Reader Mail

The Gaul of Some People

Is there any helping France? Readers respond to Jed Babbin, in a Reader Mail Special.

7.20.04

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WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS
Re: Jed Babbin's The French Prescription:

Regarding Mr. Babbin's observations on the decline of France:

Yes, we should watch with glee as France self-destructs, except that it is not merely a French phenomenon. All of Western Europe, Russia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are in the same boat: Their populations are peaking, and will begin declining seriously over the next 30 years. Their economies too. The reason is that people are not reproducing, and their economies are stagnant or deteriorating. It is all part of the socialism that they insist is so invigorating to the human condition.

Under the narcissism of socialism, the individual's phobias, pleasures, indulgences and neuroses take center stage. He/she is told that it is his/her pleasure and psychic well-being which is central to survival. Promiscuous sex with a focus on recreation and not procreation; rising childless homosexuality; anti-child feminism; and a leftist media drumbeat all converge to convince people that the 'cool' life is that of the swinging sexy single, that children are a bother and an impediment to fun, while socialist economics preach that work is a drag, and that productivity only enriches 'somebody else'.

Fortunately, leftists are going to die out faster because they have the weakest ties to the eternal order of God, work and family. America will survive by dint of immigration and a strong Christian ethic. We should be glad what's happening to France, except that the surviving populations are going to be burdened with the huge costs of caring for the expanding cadre of the elderly. Then the leftist caterwauling will really begin, and they will have nobody but their socialist selves to blame.
-- Steve Nikitas
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

No doubt about it, France would be a better actor on the world stage if it followed Jed Babbin's advice, but it won't because the advice came from an American (worse: it came from that American). So, what to do?

Two options, as I see it: (1) get a Brit -- or a Dutchman or an Italian or somebody other than one of us -- to tell them the same things; or (2) tell them how their not following our advice works ineluctably to our advantage. While option 1 might work (and if so, probably only incrementally), option 2 could impel them to change overnight: they'll fall all over themselves to "thwart" us.

The French are no more uniformly anti-American than Americans are uniformly behind the Bush administration: the problem is their governing elite, the ÉNArques. Recall that while Chirac got something around 7 out of 8 votes cast in the 2002 run-off, he got only about 2 out of 9 in the first round, barely ahead of the next two candidates, the kook Le Pen and the Socialist Jospin. He is widely reviled in France (7 of 9 wanted someone else), but as is said of the weather, everyone complains, but no one does anything about it. (A joke: "What is the difference between an ÉNArque and the TGV?" "When the TGV derails, it stops.")

As for the Charles de Gaulle: France may not be a world power but often serves as a regional arbitrator, especially in francophone Africa. When we go to a trouble spot, we often do so first with a carrier. The French, called upon less often of course, nonetheless feel that they need at least the one, but corruption and featherbedding have driven up the cost. They could certainly have accomplished the same with smaller and cheaper, but national pride would not permit.

When I attended a family wedding over there in May of last year, the question most frequently asked of me was about the boycott of French companies. Even if not directly affected, they are fearful of it. Those most affected will inevitably whine about it in the same way that American celebrities whine when their expressed opinions provoke a backlash from the great unwashed. (One angry consumer is just that; ten million angry consumers, and you're talking some serious interruption of cash flow: Miss Goldberg, call your agent.) Let's hope and pray that their leaders come to their senses on all of the subjects about which Mr. Babbin wrote or are replaced by those already with their wits about them, before the whole damned thing becomes Europe's first Islamic republic.

Sigh.
-- Stephen Foulard
Houston, Texas

Excellent ideas, all, but chances of them following even half of them
approach zero.

Thanks for a great article.
-- Phil Winsor
Bridgewater Corners, Vermont

Sir: I am a veteran of the Vietnam period (1966-70); my father was a 100% disabled veteran of WWII (a paratrooper), disabled for life, helping to save France. France is now an enemy of the United States! They would NEVER consider your cogent suggestions. Muslims will soon take over France. The French are gutless appeasers and wouldn't fight anyone even to save themselves. They are the ultimate cowards of the world! I would be glad to fight for America, as old as I am, but I wouldn't give a penny to save France under any conditions. Thank you.
-- Howard Bixler
Toms River, New Jersey

As a Swiss descendant of Huguenots who had to flee France centuries ago, when the then ruling Catholics had a habit of slaughtering all Protestants they could catch, and living in the Canton of Berne which was robbed of its rich state treasures by Napoleon Bonaparte some time later (enough to finance his Egyptian adventures), I should not have much sympathy for the French. However, nurturing bad feelings for people of different convictions (the way we still see it happen in North Ireland) somehow doesn't seem to make sense. To me and my friends, the French have been a source of great pleasure all the way through, in spite or because of their particular habits, and France has always been one of my favorite holiday destinations. So I say: don't touch my pals.

Americans should not think that being criticized by the French is something to worry about -- they do it to themselves, too. In fact, they are highly skeptical of any manifestation of power, be it from foreigners or at home, and anyone who thinks their press is uniform, is terribly mistaken: you will hardly find press coverage in the USA that scrutinizes your government's performance so pitilessly as the French do with their own.

