This was written last July, but he linked to it due to the referendum yesterday, and there’s just so much in it that I totally agree with and think myself, but see, he speaks with the sort of authority I so completely lack.
“I can’t help thinking we’re due another eruption, a 1789 or a 1968. At the moment, France is simply internalizing its anxieties, ulcerating its innards.”…
The tradition starts in 1789. This year kicks off such a glorious period of political and social instability that the bloodshed up to Waterloo becomes the reservoir for subsequent revolutions. By July 1830, France was in revolt again. In 1848, France joined the rest of Europe in a year of revolution. Twenty-three years later, in 1871, Napoleon III’s empire collapsed with the Paris Commune. The Great War of 1914–18 and the alliance with the fascists, 1940-44, must be considered revolutions as France was so turned on its head that no further revolt occurred until 1968.
The revolution of 1968 was, by all accounts, a disappointment. The revolting students could not entice the workers to their banners. There is something of playing at a revolution in this year, as if the French had already realized that history was being made elsewhere. I was only four years old, so cannot offer any personal comments on this revolution. I live not so much in the hope, as in the expectation, that one day I will have this opportunity.
Besides the anecdote provided by Mr. Broughton, what further evidence is there that France is in a pre-revolutionary phase? One might cite the persistence of high unemployment in France and the “let them eat cake” response from a political elite that includes the trade union guilds. One might refer to the social and cultural chasm between immigrant France and the natives. One could mention the 10,000 dead in last year’s heatwave because the holiday culture has grown so inflexible that not enough workers remained behind to care for grandma. One might describe a political elite that cannot be turned out by any known voting practices and a media that makes a virtue of its collusion with this political class (the French are so above a scandal, you see, unlike the prurient Anglo-Saxons who humiliate their betters with those dreadful tabloid headlines).
Exactly! I dunno. It makes me vewy vewy uneasy.