Saturday, January 05, 2008

Unneeded Leader #109

At the Vatican last month, Nicolas Sarkozy talked about "France's Christian roots" and invoked the "Church's contribution to clarifying our choices and building our future." This prompted the major French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur to interview the head of the French freemasons, who denounced le Jogger's efforts to "reintroduce religious morality to the heart of society" and to ignore France's other "roots" in ancient Greece, Renaissance humanism, and the Enlightenment. It was nice to read an establishment defense of secularity and non-religious visions of the advancement of humanity. It's too bad it's hard to read similar things in the US mainstream press.

Le Jogger is doing what leaders everywhere are doing: reinforcing a society of deference. This is what post-democracy looks like.

Le J has built a miniature deference society in the French press, much of which is controlled by his close associates. They praised his enormous candor and transparency for putting his new girlfriend Carla Bruni on display on his holiday in Egypt, forgetting, as le J had planned, their denunciations of his lack of transparency on issues of business and governance, such as the "arms for hostages" deal that freed the Bulgarian nurses in Libya.

The US press overdoes it on le J's merits as well. Adam Gopnik made him into the paragon of human courage in his New Yorker profile late last summer (issue of August 27), and wrongly claimed all France admired the bravely of vacationing in New Hampshire and "talking calmly over a hot dog" to Bush. In fact, most of France thought he was desperate, proven when his pals at Paris-Match airbrushed his love-handles out of the canoe shots.

When he stopped revering Sarkozy for a second, Gopnik made a good point about the overall decline in the status of the US.
The Sarkozy-Gordon Brown-Merkel generation is not unsympathetic to America, but American is not so much the primary issue for them, as it was for Blair and Chirac, in the nineties, when America was powerful beyond words. To a new leadership class, it sometimes seems that America is no longer the human bomb you have to defuse but the nut you walk away from.

And he concludes that the Reign du Jogger "may be seen not as the start of a new pro-American moment in Europe but as a marker of the beginning of the post-American era."

As if. The philosopher Marcel Gauchet offered a different version of post-America in an interview in Marianne (issue of 24-30 November). Even as the world faces a form of globalization driven by economics rather than imperial politics (as in 1900), the US has relaunched an imperialism that isn't so different from the kind the world saw then. We can overstate the problem a little bit this way, Gauchet continued: Germany was a leading nation that lost the first round of globalization, and became the problem country of the 20th century. And the United States, which dreams of an empire in a world that is no longer made for them, could become the problem country of the 21st.

What does Gauchet mean, the "dream of empire"? This dream has a means and an end.

The end is to have a share of world wealth much larger than the US share of the world population - this is a goal codified by George Keenan in the 1940s and has stayed close to the heart of US policy since.

The means are many. But the one playing out in the US, Pakistan, and elsewhere is to discredit the multipolar social majority - Pakistan's federal judges, Benazir Bhutto's middle-class technocrats, US "liberals" and college-educated types, the non-aligned US working class, the pro-social left, the many small political parties in France. This preempts any possible alliance between the educated and uneducated, or the "middle" and working classes, or the employed and unemployed, or the regular economy and the "planet of slums."

With a majoritarian alliance made impossible, minority rule settles in, whether constitutional and supported with fraud around the edges - Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004 - or by massive fraud and/or military coups, as in Kenya and Pakistan. Governance becomes a matter of cowboys vs. Indians - you are with us or with the terrorists - and this justifies not only the use of force but the grossly unjust appropriation of general resources.

Minority rule and growing inequality are major forty-year trends in the West and not just elsewhere - as any issue of Paris-Match will tell you!

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