Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sarkosy Busts French Abstract Deconstructionism

Bill Clinton brought a little jesuitical French thinking into the American political vocabulary when he mused on how "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Here is The Economist:
OF ALL the novelties of France under President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the more arresting is the decline of the abstract noun. In the past, no French leader would make a speech without liberal doses of destiny and history. In one speech Mr Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, squeezed 13 abstract nouns—unity, liberty, humanity and more—into a single sentence. He was almost outdone by his prime minister (and part-time poet), Dominique de Villepin, who came up with the declaration: “Globalisation is not an ideal, it cannot be our destiny.”

The contrast with the wordcraft of Mr Sarkozy is instructive. In his first big foreign-policy speech, he managed in 18 pages to utter neither the word glory nor the word grandeur. Unlike his British counterparts, who favour verbless sentences, Mr Sarkozy is a verbaholic. According to a linguistic analysis of his campaign speeches by Damon Mayaffre, of the University of Nice, one of Mr Sarkozy's most frequent words is I, usually followed by the verb want.

Anyone who has lived there and learned the language and the history of the country knows their love of mystification resembles getting high on their own farts.
LibĂ©ration, a left-leaning newspaper, to ask, “Is jogging right-wing?” It even moved a philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, to implore the president to take up the promenade—a “spiritual experience”—and to give up jogging, which is mere “body management”.

One doubts that Finkielkraut ever jogged, or got the endorphin high that rapid exercise gives an athlete. His dismissive tone reflects the other-worldly arrogance of an intellectual elite/class rapidly fading in France and hopefully about to do the same in the USA. More Economist musings on Sarkozy:
As for France's famously rigid school curriculum, he has little fondness for it. Too much time is spent, he has declared, “on doctrine, theory and abstraction”, and not enough on practical applications. How long will it be before he has a go at the national motto, a veritable wealth of abstraction: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity?

Wellington famously observed that "the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." Let's hope France realizes that her true potential may be mens sana in corpore sano and that the Cafe class begins to roll up its sleeves and put its shoulder to the wheel.

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