17. The French Cultural exception

17.3 Contingency

Contingency is the surest way to inhibit initiative. Economic development is based on individual intelligence and private property. Despotic civilizations, viscerally incapable to conceive the concept of economic development, have no use of private property.

Already during the Middle Ages, the social cohesion was inexistent in Francia and the nobility gave to all peasants of the kingdom the name “Jacques”, by derision. The military aristocracy detained the monopoly of arms and did what it pleased with the life and goods of the peasants. After the disaster of Poitiers (Maupertuis, 19 September 1356), with the army destroyed and the French king held prisoner in England, the French Crown was forced to accept a constitutional government. The son of the king eluded in April 1357 this “Great Ordinance” signed in March of the same year. The occasion to gain the consent of the ruled to be ruled was missed: an attempt at enforcing the Ordinance degenerated into a peasant revolution. The reason for the revolt was the example of prosperity given by the County of Flanders after the refusal of the city of Bruges to see the money of the taxes of the County transferred to Paris on order of Philippe the fair (1268-1314). This spoliation had been deemed legal by his legists and had succeeded in Normandy and the Languedoc.

The Jacques of the North of Francia, witnessing the harmonious development of the County of Flanders, to which the whole of the population had been invited to participate after the victory over the French Royal army on 11 of July 1302 at Courtrai, organized “Jacqueries” in 1358. Charles II le Mauvais (i.e. the Evil) repressed these savage revolts of misers asking for a minimal access to wealth, with the same savagery. The installation of a representative government was thereby abandoned, to be resumed only 400 years later, too late to have any effect on the spurious culture that had developed despite the efforts of Henry IV who showed a genuine concern for the welfare of his subjects. Henry IV attempted to enforce protestant and Roman Catholic cohabitation in the kingdom. This policy ruined any pretense at ruling by divine right and he was assassinated (1610), probably at the instigation of the Jesuits. The rulers did not change social policies thereafter. On the contrary, Richelieu and Louis XIV took the opposite road, decisions being taken “selon mon bon plaisir”, meaning “according to my good pleasure”. This is contingency at its best.

A fight to the finish for power was pursued during centuries and led to a political centralization and a gradual weakening of intermediary powers, which prevented representative practices to take root. The ideas of a shared authority and egalitarian spirit have no place in France, whatever propaganda and slogans may assert. Citizens are at the service of the State and not reverse. It is not the duty of the State to preserve and favor the well being of its citizens: economy is at the service of the State. This stand was forcefully disputed in the 19th century and the members of the Society of Human Rights were arrested in April 1834. It led to insurrection violently and bloodily repressed, whose violence and horror H. Daumier expressed in “La Rue Transnonain” (fig. 17.5). It was a street in Paris inhabited by low-class workers. When it was fired on from an apartment house, the civil guard broke in and shot all inhabitants, innocent or guilty.

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Figure 17.5. La rue Transnonain. Lithography by Daumier. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bequest of F. Kimball. The corpse of the dead man covers the body of an infant. The mercilessly real and crude sobriety of this lithography makes it a masterpiece in the history of graphic art.

The French culture, which possesses brilliant scientific and artistic facets, no one will deny it, has suppressed constructive communication between its members. It is not civilized, there is no social consensus, even today: the election of N. Sarkozy as President of the Republic, on May 6, 2007, was saluted by riots and the burning of 1700 automobiles during the following week.

The brilliance and fulgurations of the culture occult a daily functioning that relies on lies, slogans, censorship, brutality, corruption, felonies and cunning. The French leadership fears power divided as being the creation of the devil that must obligatorily lead to disaster. All means available are allowed to prevent split authority. Monolithic power is applied in all fields of activity. Police, Academia, Justice, Administration, Research, Military, Economy and of course Politics (fig. 17.6) are governed by the notion that he who is at the helm wields all power an deserves blind obedience.

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Figure 17.6. Daumier: The legislative belly, 1834, lithograph, collection Zigrosser, Philadelphia.The politicians ranged in tiers are individually identifiable as the King’s henchmen but these caricatures stand as murderous revelations of the mentality of corrupt politicians, anytime.

Those who dissent are eliminated, asked to leave or else censored and imprisoned 3. Any means to maintain undivided power are permissible, hence the propensity to lie, cheat, manipulate the media, make propaganda and modify the rules when the threat of change and loss of power loom. The voting laws of the country favor monolithic power. Proportionality according to number of voices is systematically rejected by fear of anarchy: the party that wins, be it only by the slimmest margin, takes all.


3. Voltaire, Peguy, Zola, Thiers, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rousseau, Hugo, Pascal, Simon, Bayle, Diderot, Descartes, Rouget de Lisle, Michelet, Courbet, Jean Roy, the painter David, H. Daumier, general Boulanger and even Vauban were all at one time beaten, imprisoned, exiled or censored.

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