Tuesday, October 9, 2007

High-Level Debate

I was first drawn to the study of French politics because I thought, in the naïveté of youth, that political debate in France was more intelligent than political debate in the United States. Have I changed, has France changed, or both? Bernard-Henri Lévy and Henri Guaino have taken French debate to new depths, with Lévy characterizing Guaino as a "racist" and Guaino returning the favor by calling Lévy "a pretentious little jerk."

But Lévy, who refers to the left as a "corpse" in the title of his new book, saves some of his sallies for the dead horse he seems intent on flogging, and from whose stinking cadaver he cannot tear himself away, not even in response to the blandishments of his "good friend Nicolas." He accuses Jean-Pierre Chevènement, who, like BHL himself, advised the Royal campaign, of being a "Maurrassian" like Guaino and of "unloading bad dope" on the candidate, "la mauvaise came" being the writer's ingenious metaphor for the French flag, the disciplinary battalions, and the singing of La Marseillaise. Is the suggestion of the metaphor that symbols of patriotism and discipline are addictive? That they act on the autonomic nervous system or the reptilian brain? Or that in overdose they are lethal?

2 comments:

Alain Q. said...

BHL should be treated like smoking : you can indulge in your addiction in private, but it should not be imposed on non-readers. For instance in blogs...

yabonn said...

I's guess he means something close to "bad quality and health damaging".

I thought, in the naïveté of youth, that political debate in France was more intelligent than political debate in the United States

Wait, wait, I have a better one : I thought reality TV would never catch on here. And I didn't even have the excuse of not being french - only young.

That said, I find myself here close to BHL (to my deep surprise and annoyment), less on the specifics than on the inquiétude : there is something going backward in this country, these days.