Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ah, Ça Ira...

France is simply “Le Pays des Grands Hommes”, and French leaders once berated the “perfide Albion” as being a nation of “épiciers”.

When pondering French policies, those statements give a couple of perspectives;

E Pluribus Pecunum

This “insult” was only viewed as such by the courtesans massed around the monarch; there is nothing inherent wrong with being a nation of small business owners. For, as it engages in the pursuit of happiness, the enterprising karcher can often be much wiser than the “bling-blingelite.

The Anglo-Saxons owed their success in large part to the continuing efforts of their many enterprising children. As long as the “épiciers” were active, each person had a stake in the collective success of the nation, so Britain thrived over the 18th and 19th Century while France was led astray by misguided “Grands Hommes” marching for elusive glory. The British tired later on, and as they became ever more reliant on the state, the flame of enterprise was taken up by their mongrel brothers in the Americas, and the Asians they once dominated…

In some respect, Lebanon is similar; we’re as much a nation of “épiciers” as any, mongrels in constant search of our identity. Or, to put it differently; much like eagles, we can soar high. But we never flock together.

Our leaders have been ignoring this at our own peril. Having survived successive parasitic governments, wars and occupation, we were dealt a final blow by one misguided “Grand Homme” who committed two deadly mistakes. His first mistake was to think he could herd us all into following his economic vision, but his grand expansion of government only freed the parasitic state(s) to grow at the expense of the enterprising multitude; so the middle class withered, emigration accelerated as the debt grew. His second mistake was to think he could outmanoeuvre the sisterly “Grand Homme”, a wily leader even beyond the grave...

We soon learned that no man can be greater than his country. And we’ll learn (not soon enough) that no party can be greater than the home country.

Diogenes’ Search

The fact that France is a Pays des Grands Hommes reveals something else. In comparision to the Grand Homme, all the others are Petits. In the absence of a great mind, the French are lost, and as each follows their own short term interest, they undermine that of the nation. A nation needs all its “épiciers”, bean-counters, “bling-bling” spendthrifts, misguided amateurs, or deluded(?) Parisians. But it cannot be led by them in the absence of proper checks and balances.

The French, focused on their search for such “Grands Hommes”, settle “en attendant” for poor compromises. Their pursuit of that ever elusive “Grande Idée” leads them to rather mundane short-term stop gaps.

Today’s France has limited strategic goals; run like a mere Epecerie, it is merely content with scurrying around to secure crumbs from the distracted Americans. When the Americans are back, France may be able to keep “un petit quelque chose” while the Yankees take the rest... This may be why they have "pushed" Lebanon (among others) into the mascarade of this past May, and why they are now courting the Syrians; there may be some crumbs in there for them before the Americans come back to the table.

So, at some level, today's French policies make sense.

Too bad it’s (still) such a low, low level.

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