(asked by Araminta, Oxfordshire, UK)

Hi there, very interesting blog by the way.
I would like to know your opinion on les Intellectuels in France. Who would you say the main intellectuels are at the moment and what is their political orientation? Some seem to claim to be de gauche (liberal) while supporting politicians de droite (conservative). How would you define un intellectuel? Is it enough for them to be intelligent and write books on science/philosophy/sociology or must they also be fully in the public eye and appear frequently in the media? Would you say the young scientist Esther Duflo could count as a modern intellectual as suggested by John Lichfield in the Independant?

Hi Araminta,

Thanks for your question and for the compliment.
Your question is very interesting, although very hard to answer.
Thankfully, you asked for my opinion, so I can afford to be subjective on this one.

So, my answer to “who do I think are the main intellectuals in France at the moment?” is a pretty easy one: none, zilch, nothing.
Claude Lévi-Strauss died in 2009 and if I’m not wrong, he was the last French “intellectual”. For some reason, I feel another one died in 2010 but I can’t find who he could be, so maybe not.
In any case, that’s it. It’s over, no more French Intellectual. Possibly for the first time since they started (who was the first one? Descartes?), we don’t have a single one.
Yes, another domain where France lost its influence.

Clowns, that we do have in numbers. Just turn the TV on, and sooner than later, you will find a talk show with people debating the current events and all pretending/acting as if they are the descendants of Voltaire and Sartre, but that’s a lie. They’re just vain clowns.

And yes, most of these clowns pretend to be leftist (because an intellectual is always a leftist, isn’t he? It goes with the title) while supporting conservative and right wing politicians, because this is where the power is in France nowadays, and as those people are courtiers (or court jesters, it depends, sometimes both at the same time) they do support whoever is in power.

Is it enough for them to be intelligent and write books on science/philosophy/sociology or must they also be fully in the public eye and appear frequently in the media?

Bernard Henri Levy just met a cream pie

Here you’re touching the heart of the issue really. Because in all honesty, there still are intellectuals in France, but they are in their offices, in their labs and wherever else real researchers and thinkers are, not in the public eye and in front of a camera.

Yes, there are many brilliant and influential people in France, people like Esther Duflo (whom I didn’t know previously… see, real intellectuals are unknown nowadays), who you won’t see debating the latest breaking news on TV, nor dine at the Élysée Palace. The only public place where you can see them are in the Collège de France indeed, a place where not a single of these clowns has the single chance to ever go (except as an attendee of course).

Just a few more lines to mention the name I’ve been alluding to since the very beginning of this post (and this is his picture, one of my favorite picture of him), that is Bernard Henri Levy.

I don’t know how he became famous in the English speaking world, but please English speaking people, please, stop thinking that this guy is worth anything. He is one of the vainest sycophants I have ever seen in my life.

He is totally full of shit. He has never done nor wrote anything that would even remotely qualify him as an “intellectual.” The only thing he’s good at is weaving his network of influential people in order to become influential himself. Nowadays, he has reached the pinnacle of that career as he is good friends with Sarkozy (who is totally uncultured and uneducated and who probably thinks that Levy is a real intellectual). The problem is that now he has a real influence. And that my friends is a scary thought.

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  53 Responses to “What is your opinion on the “Intellectuels” in France?”

  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Frenchman. What do you think of the current breed of American intellectuals, then, like Fredric Jameson, Judith Butler and co.? Also, what about the fashionable thinker of the month, Slavoj Zizek? Do any of these guys have more merit in your eyes or are they also mere sycophants. I personally lean towards the latter…

    • Mmm… Is there such a thing as American intellectuals? (ok, I admit it’s a cheap shot ;-) )
      Seriously, I am not familiar with many of them, my years in the Academia being spent mostly in French studies.
      I remember starting a book by Fredric Jameson once, but not finishing it. I can’t remember why, it may not have been because it sucked, really I can’t remember.
      I have never heard of Judith Butler.
      Slavoj Zizek… I know his name… But that’s all. I only know his name, I don’t know anything else about him.

