Isn’t it about time to recognise Pythonesque features in Cantona’s feathered friend. Hasn’t his seagull followed its last trawler? Isn’t it appearing decidedly nailed to its perch. Frankly, we have been propping it up for far to long and I’m feeling quite as sick as the hapless Norwegian Blue did before it ‘joined the bleedin’ choir invisible’.
Let’s examine this odd bird. 17 or so years ago Cantona used a simple metaphor. What on earth is going on in philistine Britain that we still want to scratch our heads? Are we ‘bird brains?’ Cantona made a perfectly straightforward, albeit figurative statement to the effect that ‘the press are scavengers’ and we descend into awe at the incomprehensible obscurantism of a Gallic genius. At the time I was reasonably comfortable with the idea that Cantona had said something a little unusual for a man of his profession: that he had risen a little above his fellows in revealing that he could string a sentence together; even, let’s give him his due, a quite entertaining little metaphor about the vagaries of the British tabloid press. But to hold it up as some incomprehensible jewel of deep philosophical profundity is frankly embarrassing.
Lets deconstruct it a little to follow in the footsteps of a Foucault or a Baudrillard.
“when the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”.
The seagulls are the press – the sardines stories, Cantona is the trawler: end of.
How difficult do we think this is? I am truly astonished that perfectly intelligent (one presumes) commentators and journalists continue to resurrect Eric’s quip as if it was drawn from the depths of French intellectual tradition to take its place as an unfathomable mystery of our time. ‘What could he possibly mean?’ our perplexity grows and the mystery deepens.
Perhaps if he had said, ‘the press are like a rats going through my bins’ he may have inspired less awe. Perhaps it was his heavy french accent. Maybe it gave the squawking metaphor something of ‘a lovely plumage’ denied to more home grown breeds. But whatever it was it’s got to stop.
Now, please don’t take this as a criticism of Cantona. Were that everyone expressed themselves with a little elegance and intelligence (I won’t dwell on the karate kick incident that led to Eric’s delusion that he was being hounded). Indeed, I shouldn’t wonder if Eric himself has come to view the seabird as more of an albatross everytime he sets foot in Britain. For my part I am simply ashamed as we cry out to our near neighbours across the channel; ‘look at us, we’re stupid!’ Yes, it was a little bit clever for a footballer judging by the normal post match comments – but not for most of us. We do know what it means, its not that tricky – please stop going on about it because it makes us look like morons. The press followed Eric around because they expected to get a story; doh, doh, doh! We got it at the time and we still get it. We are not a nation of idiots! Stop telling us that we are bewildered, confounded or otherwise perplexed after all this time
by something that never baffled us in the first place. Why do we want to appear stupid?
Throwing sardines to the dead gull should cease, it must go to meet its maker.
I’ll leave you with a proper bit of obscure French philosophising. This one from the pen of Jean-Paul Sartre and I hang my head in shame, in advance, toward all those of you who find these words equally straightforward.
“My position in the midst of the world is defined by the relation between the instrumental utility or adversity in the realities which surround me and my own facticity; that is the discovery of the dangers which I risk in the world, of the obstacles which I can encounter there, the aid which can be offered me, all in the light of a radical nihilation of myself and of a radical, internal negation of the in-itself and all affected from the point of view of a freely posited end. That is what we mean by the situation.”
- Dominic Duckett