Nous sommes tous Charlie – why it matters

Over the past few days, I’ve had several discussions with friends about the attacks in Paris. I thought I would just write down my analysis in an effort to articulate how I see this situation.

Yes this attack happened on French soil, but it has nothing to do with France as a territory. I’ve heard too many “they hate the French”. Sorry, this is not about French people only. They attacked a symbol of democracy, the freedom of speech, in a country that helped defined democracy as we know it in many places.

Journal+Le+Monde+%2B+Monde+des+Livres+%2B+dossier+du+vendredi+09+janvier+2015+2015-01-09+10-42-53Le Monde had an amazing cover the day after the attacks, which I believe summarize really well what’s going on. Yes, this attack is the French sept 11th. It is also similar to the attacks in London, on July 7th 2005 and similar to the Madrid bombings in 2004.

France, Spain, UK, USA etc… We’re all fighting the same enemy. And that enemy sees us as “one”. They don’t care about borders. They don’t attack a country, nor a religion, or a race. They attack a way of life. It’s the fight between “freedom” and “obscurantism”. It makes me scratch my head when I write this because you could hear those words in the mouth of Georges Bush Jr, but this is really what is happening.

pDmwwtNckuBEpPETpt1JQZZN2xTOyVIt even goes further than just removing borders: it’s beyond religion. Those terrorists have killed more Muslims than any other religion. This is a photo of one of the two attackers, walking towards Ahmed Merabet, a policeman that got injured during the gun fight. Merabet is a Muslim, and yet, he’s about to be shot in the head.

To those who think this is a religion battle, it is just simply not. Jews, christians, muslims, hindus, buddhists, atheists… We’re all victims of that small group of extremists who don’t want a world where people are free to do whatever they want, living together in peace.

You basically have a group of people, from many different religions, in many different countries who want to live “freely”. And you have that small group of people, from many different countries as well, and in some cases from different religions (even though they may convert on the way) who want to live in a world of fear, punishment, and intolerance.

There will be more of those attacks, we should get prepared. They might happen in France, in the US, in England, in Denmark, in Germany.. wherever they happen, it is against us. That’s why “Je suis Charlie” is so powerful. Of course we won’t know the pain of losing a love one, like Charlie did. But this attack on Charlie, is an attack on all us, who believe in freedom, regardless of our country or religion or race. Because in this war, there is no more USA, France, Germany… There is “us” and there is “them”. Them being this small group of extremists who have no respect for life, and who are spread in many countries around the world.

Of course we’ll start seeing some isolated act of violence against Muslims. It’s unfortunate, and we should do all we can to limit them, but at the end of the day, there are idiots everywhere. Some folks may even be attracted by some extreme political party (for ex, Front National) that will piggy back on the fear of others to drive votes. They will play the card of immigration, because you know, when things go wrong, it has to be the fault of the people who are different from you. Guess what? All the attackers in Paris were French. The Boston bombers were Americans. Immigration is not the problem. You can stop all the immigration in the world you want, those attacks will still occur. Because the concept of immigration is based on borders, and the terrorists don’t care about borders.

I don’t know how we win that fight, against an enemy which is not a state, nor a religion, and doesn’t have clear revendication. I believe thought that the first step is to recognize who is “we” and realize that we’re all in this together: Americans, French, Germans, Japanese etc… Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc… and have a clear pact of solidarity.

My thoughts on today’s attacks in Paris

This morning, 3 men stormed Charlie Hebdo’s office and killed 12 people, including some of the most famous French journalists.

coran-merdeCharlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper, who is very well known for its drawings, often shocking. At several occasions, they portrayed Mahomet in a way that was very controversial. At the time, it triggered many debates, and even threats, but Charlie Hebdo always stood for the freedom of speech against fear.

In today’s attacks, two gunmen were filmed leaving the building and claiming they “killed Charlie Hebdo, they avenged Mahomet”. Apparently, they claimed to be from Al Qaida, but this still has to be confirmed.

Those attacks weren’t against France. If you want to attack France, you attack French symbols such as Champs Elysees, Tour Eiffel, Air France plane etc… Those attack were against freedom of the press, which is a key pillar of democracy. Those attacks are really against our way of life and our freedom.

I think it’s really the symbol of what’s happening in today’s world: a deadly fight between two conceptions of the human society: freedom vs obscurantism. It goes well beyond borders, political parties, and it actually goes beyond religions.

The way to answer those attacks is very clear:

1/ Charlie Hebdo will continue to live. Ideally, they will publish their next issue on time and they will continue their work as if nothing happened, despite their despair and sadness.

2/ No fear: in the face of terror, you can’t show fear, and must continue to do what you’re doing. To see all those people get together in Paris, Lyon and Lille is exactly the right answer. We are not afraid.