      However (I’ll expand a bit in another comment below), when I say “is there such a thing as American intellectuals?” sure it’s a joke, but I also somewhat mean it in the sense that the stereotypical “French intellectual” is a man (sometimes a woman, but it’s rare) who is both very important in his field and a public figure at the same time. Sartre, I think, is the stereotypical “French intellectual” (and the most famous one abroad, isn’t he?)
      In the US, you don’t really have such people, who are both important among their peers and celebrities. The only name I can think of is Chomsky, and even him seems more famous abroad than in the US.

      Thats being said, you have other issues in the US with the “publish or perish” attitude of the academia lots of bullshit end up being published and a lot of people who have nothing interesting to say become “published authors” who then can become more or less influential in the academic spheres if they made the right connections.

      • Thanks for your response Frenchman. By the way, I am an Australian, not an American, so I don’t mind what you say. ;-) The “publish or perish” attitude exists in our country as well, though and does lead to a lot of garbage being produced.

        • Whoops, sorry. I knew you’re an Australian, I just didn’t realize it was you.

          And yes, the “publish or perish” leading to lots of garbage is in every English speaking country I think (note sure).

  2. I don’t know much about France, but I think what you said applies to most countries: the intellectuals are all in the academic places, while the clowns are in the public sphere.

    We studied Esther Dufflo in a human rights class. She really stood out to me as the best. While all the other intellectuals devoted most of their time thinking over why we should bother giving aid, or how to give aid, she was the first one who suggested to use the scientific method to measure how effective the help was. So I really like her approach - it’s practical, while everyone else was stuck in all the philosophical mechanisms of giving aid (which is great for discussion and everything - but I thought they would have concluded all those arguments a while back).

    Oh, and thanks for mentioning Bernard Henri Levy, lol. He was on a news channel a month back, and he came across as so arrogant and ignorant. All he did was smile and shout down the argument of the other person. For some reason, every time something to do with France happens, he is called in to the news networks.

    • “the intellectuals are all in the academic places, while the clowns are in the public sphere”

      As I mentioned in the previous comment, fact is that France was famous for having his intellectuals both in the academia and in the public sphere. This has been the case for as long as I can think of, and that split is relatively recent. Another sign that France too has joined the dumbocratic group of nations.

      Concerning Bernard Henri Levy, glad you could see through the bullshit, but not everybody does abroad. Why does he get invited in the news networks and such? Well, connections… He spent the last 40 years becoming the good friends of the powerful (both politicians and in the media).

  3. Is Voltaire very, very popular in Frane? Because many people over here in the U.S. haven’t heard of him! I just finished Candide, and I think he’s absolutely brilliant!

    • Yes Voltaire is considered as one of the most important thinkers of his time (if not ever).
      I personally think that Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot basically created the modern western world (for better or worse). I’m sure the Brits will disagree with that statement though. ;-)

      Voltaire unknown in the US? Well, is anybody of importance known in the US?

      • well, the right answer to the last question would be Kim Kardashian! :)

        • I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if my English teacher doesn’t know Voltaire’s work. It’s really true, Kim Kardashian is far more well known than Voltaire here. It’s sickening! Stupid pop culture…

      • FWIW, by way of comparison, Voltaire is one of those people who is well-known in Australia but little read, even by people who have studied literature. Most people at least know some of his quotes but whether they realise they were coined by him is another matter. (Rousseau would fit into the same category.)

        I must confess that I am almost as guilty as everyone else - I have not yet read Candide or Zadig. However, in my defence, I have read Micromegas and a few miscellaneous short pieces.

        • In France, every French kid has read at least two books of Voltaire (and Candide is mostly one of them).

          Mentioning Voltaire’s quotes, apparently his more famous one in the English speaking world is ” I disagree with what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it.” The only problem is that it’s nowhere to be found in his writings. :-)
          Apparently it was invented by a guy writing a book about Voltaire to summarize his thought.
          Ah, quotes… That’s why I never use any.

