900 km there and back in a day means early to bed the night before. But not before reading reports of the first meeting of the Sovereign Grand Committee in more than 12 months (the Statutes require a minimum of 4 per year, but when did Ephesse last consult the Statutes ?).
SGC, December 2nd, 2011, the 206th anniversary of the battle of Austerlitz, the most glorious moment in French military history. 350 lamb like members of the GLNF (selected personally by Ephesse, all opposition kindly abstain !) listen to a series of reports where no intervention is possible. Only a handful of Brethren dare query a point or two, to be firmly told the shut it. Vote : 342 for, 8 against ! The sort of figures associated with elections in the Banana Republics frequented by Ephesse & Big Moustache. Only 8 pairs of b…. for 350 pairs of legs in an Obedience that pretends to be exclusively masculine !!!
December 3rd, up at 5.30 a.m., 450 km of rain soaked highway before us. Upon arrival at Levallois we are greeted by 20 coachloads of CRS (the elite French riot police). They could have stayed back in Bordeaux. They never had more than 150 demonstrating Brethren to handle whose most violent gesture was to sing the “Marseillaise” ! Later we learn there were additional coachloads of CRS at Pisan. The Tyler was well tyled !
The first barrier : getting into the building. GLNF membership card, 2010 – 2011 validation sticker and passport. The “Brother” consults a list. My name is not on it. Bingo ! Open Sesame ! I’m in !
In the hall there are 50 / 50 security gorillas and Brethren. How to tell the difference ? Gorillas : all in black. Penguins : black and white ! But I get the feeling there are penguins with very big Mickey Mouse ears. Fortunately, among the GLNF Brethren, English is not a strong suit !
Second barrier : registration. I head for a table manned by the PGS of my Province and an APGM, renowned bootlicker. Both recognise me and I know my chances are slim. Once again I hand over my GLNF membership card and passport. Consultation of another list and the verdict falls. “Your Lodge is suspended.” “Do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200 !” Challenged, the 2 PGOs try to hide behind the well-worn excuse, “I’m only doing my job !”. Reminiscent of some of the more disgraceful moments of 20th century French history ! Immediately after me, another Brother is also refused entry. He photographs the 2 PGOs with his i-Phone. The temperature rises several degrees. But to no avail.
Back in the entry hall a Brother, member of the SGC, attempts to obtain passes for us. Check, once again.
As a last resort we sign in as visitors with non-voting rights. Yellow non-removable bracelet, “We’re in !”.
A featureless, rectangular sports stadium, reminiscent of “Raging Bull” or “Rocky”. Down at ground zero level, Christmas trees with blue aprons parade like peacocks, each more gilded than the other. But up at our level I get a feeling I’ve never known before on the first Saturday in December. There’s something different in the air, something explosive ready to go “BANG”.
The entrance of the Grand Master is announced. The peacocks rush to their places, the official cortège makes its grand entrance and “It’s showtime, Folks”. Spontaneously, cries break out from every corner of the stadium. “Resign, Tyrant, Thief, Get out, etc, etc” and I’ll spare you the worst. François Stifani remains standing for 27 very long minutes. The volume of the music is at maximum. Mozart’s Requiem was perhaps not the best choice ! And each time they lower the volume the Brethren take up the cry. Many Brethren remain seated, including every Brother from my Province.
Except when, spontaneously, the “Marseillaise” is sung, like I’ve never heard it sung in the 30 plus years I’ve been living in France. I’m not even French but I sing at the top of my voice, tears pouring down my cheeks.
François Stifani cannot wait forever. If necessary, we’ll wait until Hell freezes over. The ceremony begins, words tumbling one after another in a frantic rush to get it over and done with. But you can’t hear a word over the cries coming from everywhere. A complete masquerade.
Suddenly I realise the agenda isn’t being respected. The foreign delegations aren’t there. Later we learn that there were only 14 (compared with 70 two years ago). They never managed to get in. Each time they tried by another door, demonstrating Brethren were there before them. And with all due respect, the GLs of San Marino, Albania and Monaco don’t quite add up to the UGLE ! It reads like a list of forbidden or suspect tax havens. The GLNF has gone from World Cup status to local County League !
Inaudible reading of the Annual Social Report. No vote !
Reading of the Internal Affairs Commission Annual Report drowned out by derisive cries, particularly when it was claimed that a gesture of reconciliation was being made to the Jurisdictions. No vote !
Inaudible reading of the External Affairs Commission Annual Report. No vote !
The proposed list of members of the National Disciplinary Committee is read. As each name is called the stadium cries “Sold !”… … No vote !
The Brethren called for the vote and François Stifani announced that it was his decision to be made at his appreciation of the situation. Catcalls resounded everywhere, “RESIGN!!!”
This is followed by the only lightweight moment of the afternoon. The Grand National Orator, Jean-Michel BALOUP, Balloo the Legal Bear, personal lawyer to François Stifani and one of many representing the GLNF in briefs against the Brethren (all paid for by our dues), presents an “item of architecture” that more closely resembles a pile of broken stones. Above the Brethren’s cries the laughter could be heard.
At this moment about 20% of the Brethren decide to leave spontaneously singing “Auld Lang Syne”, immediately taken up by those remaining.
The self-proclaimed spiritual leader decides to speak at probably the most inopportune moment and with his usual subtlety. “I am the Grand Master and I’ll remain until the end of my mandate in December 2012 !” Total pandemonium throughout the stadium. Perspiration is pouring down François Stifani’s forehead. The thermometer goes higher, higher, higher. François Stifani’s fusebox explodes. His gavel crashing repeatedly on his pedestal he shrieks “Thugs, louts, hoodlums !!!” at all of us. He is incapable of speaking, Brethren with medical experience say he is at the point of fainting.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5REQyEWlsC0 will enable you to appreciate the atmosphere.
He suspends the ceremony, the gilded peacocks crowd around him crying “We love you !”
I have witnessed the strongest moment in a very long two years of opposition to François Stifani and his management.
And, unfortunately, I have also witnessed the most pathetic moment ever in the very long history of world Freemasonry. A complete and utter fiasco !
Brethren, these are only my personal, perhaps too subjective, observations. Those of you who speak and read French, see for yourself on various Myosotis blogs :
http://www.myosotislutece.org/article-tenue-de-grande-loge-de-la-glnf-inside-story-91096446.html with videos filmed inside the stadium
http://le-myosotis-rouvray.over-blog.com/article-une-manifestation-tres-digne-91072701.html with a video filmed in the street outside
Or read how the French national press observed the event :
Even on the other side of the world under the coconut palms :
In a single afternoon we went from Austrerlitz to Waterloo without changing trains !