On a personal level, it's not fair to see them as a bunch of arrogant bastards either: When I treated my old mom (a modest, friendly country woman whose French was far from perfect) to a vacation in Paris, she was welcomed with great respect and care everywhere even by the potentially snottiest waiters. A real eye-opener to me who at first sight often experiences polite treatment at best.

Next point: With their labor protests, the French are making us Swiss and Americans alike aware of the truth that working longer hours in times of globalization can't be the overall solution: We will never be able to beat Indian or Chinese low wages (about one-tenth of ours presently) even if we triple our efforts, which is physically impossible. We must find other ways of coping with economic transitions, and even the staunchest American capitalists have come to agree that some sort of protected market combined with targeted development programs in emerging economies will be necessary in the years to come. After all, we don't want to go back to 19th-century working conditions, right?

As to the Muslims in France: Those who are willing to assimilate do have a reasonable chance of success, profiting from medicare, welfare, schools etc. they could only dream of in their countries of origin. If they stick to 6th-century religious recipes, however, there's no way they will be ever be fully accepted, not in Europe nor in the USA. And of course it is asking too much of any nation to solve the problems of an Arab world featuring uncontrolled population growth. First and foremost, Arab countries need to overcome their own cultural tensions. The latest French initiatives to support Algeria more directly are therefore a clever move.

The French are still capable of great industrial and cultural achievements. In many fields, they are in clearly better positions than the Americans (public transport and bullet train systems, public health care, environmental protection, power grids etc.). In others, often united with other European countries, they were able to gain a competitive edge within a few years (Airbus/Ariane). Of course we are all handicapped by the average American's inability to understand anything written or spoken in a foreign language. We had great Italian, Czech, Polish, French film industries, but they didn't sell on the other side of the pond. (Winning by ignorance: an American strategy?)

When it comes to cunning business management, or project management in general, we must still learn a great deal from the USA. That said, it's equally true that many European companies who were willing to invest in your country (I could give you a whole range of Swiss examples) earned themselves a bloody nose because they tried to apply our high quality and flexibility standards to their American workforce. Both ways, the willingness to engage sometimes just isn't good enough.

You suggest boycotts, dear Jed, and it's simply not the solution. Boycotts tend to become two-way streets. In the European West, American tourists are being replaced by wealthy Russians, Indians, Koreans and Chinese. Europeans will travel to South Africa, South East Asia, South America -- we don't even need each other anymore. We need American cars as little as you do French wine. Unless, of course, personal sympathies across the Atlantic remain alive and Americans (like you) and Europeans won't have fun spreading xenophobia systematically.
-- Kurt Schori
Biel-Bienne
Switzerland

I know: let's advise them all to rent and view the film El Cid. That way they'll be mindful of precedent for Muslim conquest in Western Europe.....

The do have video rentals there, don't they ? And TV's ?
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

Great suggestions.

But does anyone think the French will listen to anything any American would say-except, perhaps, John Kerry as he surrenders to the U.N. and begs for forgiveness from the French for us being so uppity and having the gall to be concerned about things like life and liberty? After all, the French government fined Brigitte Bardot $6,000 for inciting racial hatred for having written in a book that ". . . my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims." She was referring to France's many-millions-member Muslim community, supposedly Europe's largest. Also French author Michel Houellebecq, though acquitted, was threatened with a jail sentence of a year and a many-thousands-of-Euros fine in 2002, after being sued by the largest mosques in Paris and Lyon, the National Federation of French Muslims and the World Islamic League, as well as Paris-based Human Rights League. They claimed his remarks were Islamophobic and that he caused racial injuries.

His alleged crimes? In an interview with the magazine Lire, he called Islam "the stupidest religion of all" and that Islam was "a dangerous religion from the start." Apparently, too, he said, "When one reads the Koran, one is devastated, devastated."

You wonder: Do the French prosecute those, including Muslims, who say or write things that incite racial hatred against France's Jews or members of other religions or faiths? Maybe someone should suggest politely that the French try true free speech for a spell and administer their laws uniformly, if that's a problem. Or consider if Islam or just radical Islam is a serious threat to free speech in France.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

It's a shame that the Spectator allows M. Jed Babbin to soil its pages with the kind of [merde] one can read in his article "The French Prescription." This man has to see a shrink to unload his hate feelings. Did he ever visit France for more than a few hours? I'm not French, neither am I from the political left. But as a Dutch-speaking Belgian I live close to them and know them fairly well. I have been on vacation in France many times. I read the French press from time to time. We can watch their TV channels. Few countries in the world have to offer the daily quality of life the French possess. And I am in a position to compare, having lived a few years in the States.

Under this presidency Americans from the political right have become as ugly as they ever can be. Jed Babbin is indeed a loose warhead. This man doesn't realize the harm he is doing to his country -- which by the way I do like a lot -- by putting this awful prose on line. I never read anything similar about America in the French newspapers. You could say the French are too civilized to put this kind of insults on paper.
-- Renaat Horemans M.D.
Mol, Belgium

Apropos "The French Prescription": In the 20th century, the Germans tried twice to save the French from themselves. We Americans stopped them twice. Perhaps we were myopic.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

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