June 30, 2022


France's unspoken, unfinished civil war (James Noyes, July 2022, The Critic)

France is a sombre tribe held together by its own mysterious internal logic, utterly impenetrable to the outsider and often opaque even to the French themselves. This logic moves in slow, seasonal cycles: during the long summer months, a period of quiet and apparent contentment descends on the baked cities and brimming countryside, followed by sudden, shocking acts of collective violence in winter. The farmers strike, setting fire to piles of rubber tyres on main roads. The gilets jaunes turn up in Paris and start to pull up the paving stones. They are beaten back by the police. In the banlieues, kids set cars alight. Then suddenly it is over, and spring comes around again.

Elections in France and the regular ritual of giving performative votes for the far right are a political continuation of this cycle. Most people believe that Le Pen will never be president, just as they know that the gilets jaunes will never succeed in storming Macron's palace and turning it into the new Bastille. But within the French internal logic, this impossibility does not matter. The symbolism of the outburst is sufficient -- and necessary -- for the quiet summer months to happen. 

The violence is, to use René Girard's words, a respite, a short moment of intense transgression that brings the tribe together around its own unfathomable purpose. For peace to be possible, a sacrifice must be made. The French Republic is made a scapegoat for the survival of France.

This is the mystery at the heart of the French paradox: it is a country that is both revolutionary and deeply conservative at the same time, both ungovernable and technocratic, a country where the Republic never really took hold and therefore has had to sustain itself in the symbolism of administrative order. It is a country of equality but not integration.

Having denied the soul, modern France has had nothing else but Identity to fall back on.  It is a racial state.  That's why the Right everywhere is so French. 

Posted by at June 30, 2022 8:30 AM