March 28th, 2006

Richard Landes reports from France, the paralyzed ostrich

Richard Landes, of the blog Augean Stables and the website Second Draft, has recently returned from a trip to France and filed this eminently readable report on which way the wind is blowing in France today (and you don’t need a weatherman).

The situation Landes reports is not reassuring, to say the least. Depending on how one looks at it, the following exchange could be considered hopeful, or not:

We visit old friends from way back (the wife is a childhood friend). They are from the upper classes – educated, Catholic, intellectually lively, international in outlook, with smart kids who travel the globe studying and doing internships. In the past, the husband has taken the principled position of the ostrich in response to my warnings.

Not this time. This time he’s eager to talk, and quite open in his concerns. A description of what I have been trying to say for three years now.
“So what do you think the French will do?”
“Mais nous sommes tétanisés,” he says. [We’re paralyzed.]

What can you do when you pick your head up and see you’re between the tracks and the train is bearing down on you?

The good news: a growing awareness. The bad news: has it come too late?

And then there’s this:

…I was haunted by the remark of an French friend, “The French cannot forgive America for saving them twice”…[T]he French [seem unable] to give the Americans a compliment without taking it back, without re-asserting their primacy in all that really matters. Sa gloire…Like the Arabs, the French were once the leaders of European and global culture (from the 11th to the mid-19th centuries); and like the Arabs, they have a deep sense of grievance at “history gone wrong.”

Is that what’s going on here? Is the obtuseness of the French the product of some deep resentment at America because they sit where the French should sit? Is this their secret bond with the Arabs — the brotherhood of envy?

17 Responses to “Richard Landes reports from France, the paralyzed ostrich”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    France wants primacy amongst women, it is only Islam and America that wants primacy amongst men. Let’s get that straight, here.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    The French are not morally comparable to murderous Jihadis, yet both groups share a prideful desire for primacy amongst men.

    lol

  3. Anonymous Says:

    The brotherhood of envy? It seams yes! Anti-Americanism is a sport, something “in” inside the ranks of the french “intelligentsia” mostly far leftist. As a man born in this place, with some American culture, I am disgusted to speak my mind.

    “We are not in competition with the kid on the next street, or the nation next door, or the race or religion along the way. Rather, we are in competition with ourselves. Our competition is between what we are, and what our best selves can be.” This is right.

    There is something I want to emphasize, the french, the french system and France are three different things. Mostly the problem comes from the french system, something coming from the monarchic absolutism with a lack of freedom, a democracy that is not achieved. A leftist tradition to bash america, companies, business and now anything that represent the pace of the world economy. In addition to this the problem of immigration. A declining economy with a lot of unemployment far ahead of official figures. But it is official, a taste of constructivism. The future is impossible so “some” are trying cosmetology. But reality is reality.

    I do not like cliche or stereotypes. Right now Europe, is sinking yes. The debate is about the past, the (grandeur) greatness. There is something wrong when people are more interested to speak of the past than of the next step. Sure I am not typically french. I read your blog!

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    We go to Normandy. At the hotel, the woman confides to us: “My two sons are planning on leaving. While I pay for their education they’ll stay, but as soon as they’re done, they’re planning to leave and they want to go to America.”
    “Why?”
    Because the country’s going to hell. Because the bureaucracy favors the Arabs.

    As a matter of loyalty, I feel that our real friends in Eastern Europe deserves to come to America. Not the French. Personal debts of honor still matter to me, even if it does not to 90% of the rest of the world.

    Besides, we have too many anti-American fake liberals already, we don’t need anymore from the bailing French. If they ain’t willing to fight for their country, they sure as heck won’t fight for ours.

    “What about anti-Americanism?” I ask the waiter who was marrying an American girl and hoping to go to the States to start a restaurant.
    “Oh, that was bad back at the time of the Iraq war, but no longer,” he said, with a reassuring confidence.

    A wave of anti-Americanism that poisoned the Western alliance and has contributed so much to making Sadaam Hussein’s removal a nightmare in the winter of 2003, was in his eyes a passing squall. Not a problem.

