Wednesday, May 09, 2007

alons enfants de la patrie- le ugly american vous attend

the french sunday elected monsieur nicolas sarkozy, or sarko for short as their president.

if you ask me, since general charles de gaulle, whom history should have no qualm calling charles XI (the last king charles, no. X, a post-bonaparte bourbon, abdicated in the upheavals of 1830), the only man who ever filled le trône français to truth with a physical, psychological and political presence, was the late françoise mitterand. les autres were like midgets sitting on a gigantic horse. that probably is the difference between a jockey and a chevalier du sang.

at any rate, sarko, whose track record identifies him with a rather racist annotation of peronist opportunism, represents an a l'americaine retrogression of mainly france but also most of the rest of europe to varying extent.

when the ex-chief executioner of texas dipped his war loving presidential nose in the cess-pit that was iraq, despite my unfounded hopes that the world-wary sector of the american establishment would find a way to stop him, i wrote a piece trying to analyze the motives of the bush-cheney gang. what i came up with was rather revealing, for me at least: despite its immense size and volume, american economy is inbound or intraverted to the tune of 3/4. in short, the foreign trade deficit that supposedly plagues america is, in one sense, caused by the fact that three fourths of u.s. economy is hardly universally competitive.

economy is the most obvious and most quantitatively measurable aspect of social life. i do not hold to the marxist dictum that it is the infrastructure of society and culture etc, are secondary, superstructural phenomena. however economic activity is an indicator, though not in a causal way, also of life styles and, maybe more importantly, cognitive styles - the way we know our world.

an inbound economy, therefore, signifies an inbound mentality, which does not care where the rest of the world can or will head, as long as a gallon of petrol is available at 25 cents in nebraska. nor does the inbound mentality mind in what state the u.s. will leave iraq and the near east when compelled to withdraw; because the obvious is happening in a war america started despite the world and more and more poor g.i.'s are returning home in body bags. the introverted, world-dumb section of the u.s. population is only interested in its narrow world equilibria and the policies to keep them intact - which is unlikely to happen in a world where the wings of a butterfly in valparaiso cause a storm in odessa.

the inbound mentality is one aspect of the arrogant, incompetent, exploitative ugly american of the 60's; whose daily version you would meet in that fat, sunburnt, unsophisticated tourist anywhere from paris to antalya, asking "but how much is that in real money?".

are we now looking at the prototype of a français moche, a transatlantic update of the ugly american? possibly...

the wave of "opposition" that carried not only sarko, but also his rival mme. segolene royal to the trône was the reaction prompted by the now-almost -proverbial polish plumber episode. there is no secret in that a good portion of the french society has lagged behind in the global race and is suffering from an unhealthy dose of incompetitiveness. add to it the rather strong and despotic state structure, a remnant of the code bonaparte; a not-so-productive labor force protected by unduly strong unions etc.; and the extra euros the frenchman has to pay in taxes to look after the new(ly accessed) europeans, while his products cannot find the easy markets they are accustomed to; the over all balance hardly favors a fully extravert french outlook on world economy or society. the french displaisire already manifested itself in the rejection of the e.u. constitution. the revolution de paisans came with the preference of ultimately provincial presidential candidates as the socialist sego and sarko and the coronation of the latter. the whole phenomenon is reminiscent of american intraverted conservatism.

yet, whatever the cause, france has no chance of withdrawing into its borders as the isolationist (*) americans wish their country to do. but in the immediate future, the necessity prevails to look inward, to do some economic, political, racial etc. house cleaning toward liberalization and to upgrade french economic, political, cultural capital as well as output to more universal levels of attractiveness. however, the problem is not the resolve of french business to secure for itself a fine bite of world economic cake - france already invests a sum in the u.s. about equal to what american companies have invested in france. the resistance, as before, will come from the provençal foci of power, which were strong enough to give sego and sarko the impetus in becoming the major political figures they were not cut to become. if sarko is about to prove his métiere, he has to show virtuoso mastery in conducting that gelatinous peasant renitence into a less viscous gush toward globality.

in the race for supremacy in the world, france has long been eating out of its own capital. and with his intraverted backing that has been the main reason for france's lag, sarko can reverse the trend if and only if america extends him the necessary credit in all fields.

bien venu, le ugly american, ici le français moche. ensemble let us march toward the urbane horizons of globality...!

(*) there never was any true isolationism in american politics. the term simply refers to the cautious u.s. policy of avoiding europe and confrontation with european powers until world war I. neither can america ever withdraw into its continent and turn its back on the world, at least in the near future. a global political-economy does not allow that simply because globality is more profitable.

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