Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Call To Arms

Get your butts out of your comfy chairs, get in gear and vote for Royal!

Time is running out. In the universe of the French presidential election, we’re fast getting to the last jump-point before hitting the Rim. Very fast. Time is slipping away from the candidates, from the media, and from the voters themselves. And yet, according to surveys, more than 40% of the French citizens do not yet know for whom they’re going to cast their votes on April 22nd. Like many journalists, and many politics analysts, here I am: sitting before my monitor, and wondering why. I wonder how this can be, how can people simply not know who they'll choose in less than two weeks, how people can be so undecisive.

Never in recent history has an election had such importance.

France has come to a crossroads. Every sign and portent we can grasp, feel, see and hear tells us that this time, these two particular Sundays of April and May will determine the future of France, with more than potential repercussions for Europe. It’s not a figure of speech, or an over-dramatization. We’re all standing at the edge of what could herald the true destruction of our way of life, of our social security system, to fall headlong into an Americanized society. Or perhaps the French people will choose to shrug off the lies of neo-liberalism and decide to elect someone who will defend who and what they are, and the values that define France.

Americanization. Such is the clear, unveiled promise of Nicolas Sarkozy, who spends his time cavorting around and spewing out the same arguments concerning “work more, you’ll earn more” and evoking the American Dream, this most persistent of lures. Anyone who has been to the US, outside of luxury hotels or resorts, who has truly seen what the US is about, and who knows how things truly stand there, knows that there is no American Dream, just an American Erised Mirror, and I’m being overly nice and kind when I say that.

A very gifted and extremely ambitious autocrat who’s in love with anything remotely resembling to power or a symbol of power—why else would he have negotiated for months in order to be received at the White House by Georges W. Bush, pictures with full special effects included (the stool trick allowing Sarkozy to be of the same height as Bush on that picture being probably the most ridiculous thing ever done by a pretender to the French presidency)?—Nicolas Sarkozy is also in love with almost anything coming from there. The catering to the great global corporations, the worship of unfettered free market coupled to the aim of breaking down social security and promoting individualism, deluding people into believing that “if you want and you work, you will get what you deserve and become rich”, the reduction of very grave and difficult problems to questions of genes, the unsubtle hints to religion and religious values being superior to secular values, the gross flirting with far-right and nationalist themes...all that is reminiscing of the W and his neo-con goons’ era.

Make no mistake, if France goes to Nicolas Sarkozy, he will carry out his promises, and he will destroy everything that makes France France. Culture will become a mere merchandise, unemployed people will be expelled from any kind of social security net and forced to accept underpaid jobs with worse and worse working conditions. Nicolas Sarkozy will institute the right for companies to fire employees without warning or reason, and will destroy all the rights our parents and grandparents fought so hard to obtain for all of us. Illegal immigrants will be cut off from all help, and thus be an ever tastier and easier prey for all the black market activities that nibble at our jobs and work conditions everyday. Tests will be performed at birth to detect if you’re not born a pedophile, or a depressive with suicidal tendencies at first, and then the tests will be run to determine whether you’re not a born delinquent, or a born homosexual, perhaps one day the tests will tell whether you’re a born socialist, or unionist… France will pledge eternal allegiance to the US, and will start a ferocious competition with the UK to see who the most faithful dog of the US administration is. And of course, France will also become the perfect heaven for global corporations, for financial hyenas and for all those big CEOs who get rewards that number in the tens of millions of Euros, whether they did a good job or not.

But then, Nicolas Sarkozy isn’t the only candidate who can pretend to win this election. There is a total of 12 candidates, most of whom are either buffoons or people who simply represent ideas and have no chance whatsoever to win. Only three among them stand a true chance to win: Nicolas Sarkozy, François Bayrou and Segolene Royal.

François Bayrou represents little else beyond himself, and vague promises that he will create a new party, and win a majority in the legislative elections that will follow the presidential one. While being a rather sympathetic, easily likeable character, Mr Bayrou doesn’t have much to offer. He tries to position himself as the anti-system candidate, the one who’s neither on the right, nor on the left. For his plans, he picks this from that side, and that from the other. In the end, it’s hard to say what he will do or not do, and it’s even harder to try and understand how he will be able to do it. Truth be told, there isn’t much credibility to his candidacy, but he does come from a centrist party and he does represent a sort of comfortable quietness while having a pretend rebellious attitude that people seem to like.

