Off with their Heads! Sobering facts indeed…
The walk from Notre Dame de la Garde, with its commanding views of the Old Port of Marseilles, to the city’s Cathédrale de la Major, is as exciting as it is spectacular. On the way, you’ll cross the famous Quai des Belges Fish Market where local restaurateurs get the ingredients for their famous fish soup, ‘Bouillabaisse’.
Heads – the main ingredient
Bouillabaisse was brought to Marseille by the Ancient Greeks in 600 BC. The dish started life as a simple fishermen’s stew made from the bony leftovers they weren’t able to sell.
Today, it’s become such a specialty that some restaurants require you to order the specialty twelve to twenty-four hours prior to your reservation. In the old days, one of the main ingredients was fish heads.
France and the Guillotine
During the Reign of Terror, Doctor Jean-Ignace Guillotine thought about removing heads. Prior to the eighteenth century, executions were carried out in public and attracted hoards of spectators. But they were a very messy matter. Especially if methods like the breaking wheel were used. Appalled at this, the good Doctor Joseph-Ignace started campaigning for a painless, private, and egalitarian way of capital punishment for all classes.
He eventually achieved his goal by designing the slick, efficient machine which was named after him. It was also known as La Veuve, Madame La Guillotine or the Rasoir National.
The guillotine soon became very fashionable. So much so that kids played with replicas that were fully operational and could decapitate mice, rats, birds, lizards — and even dolls.
With one glaring exception, the death penalty has undoubtedly lost ground in most Western countries.
Western views & sobering facts
Before anyone starts ticking the self-righteous box, however, here are some sobering facts.
- Capital punishment was abolished in the UK in 1969. But public support continues to hover around the 50% mark.
- In Australia, all jurisdictions got rid of the death penalty by 1985. But soon afterwards, an Australian phone poll in 1986, following a particularly gruesome murder, found that 95 per cent of the respondents were in favour of its reintroduction.
- In France, the last time the guillotine blade fell on a neck was in March 1981. After that, President François Mitterrand made its abolition one of his campaign promises. But 55%, fifty-five per cent! of French people are still in favour of the death penalty. Amongst Mrs Le Pen’s supporters, 80% would like the guillotine brought back.
- In America, most citizens identify their country as a ‘shining city on the hill.’ But 60% of them still favour the death penalty. There were 1,529 executions in the US between 1976 and 2020 — and eighteen more were executed in 2022. All were by lethal injection.
Political correctness reigns
These days, political correctness has influenced even the most mundane aspect of our lives.
- The fleece colour of Mary’s little lamb is irrelevant.
- The Johny from ‘Seesaw Margery Daw’ has a new employer who pays him above the National Minimum Wage.
- And Jack Sprat consulted a dietician and now has no eating disorders.
So the next time you’re reading Alice in Wonderland to your kids or grandkids, you might like to consider a euphemism.
Instead of the Queen of Hearts obsessively handing out the death penalty by shouting, “Off with their heads,” why not try sanitising her order to, “Off with their hats?”
What is your view of the cleansing of history and literature… The impact of political correctness? Are you a supporter? Please share your views in the comments section below.
Image credits: all WikiCommons
1. Quai des Belges
2. Cathédrale de la Major
4. Breaking wheel
5. Alice in Wonderland
I detest the sanitization of everything in our modern times. Especially history. “Softening” events or removing statues doesn’t erase what happened, or who made it happen. Leaving the accounts of something, in tact, serve as a reminder to, hopefully, not repeat some of our darker times. Never mind that we all have our own barometers of “offensive” .
What qualifies someone to determine what is offensive and must be removed, dumbed down or sanitized for the masses? I prefer to make my own decisions, and let other people make theirs.