3/ Bring people together, not divide. It’s too easy to isolate a group of people and blame them for it. The world is actually more complex than that. You don’t respond to extremism by extremism. You bring people together, and together you fight the extremisms. Living together is the solution, not the problem: it’s the foundation of our society, and what those extremists are trying to break.

I’m really sad today, but as John Kerry stated (in perfect French), freedom has a price. It’s a very high price, but we must defend our freedom. Our freedom to be who we want, to believe in whomever, to wear whatever, to love whomever, to say whatever, and to write whatever.

Nous sommes tous Charlie.

Cher Monsieur Fortin

Cher Monsieur Fortin,

A l’heure ou je vous ecris, vous etes encore en garde a vue. Et tout de suite, je veux vous apporter mon soutien, et vous dire que dans cette epreuve, nous somme tous avec vous.

Nous, ce sont les supporters du SM Caen.

Alors, bien sur, je ne peux pas parler au nom de tous, mais je suis persuade que je represente la plus grande partie.

J’ai bientot 40 and et ca fait 30 ans que je suis un fan de Malherbe. J’ai connu Venoix, les annees Prieur Pecout, et la premiere montee, les annees Divert, Rix, et l’epopee en Coupe d’Europe avec Gravelaine.

J’ai meme fait parti des equipes de jeunes, quand Pascal Theault s’en occupait.

Mon fils de 2 ans s’endort tous les soirs avec la mascotte du Stade Malherbe. A chaque rencontre, il porte le maillot.


Je ne vous connais pas personnellement, mais je suis Caen a la radio a chaque match depuis San Francisco, ou je vis depuis plus de 11ans. Je vous ecoute. J’entends votre passion et votre amour pour ce club. Votre loyaute pour le staff et les joueurs, votre respect du club.

Aujourd’hui est une periode sombre. Ces accusations jettent un serieux trouble sur notre club.

Mais je veux que vous sachiez que, comme vous, quand vous avez ete la dans les moments difficiles, nous sommes la pour vous. Moi, je ne crois pas un instant en la corruption. Pas un instant.

Si on avait pu acheter des matches, on n’aurait pas fait le yoyo pendant tant d’annees! (Un peu d’humour ne fait pas de mal!)

Donc voila – je voulais juste vous dire que dans ces moment penibles, nous sommes la. Dans l’ombre, comme lorsque j’hurle devant mon poste a 20,000 km de D’Ornano, je pense a vous et j’espere vous transmettre quelques forces qui vous permettront de surmonter cette epreuve et de revenir vite.

Je ne sais pas ce que l’avenir nous reserve, mais en tout cas, mes fils et moi sommes tres fiers de ce maillot et des gens au club qui nous font vibrer.


Welcome to Silicon Valley Mr Hollande

Francois Hollande is visiting Silicon Valley in February. The main question has been for many days whether he will be accompanied by the first lady (at the time) or an actress. Once he clarified his personal situation, the topic of discussion among the French community switched to the legitimacy of his trip.

We all know that France has shown a very debatable view of innovation. More importantly, a political view of the world, in which you believe a government should be involved in everything and regulate everything, is at the opposite of what’s happening in Silicon Valley. I mean, when you see the government passing a law to force Uber cars to wait for 15 minutes before they can pick up a passenger, to protect the “old taxis”, we’re not talking about innovation anymore, but stagnation, and potentially depression in the long term.

We know that France is run by a very old school elite. And we all know all the issues with an old school socialist model, which just doesn’t work in the global world we live in today. To be very honest, even Hollande himself has realized it, and has made very clear changes in his views that, if executed, could create some positive outcome.

His trip to Silicon Valley is a good thing. Good leaders are the ones who can learn – a lot and fast -, adapt, and execute. If we want a better France, we must welcome him, and educate him on how things are being done here. Not everything done in Silicon Valley is great, but there may be some things that can be adapted to France. And more importantly, we must help him:  I was at the White House two weeks ago. They had in the room federal employees and innovators in the job space, and we spent a day talking about how we can help the US government hire. At the end of the day, folks in the room had to commit on executing on something and come back in 90 days and present it to the whole group.

Why couldn’t we do this? Why couldn’t we put some of the folks who live and work in Silicon Valley in a room, with representation from the French government, and agree on a few hacks to bring some good things from Silicon Valley back to France or even just help innovation in France? Very tangible things, easily measurable, demoable, etc… Maybe it has been done before, but I haven’t seen it. I keep hearing people complaining all the time about how things are done in France vs here (funny part is I also hear many Americans envy our health care and education system). It’s true. Some things are broken. Like in any company. And the only way to fix it is to take responsibility and execute.

Our trip to Hawaii

Hawaian airlines is one of the best airline in the US if you look at safety record, on time arrival, lost bagages etc… (note that they haven’t been operating for that long) Your plane doesn’t go down. Your arrive on time. And if your luggages are lost, they find them for you and give it back to you fairly quickly. This is actually quite an achievement, and needless to say that the safety record is by far the most important one.