          • Yes, that is one of the quotes of which I was thinking. Thanks for telling me it didn’t actually originate with him! :-p

          • I suspected you were thinking about this one (it’s the most known in the English speaking world), hence my mentioning of it. :-)

  4. Hi,

    some more opinion from a french guy, reflecting what the blogmaster is saying : not a lot of intellectuals left in France.

    BHL is a fuming pile of bullshit in the mind of an immense majority around here, except for a circle of rich elite, clueless politicians and has-been editorialists.
    Some other are becoming quite ridiculous (Finkielkraut comes to mind) even though they did produce an interesting work in the past (around 1980 mostly).

    Now, you do have intellectuals on the margins of the news/entertainment world : Edgar Morin for example (but he’s 80 something) André Comte-Sponville on the classical side, and the controversial but always interresting Michel Onfray. Those three do produce a continuous body of work.

    Aside of these, well not much … or better said, a lot of of people with no access to medias, most of the time because they are not able, or refuse to reduce their works to one liners or simplistic POV, like most of the clown mentionned above.

    So yes, the time of Voltaire, Montesquieu or Tocqueville is far away, very sadly.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      Yeah, I didn’t want to mention Finkelkraut (and Soral) mostly because they’re completely unknown out of France, and even in France they’re pretty irrelevant when you think about it.

      Michel Onfray, not sure what to think of him. Sometimes he says interesting thing, but at other times he makes me think of a slightly smarter and more honest version of Levy.

      • Yes, Onfray is mostly a less well-connected, just-as-arrogant-and-narcissicistic-as-BHL figure… Onfray’s rap is mostly studying lesser-known philososophers, philosophers he claims the academic world refuses to study or even blacks out, in the name of some mythical academic etiquette according to which only “great” philosophers (Plato, Descartes, Kant…) should be studied. The problem in this BS is that in philosophy departments, you can study just any author you want, no censorship at all… Reading Onfray, particularly his “Traité d’athéologie”, one thing struck me: while writing, he always carefully avoids the argument that he would have to fight to make his point, therefore giving the glow of obviousness to his discourse for the amateur reader - but for a philosophy teacher and doctorate student like me, it is really funny how Onfray conspicuously knows that argument A exists that could bring down his point B, but manages to hush it down… To sum up, he sets up a straw man against which he wins an easy victory… but à vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire! What he is doing is Canada dry philosophy, philosophy without the taste of battle and debate, where he is the only one right.

        • I particularly remember an interview in the morning news on France Inter in which Onfray spent 20 minutes saying absolutely nothing about current events; it felt like it was done at the corner café! He’s just like the others, what Bourdieu called the “fast thinkers”; people who value quickness of reaction over relevance and content (remember, on TV or radio, you have to talk right away, no time for pondering and giving a well-thought answer…)

        • Thanks for the details.
          (although I’m not sure non-French people will get the “Canada Dry” reference, I mean, the drink is known, but the expression?)

  5. Jacques Rancière?
    Perhaps being an intellectual could mean thinking and writing new/important ideas, and becoming known to the public not by going on TV oneself but by being quoted and referred to in the media and by those TV debaters? But I suppose that what you’re saying is that when it comes to becoming known as an ‘intellectuel’ there’s more to it than simply the merit of the person’s work - it takes connections, a willingness to pander, things like that. Even with respect to Esther Duflo, the Independent article pointed out that one reason there was such “buzz” around her appearance at the Collège de France is that she’s young and female & therefore a novelty. If that wasn’t the case, her work would be even more unknown, I suppose.
    I didn’t know about the Collège de France - thank you. : )

    • Yes basically. :-)
      Becoming an “intellectual” (the French stereotypical one) requires strong academic credentials and an ability to become somewhat popular among the elites and/or the would-be elites, and even people like Sartre and Voltaire were not perfect on the pandering side of things.
      Glad you learned about Collège de France thanks to this blog, it’s one of the best institution we have in France (although I never really took advantage of it when I lived in Paris).
      Oh and I have no idea who Jacques Rancière is, sorry (I’ll google it now)

  6. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one living in France who thinks BHL is an idiot. Even more so, since he stuck up for DSK.

