Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

Alas, no Marilyn Monroe for Sarko's 54th (via Polly-vous Français). But he has his live-in sex symbol and muse, I guess.


The big news today is that there will be big news tomorrow, or so many people would like to think. Tomorrow will mark the first general strike of the Sarkozy presidency, and even Sarko seems a little worried, for hasn't he said, as Françoise Fressoz reminds us:

"la France n'est pas le pays le plus simple à gouverner du monde". Il rappelle que "les Français ont guillotiné le roi", qu'"au nom d'une mesure symbolique, ils peuvent renverser le pays". Il parle de la France comme d'un "pays régicide".

All strikes are to some degree unpredictable, so, indeed, there may be dérapages tomorrow, and the television cameras, hungry for images de choc, will make the most of them. But the image of a "general strike" itself derives its potency from another era, when a paternalist bourgeoisie, which liked to think of the working class as its dependents, could be sent into panic by the sight of organized batallions of workers whose message was that in fact les patrons were dependent on them.

At this moment, however, we're all dependent on economic forces we only dimly comprehend, so the organized batallions risk looking more like group therapy sessions than conquering armies. If they conquered, what would they do? File a motion of censure against the government, as the Socialists did on Monday? Et après? Turn to Washington, like everyone else, and wait to see what Larry Summers et al. have come up with.

Of course there's no harm in expressing ras-le-bol from time to time. It keeps the guardians on their toes. But the French bowl has been scraped so often that the wood is deeply scarred. The general strike has become one more spectacle in a society of spectacles, another lieu de mémoire for the political theme park, filled with monuments attesting to a certain nostalgic fondness for the grand gestures of the past, which may have failed in their own time but then at least carried the conviction of as yet untested possibility.


In a post the other day, I harshly criticized Guillaume Klossa, a former advisor to former secretary of state for European affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet, for overstating the achievements of the French presidency. A person whose opinions I value observed that I had been rather less temperate than usual in my criticism of Klossa. I agreed that I had perhaps gone too far. But now comes Klossa himself with a piece in Le Monde in which he says this:

En d'autres mots, il n'est pas certain que Barack Obama ait été élu si les Européens n'avaient pas pris l'initiative sur ces différents sujets et n'avaient pas su faire résonner leurs singularités et leurs convictions : le seul combat qui vaille, c'est l'Homme, sa dignité.

Since, in another bout of intemperance, I nominated Christian Estrosi the other day for the position of roi des cons for attributing Obama's election to Sarkozy's inspired action, I guess I'll have to nominate Klossa for vice-roy. When Obamania combines with Euronarcissism, absurdity knows no limit, and my forbearance is sorely strained. So I become a recidivist with respect to M. Klossa, who must be running for something. My advice to him is to put a sock in it.