Monday, July 23, 2007
Mon Dieu! Dumbing Down La France
We knew the United States purchased more things from foreign countries than it sold them, but this is ridiculous.
The “New York Times” reported on Sunday that France’s new, and “pro-American” President Nicolas Sarkozy, along with lesser members of his government, is telling the French to think less and work more...
...to be more like people in the United States.
His finance minister, one Christine Lagarde, suggested in a speech on (what else?) tax cuts, that the French should give up an “the old habit.”
More specifically, Lagarde remarked, “There is hardly an ideology we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves.”
“Roll up your sleeves,” by the way, is right-wing code for “work more (for me).”
Lagarde, of course, is taking her pointers from Sarkozy who, like some American politicians, is playing for style points by jogging a lot.
That’s the projection of Kennedy-esque “vigor” President John Fitzgerald (1961-1963) made a trademark, despite the fact he used crutches when his back could not support him and suffered mightily from something called Addison’s disease.
Of course, Kennedy was something of an intellectual, at least by new world standards, having written and published “Why England Slept,” when he was twenty-one years old and garnered a Pulitzer prize for “Profiles in Courage” (a turkey if ever one were written).
But Sarkozy’s not up on that facet of the American presidency, and who can blame him given what w. has done to demean it?
According to the article written by Elaine Sciolino, Sarkozy said in a recent (last month) televised interview, “I am not an ideologue, Oh, I am not an intellectual! I am someone concrete!”
Anarcho-syndical translation: “I stand for nothing. I don’t put much stock in thinking, and I’m a blockhead.”
The French, it turns out, are a little bored with their egalitarian society and healthy welfare state. They are going through a time of “malaise” the kind which Jimmy Carter identified to such fatal results back in the late ‘70s. the scribe remembers the malaise with fondness. You can begin to “malaise” when you’ve got three squares and basic survival assured under your social contract.
Ronald Reagan shook us from the malaise, slicing and dicing our public commitment to one another, unleashing the commercial zeal on behalf of the commonweal, busting the unions and building up the bankers.
Lagarde wants the bankers back in France, too. It would seem they are presently spreading their insidious expertise in London as “financial exiles” and privy now to Sarkozy’s pledge that, “we open our doors.”
Oh Marcel! Pull your daughter from the street. Bar the doors, Jacqueline! You are about to become objects of capitalism’s “dynamism” and from the bottom of our hearts good luck and don’t get sick!
Take an Air France flight to Europe and the first thing flight attendants offer you is a baguette from a woven basket. They break bread with you, the subtext being that while you may have more than me, our mutual humanity comes first.
It gets worse from there, but they do give you the bread. Take a Jet Blue to Tampa and pray you’ll be allowed to buy some tortilla chips and fake cheese.
So it’s no surprise that not everyone in France likes the Sarkozy approach.
“This is the sort of thing you can hear in café conversations from morons who drink too much,” says “FRENCH INTELLECTUAL” Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Philosophers like Lévy are fighting for their lives. He too, is “pro-American and pro-market,” but can’t bare the “anti-intellectual tendency” and that is why he voted for the hottie who went around blabbing wacky things, but at least represented a hallowed tradition, Socialist Ségolène Royal.
And who says North American intellectual culture is shallow, lame, and overly-influenced by the output of our own cultural canon?
Read any of the “Reagan Diaries” floating around out there?
the scribe savored some excerpts in “Vanity Fair.” The magazine’s analysis, such as it was, suggested Reagan’s entries were “economic,” which was a nice way of papering over the fact they tell you nothing of what he thought, confirming your worst fears, about whether he truly thought.
Conservatives were so relieved Reagan even kept a diary they forgot to assess it with proper rigor.
In fact, the entries read like news summaries of the same events at which Reagan was chief protagonist.
“Saw Gorbachev and told him he needed to get rid of his mid-range missiles. They need to get rid of some of those missiles or we won’t have as many as them. Came upon Tip O’Neil in the hallway. We talked about some bills.”
But hey, we got through that.
Sure, highwayscribery gets ebullient from time to time and cranks out pieces about
Al Gore and “The New Intellectualism.” It is comforting to know we’ve produced that rare fellow who can do two things: working at something “real” (as they say in Hollywood) like vice president, and not so real, like film-making.
But, let’s face it, Gore seems uninterested in serving a country where his accomplishments make for a nice comeback story and the commentariat demands he lose weight before launching another campaign for THE BIG PRIZE.
Which is how we do and see things here in Unity States. France, on the other hand, is a land where philosophers and poets have an actual public profile and function.
We export the idea of putting them out of business by the ultimate elevation of business.
Ms. Sciolino points to a “cultural change” in France where flaunting the exact math of your “wealth” is no longer déclassé (which means not cool).
“Working families in France want to be richer. Wealth is no longer taboo,” says a guy for Morgan Stanley, sounding most relieved. “There’s a strong sentiment in France that people think prices are too high and need more money.”
Oh, sure. People over here get that feeling, too.
The question for the French is whether things will go the bankers’ way, or the pensioners’ way: whether France keeps trying with the shining city on the hill idea, or becomes a giant Wal-Mart on the hill.
Some would (were they actually reading) accuse the scribe of fomenting the class war and pessimism; for not seeing that both bankers and pensioners can win under this perpetual economic miracle we are all so lucky to be enjoying...that we are equal in our ability to walk through the door of Barney’s New York.
the scribe awaits convincing.