April 17, 2007

NOR NEED WE CARE WERE ISRAEL TO WAX THEM:

Round One: The battle for France (Jane Kramer April 23, 2007, The New Yorker)

Late one night toward the end of March, after a day spent listening to too many Frenchmen talk politics, I called room service at my Paris hotel, hoping for a sandwich. “We have ham and Emmental, on toast,” the waiter on the phone told me. “Good,” I said, “and could you grill the sandwich?” “No, Madame. The menu says ham and cheese; if we grill the sandwich, that would be more like a croque-monsieur.” “Agreed,” I said. “Make it more like a croque-monsieur.” “Alas,” he said, “that is not possible. A ham-and-cheese sandwich is never grilled, only when the menu says ‘croque-monsieur,’ and it does not say ‘croque-monsieur.’ ” It occurred to me then that I was lost in a very French conversation, and never mind that the waiter came from Senegal. He was French now, and our conversation was no different, really, from the ones I’d been having all day with those stock characters from the country’s ongoing campaign commedia—the pundits, the philosophes, and the pols.

The French are often accused of being trapped in their Cartesian categories. A cold sandwich cannot morph into a hot sandwich without considerable mental accommodation on the part of the person putting it together. In politics, the left cannot creep toward the center, let alone the right, without a deep, if not intolerable, sense of ideological betrayal. The right rarely even considers the possibility of creeping. Change, on the right, is more a matter of cosmetic surgery. For most of the French, the “center”—call it a third way or Clinton’s way or Blair’s way or simply a free-market, social-democratic consensus—has been a contradiction in terms, perhaps because they remain so deeply devoted to the protective and protectionist state, l’État protecteur, that both the left and the right have helped create. The state has been reified, even deified; it carries the imprimatur of a historic compromise with reality.


Because Rationalism requires that one not accept reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2007 9:55 AM
Comments

Should have tried a variation on the Jack Nicholson approach:

Bobby: I'd like a plain omelet. No potatoes, tomatoes instead. A cup of coffee and wheat toast.

Waitress: No substitutions.

Bobby: What do you mean? You don't have any tomatoes?

Waitress: Only what's on the menu. You can have a number two - a plain omelet. It comes with cottage, fries, and rolls.

Bobby: Yea, I know what it comes with, but it's not what I want.

Waitress: I'll come back when you make up your mind.

Bobby: Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I'd like a plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate. A cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast.

Waitress: I'm sorry, we don't have any side orders of toast. I'll give you a English muffin or a coffee roll.

Bobby: What do you mean "you don't make side orders of toast"? You make sandwiches, don't you?

Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?

Bobby: You've got bread. And a toaster of some kind?

Waitress: I don't make the rules.

Bobby: OK, I'll make it as easy for you as I can. I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.

Waitress: A number two, chicken sal san. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?

Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.

Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?

Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

Posted by: Rick T. at April 17, 2007 11:34 AM

That is a description of mental rut that is near-Soviet in its dogmatism. Talk about an 'opiate for the masses'.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 17, 2007 12:32 PM

Inspector Clouseau: Does your dog bite?

Inkeeper: No.

(Dog bites Clouseau)

Inspector Clouseau: I thought you said your dog does not bite?

Innkeeper: It's not my dog.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at April 18, 2007 1:38 AM
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