The sick man of Europe

The Lileks piece on poetry that appears below was posted by Natalie Solent in the context of her remarks about pro-war poets. The fun starts with her comment of June 11 .
Solent’s site also led me to this FrontPageMagazine symposium on “The Death of France?”. It consists of two parts, the second of which is here. The views of the participants range from “France has died and gone to hell” to “France is quite sick but has a chance of recovering if it changes direction immediately.” Here are some highlights:
From Guy Milliere a French economist, professor, and author: “France behaves more and more as if she does not belong to the West and as though she is the leader of the third world. Doing this, France has nothing to win, maybe just second-rate contracts and an ephemeral popularity among all the frustrated [people] in the world. France will win only one thing, and for a short time, peace inside France: it will avoid riots among Muslims living in France now. . . .France is a very sick country. . . .France is still anti-Semitic today; the new French anti-Semitism has three sources, the hate of the extreme right for Jews, the hate of Muslims for Jews, the hate of leftists for Israel. . . .The French dream to see the United States defeated. Just [out of] envy.”
From Alan Madelin a French politician and head of a neo-conservative think tank: “I hope it’s still possible to change the situation, but it would be necessary to act now. Within a few years it will be too late. Already it’s very late: the positions adopted by the French government concerning the war upon Iraq were partly dictated by the fear of riots. In many French schools, professors have to skip the history of the [holocaust]. . . . [The French] failure has many roots. Unemployment is very high. It’s often very difficult for a young Muslim to find a job. . . .France is a welfare state where it’s easy to earn more money asking for assistance than looking for a job. . . .For years, the police have been very weak. Law and order have disappeared in [large parts] of the suburbs of the big cities. . . .In schools, leftist teachers teach young Muslims that France colonized their countries and that the French army committed atrocities. The result: many young Muslims hate France.”
From Yves Roucaute, philosopher and professor of political science at the University of Paris: “I must agree with Madelin and Milliere. France is a very sick nation. Sometimes, I think that it’s only if France pays the full price for its positions that some real change will come. It’s not really the fault of the French people; they receive very bad information. It’s the fault of the politicians who have no courage and explain nothing. It’s the fault of journalists who prefer Islam to American because the majority of them have been leftists in the sixties when they were young. They have not changed, they are just older.”
From Jean-Francois Revel, renowned author and member of the French academy: “France is the prey of an anti-American obsession. For the French, Americans are the enemy they have to hate in every circumstance. They have to hate Americans because Americans are successful, because Americans are powerful, because the French prefer resentment to achievement. They are so obsessed by their hatred of the United States they do not see the real dangers confronting France. It’s a very dangerous situaion. I do not know how we could [get] out of this situation. I honestly don’t know if it is even still possible.”
The closest to an alternative, more optimistic, prognosis came from the two Americans on the panel. But their optimism was only in comparison to the gloomy reflections of their French counterparts.
From Toni Kamins, author of The Complete Jewish Guide to France: “I believe the problems described are not quite as extreme as they are painted to be, though they may very well become that extreme.”
From Charles Kupchan, professor at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations: “France’s position on the Iraq war was influenced by its Muslim population — France feared domestic unrest. But the French government opposed the war for several other reasons — the impact on the Arab world, the difficulties of post-war reconstruction, the potential increase in terrorism, the need to tame U.S. power. It is also important to keep in mind that most of Europe’s electorate was strongly opposed to the war. . . .France certainly has a growing Muslim population that, given its demographic shortfall, [will continue] to grow in the years ahead. A key question is how and in what ways France seeks to bulid a more multi-ethnic society and integrates into the social mainstream. . . .France needs to do a better job. . . urgently.”
In the end, one thinks of this quotation from Guy de Maupassant, and hopes that it is apt: “Things are never as good or as bad as they seem.”

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