    • Oh, it’s not just us, I think that anyone in France with a little education and who’s not themselves a courtier knows that BHL is worthless.

      Concerning DSK though, I will abstain commenting. Even if I think he’s a sleazy pig, I also think he’s innocent until proven guilty and I still wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing was a trap to destroy him.

  7. I am so glad you mentioned Claude Lévi-Strauss ! And I am so glad you also think of him that highly ! Tristes Tropiques has been one of our favorite ( my husband and mine) books and I remember how we were debating it , many years ago, when we were students and how much we were admiring Lévi-Strauss and his work ! It is so good and refreshing to see that in such “postmodern” days people still have coherent cultural staples. Because you see, this is a time when googling Lévi-Strauss you get straight to the jeans …

  8. Besides the fake “pop stars” intellectuals (BHL, Finkelkraut) there are (were) much more influential “intellectuels” like Bourdieu (dead in 2002) warmly detested by the medias and the establishment… Foucault, and others more known abroad than in France like Derrida or Deleuze

    • Well, I mentioned them in “they’re all dead”. They are the “they”.
      (ok, I didn’t actually write “they’re all dead” but it was more than implied, wasn’t it?)

      • Why do you think that the likes of Derrida and Deleuze were taken up more readily in the English-speaking world whilst they were derided/ignored at home?

        • I’ve never really thought about it.
          My gut feeling would be that it is because of French academia’s conservatism: “you have to be dead to be respected and studied” and those sorts of things.
          But really I don’t know.

  9. Thanks for the most interesting topic.

    I did learn a thing or two about the subject of the intellectuels in France and elsewhere.

    It is interesting to see how intellectuels are so highly valued in the political sphere in France, yet no so in the US and in Canada ( in Québec Province that is ).

    In Québec we are more known for les Arts de la scènes ( such as the Cirque du Soleil ), and creative arts in which we really excell.

    As in the US, we have some people who are famous for the provocative value, but I will refrain from naming some.

    I feel that intellectualism is simply not valued in la Belle Province, and that would be too sad.


    • You’re welcome.
      Concerning “Intellectuals are so highly valued in the political sphere in France”.
      It’s not as simple.
      On the one hand, you have France’s reputation (and self-belief) that it is the country of Enlightenment, the country that invented human rights, that used the strongest soft-power in the world (why is French the official language of the UN, the Olympic Games and many other international organization?)
      So, yes, politicians tend to like being surrounded by intellectuals and were intellectual themselves. See our presidents in the 5th Republic: De Gaulle was a great writer, Pompidou’s knowledge of poetry was huge (his Anthology of French Poetry is considered as one of the best around), Mitterrand’s culture would put to shame pretty much anyone, even Chirac who seems like a redneck compared to the others (an image he built by the way, he was born and raised in Paris) is basically a specialist of Far East culture.

      You may have noticed that I used the past, because, nowadays, along the death of all intellectuals and no new generation to replace them, we also have a new kind of President: the uncultivated president. And of course, the uncultivated president wants the people to think otherwise.
      On the one hand, you should hear some courtiers nowadays saying how he has changed, now he reads a lot, he can quote so many writers and so on (note: he’s not fooling anybody) and on the other hand he surrounds himself with intellectuals, or at least, who he thinks are intellectuals, in other words well-connected sycophants like, you guessed it, Bernard Henri Levy. Seriously, I bet what you want that if there’s ever a new Sarkozy government - I hope that doesn’t happen, it’d most likely mean that he got reelected - Levy will be part of the government.

