Saturday, May 4, 2013

Catholic Revival?

I think I may have been underestimating the extent of the "Catholic" element in the anti-gay marriage demonstrations. A commenter on a previous post (h/t FrédéricLN) directed my attention to this very interesting piece in Le Nouvel Obs. Among other things, it notes a revival of "Catholic" activism at Sciences Po:
Au 42, rue de Grenelle, le Centre Saint-Guillaume (CSG) abrite l'aumônerie catholique de Sciences-Po, situé à deux pas. Elle accueille près de 200 étudiants, qui viennent déjeuner, travailler ou prier ensemble. C'est la plus ancienne association de l'Institut d'Etudes politiques et, comme la plupart des aumôneries étudiantes, elle est en pleine renaissance.
"L'aumônerie s'est réveillée à l'occasion du débat sur le mariage. Elle s'est radicalisée et est sortie de sa réserve, constate Hugo Lucchino, secrétaire de la section PS de l'école. Cela a même donné lieu à des passes d'armes assez violentes entre ses membres et les forces progressistes, notamment avec les Garçes, l'association féministe de Sciences-Po, qui défend les droits des homos. Ils distribuaient des tracts de la Manif pour tous que le diocèse de Paris avait mis à leur disposition et qu'ils avaient tamponnés "CSG", puisque selon le règlement un tract ne peut être diffusé que s'il mentionne le nom d'une association reconnue à l'institut. Les cathos de Saint-Guillaume se posent en victimes des gauchistes intolérants, mais eux, malgré leurs allures très policées, sont carrément sectaires."
The key to this revival seems to be not religion but identity. Indeed, in nearby St-Germain-des-Prés, this is formulated explicitly by a younger group:
"Tout le monde revendique son identité aujourd'hui, pourquoi pas nous ?" disent de conserve Maxence, Solène, Marine, Eléonore, Bertrand et le Lyonnais Michel, âgés de 18 et 19 ans, si excités de brandir leurs drapeaux roses et bleus lors des manifestations du 13 janvier et du 21 avril.
The gay marriage bill seems to have provided an organizing opportunity for young rightists in search of a differentiating feature other than race or ethnicity. These young demonstrators would probably be horrified to be thought of as racists, but they are keen to set themselves apart from what they see as a "civilizational" challenge to their inherited identity:
Pour Pierre Jovanovic, le clivage qu'on a vu se forger au sujet du mariage pour tous porte moins sur l'homosexualité que sur une vision de l'homme et de la société, "entre ceux qui pensent qu'hommes et femmes sont interchangeables et ceux qui veulent bâtir la société sur des bases immuables, la différence des sexes consacrée par le mariage". Pour le président Jovanovic, on ne discute pas la ligne de l'Eglise, vaillamment défendue par Mgr André Vingt-Trois : "Reconnaître l'autorité des évêques est le premier devoir des chrétiens."
The new right youth movement thus lays claim to nothing less than "a vision of man and society" founded on affirming that "the first duty of Christians is to recognize the authority of bishops." Of bishops, notice, not even the Pope. This signals a throwback to the 19th-c. Catholic reaction, which rejected centralized authority in all its forms, papal as well as statist, and insisted on a rigid hierarchy and strict sexual norms in the name of "defense of the family." It is rather astonishing to see a resurgence of this ideology in the 21st-c., but it seems to have some basis in reality. Needless to say, such a "Christian" society, obedient to its bishops, has no place for accommodating "outsiders." The racial angle does not need to be articulated; it's implicit in the definition of the group, which at this stage has and needs no explicit acknowledgment that the actual society in which it is embedded is a multiethnic, multiracial, multireligious one.

This "identitarian reaction" seems to have been brewing for some time prior to the eruption of opposition to the Taubira law. It would be interesting to learn more about its evolution.

Mélenchon's Mouth

Sixty-six percent of the French believe that Jean-Luc Mélenchon has too big a mouth. On Sunday JLM will stage a major rally, and his speech will be widely watched. A substantial majority of the French may think his words are "too aggressive," but they love to listen to him anyway. It's good theater, and cheap.

Blanchard and Leigh on What to Do about the Economy

IMF economists Olivier Blanchard and Daniel Leigh take a middle-of-the-road view on the question of stimulus vs. austerity and multipliers vs debt/gdp ratios. They are cogent, if a bit tepid, recommending stimulus, or at any rate "slower consolidation," now and adjustment later. I can't help thinking of Polonius's advice to his son: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Easy for a comfortable old miser to say to an impetuous youth.

Meanwhile, the Blanchard-Leigh position seems to have become the default policy position of the European Commission as well. Olli Rehn announced yesterday that austerity pressures on several countries would be reduced. France, which the Commission expects to contract by 0.1% of GDP next year (vs. a French gov't forecast of 0.1% growth) was given a reprieve in its mandate to reduce the budget deficit to under 3% of GDP, It now has two years to accomplish this trick, and in the first year the EC actually expects France's debt ratio to rise to 4.2% from the present 3.9. Unemployment will also continue to rise, contrary to François Hollande's promise to "bend the curve."