Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On Bastille Day - Vive La France !

Today. July 14th, is the 220th anniversary of the founding of Modern France.

On this day, a suffering, downtrodden, poverty-stricken people finally said "Enough !" and marched, torches and pitchforks in hand, to a glorious liberty on July 14, 1789.

Drawing inspiration from the American Revolution just a few years before, this brave and undaunted people inscribed the phrase "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood) alongside
"E Pluribus Unum" as guideposts for all men seeking to live in liberty, peace, justice and freedom.

However, the way forward for La Belle France was not easy. After the Revolution, France suffered from two dictatorships, ruinous wars with England and Prussia, two short-lived attempts to restore the Monarchy, a series of weak and ineffectual parliamentary governments, and no fewer than four
total revisions of its Constitution. Occupation by Germany in two world wars didn't help either.

It is, then, that we look as Nationalists to the re-birth of Modern Republican France some fifty-one years ago for inspiration. Facing the total meltdown of the French economy, the aftermath of two unsuccessful overseas wars in Vietnam and Algeria, and the possibility of an Army coup, Rene Coty, the last President of the Fourth French Republic, appealed to "The most illustrious of Living Frenchmen", General Charles de Gaulle, to come out of retirement and once again save his beloved France.

After a carefully staged, tense period of deliberation, De Gaulle agreed - provided he was given a free hand in writing a new Constitution, and the absolute power to rule by decree for no longer than six months.

The entire world was shocked - London and Moscow were apopleptic.
The Eisenhower Administration was outraged, as this directly threatened the entire American-designed structure of postwar European security.

But the canny De Gaulle was not to be outfoxed. Having quietly secured the support of German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, he then leaned on Ike, his wartime colleague, and carefully but firmly explained his plans.

Outmaneuvered, Eisenhower grudgingly decided to go along.

At the end of six months, De Gaulle submitted his Constution for the Fifth Republic to the Interim Assembly and the French people for approval. In an unprecedented referendum, 80% of the French electorate supported him. All the political parties (with the exception of the Socialists), quickly fell into line. And in January 1959, Charles De Gaulle was inaugurated as the first President of the Fifth French Republic, with presidential powers unprecedented for those times.

That's all well and good, you might say- what does that have to do with us today?

Consider the enormous legacy of De Gaulle:

Nuclear power. Concerned that France could be held hostage by a strike-prone coal sector, DeGaulle pushed the civilian nuclear industry with all the urgency of America's contemporary Apollo program. Today - France relies on electricity for 90% of its energy needs, and 90% of this is supplied by nuclear power - produced by clean, French-designed reactors, which produce twice the power and 1/5th the waste per kilogram of nuclear fuel compared to present American designs;

When you compare France to oil-dependent Europe and America, De Gaulle wasn't just visionary -he was prophetic;

Aviation. Long a producer of top-flight military aircraft, De Gaulle was outraged that Air France, the national carrier, had to rely on Les Americains for mere passenger aircraft. Convinced that France could do better, he forcibly merged the French civilian aircraft industry into one and commanded them
to be the Standard of the World - with the full support of the state;

The first product - the magnificent Concorde, set new standards in luxury and technology as it outraced the sun across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound. Britain immediately signed up to buy half the Concorde fleet. And Pan American (the then de facto national carrier), would have too- but for the intervention of Congress. The successor to the Concorde joint venture - Airbus Industrie - today rivals Boeing for the patronage of the world's airlines and supplies America's most innovative carriers;

Infrastructure. France transmits its electrical power on million-volt transmission lines - eight times as efficient as ours - and, is a Net Energy Exporter to the rest of Europe. High speed trains - TGV (Train a la Grande Vitesse) link all of Metropolitan France and by 2020, all of Europe, with airliner speed and comfort.

France has freeways rivaling the famed Autobahn - and in the current downturn, they are busy with new projects - while we debate how to implement our "stimulus";

Health Care, Education, and Social Safety: Universal, state-paid health care - instituted by De Gaulle - covers every Frenchman. Education through University is free - including the Sorbonne and La Ecole Polytechnique (France's unique West Point for civil sevants). Generous unemployment benefits and subsidies for the unemployed. An honest, hardworking Frenchman will not starve or lose his home if the economy makes him a victim. And for the working - access to personal training and development (paid for by the State), maternity and family leave, and four weeks of Holiday (vacation) paid for by a combination of employer and government subsidies;

And as for Culture, Fashion, Art, Cuisine, Food and Wine - show me a country that knows better how to LIVE than France.

All this having been said, France is not without issues. It has a tremendous illegal immigration problem - not just from Africa and the Middle East, but from poorer parts of Europe as well. It has been slow to transition its young people from school to the labor force, as its benefits are skewed toward the older working middle class.

As America discriminates against its unemployed middle-aged, so does France discriminate against its unemployed but educated young.

But, France today isn't standing still -they are moving ahead. Even better, they are doing it with a flair and insouciance that is at once both endearing and maddening to the rest of us .

Why? One might ask.

Because without flair, and a dash of La Gloire, as De Gaulle said:
"Without Glory, we might be, say, Belgium. But we would not be France".

With that said, the Significant Other is now preparing the carefully hoarded
Camembert and Brie, on elegant crackers, accompanied by a fine Puligny-Montrachet.

A lingering bistro dinner, at the classic hour, in the best Gallic tradition, will follow later in the evening....

Vive La France !!

-The Thinking Nationalist

No comments:

Post a Comment