    It reminded me of the remark that an FBI guy said to some scholars about the Waco catastrophe: “We didn’t do anything wrong, and we won’t do it again.” Except that this Gaulois who wanted to jump ship to America wasn’t even saying “We won’t do it again.” There was not even the admission that the wave of pro-Chirac anti-Americanism was a stupidity that hurt France. Just a promise that, right now, we don’t feel any anti-Americanism.

    Ja, pull the other one. About as believalbe as Zarqawi saying he won’t kill you right now.

    The Jews I meet with show heavy signs of wear. One of the sweetest and smartest of the French Jewish intellectuals I know, a woman of Tunisian origin, one of the single-generation acculturaters, comes towards me without knowing I see her. Her face is so drawn with care that I have difficulty identifying her. I go by her haircut, until, upon seeing me, her smile comes back and wipes away the lines of worry.

    The Halimi Affair, whose Jewish and Muslim dimension the French Jews know about in much greater detail than their Christian and post-Christian fellow-citizens, has that community in a panic.

    I’m sorry to say this, but the Jews have a learning problem. After what happened in WWII with the French betraying their French-Jews and trading Jew for Collaboration, you’d think the Jews would remember and hold a grudge with ruthless efficiency. But no. They still choose to live in France. It boggles my American mind.

    We told ourselves, they’re unaware. If we can get them to look at this clearly, we can persuade them.

    Don’t make me laugh. Relying upon dishonorable shits with one of the worst track records in history, is not wise.

    I don’t like France, not because they are anti-American, but because they have no honor, no dignity, and no utility.

    I feel more comraderie with the Japanese that America fought in WWII, than I would ever feel for the french.

    “Since 9-11, there’s been a notable change in the Muslim community. Before you rarely heard Arabic spoken. Now they speak it loudly, the mothers aggressively take over areas in parks and gardens. They started to pick up their heads and feel pride.”
    “Over 9-11?”
    “Yes, it gave them a sense of power.”

    There was a discussion going on in another post-comment about Belmont’s War to the Knife postulations.

    This is a useful addendum. If 9/11 gave the Muslims in this world a sense of power, just imagine what a nuclear attack resulting in 500,000 casualties would do. Can we say world wide Muslim insurrection?

    Richard Landes is a good source of amazing information, Neo, thanks for providing me with the opportunity to read him.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    America’s problem with France is that France acts just like America. All of the arrogance, the desire for power, the gumption – how dare they want exactly what we want!

    For one thing, because America is powerful and acts like it, France is a runty little jerkoff and acts like they are high class. There’s a difference.

    We don’t want power, since all the power in the world is already at our fingertips. Unlike France, we don’t intimidate Eastern Europeans nations into shutting up because they disagree. Unlike France, we don’t grab colonies in Africa and participate in genocides like Rwanda because it’s a way to relive old victories.

    France is everything America is not. France is weak, France is arrogant full of false pride in decadent customs. France is immoral. France is not only immoral, they are stupid and ignorant at the same time. All the names France and the French have called americans, is in reality the terms they wish someone would describe them as. They fear the image in the mirror, yet they cannot refrain from accusing us in the hopes that we will show them the truth of their false nationality.

    To me, France, and Europe in general, is like a brillant and revered parent who is sinking into imbecility and pathetic helplessness. Heart breaking.

    It’s a good thing I come from China, it gives me no emotional attachments to the French or to Europe.

    We are one of the oldest democracies

    Actually, we are the oldest representative democracy. You wouldn’t know that if you heard the French keep saying Americans were young and impulsive however. We’re not young, they’re young. We’re a lot more mature as a nation than France and Europe is. If America is a teenager that likes to win popularity contests, and Eastern Europe is a embryon about to be born as a baby, then France is an infant trying to stand up but failing to, so they cry cry and cry.

    Our economy is robust and growing.

    Our wines are also getting better because we can use genetically modified stuff and the French can’t. Boo hoo them. We won that International Wine Festival, just one year before 9/11 I believe. Boy, did that feel good to outstage the French.

    The true solution is to realize self-respect has nothing to do with how you compare to others; and everything to do with how you compare with your best self. We are not in competition with the kid on the next street, or the nation next door, or the race or religion along the way. Rather, we are in competition with ourselves. Our competition is between what we are, and what our best selves can be. We can be satisfied if we are operating at a level which is near or at our best performance.

