‘When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.’
— Victor Hugo
Even the most slow-witted, woolly-minded, scatter-brained armchair wikistorian among us cannot have failed to form some dim impression of what happens when you try to tell the French people what they can and cannot do.
When our Gallic chums say ‘Non!’, they mean just that.
If their politicians or ‘rulers’ say ‘Non!’ on their behalf, as when De Gaulle said it to NATO, all is bonheur. If such people deign to say it to the people themselves, they tend to have cause to regret it.
La République is built upon rejection and revolution, and it’s not just a policy or marketing spin. These elements are to be found in every aspect of the uniquely French character; in the microcosm as much as the macrocosm.
When the Disney organisation tried to run things the American way at the recently opened Paris Euro Disney back in the 90s, it was met with an encircling barricade of farmers and their heavy machinery.
Roy Disney essayed a little US-style diplomacy, along the lines that, if these ‘peasants’ weren’t removed immediately, he would have them nuked, or at the very least sic Pluto onto them.
An hour later, their visages unchanged, unmoved and unmovable, Gitanes hanging loosely from their lips, the peasants not only retained their siege, but did so from tractors and combines now devoid of wheels, the access roads to the park further blocked by police and tow truck proprietors who could only shrug at the not unsatisfying impossibility of intervention.
This was no government or president taking on the US empire; it was the people themselves refusing to be discommoded by any of them.
Where there is simply no possibility of compromise, there is rarely any need for plotting, conspiracy or even discussion. It’s win or nothing; merde or bust.
When somebody, amid the rapid gabbling on some obscure local radio station hinted that residents might lose their concessions on the bridge toll between the ȋle de Ré and la Rochelle, no more than an hour elapsed before the toll booths were occupied by those residents, who waved everyone through without charge until official notification was received that any such notion had been abandoned forever.
Meanwhile, further to the south and east, Ronald Macdonald’s advance guard was on a mission to bring the Happy Meal to the ancient Templar strongholds of Larzac.
A local tourist guide proudly informed us that she was among the nocturnal party of José Bové that had unscrewed the frame of the resultant corporate monstrosity in Millau, causing its collapse and the abandonment of the misguided mission. Bové, a leader of the anti-globalisation movement had previously fought and won against the plan to build a military base that would equally crassly disturb the pastoral quietude of Larzac.
Globalisation and corporate domination were identified as enemies by the French long before their creeping infections were diagnosed elsewhere. It might be that this factor is one of the reasons why France has been selected for its recent reprisals ad the trialling of the martial law already slated for other western ‘democracies’ including the US.
If you can herd these cats, sheep should be a pushover.
The Romans turned up and told the French to bathe all the time and build straight roads. The tribes of Gaul gathered in the fastness of Biberacte and set about infuriating them until they went back to Rome. The Moors conquered the southern part of the country as far as Narbonne and tried to tell them how to sing, but were, in their turn, defeated.
Finally, claiming descent from the almighty by way of the Merovingians, their own despots tried to rule, and were dispensed with on an industrial scale.
The French have long been accustomed to eating both bread and cake. They have rights hard won from would be masters. Not privileges to be given up apathetically to those who speak of austerity, but vital elements in a way of life underpinned by a universal (if chauvinistic) concept of liberté, fraternité and égalité.
If anyone is going to say ‘Non!’ to the farce of military-industrial world domination, my tattererd and more or less worthless five pound note is on the inventors of farce, surrealism, impressionism, dadaism and the tarte tatin.
They have known freedom and they have known terror.
Whether they feel their freedoms are being curtailed by middle eastern bogey men or M Hollande, they will stand for only so much before resistance and revolution settle the matter.