’m unlikely to find myself gored by the horns of piety dilemmas. Alas, Miss Bardot has suffered just such a misfortune.
Appalled at the mistreatment of animals in the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, she described its denizens as “degenerate savages” and likened the island’s Hindu community (about a quarter of the population) to cannibals.
Implicitly this equates people with animals, for cannibals devour human flesh while the Réunion French Hindus only mistreat dogs and cats, and perhaps sacrifice the odd goat to comply with the demands of their religion (that’s otherwise superior to Christianity for being more spiritual and less God-centred).
Equating people and animals goes beyond virtuous – it enters the Olympus of modern secular sainthood. There’s only one snag: the people who have drawn Miss Bardot’s ire are – how shall I put it not to run the risk of censure or perhaps summary execution? – not quite white.
Hence saying anything nasty about them, if only by implication, is tantamount to stepping into a minefield. One just might negotiate a safe path, but there’s always the danger of a massive bang.
And there was nothing implicit about Miss Bardot’s diatribe. She explicitly described off-white persons as degenerates, savages and cannibals. Even though she did so for all the good, that is virtuous, reasons, there’s no excuse – the actress got the pecking order of pieties hopelessly wrong.
She uttered a racist statement, and evidently her believing that animals are at least as good as people can’t even begin to redeem that cardinal sin. The prefect of Réunion informed Miss Bardot that he had filed a lawsuit against her for incitement to racial hatred.
This could blow the former sex bomb to pieces, for she’s a recidivist. Miss Bardot has quite a bit of previous, having had five prior convictions on the same charge.
Perhaps her venerable age may save her from a custodial sentence, especially if her barrister argues that she was carried away by her love of animals, not her hatred of Hindus, who aren’t just equal to French people but, in all respects but one, superior to them.
However, judging by the public reaction, copping such a plea may not be easy.
Marlène Schiappa, the minister for gender equality (one wonders who held that vital post under Colbert or Guizot or even de Gaulle), explained that: “No form of racism is acceptable, in the name of any cause.”
The holder of that key post, without which no modern government is imaginable, must be commended for clarifying the aforementioned pecking order of impieties: nothing offsets racism, not even concern for animal welfare and the inalienable rights of goats.
Journalist Jérôme Talpin added his centime’s worth by clarifying that Miss Bardot’s tirade “reveals a thought process profoundly anchored in xenophobia and hostile to different ethnic or religious groups”.
That’s telling her. I do think that a CRS unit must be pulled off the gilets jaunes duty and sent to arrest Miss Bardot, for all her iconic presence in French cinematography.
I have to admit I’m enjoying this. Nothing pleases me more than observing from the sidelines yet another clash among pieties.
Schadenfreude isn’t a particularly Christian sentiment, but I’ve consulted my priest and he says in this case it’s justified. Genesis 1:28 and all that.