Friday, April 09, 2004

Paris in the Springtime 

Boy, look what happens when you go away to Paris for 2 weeks to catch a little RnR.

Watching the US screw up from a foreign vantage point is an interesting experience. First thing you discover: the rest of the world goes on. While the French press amply covered the disintegrating situation in Iraq, the main show was its own confrontation with the privatization and austerity policies of the Chirac government, reaction to which recently catapaulted the Left into the catbird seat in regional elections. If you want to see what vigorous public debate on domestic economic issues looks like, watch the French when their cherished social safety net is threatened. I realize (and so do the French, from the amount of play that foreign reaction to the anti-"reform" vote got in its own press) that with unemployment rate over 9%, a VAT of 19%, and public debt exceeding EU limits, the French may arguably be in a state of denial about the need for change.

But you know what? From what I could tell, they don't much care what the outside world thinks. And one has to admire a country that can actually drive the President to roll back at least one austerity measure because of its adverse effect on "young artists." As Tom Frank scathingly points out in the current Harper's, in America the Right can be on the verge of rolling back every progressive reform instituted since Teddy Roosevelt, and the very regions and sectors being decimated will vote to return the Right to power, as they have at every opportunity over the last 20 years. Thank you sir, may I have another?

Who's in denial?

There was also extensive, nearly obsessive coverage of the 10th Anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, and the extent of French complicity in the tragedy. I'll go out on a limb and guess there was nearly no such coverage in the US press, despite ample reason for self-criticism on our part.

From what I could tell, the semi-official French stance on our unfolding catastrophe in Iraq is one of genuine horror at the human tragedy and apprehension at the implications for the world economy. But it's hard to miss the self-desconstructing discourse of an editorial in Le Figaro reflecting this stance, headlined "Don't Taunt the Americans," which in the course of advising its readership to resist "Schadenfreude", couldn't help but recall that France pretty much advised, based on its own unhappy colonial experience, that this would happen. Still, Le Figaro insisted that fingerpointing be put aside in favor of supporting constructive solutions that recognize the critical importance of a stable Iraq to the world at large. Whether this is to include adding troops to Iraq, however, as the delusionary minds in our government seem to hope for, I very much doubt.

Meanwhile, meta-coverage of our own press "coverage" of the Falluja atrocities marveled at its willingness to self-censor the worst images for the sake of not repeating the Somalia experience, and unduly undermining the war effort. As one article drily observed, it's hard to maintain the official line about "foreign terrorists" and "dead enders" if you display footage of children kicking charred corpses.

As for the French "war on terror," obviously I can only speak from anecdotal evidence, but for the record, every subway and railway station trash can has been nailed shut, and street-level trash cans have been replaced by transparent plastic garbage bags. Every railway station is continually patrolled by teams of uniformed soldiers toting military assault weapons. Ubiquitous signs advise citizens to report any unattended parcels, which citizens seem to do: the Musee d'Orsee was evacuated while we were there for just this reason.

Meanwhile, while standing in line at Customs in the Atlanta airport yesterday, I was able to discard my sandwich wrapper into a lovely metal trash can.

Then again, as Condi was testifying at more or less the same time, "no silver bullet" can stop a terrorist attack.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
~ current ~

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