France: Canary in the European Coalmine?
by Come Carpentier de Gourdon on 13 Nov 2021 1 Comment

Today, during a walk not far from home, I came across a group of children on an outing from their orthodox Jewish school. Their teachers and they all wore the ritual kippas. I caught myself noticing that they were possibly flirting with illegality since ‘ostentatious’ religious symbols are held to violate the supposedly strict secularism of the French State. A few minutes later I passed by a few scarf-coiffed women and one of them in a hijab, which is not allowed in the public space, although there is ambiguity about the definition of public space.


Would a policeman randomly order an old black shrouded woman to take off her veil? Unlikely in this nation which still likes to define itself as the motherland of liberty, equality, and fraternity. How did my country end up in this predicament by passing arbitrary, mostly unenforceable and patently discriminatory laws that seem to be solely applicable to the indigenous Christian population, I wondered again.


For centuries, France has often been ahead of other countries, for better and for worse. It pioneered many social and political transformations which later spread to the rest of the world. Its thinkers inspired the American Founding Fathers and the Bolshevik leaders. The first revolutionary Republic was French but, like the second which lasted even less, it ‘began in a bloodbath and ended in the mud’. The monarchy would have returned within ten years if Napoleon had not chained the revolutionary hydra while ‘saving of it whatever could be saved’ as the historian Pierre Gaxotte pithily put it.


The third republic was born in the wake of defeat at the hands of Prussia and its rite of passage was the mass shootings of the insurgent Paris ‘communards’. In 1914 it brought France into the hell of the First World War and collapsed when Hitler invaded it and imposed a humiliating capitulation. The left-wing dominated National Assembly then voted almost unanimously to entrust all powers to the aged Marshall Petain, only to condemn him later for collaborating willy-nilly with the Nazi occupiers.  


The fourth republic which followed national liberation took shape under the shadow of the British and American conquerors. It was as unstable as its predecessor and fell apart twelve years later when it called De Gaulle, another military saviour, to power as it could not manage the festering colonial rebellions and the increasingly brutal conflict in Algeria which was turning into a civil war among the French.


In the approximate century and a half between the overthrow of Louis XVI’s monarchy and the creation of the Fifth Republic by De Gaulle, France underwent many regimes and governments. A perspicacious observer concluded that the nation looked like an orphan going from foster home to foster home after killing the paternal kingly figure that had been its symbol for eight centuries. The third republic, which lasted less than seven decades, was the longest lived; there is no gainsaying that the present Fifth Republic which is slightly above sixty will reach that age.


The regime is giving signs of exhaustion and sinking into a morbid obsession with public health, which translates into tight restrictions on society and an ever more intrusive monitoring of private lives. Many writers and journalists point out that the Macron government tends to let some like-minded physician and epidemiologists, chosen according to mysterious criteria, regulate society under the sacrosanct “principle of precaution’ and a few critics are not afraid to draw parallels with the ‘hygienist’ preoccupations in Nazi Germany.


Just as the Third Republic could not survive the German invasion and the Fourth fell victim to colonial problems, the Fifth of the series appears powerless to solve the mass immigration juggernaut which results in rapid Islamization and impoverishment of the population along with rising unrest and violence. The Covid pandemic is used as an excuse to avoid facing other, more existential threats, by extending emergency measures which are no longer justified and look like they could become permanent.


The State first assured the public that once 70 percent of the population had been vaccinated herd immunity would prevail. Then the government required 90 percent to get the two shots of Pfizer or Moderna as all other vaccinal options were discarded or unavailable. Now it calls for 100 percent vaccination. Non-inoculated people are forced by decree to get tested every three days in order to push them against the wall. With 90 percent of the French vaccinated, all those over 65 are told to get a third shot, otherwise they will lose their health passes even though they were guaranteed to be permanent.


It is widely believed that eventually everyone will be compelled to get jabbed once more and that this may become an Orwellian quarterly ritual required to keep one’s job and access public spaces. Yet it is officially acknowledged that inoculated people can get Covid and transmit the disease to others, equally vaccinated. Indeed a ‘fifth wave’ of the pandemic is allegedly rising among the vaccinated. So much for prior government claims of collective immunity. The official position now is that ‘the patients be less severely ill than the unvaccinated would have been,’ but how does anyone know and why then require people to keep their distance and wear masks in closed spaces, including young children in school, if the only risk is of getting a bad cold?


One hears about the dire crisis of the public health system and of the ongoing closure of hospitals and sickbeds which are too expensive to maintain. Is that a logical response to a pandemic crisis? There is an exodus of nursing personnel from the public health service due to low salaries and painful working conditions, whereas there is a need to recruit 140,000 new staff members in the profession; but where are they to be found when there is no money to pay them in a country whose national debt is now 120% of GDP?


In this increasingly illogical and disturbing situation calls are rising from the Left and the Right to drastically change the political system. The stormy petrel of the storm is now the most famous political figure in France after President Macron. As a Jewish journalist of Algerian origin, Eric Zemmour is an unlikely champion of French Catholic patriotic conservatism, yet that is exactly the cause he espouses, stealing the thunder of the traditional ‘far right’ National Rally headed by Marine Le Pen. He too breaks a political taboo by railing against the Muslim invasion and the resulting ‘third-worldization’ of this old European nation whose culture also is being degraded by rampant consumeristic Americanization.  


Zemmour, an eloquent debater, comes out as an outspoken opponent of the liberal, pro-immigration, philo-American leftist-bourgeois Jewish elite which has a dominant influence in French politics and culture (Haaretz, the ‘progressive’ Israeli newspaper has dubbed him ominously a “racist  fascist Jew”), but his popularity is rising as an – as yet undeclared – candidate for the French presidency. He could be the French Trump or more accurately the French Viktor Orban. Opinion polls credit him with about 20% of voting intentions, but even more significantly it appears that a large proportion of the huge mass of people who no longer vote would be willing to cast ballots for him if he were to run.


The ascent of this outsider in the political zenith of the country reflects the desire felt by many for a return to old values, stability, security and a sense of national identity freed from the stifling yoke of multi-ethnic and minority-upholding political correctness. Those who support Zemmour and the like-minded National Rally, if put together with the more conservative members of the old Republican Party (heirs of the Gaullists), represent almost half of the voting public.


On the other side, the more or less revolutionary left wing (which includes the Ecologists) also wishes to completely change the current system of government, albeit in quite a divergent way, whereas the former dominant parties, the Socialists and the Centre-Right have shrunk to near insignificance. Macron remains the main protector of the status quo, despite his claims to be a reformer. The next months will tell where the country will go, but what is happening here reflects the global crisis and may be a harbinger of things to come for many other parts of the world. One lesson it teaches is not to follow the French example of the last forty years which have led the nation into this gloomy impasse.


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