  10. “Here you’re touching the heart of the issue really. Because in all honesty, there still are intellectuals in France, but they are in their offices, in their labs and wherever else real researchers and thinkers are, not in the public eye and in front of a camera.” This is true everywhere. In the era of 24 hour newztainment and ‘reality tv’ almost anyonoe who is trying to get seen on tv is just pandering for fame and a book deal.

    I am glad you opted to answer that question, it opened an interesting conversation.

    • “In the era of 24 hour newztainment and ‘reality tv’ almost anyonoe who is trying to get seen on tv is just pandering for fame and a book deal.”

      It’s a bit different in France though. France has a lot tradition of TV debates where back in the days, some real decent people (including intellectuals) would go.
      But these days are gone. The TV debates are still there (they’re even ubiquitous now), but people taking parts in them are politicians and sycophants mostly.

      “I am glad you opted to answer that question, it opened an interesting conversation.”

      Yes, this is the type of question that make me go on with this blog. :-)

  11. Just some thoughts….

    I will suppose that they are in it for the glam. Seriously, there are no Statesmen anymore.

    It’s a sign of the times, perhaps Sarkozy’s vision of the Economy is more pragmatic and he will pave the way for a France Make-over ? It seems he does have flair to address these pressing issues of the Economy, the strikes, etc…

    Nowadays it is much more about the image of the President and his clique, than about decision - making or answering to the aspirations of the People.

    Tasse - toi p’tit con. Sarkozy should have said tasse - toé p’tit con and he would have sounded like a real Québécois ;-)

    • I’m afraid you have been misinformed about Sarkozy.
      He and his government are the worst President/Government we’ve had in a very long time (definitely the worst of all within the 5th Republic).
      And Sarkozy is really the political version of BHL in a sense.
      You say he has flair for those things?
      The truth is that he fails miserably every time, but he controls the media in such a way (being constantly on TV, having constantly something to say) that people who don’t pay attention (including foreign media) think he does a lot when all he does is say that he will do this and that, and then this, and then that.
      If you don’t double check, you’d think he does a lot. If you do, you see empty word after empty word among empty promises.
      The only things he succeeded at doing are :
      -Helping financiers and bankers attacking the middle class which may not recover from it.
      -Pitting lower classes against each other so that they don’t see that it’s not the “others” who become richer at their expense, but the already richer classes of the population.
      -Flattering the most racist and vile instincts among the uneducated classes so that when needed immigrants would be the perfect scapegoats.

      This guy is despicable, and he’s damaging France in a way that it may just not recover.

      • I am glad I am not faced with the choice you have in your next election between Sarkozy, Strauss-Kahn (or his successor) and Marine Le Pen.

        If you walked into a Pigalle brothel at midnight and randomly pointed at the first three customers you saw, you would probably select three better candidates than those clowns. :-p

        Seriously, though, it is tragic that this is the calibre of the candidates you are facing these days.

        Of course, Australia cannot boast given the war mongers/US sycophants we have had in in recent years. Where is this generation’s equivalents of Jean Jaures (for both our countries)?

        • Strauss-Khan is definitely out, even if he’s proven not guilty.
          Le Pen has no chance to win whatsoever (I’m not sure how she’s presented abroad, but the way the electoral system works in France makes it impossible for her - and many other - to win).
          Martine Aubry and François Hollande (one of them will most likely be our next president), while I’m not a huge fan of them (but at this point I don’t think I’m a fan of any politician on Earth), are decent and competent people.
          They may both lack the charisma needed to rule France, but they’re intelligent, educated and not totally bought out by the lobbies. Will they make France a better place to live? I doubt it, but they can at least slow its descent in the downward spiral that it is, even if today, governments don’t really control much anymore (see the Greek crisis, see the debt issue in the US, etc)

          • Thanks for that info. In the Australian news media, quite a deal of fuss is made over the fact that Le Pen has “dominated” some opinion polls, which implies to the reader that she has some real chance of an upset win, especially after the Strauss-Khan fiasco. They seem to be misleading us just a little…

          • This is from one of our more respectable news sites:

            “Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her rival’s presidential hopes had been crushed. Strauss-Kahn and Le Pen have led recent opinion polls ahead of conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy, even though he was yet to declare his candidacy.”


