Philosophy and the Front National

horse and tavern
This looks like a fun place even if it does not catch the afternoon sun.

Plus the Fête de l'Internet

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 23. March 1998:- The word 'philosophical' has been turning up in these pages fairly frequently in the past couple of weeks - and some readers have written to me about it.

France seems to have a reputation for philosophy. Maybe it is because to practice it, you have to talk to more people than yourself, and Paris has a lot of informal places for doing this.

Philosophers can go places which are in advance of conventional ideas and this is a good thing, because it is supposed to advance mankind's idea of itself.

But what of the other way around? What if discredited ideas from the past come back? Will philosophers, who are 'out in front' notice this, and take time off from the future to return to the past, to again discredit ideas that have already proved to be failures?

The reason I ask, is because of the current political situation in France. You probably are not interested in internal French politics and if so, you should avoid reading the first section of this week's 'Au Bistro' column.

Besides being in the world, France is engaged with a community of neighboring European countries, in becoming part of a united Europe. The reason for this, is the discredited notion of nationalism, and the three terrible wars France was involved in over this issue.

My guess that 'regional' elections are important is not based on the current tax income and expenditure of these 22 regions of France, but is a result of the idea that as Europe becomesbikes at jussieu more unified, the national states will decline in importance while the regional centres will increase inversely.

Bikes, students, sculpture and a fountain, at métro Jussieu.

Despite this being a real process and not a fiction, France is currently conducting a mock battle of no ideas with a fiction from the past, in the form of Jean-Marie Le Pen's ultra-nationalist Front National Party.

While France and the rest of Europe are marching straight towards the 21st century, Mr. Le Pen thinks France will be better off with the situation of 1933.

At that time, Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Party was far from having any electoral majority. During a time of a lack of will to impose liberal ideas, and with a considerable amount of flim-flam, Hitler convinced the country's President that he should be appointed Chancellor. Once in this position, he abolished civil rights by decree, and the Nazis were in power.

In power, Hitler pushed through his plan to annex the rest of Europe and this was carried out by force of arms - and the French do remember they were victims of this.

Philosophically, there was a known 'age of reason' and the 'rights of man' were universally recognized as good ideas. Yet, through lack of resolve at the right time in the right places, these values were not defended. The result was that the entire notions of them were suspended, and the horror of WWII was the result - with millions of civilians slaughtered on all sides.

Where was the 'reason' of this; what was it? How was mankind advanced by this barbarism? Philosophically, this mass terror had no place in the modern world, and the whole world succumbed to it.

Is this the fate that Jean-Marie Le Pen is proposing for France? Does he really think he can make France into an anti-liberal island outpost of state fascism - while it is surrounded by an ultra-liberal process of global trading, and mass people-exchange that tourism has become.

Judging from the latest round of political slight-of-hand pulled off by Le Pen in the recent Regional elections in France, the man is not stupid.

But aside from being a successful political brawler, what does he want?

Even if 'Philosophy' is too feeble to deal with him, outside reality will not permit him to acquire the power Hitler had over Germany, because France is too firmly woven into the fabric of Europe.

Maybe 'Philosophy' has already figured out Le Pen is the past and has no future, so is not worth wasting arguments on - or maybe today's 'Philosophy' is too lazy to bother.

The Fête de l'Internet in France

The French have been telling themselves for a long time that they are 'en retard' when it comes to the Internet. The fact is that few households have computers or network connections; both of which are expensive.

Lately the tone has been getting more strident with dire predictions of lost jobs, backward children and falling competitiveness. Every time the Minister of Education announces a new plan to wire up the schools, the deadline for doing it is always sometime early in the next millennium. No hurry, in other words.

But this it too slow for some movers and shakers - mainly organizations which stand to make money if everybody is wired up or afraid not to be. With enough fanfare for me to notice it, the 'Fête de l'Internet' was announced some time ago - and it was held this last Friday and Saturday.

The columns of Libération were filled with 'pros' and 'cons.' I tunedroutard-libe 25 years into the 'con' part and learned that us net people shouldn't truck with the giant corporations who sponsored the event - because they have filthy money or some such other reason.

The 'pros' came back with, if the filthy money trickles down to some of the community efforts to get online, then it doesn't matter how stinky it is. The Minister of Culture got into the act too.

The 25th anniversary for the 'Routard' guides, and for Libération too?

I found all of this pretty exciting - until I looked at the official Web site, which was covered with what seemed like dozens of logos. Even though I didn't find any links to any ordinary Charlies, I signed up for the newslist - and this brought a daily plug from some big player in the game. Imagine: I had signed up for spam.

For these reasons, I didn't sign up Metropole and ask for an invitation to the party. Although I did get some invitations to parties, I didn't go to them because I was doing Metropole stuff - like being at the Salon du Livre on Friday.

Friday's issue of Libération also devoted its 'multimedia' section to a list of 150 Web sites, which I assume decided to take part in the Fête. It seems to be a mixture of French and foreign Web sites, nd I glanced at a few, but I think traffic was heavy, so I gave up.

Continued on page 2...
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