'Ideological truths'

Today one can assume an ideological liberty to argue that black is white and that two and two do not make four. What is essential is that any gained result of the argument supports one's ideology. The 'truth' is therefore an ideological interpretation. Or rather the 'truth' is essentially the ideology. To defend and perpetuate an ideology, the end always justifies the means. Unsupportive truth in this case would be just as inadmissible as historic facts that go against the grain of the ideology.

In the light of this, all ideologues would be akin to sectarian idolaters, and all ideologies can only survive by eventually being autocratically imposed. Democratically they cannot otherwise sustain themselves, which is just as well.

As an example of an 'ideological truth', it has been theoretically established in France according to such 'ideologic', that by imposing a 35 hour working week in both the public and private sectors, this will contribute towards remedying unemployment. For the convinced ideologue the categorical fact that it has had an inverse and adverse effect does not alter what is, and will be maintained as an 'ideological truth'.
Another more recent 'ideological truth' is that if you recruit enough teachers to boost the ranks of the National Education institution, (and for some cabalistic reason multiples of six seem to have been favoured) it will undoubtedly improve education. Thus whether the full amount of say 66,666.666 (recurring) teachers have all been squeezed in yet or not, the forty two thousand or so already recruited, (to add to the burden of the French tax payer) have had no positive effect whatsoever. In fact one could affirm that the situation regarding French National Education is even worse. Yet this cannot possibly be allowed to challenge the established 'ideological truth'.

Such are the examples of the application of 'ideologic'. With regard to the ideologue's capacity of stimulating private enterprise however, this has failed miserably. But as words such as 'competitive' and 'individual initiative' cannot possibly figure in the thin, ideological, ABC book of politically correct words, this would come as no surprise.
Private companies in France that by miracle have somehow managed to survive the long ordeal, may have been able to flee the country in time. In the public sector there are the usual dark clouds rumbling, and one has to contend with tiresome strikes organised by the disillusioned Marxist trade unions. Nevertheless, the endless concoction of formulas such as 'le pacte de responsabilité' are exemplary as improvised inventions of 'ideological truths'.

'Le pacte de responsabilité' is a theoretical agreement consisting of the State's decreasing excessive charges and perhaps a percentage of tax that cripple private companies, providing that they will employ more wage earners. Naturally each private company is required to take on enough new employees to absorb the full amount of the State's magnanimous reduction in charges, to thereby contribute 'responsibly' towards reducing the unemployment figures.
Logically the situation of any private company that signs such a 'pact' would be made worse, but 'ideologically' the pacte de responsabilité must be regarded as a 'truth'.

After all, if there's no pact forthcoming, it doesn't necessarily imply that it's the fault of the head of State who invented it. On the contrary, the responsibility (the key word) must be assumed by the private companies who cannot apply it without making their already critical situation worse. For the ideologue this refusal would amount to an irresponsible dismissal of another 'ideological truth'.

Despite the nomination of Monsieur Valls whose authoritative PM air might appear to lend temporary credence to French socialism, we are witnessing a curious immobility. Nothing of any positive economic consequence has happened, nothing is happening, and it would be reasonable to believe that nothing will happen. The long summer holidays are soon to begin, which in a way means it's holiday time for everyone. Once more the Parisians will migrate south like lemmings, and the media will probably try to charm these carefree holiday makers with TV film reports of portly Monsieur Normal and his latest flame nonchalantly paddling in the sea.

The status quo of immobility will renew itself once more for la rentré in September with a superficial show of much ado about nothing. But before the government has time to plan how to continue their fraudulent pantomime and come up with a new set of absurd pat phrase formulas for the gullible, another year will be over, and there will be only two more years to go for Monsieur Hollande.

The last public announcement commitment (if one can call it such) that François made this year, was to say that he will not stand for a second mandate as presidential candidate if there's no improvement regarding the unemployment figures. This gives him a considerably wide margin, but he shouldn't delude himself. Even if the unemployment figures improve by 0.000006% by May, 2017, the French aren't likely to repeat a monumental error... or are they..? For it's not as though they never repeat monumental errors. It's already apparent that France learnt nothing from the long drawn-out, stagnant years of F. Mitterrand. If the majority can be so easily manipulated by certain media intent on having a round of socialism for their own lucrative benefit in 2012, there's no reason to believe that it won't be possible to repeat the exercise in 2017. This would have the effect of making sure that France will continue its inexorable descent into abysmal, long lasting Mediocre Land in all respects.

