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Registered: 09/25/00
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Doubts tearing France apart
    #2001292 - 10/12/03 12:02 AM (13 years, 16 days ago)

Doubts tearing France apart

An orgy of breast-beating in print claims the French 'piss off the planet', Paul Webster reports from Paris

Sunday October 12, 2003
The Observer

At the FNAC Etoile in Paris, more a multi-storey literary warehouse than a bookshop, the shelves are buckling under the weight of ammunition for a political and social war. With titles such as French Arrogance, Falling France and French Disarray, this is heavy-calibre weaponry that is being trained on France's political elite in a war that has broken out over the very soul of the country.
Launched against a background of top-level disillusionment with Europe, accelerating unemployment rates, spectacular company failures and a stagnant economy, the books - by some of France's leading social commentators - have added an incendiary factor to popular protests over reforms that could end the 35-hour week, cut social security benefits and introduce across-the-board austerity.

Having recently emerged battered from national education strikes and months of street demonstrations over reduced retirement benefits, Jacques Chirac's administration is looking on with dismay at media encouragement for right-wing intellectual claims that France is now the weak man of Europe, mired in hypocrisy nationally and internationally, indifferent to popular needs such as care of the aged, and shaken by the aftershocks of vain defiance of the US-led war in Iraq. In short, that France is going down the pan.

'Reading these books, France is in agony, powerless and irretrievably condemned to decline,' Dominique de Villepin, the suave but widely mistrusted Foreign Minister, complained over two pages in Le Monde last week, comparing today's prophets of doom to anti-republicans who collaborated with the Nazis.

Equally piqued by France's depiction is the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who sought out America's Time magazine to complain about state-educated French intellectuals 'scrutinising French society while perched on the summit of a pyramid' and obsessed with 'declinism'.

And it is a pretty bleak picture, even by the account of the most rational of the 'declinists', Alain Duhamel, whose lugubrious face haunts every TV channel and serious newspaper column and charges that the country has been struck down by an 'insidious evil'.

'French democracy, the political balance and even the nation's personality are at risk,' he writes in Le D?sarroi fran?ais.

It is an argument bolstered by Nicolas Baverez, a historian and free-market evangelist and author of La France qui tombe, who in only 134 pages trots out a thousand historical and contemporary statistics to claim that France is paralysed by 'economic, political, social and intellectual immobility and is plunging towards decline'.

Both pale into insignificance alongside L'Arrogance fran?aise, where the journalist authors, Romain Gubert and Emmanuel Saint-Martin, state: 'With our sermons, our empty gestures and our poetic flights, we (the French) have pissed off the planet. Worse: we make them laugh.

'It's a sickness to which French people are addicted - believing that France must offer the world Light, Law and Liberty; that their leaders are the carriers of a universal message.'

Arguments on the inevitability of French decline are based on three premises: chaotic history up to the end of decolonisation, the domestic mess caused by lost opportunies and mistaken choices since 1970; and, finally, the months following Chirac's re-election in May 2002 with 82 per cent of the vote which has been followed by some of the worst economic statistics since the war, and an admission by Raffarin that the country is in recession.

Since Agincourt, they say, French rulers have been repeatedly trapped by overconfidence. Napoleon in Moscow in 1812, his nephew at Sedan in 1870, and the Third Republic in 1940.

They point to a national tendency for self-immolation - the Terror, the Paris Commune, and Vichy - before going on to dissect the consequences of reckless decisions by all-powerful Presidents of the Fifth Republic, De Gaulle and Mitterrand among them, a tradition that they claim is pursued by Chirac.

In this they argue that, blinded by their unchallengeable status at home, French Presidents stumble into their own diplomatic and social ambushes constructed with the help of a state-educated elite from the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, ENA.

But none admits his mistakes or apologises for appalling, almost comical, blunders typified by the sinking of the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, by hapless frogmen in 1985.

And it is the suave De Villepin who is mocked with iconoclastic vigour for his vanity in L'Arrogance fran?aise, as a cypher for this state-moulded super-class and who is never forced to admit being wrong.

And it is De Villepin who is blamed in particular for persuading a malleable President to take such an uncompromising stand on Iraq although other advisers correctly warned of the long-term damage of taking no account of US hegemony and offending the emerging EU Eastern bloc.

It is not just the elites that come in for criticism; by implication it is the considerable number of ordinary Frenchmen who have put their faith in the rural campaigner, Jos? Bov?, a neo-Poujadist.

Much of this wave of populism, say the declinists, is fed by an insistence of both Left and Right on l'exception fran?aise, a modern form of chauvinism in which legal fences are built around French language and culture.

It is an 'exception' that is mocked in L'Arrogance fran?aise as a hallucinatory drug that spills over into all facets of life from haute cuisine to the heavily subsidised and introverted cinema industry.

It is all pretty apocalyptic stuff. But in one respect the declinists may be right: that their political masters seem somewhat blinkered to the way in which many, from the Murdoch press to the Bush White House, regard La Belle France.

And it is De Villepin who is most exposed in this regard. 'Abroad,' he writes in his answer to declinists: 'France rests a pole of thought and culture, a major economic, military and political power.'


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Ganja Goddess

Registered: 02/13/99
Posts: 1,617
Re: Doubts tearing France apart [Re: wingnutx]
    #2001867 - 10/12/03 04:52 AM (13 years, 16 days ago)

Alain is completely anti US. Here is an article he wrote to give you some perspective:

He is a great campaigner against his country because of their foreign policy with regards to the US and Israel and how they should be all powerful and carry a big sword and stuff... He is also a Rush Limbaugh or Anne Coulter of France, except he thinks the answer to everything is Europe.

As for Baverez, read this. It is the same thing happening here.. just a bit more advanced. We are always behind all those nations, as you can see, its starting to be by decades not centuries. This man also has a message of hope and a vision, the flip side of what this article is portraying. See America's Jim Hightower.

Gubert and Saint Martin are the Micheal Moore and Ariana Huffington of France. I mean, come on.. have you read L' Arrogance? These guys hate the folks in charge and like to talk about it alot.

All that drama of france falling apart and it's all due to the french equivalents of Michael Moore, Arianna Huffington, Coulter, Rush and Hightower?

La ti da.


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Registered: 09/25/00
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Re: Doubts tearing France apart [Re: PsiloKitten]
    #2002520 - 10/12/03 03:31 PM (13 years, 16 days ago)

I just thought it was interesting that they have the same sort of problems that we do. It lends a bit of perspective.

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umask 077(nonefor you)

Registered: 09/07/02
Posts: 3,095
Loc: Jacksonville,FL
Last seen: 11 years, 29 days
Re: Doubts tearing France apart [Re: wingnutx]
    #2003063 - 10/12/03 07:43 PM (13 years, 16 days ago)

Yeah,it says were are both countries full of arrogant pricks. We're perfect for each other.

People think that if you just say the word "hallucinations" it explains everything you want it to explain and eventually whatever it is you can't explain will just go away.It's just a word,it doesn't explain anything...
Douglas Adams

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