    Good words, man, good words. A return to Aristotelian virtues, one for all, and all for me.

    It is an ethos that emphasizes individual freedom, hard work, community, self-reliance, piety, and patriotism, and Christian virtues.

    This must be why Germany is more economically vibrant than AMerica. Your theories lack something called verifiability, steve.

  6. Trimegistus Says:

    The French, and Europeans in general, lost the future. It happened in World War I, when the great age of Christian liberalism in Europe self-destructed. Ever since then, the overriding concern for Europeans has not been hope for the future, but fear of it. They have concentrated on keeping what they already have, rather than going out and creating something new.

    The only new idea to come out of 20th Century Europe was Naziism — a nihilistic spasm of rage from a beaten people. It echoes today in Islam.

    I don’t know how to rekindle hope in Europe. The best they seem to be able to envision is stasis, and all that is giving them is death.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, convert them to Christianity.”

    Canadians turn more sour on U.S.

    The poll found that 69 per cent of Canadians believe Mr. Bush’s election was a bad thing, compared with 58 per cent who thought the same way right after he was given a second term. By contrast, 19 per cent think his election was positive, down seven points from November of 2004.

    The poll also found that 70 per cent agreed with the statement that, although they value the United States and its citizens, they disagree fundamentally with the government.

    The poll, conducted March 25-26, surveyed 1,000 Canadians and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 95 per cent of the time.

    Mr. Gregg said the results demonstrate that Canadians and Americans aren’t the best of friends.

    “We share a lot of real estate. We share a lot of common interests, we probably share a lot of common tastes, but we’re also pretty glad that we have a big fence,” he said.

  8. Mike Says:

    Steve said, “Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants (the other three big groups), have added more individualism, but also idealism, notions of public service, intellectualism, intensity, and concerns for social justice to the mix,”

    I don’t see what the Irish added.

    The problems in France are not caused by immigrants and the divide between red and blue states only exists in the media.

    “sometimes in conflict with farmer etho’s…” Bullshit. Where do you live?

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    To Robert Schwartz:

    never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

  10. Robert Schwartz Says:

    Serves the Froggies right to suffer, anti-Semetic sons of she dogs. I am not mourning, I am laughing. At them.

  11. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    So odd, in a way. Who are the French performing for in this envious spite? If they knew us, they would know that within the limits of general alliance, we like people to be different from us. We think their going on and being French, not American, would be great.

    We are a trading nation, which in all the highschool history books seems to be described as a good thing. Hegemony? Imperialism? Nah. Let’s make a deal. Win-win. Everyone goes home happy.

    Americans are a gloriously simple people, actually.

  12. Steve Says:

    We are not in competition with the kid on the next street, or the nation next door, or the race or religion along the way. Rather, we are in competition with ourselves. Our competition is between what we are, and what our best selves can be.

    I like this as a general moral value. Well put.


    The French and the Jihadis can be compared, insofar as they look to others for their self-respect, instead of looking inward.

    There was a large sociological literature on this topic back in the ’50′s, “The Lonely Crowd” and all that. Schopenhauer’s “Wisdom of Life” is all about the futility of looking outward.


    “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, convert them to Christianity.”

    The quote that got her fired from National Review.


    That Ann Coulter is a deep and wise thinker.

    This is tongue in cheek, right? Ann Coulter is a Father Coughlin for laughs. At least Michelle Malkin is serious. They both make my skin crawl.

    The idea of “Western Values” as contained (supposedly) in the Bible/Torah, Greek values is deficient, I think. The main American ethos — except in Eastern urban areas — is still primarily the ethos of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic farmers. It is an ethos that emphasizes individual freedom, hard work, community, self-reliance, piety, and patriotism, and Christian virtues. The eastern urban areas, because of the successive waves of Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants (the other three big groups), have added more individualism, but also idealism, notions of public service, intellectualism, intensity, and concerns for social justice to the mix, sometimes in conflict with the farmer ethos (this is where the split between blue and red really lies.)

    All of these typical characteristics of Americanism as it has evolved in the 20th Century have roots in prior religious systems, but that doesn’t mean being an American means being Christian, or Jewish, let alone holding Greek values, which were long ago submerged into the intellectual legacy of the West.

