Two unrelated discussions on the internet have got me to thinking about Franco-British relations.
If nothing else, there is one positive thing about the financial crisis. It might knock the smugness out of the British media who sneer incessantly at the French. But of course it won't. No other inconvenient facts have.
I don't pretend to be unbiased. I support the economic egalitarianism and pragmatic foreign policy of France. Like most Scots, I have distant French ancestry. Some of the most 'Scottish' names (Bruce, Gordon, Menzies, Fraser, Stewart, Grant) are of French Norman origin and we have the Auld alliance.
Yet we Scots are also Brits and are thus part of a country that devotes itself to being not French. In this at least, we have succeeded admirably
-We do not have a world class transport system
-We do not have a world class healthcare system
-We do not have a world class education system
-We do not have influence on the world stage
-We did not avoid the debacle in Iraq
-We do not have a vibrant political culture with competing views
-We do not have a cohesive egalitarian society
-We do not have an intelligent film industry
-We were not not humiliated by Barack Obama's presents
-We are not not humiliated by America for our part in the war on terror
-We are not not deluding ourselves about a 'special relationship'
-We do not have proportional representation
-We have not such diplomatic achievements to our credit as securing peace between Russia and Georgia
It's good to know that Britain can still achieve something when it sets its mind to it.
My friend Bogdan discusses this on his website. He is right in his overall assessment that much of Britain is obsessed with past achievements and has a puerile attitude towards the French.
I'd agree with this, but add that France the material country that we defeated almost two centuries ago is one thing the neo-liberals moderately dislike. The theoretical France is something else: the hated embodiment of a theory that is at odds with neo-liberalism. It is based on a freedom that is unrelated to plutocracy or taxation. Where freedom IS freedom. Whilst France is regarded as an intellectual country, and has an excellent education system, the most famous recent philosopher is probably Albert Camus who stated that morality should be simple.
Ironically, it is Britain that has a far more contrived view of freedom. This is articulated by the neo-liberal media in terms that are blind to any type of freedom except financial freedom.
For the British neo-Liberals, the French form of positive-liberty has never washed off the stains of the French revolution, and egalitarianism will always lead to tyranny.
Instead, economical liberty is the only type worth having. Subsequently, General Pinochet brought freedom to
Essentially there are people who think it would be a net contribution to freedom to use a starving rat and pair of pliers to torture dissidents if it means that top income bracket earners get a tax break.
France by contrast has a more cthonic Mediterranean view of freedom, which comes from being disrespectful to authority. Let's see how our two countries compare according to Privacy International:
Hmm. And before we hear the usual guff about Gordon 'McStalin' Broon thwarting the Anglo-Saxon love of freedom, let's also look at these statistics.
But... but... surely the French obsession with redistribution and state industry is a sign of fiscal irresponsibility, which will really hurt in the future compared with our pragmatic small government economy? Uh, no. The French foreign debt is roughly half that of ours.
The neo-liberal view of freedom is dead on its feet. Given that its leading lights include Pinochet, Yeltsin and Videla, I see no reason why it is still in existence.
Contrast this with the French view of freedom, which is far purer. Furthermore, their social structure is more economically egalitarian. However France is intellectually less egalitarian than Britain in the sense that high qualifications are necessary for power and influence. Yet they believe in promoting people due to their intelligence. Britain seems to prefer the caprices of the free market which usually over-promotes scumbags and goons (CF Murdoch, Rupert).
If Scotland gets its independence (which I think highly likely, especially if Cameron is elected and applies for an IMF loan: the tried and tested way of destroying a nation) I hope that we will have the wisdom to learn from the French and to form a special relationship. No, France is not perfect. Far from it. But some nations are further from perfect than other nations.