The Farmer With Open Eyes


For our entertainment, we commonly turn to stories that would – and regularly do – horrify us when real. The psychologist David Zald talks of our attraction to ‘controlled fear’ – we love being afraid as long as we can keep it within limits. When I see them on the news, though, such stories dismay me. Are we civilised beings or monsters? But that dichotomy is simplistic. The question is whether the monster lurking within each civilised being is, under certain circumstances, bound to win. To watch the news, one would think the answer is yes.

Which is why, from time to time, it’s good to come across a story that uplifts. Examples of human behaviour that make no place for the fear, hatred and ignorance upon which the monster thrives. Hence the WATWB: We Are the World Blogfest seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

Cédric Herrou is a French farmer near the Italian border, where migrants hunker down in bleak conditions in the hope of making it into France. The French authorities, often tipped off by the inhabitants of this most wealthy part of France, do their best to stop them. Cédric Herrou, on the contrary, does his best to help them, thus breaking the law. Arrested, he was brought to trial and given a suspended $3000 fine. The penalty could have been harsher, but Herrou has attracted a lot of support. His actions have exposed the ambiguity and awkwardness of the French approach to the issue.

Herrou knows that what he does is not the answer to a complex, global situation. But as he says, ‘either I close my eyes or I don’t.’ Every so often in the news, there’s a story of a person who doesn’t. And inured as we’ve become to the regular footage of migrants drowning at sea, that can only be good. Now it’s up to politicians to tackle the wider issue. But in that, I’m less optimistic.

An article here sums up the story, and if you want further background, you can watch a video (25 minutes).


Posted in France and tagged , , , , , , , .


  1. What a moral quandary, help those in need or ignore them for the sake of the law. Well, wait a minute, maybe it’s not such a quandary after all. Inspiring story, brave man.

    • Brave indeed. I like to think I’d do the same but I’m really not sure. An attitude of resistance has to be worked on – it’s important work to undertake.

  2. In “An article here sums up …” the fact that “article here” is a link could easily be missed: black text rather than the usual gray. The bold orange text of “We Are the World Blogfest” works better for links. It would be a shame if readers of this post missed the link to the fascinating NYT article, as I did at first.

    BTW, I am old enough to remember when links were always in blue and always had underlined text (even when not hovered over). While I have adapted to the modern profusion of link colors and lack of underlines, I hope that I need not be always alert for differences as subtle as black vs gray.

    One last thought: Vive M. Herrou!

  3. Hi Curtis – we are living in challenging times with the migrants – I really don’t understand how the authorities or any person can make matters worse for people who have struggled to get so far … I don’t know what the solution can be. It’s good to know that M Herrou is helping as he can … thanks for sharing this with us … cheers Hilary

    • Thanks, Hilary. Yes, there’s no simple solution, as indeed M Herrou recognises. But his contribution raises awareness of a problem we all too often would rather ignore. And it’s encouraging that he’s received a lot of support.

  4. In a world where so many fortunate people base their societal attitudes on fear and anger toward people who risk dying to have lives like theirs, it is hopeful to hear about people like Mr. Herrou. If we stop feeling compassion toward less fortunate people, haven’t we lost touch with the one thing that connects us all — our humanity?

    Even from a compassionless political perspective, what is France’s motivation to send them back to Italy — especially since Italy isn’t their home, either — if most of them are trying to get to Britain or Germany? Why not be happy to let them continue on their way? How does Italy feel about it?

    • Poor Italy (along with Greece) bears the brunt of the migrant influx, which grows bigger almost every month. There is, supposedly, a European policy, but it’s more or less in tatters. If they do get into France, they settle into makeshift camps as they try to get to Britain, which is obviously far harder. So France tries to keep them in Italy, where resources are already stretched to the limit. It’s a problem which in terms of the social turmoil it can cause is up there with climate change. Yes, I am pessimistic.

      • It certainly sounds far more serious and challenging than the illegal immigrant influx here, where they come mostly from Mexico and Cuba. All of them are looking for better lives, and as far as I can tell, they’re willing to work at the manual labor jobs most Americans wouldn’t do even for minimum wage. Jobs we seem to feel we should be able to hire someone to do for us — like migrant farm work, house cleaning, yard work, and construction crew work. But we want them to be poor Americans.

        Our best hope now is that the Democrats will take back the majority in the House in 2018, and get started on those Articles of Impeachment, convict the man who’s destroying America, and then vote him out. (Simple majority of the House, 2/3 of the Senate.) It would be best if that lying VP went down, too. And with a majority in the House, the new President would be a Democrat — probably Nancy Pelosi.

        What he’s doing to the relationships we have with the rest of the world is inexplicable. But there are at least 3,000,000 more of us who want him gone than want him in the White House.

        • Yes, praying for that outcome! And the storm clouds appear to be gathering for him. Don’t much about the VP, but I’m quite willing believe he lies – don’t they all?

          • Seems so. But Pence recently started a Super PAC — which is a pre-cursor to running for President, and a very unusual move for any politician more than 3-1/2 years before the next election. Except, of course, for Trump, who filed for candidacy in the 2020 election the day after he was inaugurated. But very few believe he’ll last that long. On the bright side, yesterday’s news told us Joe Biden (Obama’s Vice President) has started a Political Action Committee of his own for the 2020 election. I wish he’d run last year.

  5. Monsieur Herrou has a big heart. Thanks for giving us some of his story. People fleeing their homeland is a complex and vexed issue for many nations, including my own nation of Australia. Oh for the day when all people have a welcome and peaceful place to lay their head. Simon’s Still Stanza #WATWB

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