The Decline Of France

Christopher Caldwell has a serious and clear-eyed piece in The Weekly Standard on the continuing decline of French social and political institutions. It’s a long and well-researched piece noting not only the critical problems facing the French state, but also the way in which the French government is refusing to face these problems, and in many cases, refusing to acknowledge that they exist.

France’s problems stem from the fact that France has managed to embrace post-modernism as its operating worldview. Every single discredited ideology of the last hundred years has found a niche in French society, from the World Social Forum’s pro-Marxist myopia to the French trade unions which have not abandoned their pro-Communist outlook.

However, it is France’s weakness toward Islamic fascist ideology that is the most disturbing. Tariq Ramadan has become one of the single most recognizable representative of French Muslims. However, Ramadan has been tied to al-Qaeda and has circulated anti-Semitic tracts including one that contained a list of prominent Jews to be “watched”. Ramadan is hardly a progressive figure, but rather the leader of an increasingly radicalized group of French Muslims who want to impose the dictates of shari’a in France. In many arrondissements of Paris young Islamic women dare not venture outside unveiled, and many simply dare not venture outside at all for fear of violence. Unassimilated young Muslims who have been filled with Islamofascist ideology are currently behind a string of anti-Semitic attacks throughout France including the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery and the firebombing of a Jewish school. Yet the government continues to treat the problem with kid gloves rather than dealing with it directly.

As Caldwell notes in his article:

Sarkozy, to his credit, is against such a ban on religious symbols. “Are we going to accept nose-piercing [in schools] and refuse baptismal medals?” he asked on France2. But in place of such a law, the only alternative he could suggest was that Tariq Ramadan tell his young Muslim neighbors not to wear the veil to school. So here is France’s “leader of the future,” begging an Islamic fundamentalist to help him keep Islam out of French schools. What a predicament. Faced with a real religion, with real beliefs and a real sense of purpose, France’s secular, consumerist society is whimpering for mercy. As Khosrokhavar correctly puts it, “the legal project in question is not principally a matter of protecting the gains of feminism, but of hiding a major crisis that is now passing through French society.”

French society is indeed facing a major crisis. It has to strike the right balance between protecting Muslim religious freedom and avoiding many French neighborhoods from becoming breeding grounds for terrorism. It is perhaps not surprising that a state that has embraced secularism so completely is now under attack from a group of religious fundamentalists who are using the post-modern values of France to institute a system of law that rejects the very concept of secularism. The French government can no longer afford to ignore the rising tide of Islamic extremism both in France and abroad, yet the current government continues on it’s Quixotic attack against the United States. Unfortunately, what the French don’t realize is if they were to someone win against the United States, it would only hasten the true problem they face.

9 thoughts on “The Decline Of France

  1. The question I’d like to raise is regarding the French “embrace” of postmodernism- is postmodernism the problem, or are the pathologies inherent in it the problem (just as there are pathologies inherent in Modern and Pre-Modern worldviews)… Ken Wilber covered this phenomenon in depth in his 2002 book, “Boomeritis”, and how postmodernism can be both liberating and destructive at the same time.

  2. postmodernism can be both liberating and destructive at the same time.

    Funny enough, that is a pretty postmodern statement by itself 😉

  3. I just finished up reading some biographies of de Gaulle, and I must say that the guy was practically a fascist for much of his political career, especially during the time fo the RPF. But the reason I bring this up is that one of the points de Gaulle followed in his foreign policy during his second stint as head of state was to consistently back the Arab states over Israel in an attempt to assert France internationally as a European-based alternative to the superpowers.

    De Gaulle was also fiercely anti-communist, to the point where his demagoguery of the issue was morphed into a call for a single-party state in 1947.

    I think, therefore, that the real tragedy of France is that they’ve managed to hold onto the worst of both worlds…Left and Right.

    But I would like to question your claim that Islamic fundamentalists and those sympathetic to them were behind those attacks–are you sure they weren’t perpetrated by non-Muslims? I have a friend who recently changed his name from one that sounds about as Jewish as possible to one that is much less obvious because he’s moving to Paris and has heard reports of white supremacists and far-right Catholics being behind many of the assaults against French Jews.

  4. “Funny enough, that is a pretty postmodern statement by itself ;-)”

    Indeed it is. I wasn’t knocking postmodernism- I’m just saying it has problems.

  5. I have a friend who recently changed his name from one that sounds about as Jewish as possible to one that is much less obvious because he’s moving to Paris and has heard reports of white supremacists and far-right Catholics being behind many of the assaults against French Jews.

    I don’t know who told him that, but there’s very little evidence to suggest it. The recent EU survey on anti-Semitism found that the majority of attacks had been perpetrated by far-left groups and radicalized Muslims and only a small percentage by “white supremicists” or “far-right Catholics”. If anything, that sounds like the sort of accusations that have been made by the groups responsible for the attacks in order to cover up their own complicity.

  6. Well, he did begin planning for the move soon after the 2002 elections in France (he started most of his prep work with getting astudent visa around August of 2002, and the Le Pen fiasco had only been the previous May). So there’s a chance that the details he heard were real, but the prevaling public opinion was skewed against the far-right.

  7. That could well be, although the Le Pen fiasco was more an expression of disgust with the French political order than any real sign of solidarity with his views. I’ll accuse France of many things, but being hard-right isn’t one of them…

  8. Here’s a citation from the EU report on anti-Semitism:

    As the second Intifada began, the number of anti-Semitic criminal offences rose drastically; out of 216 racist acts recorded in 2000 146 were motivated by anti-Semitism. The peak was reached during the Jewish High Holidays in October 2000; one third of the anti-Semitic attacks committed worldwide took place in France (between 1 September 2000 and 31 January 2002 405 anti-Semitic incidents were documented).

    The perpetrators were only seldom from the extreme right milieu, coming instead mainly from non-organised Maghrebian and North African youths.

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