Without any real restraint to the government's immigration laxity, it's possible that the rising courbe in unemployment will continue in any case. One suspects that any tacit encouragement to allow immoderate immigration, including clandestine immigration, also qualifies as an 'ideological truth'. Ideologues might reason that if you are kind enough to immigrants and legalise the situation of clandestine immigrants, they in turn will vote for you when you additionally grant them the right to vote. Ideologues always reason in terms of numbers, but their vanity prevents them from appreciating the real logic (not 'ideologic') that democracy defeats itself when the accumulated majority either repudiates this freedom, or takes advantage of its superiority of numbers by electing one of its own community's favourite fundamentalists.

This could be illustrated by the Paquebot France foundering in a heavy swell, the crew taxed to the point of exhaustion, whilst the podgy captain, oblivious of reality, and ever intent on boosting his failing popularity, generously allows an unlimited amount of voyagers the right to desert their own vessel to board the already overloaded Paquebot, thus ensuring the inevitable acceleration of its tragic fate.

Text and illustrations (top image c. 1980) © Mirino. June, 2014

Conservative concerns

A good friend of mine has just completed an interesting and opportune book: 'Being Conservative from A to Z. An Anthology and Guide for Busy Conservative-Minded People' (Amazon).
No matter one's political sympathies, intellectual honesty is essential, and history always eventually ends up as an undeniable record of facts. 

Thanks to years of being subjected to the hypocritical circus of political correctness, or as the French also say 'la pensée unique' (the only admitted way of thinking) the word 'conservatism' has been systematically demeaned by disparaging connotations.
In fact when one seeks synonyms of 'conservatism' via Internet, one is swamped with a panoply of pejorative words that underline this phenomenon. Here are a few, mostly American examples:

blimpish, buttoned-up, fusty, standpat (prenominal), unprogressive, nonprogressive, hidebound, traditionalist, tending to favour established ideas, conditions, or institutions, eg. (conservative baseball fans consider the new ballpark too modern-looking and plain ugly), brassbound, button-down (or buttoned-down), die-hard, hidebound, mossbacked, old-fashioned, old-line, old-school, orthodox, paleoconservative, reactionary, traditional, traditionalistic, ultraconservative, etc.

One might therefore be led to imagine a tweedy, cynical, absent minded, shortsighted, elderly, back bench minister or member of the House of Lords snoring during a séance. A hoary old Tory has-been, belonging to another age with one gouty foot already in the grave.

If such is conservatism, how can one apply any of the above synonyms or such a quaint caricature to Abraham Lincoln, for one example? "Unprogressive"? The man who abolished slavery in the USA? And if George Washington had any tendency "to favour established ideas" then perhaps there would never have been the American war of Independence. He would have favoured the established idea of America continuing to be ruled by mad King George III of England.
As for Margaret Thatcher, she would have favoured the established idea of continuing to allow miners the right to dig for coal that no one wanted. Or maybe she would have respected another interpretation of traditionalism by allowing Argentina the right to reclaim the Falkland Islands despite the majority wish of the island's inhabitants. And what about Winston Churchill? If he was so attached to tradition he would have dismissed radar as worthless, modern junk and opted for tactics and technology worthy of the First World War, if not the Napoleonic Wars. (It's to be noted that Napoleon, who has been ousted from the politically correct French social club and is no longer spoken of, understandably caused such an impact in his day and age that what the French army's main military tactics manual still faithfully adhered to, up until, and even during, the First World War, was uniquely Napoleonic. To some extent this might account for why the French soldiers were issued with bright red trousers at the outset of WW1 to wear for going into battle to dazzle and put fear into the hearts of the German machine gunners.