            They don’t qualify those statements and say that she actually has no chance of becoming leader. (Of course, other news sources, such as those owned by one Mr Rupert Murdoch, are even more sensationalist…)

          • Here is a very sensationalist article from an English tabloid newspaper:


            Note the headline and then the first para of the body. They even seem to be confusing the roles of president and prime minister. :-p

          • Sorry, that should read *Australian* tabloid newspaper. Daily Telegraph is a Sydney paper owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation.

          • Yes, it’s pretty shameful that they’re confusing “president” and “prime minister”, but hey, if most journalists did their homework because publishing their papers we’d know it.

            I remember that poll. I barely raised an eyebrow.
            That poll was conducted earlier this year, with “potential candidates” as runners. In other words, it means nothing.
            It was more than one year before the elections, and I’m sure that if I had been polled, I would have answered something crazy (why not Le Pen?) just for kicks.

            Thing is that journalists are obsessed with opinion polls, we have polls constantly in France. They mean nothing, are always wrong (if they were true, Balladur would have become President en 1995 and Jospin would have in 2002), and yet, journalists keep on publishing them (and they’ll do it more and more as the date of the election approaches) and of course foreign journalists jump on those that have surprising and shocking results. I assume they haven’t talked about the 10 or so other polls that had nothing special to them?

            Finally, the reason why she has no chances to win, is because the French presidential election is a two rounds elections, and even if she arrived first in the first round, it doesn’t matter, she’d be facing a mainstream candidate in the second round who would assuredly win.
            Actually this is already how Chirac got reelected in 2002).

          • Thanks for that. Yes, I know you have the two-round system so I never really thought that a *majority* of French would be nostalgic enough to return to a 1943 Vichy-style leader… She is probably just getting a really large protest vote.

            The articles do paint this as a possibility though and, as I said, if it were a choice between people as dire as Sarkozy, Strauss-Khan and her, I would not know who I could, in conscience, choose.

            However, supposes she knocked out a conservative like Sarkozy in the first round and it was between her and the socialist party. From what you are saying, there is no chance the Sarkozy supporters would turn to her - they would rather go back to the mainstream left than the hard right. Australia is still a Constitutional Monarchy but if we had a presidential voting system like yours, I could imagine many right wingers voting for an extremist rather than the centre-left if they were faced with that choice.

          • Of course, never say never, and conservatives are traditionally less willing to compromise (i.e. to be able to use their brain) than “liberals” (aka “left” liberal having a completely different meaning in French, I’m always conflicted about using the word when dealing with French politics) are.
            We’ve already seen that in local elections.
            When there has been a run-off Conservatives Vs Front National, the Left has called to vote for the “Republican” party (not US meaning here either, this means the party that abides to French Republic Principles, aka not the Front National), whereas when there as been a run-off Left Vs Front National, the Right didn’t suggest such a thing most of the time. However most of the people still did it.

            If it was a run-off Le Pen Vs Aubry for example (most Conservatives really hate Aubry), I think Conservatives would be really split as to what to do, and I’m pretty sure they would split on their voting (would it split the party? hopefully yes, but I doubt it). Aubry would still win, but with a much narrow margin that a Conservative would win against Le Pen.

            The deal with conservatives in France is that there are two kinds of them grouped in the same party. Half of them are decent people, they’re called “Gaullists” because they are the ones who think that Charles de Gaulle was the best thing to happen to France since the invention of red wine. And then you are all the scumbags and assholes who see the world the way Anglo Conservatives see it, a world money is everything, you have it, you also have power, education, freedom and more, you don’t, you have the right to be a slave for the former. (guess what side Sarkozy is?)

