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, and I glanced at a few, but I think traffic was heavy, so I gave up.

I'll keep the list and check out some of the sites and you'll probably see their URLs here in the near future - but if you don't feel like waiting, there are links to the official Web site and also one to Libération's 'Top 150' list, at the beginning of this item.

Find the link to Friday's The Toqueville Connection on Metropole's Links Page.


Thirty years ago yesterday, Daniel Cohn-Bendit started shouting at the University at Nanterre, and this led to what became to be known as the 'Events of May' in 1968. For European students, this was the anti-anti protest that resulted in all sorts of dramatic 'events' which included the total closure of France. Those who took part, are now getting ready for retirement, and their kids are anxiously looking for jobs. 'Danny the Red,' as he was known, is still active - on the political scene, in Frankfurt I believe.

I am not exactly certain if it's Libération's 25th birthday - but I am certain that it is the 'Routard's' 25th birthday. Their story starts out in 1968 too, but they didn't get around to publishing their first alternative guide for travellers until 1973. All their guides are written by French travellers, so they offer a slightly different outlook on how things are.

Chaumet - Paris

expo: chaumetIf you are an aficionado of fancy and expensive jewelry, Paris-Musées will be opening a show of works done by Paris' jeweler Chaumet on Tuesday, 25. March. The objects on show come from public and private collections from around the world, and the show includes photos, paintings and documents relating to famous customers of this one-time court jeweler.

The location is the Musée Carnavalet, at 23. rue de Sévigné, in the Marais, or Paris 3. The show continues until 28. June, and is open daily from 10:00 to 17:40; except on Mondays and some other holidays. The entry charge is 25 francs. Info. Tel.: 01 42 72 21 13.

Les Savants en Egypte

This is almost an 'Oops!' - almost forgotten. The poster is on one of the poster pages and the show has already started at the Musée Nationale d'Histoire Naturelle at the Jardin des Plantes - in the Grand Galerie de l'Evolution - and it was there that I saw the poster on Wednesday.

These 'savants' are the ones Napoléon took with him when he went to Egypt in 1789. The Bonaparte excursion was not a military success, but French scientificos found a lot of stuff, caught a lot of interesting diseases, and eventually came back to France with a lot of Egypt's treasures, which one can see around Paris in various locations.

Grand Galerie de l'Evolution
36. rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Paris 5. Or, in the Jardin des Plantes. The exhibition runs until 6. July and is open daily, except Tuesdays; from 10:00 to 18:00. Entry is 30 francs. Info. Tel.: 01 40 79 30 00.

Still On Show:

Brigitte Terziev Continues

For a long time I have had an announcement about the exhibition of Brigitte Terziev's works at the Musée Bourdelle, but the description of her work is so elaborate that I haven't had the heart to get out the dictionary to try and decipher it.

There is clay and rusty nails, and there are a number of war-like terms - offense, defense, assault - but also the 'perfume of the desert and sand' - does sand have a smell? - but when I received an invitation to the opening night, I saw what it is about.

For people who take in poetry through their eyes, the work of this 1997 Bourdelle Prize winner, will offer something a bit more than words.

Exhibition: until 5. July. From 10:00 to 17:40, except Mondays and public holidays.
Musée Bourdelle
16. rue Antoine Bourdelle, Paris 15. Métro: Falguière
Info. Tel.: 01 49 54 73 73.

Printemps Vietnamien

'Lumières - Laques, Lavis, et Aquarelles du maître laqueur Nguyen Van Minh.' His show can be seen at the Mairie of the 2nd Arrondissement, 8. rue de la Banque, Paris 2. From Friday, 20. March until Thursday, 30. April. Info. Tel.: 01 42 61 55 02.

Paris-Hanoï-Saigon, l'Aventure de l'Art Moderne au Vietnam is an exhibition of plastic artworks by Professors of French at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Hanoï, in additionstreet pizza to four master Vietnamese artists. This will be at the Pavillon des Arts from Saturday, 21. March until Sunday, 17. May. At 101. rue Rambuteau, Paris 1. Info. Tel.: 01 42 33 82 50.

Not Vietmanese pizza; this is ordinary Paris street pizza.

La Photographie Vietnamienne is an exhibition of photos of contemporary Vietnam by five photographers. This runs in the Espace Photographique des Halles, from Friday, 20. March until Wednesday, 20. May. At the Forum des Halles, Place Carrée, Paris 1. Info. Tel.: 01 40 26 87 12.

Rencontres et Programmations Musicales features the contemporary musical works of Ton That Thiêt, plus a program including other forms of Vietnamese music. This is at the Médiathèque Musicale de Paris at the Forum des Halles. Info. Tel.: 01 42 33 20 50.

These exhibitions fall within the over-all framework of the 'Printemps Vietnamien,' to be held mainly at Les Halles, and lasting until 20. June. Friday, 20. March, was the anniversary day of the Francophonie, and it was decided to put on a Vietnamese Season on account of the recent Francophonie Summit in Hanoï.

I don't know how well 'Francophonie' came off this year, because it was competing - in Paris - with the opening of the Salon du Livre, the Salon de l'Etudiant, and the Fête de l'Internet - which all are, when you think of it, related.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 2.12 - 24. March 1997 featured the columns - Café Metropole - 'Who Cares about Our Datelines?' andcount down Eiffel Tower 'Au Bistro' had - 'Super Loto Win Set to Pay 150 Million Francs.'' The articles in the issue were 'In the Avenue Montaigne, a Street of High Fashion' and 'The Gare de Lyon's 'Le Train Bleu.' Linda Thalman sent an eMail about a 'Street Rallye in Paris.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was named 'The Easter Bunny's Atelier.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 649 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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