It's true that conservatives refer to history. But they do so out of sincere interest, respect and in order to advance positively by steering clear of the obstacle of repeating past errors, whereas if ideologists refer to history at all, they do so either selectively, or with the intention of negating or deforming it. In their view history has to comply with the requirements of their ideology. Indeed the French revolutionists went as far as to try to cancel out or decapitate all pre-revolutionary French history in order to vainly try to start over anew. Their absurd, short-lived attempt to reestablish a new calendar and even new seasons, with oblivious women frolicking around wearing back to nature, revamped, traditional antique Greek costumes, seems to reveal how ridiculously unrealistic and pretentious their doctrine was. Yet even today, for the sake of the Republic, one continues to extol the French Revolution, this in spite of the rife havoc and murderous destruction it caused.
Ironically many of the French like to identify with the Royal family of Great Britain. They avidly follow royal events, as much, it seems, if not more so than the British themselves. Couldn't this be regarded as a natural way of trying to compensate for having irrevocably eliminated their own monarchy?

The Taliban's attempt to demolish the Buddhas of Bamiyan is a similar example of brainless vanity in trying to make history conform to what are considered ideological requirements. Religion doesn't really come into it, for in principle there's no difference between the blind action of destroying a sacred, ancient monument hued out of solid rock, or rabidly burning down Catholic Churches for whatever ideological cause.

Are we thus to take it that those who accuse conservatism as being unprogressive and old fashioned would approve of relentless, destructive, ideological madness?
But what is ideology? It is an established creed, doctrine or religion that is anchored or imprisoned to the past, to its original source. This is why we use the word fundamentalism. It is so fixed that it cannot evolve or readapt in any natural way, and is never required to do so. Socialism can also be regarded as a form of fundamentalism because there is no possibility of it evolving without virtually cancelling itself out.

Most apolitical thinkers and philosophers would agree that an ideology is established when the ideologue stops thinking. In this case how can anyone who defends an ideology pretend to represent progress? In any case an ideologue denies any form of progress that would challenge or even question his ideology.

Conservatives defend traditional values not because of vague sentiments of nostalgia or any old fashioned quirks, but simply out of respect for custom and identity. They are aware that such values have withstood the rigours of time. There is a very good reason for this which could also be considered as being preciously essential if not mystic. These values are deeply embedded. They are our historic foundations. They represent a nucleus or source of national identity.

We therefore arrive at the logical conclusion that if man is capable of reaching the stars, of creating and continually improving upon fabulous means of communication, of finding remedies to cure the most serious illnesses and diseases, of devising means to solve the world's many problems in all aspects, and of continually creating art throughout history since the fabulous Lascaux renderings, it is not due to ideologues or to any ideology. It is due to those who would never allow themselves to be restricted by dogma. Call them what you will, or better still, take time out to trace the progress of civilisation in thought and deed throughout history.

History is forged positively by free individuals and not by fettered ideologues. If history has been effected by the latter, it has only been so in a relatively temporary, always negative and often destructive way.
The greatest leaders the world has known have always been free individuals who defend liberty and individuality. If they ever needed to pigeonhole themselves, more often than not they would consider themselves as being conservative. But in the final analysis, 'conservative' is only a word, with no strings attached.

Text and illustration © Mirino. June, 2014

The Lobster-Quadrille

'Will you walk a little faster?' said a whiting to the snail,
'There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle -- will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?

'You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!'
But the snail replied 'Too far, too far!' and gave a look askance --
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.

'What matters it how far we go?' his scaly friend replied.
'There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The further off from England the nearer is to France --
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?'

The above Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) parody is a substitute of his first choice parodying a negro minstrel song. It's from The Mock Turtle's Song from The Lobster-Quadrille (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). It parodies Mary Botham Howitt's 'The Spider and the Fly' which follows.

'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there.'

'Oh no, no,' said the little Fly, 'to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
  -can ne'er come down again.'  

The original poem, a 'cautionary tale', can be interpreted as a warning to avoid those who use flattery and deceit for evil intent or personal gain. Unlike other more moralistic poems of the Victorian epoch that Lewis Carroll also parodied, the first line of Howitt's poem lives on, although misquoted, as an aphorism of false friendship used to dissimulate a trap: 'Step into my parlour'. It has often been used by writers, although today it might be considered as hackneyed.
Text and illustrations © Mirino (PW). Parody from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Original poem by Mary Botham Howitt, with thanks.   June, 2014

Géants et nains

Il paraît que F. Hollande ait été à la hauteur des commémorations du
6 juin en France. Alors bien entendu ceci mérite la reconnaissance et
le respect général.

Mais cette référence aux commémorations des soixante-dix ans du jour du débarquement n'est pas faite pour louer le comportement digne de l'occasion du chef de l'Etat. Elle est faite pour souligner certaines vérités de cette période terriblement fatidique de l'histoire, suivant la fin de l'holocaust et la deuxième guerre mondiale.

