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reaching youth via Aggada-like interventions (Bruno)

Parallel to the training material for the folks who are going to be doing interfaith work we’ll need material for them to use in this work. Again we are going to have to find a place in the system for it as well as a time. And, with regard to youth, it’s going to require a certain amount of pedagogical savvy.

This is an example of how that might work (and I’m open to your ideas and contributions):

Place in the system: Besides the obvious places (like a class on ethics or confirmation classes “z-z-z-z-z”) you might look for more creative spaces. Remember when we changed all the language courses so that they would be “relevant” i.e. “touristy”? Well some of the smarter kids are bored with that and are asking about culture (which is what WE learned: cheeses and wines and bits of history and essays from great authors in 102 french). Now we are not going to be able to revise all those books, but we can address some of the questions these kids are asking (e.g. in the crime series they are watching and puzzling over).

Now if you have kids like that, try this.
It means a crossover (using an English language text to teach them about French culture, but they are also available in German translation)
The author, Martin Walker, is not only a historian and experienced international journalist, he writes the most marvelous detective stories.

They are set in rural France, idyllic, intact communities, and peopled with characters worthy of the Victorians (in the best sense – that is where I learned psychology at that age, and I’ve been unpacking it ever since), noble, courageous, accepting challenges.

And he successively tackles and analyzes cultural and political challenges which face our age.
Unlike Donna Leon’s figure, who is a lone island of integrity in a world plagued by corruption, Bruno, Chief of Police, has his finger on the pulse of a community whose care is entrusted to him. Listen and watch as he structures and nurtures it:

A. The basic tenets are:

We know how to create community and transform evil.
There are challenges our generation faces, compared with:

  • extreme challenges of immediately preceding generations
  • remnants of their mistakes and choices

Value it (this generation) and protect and develop it.

Change is possible, also dangerous and challenging; it can be made controllable.
In a multi-cultural society, keep in mind that we have common goals:

  • respect every individual (and ethnée)’s uniqueness.
  • treasure our common humanity
    – treat a suspect as a human being
    (rather than intimidate them)

Each generation is typical:

  • the old have long-held grudges
  • the young are idealistic but their actions can be short-sighted
  • the middle-aged are floundering in re-defining themselves and recalibrating relationships
  • the aging are dealing with loss
  • the very young are trusting and willing to meet challenges and be guided by those they trust (who value their uniqueness and show them how they fit into the whole).

Men and women

Men are:

  • interested in long-termed relationships
  • nurturing
  • strong and virile but also tender and caring
  • they enjoy good food and wine and companionship (and provide these on a regular basis)

Women are:

  • remarkably talented and autonomous
    – have ambitions and goals
    – and the skills to realize them
  • interested in a relationship but not in being the relationship
    it’s an extra, added on to their already full (fulfilled) lives

Pamela invites Bruno into her bed (or not, as the case may be)
Isabelle initiates and he gives her room to do so (takes her on a picnic, so she’s not on his turf)
Mirabelle though dying, takes the reins in making commitments for both partners (often analyzing why she needs to do so)

Bruno is:

  • Father Christmas as well as mother hen

but in a twinkling he is:

  • leaping from a burning building after rescuing two kids

He’s got some heroic role (at least once) in each book, but he’s scared and vulnerable as he does so.
He’s no superhero
and he lets others have their turn
[paradigm: rugby]

He brings in new ideas, sees (especially) long-termed consequences of various paths and develops alternative strategies –
and then lets go while others fill these out and implement the ideas.
Sometimes he gets credit, sometimes it becomes the mayor’s “idea” – he’s happy either way — so long as the idea gets used.

Parallel police figures (representing different police forces):

Duroc –  is a bully has to be shamed into submission (by getting better results with softer methods)

police women  – are usually his allies

JJ and he are playing bad cop / good cop (respectively) between them,
but each is able to use the other’s primary tactic when necessary.