Among those who use the presidential campaign solely as a formidable tool to let their ideas known, to try and rise their political weight and to convince people in the long run, it’s likely there’s someone with whom you’ll find yourself in agreement, and whose ideas will feel more appealing than those of the “big three”. But voting for such a candidate in the first round of the election while making the bet that the one of the three you’ll fall back on will be there in the second round is tantamount to political suicide. We all know what happened when this same configuration of events first appeared.

April 21st, 2002, anyone?

No, I didn’t think so. Nobody in his/her right mind wants to relive the shame of having a far-right fascist, racist and nostalgic of the good old days of colonization be in position to become the elected president of France, and of having to go vote for someone whose ideas are opposite to yours in order to avoid the worst. No matter what everyone tries to tell people, about how outrageous it is to request that citizens focus on the “useful vote” as soon as the first round (meaning to vote for one of the three who has a true chance of winning), no matter how some small candidates cry out that it is an infringement on the right of citizens to truly choose who would represent them better, or how it is some kind of political terrorism to remind people of the past, casting a “useful” vote will be essential, unless one wants again to be faced with a choice between Charybde and Scylla.

In truth, those who claim that the Socialist party’s request toward voters to cast a useful vote is political terrorism are committing an act of political terrorism themselves: they are those who need the Socialist candidate, Segolene Royal, to win this election so that they can be in a bargaining position and perhaps get a ministry or other. If it’s not Segolene Royal, then Nicolas Sarkozy stands the most chance of winning it. And from thereon, bye bye, France.

For anyone who doesn’t want to see in power a fascist-leaning autocrat in love with anything American and who believes that destiny is written at birth and unchangeable, and who has a place in their heart for the well-being of people in the society as a whole, there is but one credible option: Segolene Royal.

Segolene Royal is the candidate of the Socialist party.

She’s a woman, the first woman in France’s history who’s candidate with a good, credible chance of winning, and boy does that rankle in some places!

She has been battered by petty criticism, by male chauvinism. Everything she has done has been deemed bad or wrong, or ignorant, when the same things done by her adversaries never even made it to the headline news because either it was no mistake, or because it was in truth insignificant. Segolene Royal HAS the competence. She has the knowledge. She has the best team (DSK is there, never doubt that). She has the resilience, she has the will, and she is a fighter, or she would have crumbled and withdrawn long ago. And what’s more, she has shown she can learn. She has shown a willingness to put herself at risk, she has gone to Lebanon, she has undertaken difficult trips abroad during the campaign, taking risks where the other candidates either remained safely home, or were trying to get the endorsement of their liege lord Georges W Bush where Nicolas Sarkozy is concerned.

Segolene Royal, contrary to what her oh so nice opponents have spent their time claiming, does know what she’s talking about. She does know about people, she does know about promises, she does know about listening to what people have to say. She does know that cohesion is of the essence of France is to go on, and grow deeper roots to sustain its model and its way of life. Segolene Royal recognizes the importance of strong trade union representation, of trade union presence within the companies to manage the social relationships, prevent conflicts and help with adaptations. She understands you need to help smaller entrepreneurs, while taking the wealth from where it’s oh so gently drowsing. She knows that if the state helps out corporations, then a return is expected from them: any corporation that receives money from the state and that wishes to leave France afterwards, to seek out greener and much cheaper pastures will have to give back all the money it got. She has a clear idea of where France should stand in the order of things, in the UNO, in Europe. Yes, she does have a project for France.

Yes, Segolene Royal is a promise of change, and of better days.

Segolene Royal is a chance, and a hope. The only one in this implacable race.

And we cannot afford to snub her, no matter that she doesn't like manga or anime.

PS: places to check out (in French):

PPS: yes. Again. B5. Blame Straczinski for creating the most fantastic TV series ever aired.

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