Il me semble que l'on soit parfois obligé de maintenir stoïquement une image de stature qui reflète non seulement la hauteur physique d'un personnage, mais aussi ce que l'on aimerait y voir, reconnaître et maintenir comme qualités de grande stature générale.
Ceci donc est encore une petite allusion à Charles de Gaulle.

On dit que celui qui aide à tuer le monstre doit à son tour mourir. D'une certaine manière ceci s'appliquerait à Winston Churchill. Après la guerre, malgré tout ce qu'il a fait, malgré ses discours inoubliables qui résonnent toujours dans le cœur et l'esprit des anglais; on n'avait plus besoin de lui. Il appartenait à ce chapitre belliqueux, et il fallait tourner la page.
Pour Horatio Nelson, à une autre époque (1758-1805) c'était presque la même chose. (On n'avait même pas respecté sa dernière volonté en ce qui concerne Lady Emma Hamilton. Puis on a bien du mal à le voir là haut à Trafalgar Square, Londres, décoré seulement par trop de pigeons).

Il est indiscutable que sans un Charles de Gaulle réel ou mythique, la France aurait eu beaucoup de mal à sortir de la guerre indemne et avec la tête haute. Sans lui il y aurait eu une division sociale durable, malsaine et dangereuse. Sans lui la France aurait été dans le même état où elle se trouva juste après la Révolution Française, en miettes. Il représentait donc le rassembleur, comme Napoléon en somme, mais à titre personnel malgré la différence nette de taille, je pense que Napoléon avait plus de stature que le Général de Gaulle.

Charles de Gaulle détestait les anglais, et encore plus les américains. D'ailleurs une fois Mme. Churchill lui a fait remarquer qu'il ne devrait pas détester ses amis plus que ses ennemis. Mais pour De Gaulle-  'La France n'a pas d'amis, uniquement des intérêts'. Peut-être appliquait-il le principe de cette declaration plutôt à lui-même qu'à la France. Mais c'est probable que Charles de Gaulle se prenait aussi pour la France.

Peut-être c'est donc utile de réfléchir encore sur le fait que sans l'Angleterre, sans cette 'perfide Albion', Charles de Gaulle, et donc le gaullisme (qui essentiellement pourrait être aussi mythique) n'aurait jamais eu sa place privilégiée dans l'histoire ni sur la vaste scène politique. C'est donc grâce à l'Angleterre que le Général est devenu un symbole tellement précieux sinon illusoire pour la France.

Mais supposons que The Battle of Britain ait été perdue par les anglais. Supposons que la Luftwaffe, les V1 et surtout les V2 aient pu finalement mettre la Grande Bretagne à genoux. Ce n'aurait pas été impossible, même si le temps et la situation économique de l'Allemagne Nazie étaient devenus alors critiques.
Dans un tel cas catastrophique Charles de Gaulle ne pouvait pas compter sur les Etats Unis. Jamais il n'aurait pu revenir en France comme le grand conquérant glorieux pour redorer le blason français et faire claquer les drapeaux français à nouveau. L'histoire aurait été carrément différente. Par extension l'histoire bien moins noble et plutôt ironiquement tragique de l'Algérie des années cinquante et soixante se serait déroulée sans doute d'une autre manière.

On semble avoir un besoin constant en France de croire toujours en De Gaulle et en ce qu'il représente. Ceci à tel point que l'on est capable de congédier ses erreurs, de tout lui pardonner, de lui prêter des pouvoirs qu'il n'a jamais eu, comme celui d'un visionnaire. Si Charles de Gaulle avait une telle capacité de prévoir, jamais il n'aurait fait des erreurs de jugement si tragiques et irrémédiables qu'il a commis à l'égard de l'Algérie.

Mais retournons au 6 juin, 1944. De Gaulle eut été prévenu du débarquement seulement la veille. C'est donc certain que les américains et les anglais l'eurent voulu ainsi. De Gaulle se rendit bien compte donc que l'on ne voulut pas qu'il sache. En conséquence il ne leur eut jamais pardonné pour ceci. Telle a été sa rancune que pendant des années il refusa toutes commémorations du débarquement, malgré tant d'engagement et de sacrifice de la part des alliés pour libérer la France.

