Zee French

20 Oct

My junior year of college was spent abroad, in the South of France. A lovely little town called Aix-en-Provence.  There, I learned so much about the French culture and language.

Aix is actually a perfect microcosm of France. Better than Paris, for example, at representing all the many paradoxes that exist in French culture. Don’t get me wrong, America is the King of Paradox.  But France is really more enjoyable to poke fun at, isn’t it?

They eat and drink but never get fat. How does that work?

They loved our help in saving them from the Germans but routinely criticize America and our ways of  violence. So ungrateful sometimes!

They value education but teach too many of their young to believe that one can still live a wonderful life without working for it in any meaningful way. And that is the point of this blog post.

No doubt you know that France has had a great many philosophers.  During their revolution, men like Momoro, Hebert, Fouché and others began the Culte de la Raison or Cult of Reason to counter the Catholic church teachings and focus civilization on reason and logic over superstition and feelings.

Today, the French still insist they base their life on reason and logic. Not feelings. The English phrase common sense doesn’t directly translate and is mocked like a cow-launching John Cleese as a foolish sentiment.

“Sense” a Frenchman might say “is a feeling.  How can it be common and why would you want it to be anyway?”

There is the famous Descarte, “I think, therefore I am.” A mathematician, Descartes desired to build a thought process for science based on facts and reason, not ideas and guesses. Reason and logic.

Now consider the French government, which for 40 plus years has violated all reason and logic by making promises to its population it could never keep.  Paradox.

Today, those promises are becoming less and less tenable.  And other European countries, mainly Germany, are sick of trying to explain to France that their budget misadventures are threatening the entire European Union.

I’m not anti-French.  I enjoy these paradoxes and certainly their people and culture.  But right now, the French government and its refusal to see that the people of France must accept a new reality regarding their promised pensions, is not honoring men like Descartes or Fouché. And it may just be the thread which, when pulled, will unravel the economic recovery we’ve been waiting for in Europe.

C’est la vie, I suppose.

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