    The American notion of individuality is nowadays mostly a psychic inheritance of a time when most Americans actually lived by themselves off the land. That is no longer the reality today. But it is THAT more than any specific religion that defines our national character, I believe.

    Even Christianity in America goes in different directions. Most of our farmer immigrants were protestants, which brings with it certain assumptions of community but also of individuality, responsibility, self-reliance. Most of our urban immigrants, if they were Christian, were Roman Catholic, which stresses much more centralized power, public service, social justice, and less individualism.

    Therefore converting Muslims to Christians is a fantasy that goes nowhere. Precisely because Muslims have no tradition of individualism, they won’t go for it. Because they have no chance for individualism now, in our high tech world, they won’t go for it. The only real chance is that the Muslim world will eventually evolve into a European social democracy kind of setup. America will always be unique in its respect for, and emphasis on, the individual, England a distant but respectable second.

  13. gcotharn Says:

    What could produce the optimal outcome – for France and the world?

    There is no quick solution. The true answer is the return to prominence of classical Western values – as in the values of the Greeks, of the Bible/Torah.

    The French are not morally comparable to murderous Jihadis, yet both groups share a prideful desire for primacy amongst men. When I was a young man, I toyed with the idea that it would be shameful if any other young men were shown to be tougher fighters than I. The problem is that someone, somewhere, is always tougher. You can pretend that someone doesn’t exist. You can categorize, and hang your hat on being the toughest in your category: on your street, in your neighborhood, et al.

    The true solution is to realize self-respect has nothing to do with how you compare to others; and everything to do with how you compare with your best self. We are not in competition with the kid on the next street, or the nation next door, or the race or religion along the way. Rather, we are in competition with ourselves. Our competition is between what we are, and what our best selves can be. We can be satisfied if we are operating at a level which is near or at our best performance.

    The French and the Jihadis can be compared, insofar as they look to others for their self-respect, instead of looking inward.

    I find myself simpatico – more than ever, with Ann Coulter’s famous quote:
    “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, convert them to Christianity.”

    Re-emphasizing classic Western values is needed. The French and the Jihadis – indeed all of us – would benefit from looking inside for our self-respect. On a macro level, nothing has ever accomplished this as well as Christian proselyzation. When it comes to converting through free will, and through the nonviolent proselyzation of ideas, Christianity has had unparallelled success. That Ann Coulter is a deep and wise thinker.

  14. Steve Says:

    I don’t know what the French are supposed to do. All of these problems are traceable to the Third World and mostly Muslim immigrants that have been allowed into that country, pretty much for the same reasons that we have allowed 11 million illegals (mostly Mexican) into ours.

    We can of course say that illegal Mexicans are better than legal Muslims. Fine. But what can they do about the Muslims? Expel them? Not likely.

    The bottom line is that French and Euro civilization is changing due to immigration and American society is also changing due to immigration, as it has in the past: however, I am concerned in our case that the pace of immigration might impede assimilation. If assimilation fails in the US the US will split up for sure.

    Neither the US nor France nor the Euro countries have the will to stop or even control immigration, and in our case (probably France’s case as well), immigration is “good for business”, which means that it will probably never stop, or be effectively controlled.

    If people don’t like it, either in the US, or France, or Europe, they can use the political process. But clearly people don’t care.

  15. hgwells Says:

    France may want what we want but they haven’t backed it up as we have. It’s been more than 200 years since the Founding Fathers had the arrogance to declare:

    We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…

    Since then we have faced many challenges and we have lived up to them. We are one of the oldest democracies and we lead the world in science, technology, the military, arts, sports, and entertainment. Our economy is robust and growing.

    Meanwhile the French government has collapsed four times since the French Revolution, its economy is stagnating and France can hardly be said to be a leader in anything other than abstruse philosophy and anti-Americanism.

    I too lament France’s decline.

  16. armchair pessimist Says:

    Lord, how tempting it is to gloat over France’s misfortunes, but I can’t. To me, France, and Europe in general, is like a brillant and revered parent who is sinking into imbecility and pathetic helplessness. Heart breaking.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    America’s problem with France is that France acts just like America. All of the arrogance, the desire for power, the gumption – how dare they want exactly what we want!

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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