            I really wish the UMP (the Conservative Party) would split so that we get a clearer picture of who is who in it, but while some people (De Villepin, Borlo) are pushing for that split or something similar, they don’t do it vocally enough (and most people know they need to stay with Sarkozy if they want to keep their power and influence - and money - even if they disagree with him.)

        • Thanks for your reply, especially after the atrocious grammar in my last post yesterday! My only excuse was I was very tired when I wrote it.

          Australia was somewhat the same, with a mixture of moderate and hard rightists in our conservative party (ironically called the Liberals.) In the mid-1990s, the moderate Liberal leader, John Hewson, lost what was considered to be an “unlosable” election. In the aftermath, most of the moderates were purged from the Party.

          Under a hardliner, John Howard, they won the next election easily (the socialist Labor Party government of Paul Keating had plunged the country into recession.) At the same time, our own (albeit much, much less intelligent) answer to Marine Le Pen, Pauline Hanson, had become massively popular. To steal votes from her, the Howard Government lurched even further to the Right. Finally, a few years later, September 11 happened, and the Howard Government used that as an excuse to tie ourselves even more closely to the US and become rapidly anti-immigration and pro-war/pro-military.

          Fortunately, in 2007, the Government was finally defeated after unpopular workplace reforms (Australians didn’t care about moral/humanitarian issues outline above, only about things that affect their wealth) and Howard himself couldn’t even win his own seat back.

          Unfortunately, the new Labor Government has proven quite weak and it seems Howard’s former chief attack dog, Tony Abbott, will be the next prime minister, so we will be back to where we started. The only saving grace is that, at the moment, the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate (the upper house) so they will hopefully be strong enough to curtail Abbott’s excesses.

          It is not an underestimate to say that Australia was completely transformed in the 1990s though from a relaxed culture into an increasingly conservative, nationalist one, as indicated by an increased emphasis on noxious events like Anzac Day. Whilst never as culturally liberal as the western European nations, we became more prudish and “Americanised” in that era, more “patriotic” (in the worst sense of the word) and more racist/fearful of refugees.

          I hope France does not ever head down the same path as you offer an alternative vision of a free and democratic society than that presented by the Americans/Australians.

          • Thanks for your summary of the situation in Australia of the past few years.
            I remember, back in college (circa 1996) I was studying all Anglo cultures, and what I got from Australian culture classes was that Australia was a great country, maybe the most open-minded country in the world (the unofficial title of the class was: Australia, or multiculturalism that works). And then John Howard got elected…
            Actually, back then, it was just before I move to the US, and it really was a toss-up between Australia and the US (but worry not, it was not John Howard who made me decide for the US but a bunch of non-related-to-politics factors).

          • … and he is still yet to face consequences of any kind. This is from a news item just posted a few minutes ago:


            There is no justice.

            I was shocked to hear today that France may possibly lose its Triple-A Credit Rating as well. I presume, if that happens, Sarkozy will be absolutely finished politically.

            As for multi-culturalism, Australia has a mixed record. Yes, we don’t have large-scale riots (Cronulla being the only exception) and, apart from Pauline Hanson’s brief moment in the sun, extreme right (and extreme left for that matter) parties have never gained much traction here. However, there is an undercurrent of racism, primarily amongst the elderly, insular rural people and disenfranchised youths.

            As per my previous post, although Hanson only briefly gained political traction, Howard did take his “mainstream” party to the hard right and was re-elected repeatedly and one part of his strategy was to generate fear about Muslim terrorists and boat people/queue jumpers/illegal immigrants (as asylum seekers were termed by his government.)

            I happen to work in a very multi-cultural office and there was an interesting discussion the other day between a Pakistani girl and an American girl who are both almost the same age and have both been in Australia for about a year. The American girl realised she had experienced much more “racism” than the Pakistani Muslim, although she is white-skinned and the Pakistani is dark. It seems, from this, that there is more resentment now against US cultural and economic imperialism than there is from fear of Muslims, at least in this major, multi-cultural city in which I live.

          • I second you for the “there’s no justice” thing.