Pendant des années il avait imposé, à tort ou à raison, un silence total sur la période de la collaboration française, et sur ses rapports avec le Parti communiste.

Est ce que c'est aussi pour cela que le nom de Charles de Gaulle n'a pas été mentionné lors de la commémoration de 6 Juin, 2014, pourtant une commémoration majeure internationale?

En outre on m'informe qu'à l'appel de Winston Churchill, toutes les femmes qui ont servi dans la résistance française dont beaucoup se sont donc aussi sacrifiées, n'ont jamais été reconnues par De Gaulle comme 'Résistantes', car elles n'ont pas été appelées par lui. Aussi à cause de ceci aucune décoration ne leur fut jamais donné de sa part.

Malgré la vérité et la contre vérité, parfois dans l'histoire les mythes iconiques ont bien plus de valeur et de prestige que la réalité, un peu comme des contes de fées des géants et des nains.

Text and drawing (detail, 1967) © Mirino. June, 2014


When one spends more time writing comments for French on-line journals, rather than trying to write articles for one's own 'page', it's a sign of the times. They are certainly not inspiring times, but they are constantly perturbing. We thus like to foster illusions that our modest opinions might contribute minutely towards swaying the balance.
If ignorance is bliss, naivety must also be comforting.
Yet in spite of the weight of public opinion, (for naturally there are many commentators who share the same views and concern) the unrestrained situation continues to deteriorate.

It seems that the French always find a knack of becoming their own principal enemy. Finally persuaded by certain media and what seemed to be a preconceived press campaign of systematic anti Sarkozyism and a fabrication and promotion of F. Hollande, (but above all of socialism) they ended up by electing an impostor as their President.

Monsieur Hollande has proved himself to be worse than even anticipated. It follows that the situation is also worse than anticipated. Consequently there has never been a French President as unpopular as he has become.

As enough has already been written on why François Holland has proved to be a greater disaster than thought possible, it would only add to the tedious depression to dwell on this, especially as the absurd aspect of it all is no longer amusing.
The ironic tragedy however is that since Nicolas Sarkozy has quit the political scene, the main opposition party, l'UMP (Union pour un mouvement populaire) has virtually disintegrated. One could conclude that had the UMP the intention of destroying itself whilst fully allowing a Tartuffe unopposed freedom of ruining the country, it couldn't have done a better job.

Naturally the French have since grasped the fact that electing F. Hollande was a gigantic faux pas. Social incongruities and superficialities, a manipulated justice system, over taxation, negative economic results and ever increasing unemployment have created a climate of division, distrust, anger and frustration.
As there is no rational opposition recourse, the extreme right wing movement, Le Front National, has manoeuvred itself to fill the vacuum, but it is considered more as a means to express anger and frustration, than as an alternative political choice of any credibility. In fact it's likely that those who voted FN for the European elections don't even know the political program of the party. One wonders if the members of the FN know this themselves, because when one succeeds in obtaining a token of information regarding the party's economical policy for example, it brings to mind 'Brazil', Orwellian nightmares, or the worst periods of soviet communism.

Once more we are reminded that the politics of the extreme right and the extreme left wings amount to the same form of camouflaged totalitarianism.
Of course the alleged popularity of the FN brings crocodile tears to the eyes of rich, phoney stage artists who unashamedly follow the Hollande cortege for personal gain whilst they avoid paying French tax. Yet incredibly these so-called artists are still rated as popular, no doubt by the same media and opinion polls who unashamedly launched the Tartuffe.

Logically no one whose priority is to be "popular", to please others, or to be a member of the politically correct social club, has the right to consider him or herself an artist. Or to refer to a truism of Margaret Thatcher, which shares exactly same principle, certainly when applied to politics-  'If you set out to be liked, you will accomplish nothing.'

If nothing had been accomplished in France since the election of Monsieur Hollande, one would at least be comforted by the thought that nothing has changed. But the situation has changed. It's far worse than ever.

F. Hollande is undeniably podgier, but essentially he hasn't otherwise changed. He is as immutable as a worthless icon of dated ideology. He who advocated 'Le changement', seems blissfully unaware of the ruins he is leaving in his wake as he serenely advances nowhere.

Text and image (with apologies to all concerned) © Mirino. June, 2014