Jofflin the Inspecteur from the nearest big city (Bergerac) (still developing)

Joe – his predecessor who is sometimes able to fill in background information

This background information is often almost comical:

egg lady at the market
wife in a wheelchair

These are local solutions to unique constellations:

– the egg lady‘s husband is an alcoholic and she supports herself by buying the cheapest supermarket eggs, scrubbing off the stamp, rolling them in chicken shit and hay, and selling them to tourists at a vastly inflated price as “bio.”
– the lady in the wheelchair was in a car accident in which her brother, the driver, was killed. She, her husband and her brother’s widow have a deal whereby he spends several nights a week in the widow’s bed. Everybody comes out saner for it.

When these situations intersect with the outside world:

– EU inspectors want to arrest the egg lady for selling non-standard eggs
– the husband’s alibi is broken when Duroc intimidates the wife into admitting he was not in her bed on that evening

Bruno has to interpolate:

– he insists that the egg lady is giving away her surplus (and so is within the law) and volunteers to call the local priest as a witness
– he informs Duroc that everyone in town knows of the arrangement and that they had already validated his alibi with the widow (whose night that was).

So there are levels personal / local / regional / national / international (I forgot to mention the Brigadier above) that keep getting entangled and then parsed. And I think this is a good skill for kids to learn. I think the task of finding one’s place in the world can be greatly enhanced by this kind of parsing of the complexity.

As I mentioned above, the author is both a historian and a journalist and has lived all over the world, so he brings a depth of perception to the narrative as well as discernment for cultural complexity, ferreting out essential differences from trivial ones. How one’s ethnée is protected (by gangs and militias or by the political system) is less important than that this protection be reliable and responsive to their needs (economic welfare) and dignity.

The concept of justice is also complex and it could be used to analyze and develop perceptual and judgemental skills in the kids through reading these books.

B. Here the main themes:

1. Arabs (integration of) (Bruno, Chief of Police)

with flashbacks to:
– Algeria
– Nazi occupation
– Vietnam

2. Ecolos vs industry (Dark Vineyard)

with flashbacks to:
– 1968
– Algeria

3. Ecolos and Asians (Black Diamond)

Viets vs Chinese [with essays on transformation processes in society and complex analysis delicately done]
local – national – international
going back to colonial past

4. caves of the area (& archeology) (Crowded Grave)

Basque terrorists

5.  ….. (Devil’s Cave)

I am still reading these last two, but the archeological finds come up at brief moments in the other books, where the long existence of humans in the area is treated with respect and even reverence (e.g. pre-picnic visit in earlier book)

6. current foreign presence (resident tourists) (Resistance Man)

and prejudice vs gays, including amongst police, leading to understanding of what may motivate them (empathy))
flashback to end of WWII

7. hidden (Jewish) children from WWII (Children of War)

return and local kids learn their own local history
Arabic child traumatized by recent wars
Muslim extremists

C. In summary:

If you’ve ever used Dickens, this is far better and more age and Age appropriate. And it is FUN.

There are feasts and there is witty dialog.

I’ve read most of them twice now, in quick succession, and enjoyed them thoroughly on both reads, first for the plot and character development and the second round for the construction and poetic design.


There is one kinky sex scene in a number of the books

– girl and boy in wine vat and he dies of asphyxiation from CO2 of the fermentation and

– boy tied up by rich girl who is into right radical scene (Neo Nazi)
but neither is described in detail or dwelt upon.

It’s a problem to be dealt with:
our inexperienced young folk get tangled up in webs and pockets of evil around them.

Our goal:

– rescue them
– bring them back to the safe harbor of community
– create a space where they are:

– at home
– respected
– entrusted with responsibilities
– their talents are nurtured

Adult sex is sensual and tender but not explicit. They tend to wake up in the morning after having kissed at night.


This is dealt with in a similar manner.

It’s there and gruesome but not dwelt upon – you rise above it and treasure solidarity.

 see also:

entry with excerpts under sub-heading

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