            Concerning the triple A rating. Personally, I don’t care, I even hope the whole economy crumbles all over the world right now. Governments have lost all power, it’s agencies and financiers who control us now, except that we have no way of controlling them (which elections could somewhat do with governments).
            Even a revolution is not a viable option anymore. Look what’s happening in London (i.e. exactly the same thing that happened in Paris suburbs 6 years ago). Those people have every right to be angry and to riot, but do you think these idiots would think about attacking Downing Street or the City? No, they’d rather attack their neighbors. They think they’re making their lives better by stealing brand clothes and TVs.

            As someone said: “Before, 99% of the people had nothing, and 1% had everything. So we had a revolution. Now, 1% of the people have everything and 99% have television.”

            The people in power have nothing to fear right now, except for losing their millions. So, let’s give them just that.

            And how unsurprising that the Australian Right is using the same spiteful tools that the French Right does. The French government has only one thing going for him right now, exacerbating xenophobia (and we know this always end well).

            Glad to hear the Paskistani girl doesn’t experience racism that much in Australia. Concerning the American girl, I want to say “good” too in a strange way. White people (and I am one of them) need to start realizing that they don’t own the rest of the world anymore (and the US even less).

          • Unfortunately, the US are building this new toy:


            To quote:

            “The hypersonic plane, which is supposed to travel at Mach 20 (21,000 kilometres per hour), could potentially provide the US military with a platform for striking targets anywhere on the planet within minutes using conventional weapons.

            The weapon which is still in development, is part of what the US Air Force has dubbed “prompt global strike” capability.

            “The ultimate goal is a capability that can reach anywhere in the world in less than an hour,” DARPA said on its website.”

            So, they want to be able to attack anywhere in the world within minutes and, despite the news article, who is to say it won’t have biological or nuclear weapons. Without being too alarmist, that, to me, is truly frightening. Remember that no one really understood the effect that new weapons would have in the First World War. Now, with these things, the US (and China/Russia when they copy this technology) could turn the whole planet into a battlefield. No offence to any Americans reading this blog but I am sorry, you are a country of warmongering, imperialist bastards. I can no longer feel any sympathy whatsoever.

            As for your comments on the riots, yes, I agree. I was surprised no one seemed to have gone near the UK House of Parliament/10 Downing St/Buckingham Palace. Interestingly, I don’t think the Queen, supposedly the unifying force/figurehead of the nation, has even responded to the riots yet. If so, it definitely wasn’t reported over here.

            The economic crisis does worry me in terms of the potential for a return to the far right. I heard something yesterday: in Italy, of a class of 20 uni students, only three had obtained jobs. One of them had found work in China and two in Brussels. In Italy itself, the only companies experiencing growth are those owned by Berlusconi. If that is representative of the nation as a whole, then clearly it is unsustainable.

            I am just listening a story about the rise in the far right in the US now as I type this that was on television last night:


            With that and the rise of the Tea Party types, I don’t know how things will turn out in the US/EU over the next year or two.

            Anyway, that is enough doom and gloom for one day.

            On a happier note, given my interest in French culture, I am pleased to say I just joined the local branch of Alliance Francaise. I don’t know how much value I will get out of it as I don’t quite have the time for language lessons just yet but they have film nights, art exhibits and other cultural events. The “Beaujolais Nouveau” Festival sounds interesting! ;-)

          • Well, I can’t say I disagree with you.

            (although, on a positive point, the prototype plane was lost on its second flight)

            Congrats for joining the Alliance Française, but beware, Beaujolais Nouveau is the crappiest wine we have in France (hence the whole festival ploy to manage to sell it, nobody would drink it otherwise, and in the end the only people who drink it are students because it’s a cheap way to get drunk and foreigners because they’ve been told that it’s a great wine and a great tradition, and they don’t know better).
            However, the Festival itself can be fun (I used to go when there was one near me, I’d just drink beer or vodka there and have fun ;-) )

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