But in today consumer world, those “achievements” are taken for granted. Right or wrong, that’s the perception. When I buy a plane ticket, I expect my plane not to crash, i expect my plane to arrive roughly on time, and if my luggages are lost, i expect them to be found and delivered back to me.

Like in many other industries, all those services that were once seen as an advantage are today a commodity. The real advantage now is your relationship with your customer and how you serve them outside the obvious stuff (looks how pissed off you are if you don’t have a video feed and wifi in your plane these days). Companies now offer haircuts in the lunge, spa services, video rooms,  etc… They want to make travel a pleasant experience.

When your name is Hawaian airlines, and your mission is to fly people to paradise, you’re in an amazing situation. Imagine, all your customers when they buy your service are happy. They’re looking forward to it. You’re flying them to P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E. It’s not like going to the dentist. All your customers start their journey with your service with a happy face.

We had a happy face when we bought our tickets to fly to Honolulu with my wife and my 1 year old boy, Alfred. We were really looking forward to it. Our flight was scheduled for thursday at 9:30am. On tuesday, Alfred started to get sick. We went to see the doctor, explained we had to take a flight, and he gave us some pills that could prevent him from vomiting, at least when in the plane.

On wednesday night, he was still sick. The three of us are at home, packing. Then, at around 8pm my wife starts to get really sick. By 10pm, she’s in bed, shivering with fever. I continue packing, hoping that she will get better by morning. At 11pm, it’s my turn. Coming out of nowhere, I can’t stop vomiting. During the full night, every 45 minutes, I had to get up and go to the bathroom, with huge amount of pains all over my body. The last time I woke up is 5am, with our alarm set at 6 to drive directly to the airport.

This is where I start wondering if we’re going to be able to make it. Three of us sick in a plane for 5h 30 min, that’s not a good thing. Neither for us, but neither for the passenger next to us. Btw, latter on, we were told by doctors that we all had the rotavirus.

At 5:30am, we decide we just can’t make it. We don’t have the strength to do it, and we don’t think it’s reasonable to jump on a plane in that physical state.

We call Hawaiian Airlines. They had a choice: make it easier for us to deal with that situation, and make it very difficult. They decided the latter. Because of course, you know that people canceling their Hawaii trip last minute is usually without a good reason. So in the name of making a few hundreds bucks, after you explain your situation to them, they tell you:

– you pay us $200 per passenger on top of the fare you’ve already paid (which was around $800 for all of us).

– we give you $390 in credit towards the fare of the next ticket that we’ll have to buy

So basically, you pay us $400. You have to buy another ticket full price. And we give you back $390. If you need a translation, this means: FUCK YOU! We’re going to screw you dear customer.

You have a family in distress, and you’re trying to make money from them? The answer expected if you want me as a customer for life was very simple: don’t worry, we give you the fare paid as credit towards another flight you buy on our airline in the next year. By the way, is there anything we can do to help you right now?

The only reason why Hawaiian airlines doesn’t do this is because they don’t care. When we had to cancel our hotel (Westin Moana Surfrider), it took me one phone call and a very nice lady at the end of the line to make a very pleasant experience. I hanged up phone feeling better, and committed to visit that hotel. I’ll definitely pick a different airline though! And I will fly Hawaiian Airlines!

Update 1: we talked to them more, and have filed a proper complain. We filled a bunch of forms, and they said they will reply to us within 30 days (yes, you read that right, 30 days), to tell us what the next steps are. At this point, it is not guaranteed that they will do anything to help us.

Update 2: i’ve also emailed Avi A Mannis, VP Marketing and Louis D Saint-Cyr, VP Customer Service.

Update 3: they actually did come back to us very quickly and fix most of our problems.


I lived for more than 10 years in Normandy, where the D-Day happened on June 6th 1944. All my youth, we would go to the beaches where one of the most terrifying and pivotal fight of all times happened.

Even as a kid, you can’tignore what happened. It’s still very much present everywhere. See that photo of what’s left today of the artificial harbor that the Allies forces had to build in Arromanches. As you walk on the beaches, you still see bunkers where soldiers were positioned to defend access to the land.


My grand fathers fought that war. It was very real for me. I remember talking to them about it. It felt it wasn’t so long ago and i know it impacted our family tremendously in many ways.

Now that I have a son, I’m wondering what he will think of that conflict, that happened almost one century ago for him. Of course, there are plenty of movies, museums, and books about it. But to him, it will probably feel like those battles that happened at the end of the 19th century feel to me. Distant and from another world.

As a father, I think it will be my role to explain to him what happened and the sacrifice that so many people, who had nothing to do with France, made on June 6th 1944. Those men and women without whom our country wouldn’t be what it is today. Those men and women that we should never forget, whom we should always honor, and be eternally grateful.

It is even possible that he meets one of their descendants. I’d be so proud if he thanks them when that occurs.