Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jon Stewart Rumor Mill

The title of this post may puzzle French readers. Jon Stewart is our national comedian of the news, a sort of combination of Laurent Ruquier in his political satirist mode, Les Guignols de l'Info, and impressionist Nicolas Canteloup. I was just wondering what Jon Stewart would do with stories like these, concerning the alleged separation of Nicolas and Cécilia.

The pun on John Stuart Mill is also intentional. The cerebral Mill, who took a high view of political discourse, nevertheless had a robust appreciation of the role of psychic undercurrents in political and even philosophical life.

Changer la vie!

Changer la vie! This was the slogan of the Communist Party some years back, and the kind of change it called to mind was that associated with le grand soir, change of anything and everything, du passé faisons table rase ... always an exhilarating thought. But the world has sobered up considerably since then, and I find myself looking elsewhere for signs of hope. Today I found one in one of my favorite blogs, which I've cited here several times, Jours Tranquilles à Clichy-sous-Bois. The writer, David Da Silva, describes the improvement in his daily life as a student due to the addition of some new bus routes and new buses serving his daily commute to class--another way to changer la vie. He also describes his dismay at finding a new bus shelter smashed by vandals only a few days after its installation. He then reflects that in his younger days, he was one of a gang vandals who amused themselves in the same way. He tells himself that he should therefore feel greater indulgence toward his successors, but he can't. He has crossed the line from alienation to civic responsibility: "It's sort of the story of Clichy, of opportunities missed and unfortunate episodes, when it takes hardly anything to hop a bus for a better future."


It was one month ago that Sarkozy discussed the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. Today it seems that the European Commission does not quite see eye-to-eye with the French president. The Commission's main concern is to reduce food prices to consumers, and to that end it wants to open European markets to food from abroad, where production costs are lower. Sarkozy prefers to maintain "an absolute EU preference." On the other hand, he also wants to wean European farmers from dependency on EU subsidies. He hopes to achieve this by encouraging the production of biofuels, for which prices are rising (and are contributing to the rise in food prices worldwide, since grain and corn otherwise employed in the food chain are diverted to fuel products). This fundamental difference in outlook is likely to come to a head when France assumes the EU presidency next year.