By Joan Trevor
The French media, apparently, is dumbing down, becoming more like the US and UK, an obsession with celebrity and image — the French call this “pipolisation” — is growing.
This suits and doesn’t suit those politicians jockeying to be their parties’ candidate in the 2007 presidential elections. When you are plug-ugly, like Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the right-wing government party the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), it means you have got to work the crowd like never before. And that is what he has been doing throughout the summer.
In July he broke with publishing tradition and brought out a book of his personal political philosophy and some home truths – Testimony – unusually before the populous headed for the beaches. The gamble paid off as his book has been a bestseller.
Sarkozy jumped the gun again in a speech to young members at the UMP party’s summer school, on 3 September, where he promised French youth a “rupture” with the politics of the past.
If Sarkozy becomes president, his — Blair/Thatcher-sounding — rupture would include:
• an end to the 35-hour (maximum) working week
• children will stand up when their teacher enters the classroom
• a Republic based on merit, where everyone will have his chance
• a Republic where rights are balanced by duties
• six months’ compulsory community service for 18-30 year olds
• schools that teach children to grow up, instead of glorifying youth, and to know the difference between Antigone and Harry Potter
• in five years, unemployment will have fallen to 5%
• lower income tax, and zero tax on overtime
• replacing “the logic of sharing with the logic of growth, you must create wealth before you can distribute it”
• young people will save the world from environmental disaster - by, for example, following the principle “polluter pays” rather than by abolishing the market
• two days of the compulsory community service will consist of education about sustainable development
• investment in new and sustainable energy and in nuclear energy
• resolving the problem of under-development – not by compassion and charity alone and not by destroying European agriculture, but by “co-development”
• being better citizens of the world through being better citizens of France
• pride — including among children of non-French background — “in belonging to a great people that has sometimes committed faults…”
• a political EU, not just a free market, that belongs to its citizens, not just the “specialists”
• an EU jealous of its borders — “because not every country can belong to Europe” — and that favours its own members.
One feature of his speech is to foster a political generation war, blaming the social problems of the youth — and unemployment in particular — on the idealistic excesses of the spoilt baby boomer generation. “…the students who revolted in May 1968 were the children spoiled by the Glorious 30 years [1945-1973]. You are children of the crisis. They lived without constraints. You are paying the price.”
This fits with the bourgeois attempt to portray the trade unions, fighting to defend post-war social gains, such as the job security of those in work, as indifferent to the needs of the young, dead set against the “flexibility” that would suit the bosses, encourage enterprise and, in theory, create jobs for all.
According to his speech, for Sarkozy the parents of today’s young people, the generation of '68, “celebrated Mao and Castro”, whereas the youth of today, their children, stand in the tradition of the Prague Spring of 1968 and the young victims of the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. What a hypocrite!