I've been gnashing my teeth as French radio commentators fawn on Sarkozy for the sheer openness and transparency of his luxury holiday in Egypt with his new movie-star girlfriend. Two weeks ago these same folks were griping about secret business deals with Kaddafi, the Libyan despot who was living in his tent in the backyard of the Palais Matigny across from le Jogger's digs. Le J is as conniving and secretive about business and politics as any leader in French history, but after his celebrity holiday all was forgiven - and worse, forgotten.
But let me try to say something nice for once about le president de la republique. He IS more transparent about an important thing: his total worship of wealth and wealthy people, to whom he has devoted his life. In contrast, most of our countries have leaders who claim to serve the public while they in fact serve money. They just lie about it more, and lie to themselves more. This is very confusing for the public, and excellent for the rule of money.
In addition to Segolene Royal the Socialist Party candidate who ran against Sarkozy without ever defining her big difference from him, I'm thinking of the Dims back in the USSA, who finally couldn't see taxing the hundred-million dollar annual salaries of hedge-fund managers at the same rates as schoolteachers (35% or so, as income) rather than at the same rate as Bush family investors in the Carlyle Fund (15% as capital gains).
This happens all over the world: Blair and now Brown's New Labour Party have the same independence of UK financial leaders as Catholic bishops have of the Pope. No doubt they express private gripes, but never have public policy differences. Same in Australia, where Tom Nairn reports that new Labour prime minister Kevin Rudd ran on a fiscal prudence platform. He will be much better for the Australian counterpart to my sector - higher education - which the past PM Howard gutted, but he shares the business-prudence ticket with the right.
None of these folks can do the obvious thing this invisible blog always calls for: putting social development first, and then building the effective economic base society needs. Doh!
When oh when oh when oh when? Aussie novelist Thomas Keneally says all sorts of things will happen, in Nairn's paraphrase, "Only if the whingeing latte-sippers and culture-heads get their act together for another push against the system. Penal colonisation has given way to ‘independent’ self-colonisation." What will make them push, exactly?
It's embarrassing to be a Western culture-head and look on at the acts of courage undertaken by the professional and middle-class folks of other countries (to say nothing of the daily constructive labors of the poor). Pakistan springs to mind, where everything from Gen. Pervez Musharraf's martial law to last week's assassination of presidential candidate Benazir Bhutto was propelled by a combination of poor folks and federal judges protesting a despotic executive firing last spring. What if American judges took to the streets? Can we still imagine it?
On the assassination, see a good piece by Tariq Ali, and a strange but intriguing one by Robert Fisk. See also Ali on the imposition of martial law last month, and his excellent longer overview from the London Review of Books.