by Ghassan Kadi
The weak and selfish French monarch Louis the XV is perhaps best known for his famous/infamous quote; “Après moi, le déluge” (after me, the flood).
The weak and selfish monarch was at least wise enough to realize that during the time of his reign, the people of France had had enough of the ruthless yoke of absolute monarchy that his predecessor, Louis the XIV, epitomized in the worst manner possible.
Louis did not only have a premonition about a cataclysmic event that was about to hit France, but he also knew that there was precious little that he could do in an attempt to avert it, so he decided to savour his privileges whilst he could, because his premonition also told him that he could, and that it was his successor who had to bear the brunt.
The rest is history.
The French Revolution that took about a hundred years to finally manage to create the changes it was intended to implement has faced a number of challenges, and the French people have successfully managed to keep France’s nose above the water, and emerge after WWII as a victorious nation and an eventual permanent member of the UNSC, even though technically-speaking, the formal French Government, represented by Vichy, had actually lost the war.
Had it not been for the genius of General Charles De Gaulle and his Free France movement, France might have been reduced to the level of other European nations like Italy or Spain, even Austria.
But the French are resilient people and always managed to reinvent themselves and move with the times. The reforms that De Gaulle introduced with his Fifth Republic are perhaps the biggest recent success.
A few decades later, The dream that French President Mitterand and German Chancellor Kohl in creating the Euro-Zone does not seem to be working to the expectations. One does not need to take the stand of Marine Le Pen to cognize this.
But today’s problems of France do not start and end with the EU and the Euro. The French society is fragmented, terrorized, and a significant fraction of it is claiming that France is losing its identity.
We can learn from history as much as we can, but what gleans from pre-French Revolution France, does not necessarily reveal that France had bigger problems during the reign of Louis the XV as much as it has had during the reign of Hollande. Without being able to take a trip in time and live the events of the days of Louis the XV and later on the XVI, we can only get information from reading books that were written before cameras, voice and video recorders, and the Internet were invented.
In retrospect, it would be hard to imagine that a bigger proportion of the French population in pre-French Revolution France knew and was concerned about what was happening behind closed doors within the Élysée. It would be hard to imagine that Louis the XV and the XVI had a lower popularity than Hollande’s infamous 4% popularity rate.
So what is really stopping the French people from the French Revolution take II?
To qualify this statement properly and put it in context of 21st Century democracy, French people neither need or are expected to storm a new-found Bastille again. In today’s time and age, they can revolt at the ballot box, but they seem reluctant to do so.
The reason behind their reluctance is not exactly known and identified, but we all have the right to analyze and speculate.
The reluctance of French people to seek change is not because they do not realize that France is in trouble, but because they do not know the actual nature of that trouble, they don’t know how to deal with it, and they are fearful of the policies for change strewn at them.
In reality, they saw Macron as the devil they know something about. They expect him to make “some” change. They know that his centrist party is a remodeled version of the Socialist Party that Hollande managed to destroy, and is much as they disliked Hollande, the hope that Macron, by taking a centrist tact, will create some favourable change.
On the other hand, they saw in Marie Le Pen the unknown ultra-right loose cannon. They saw in her a divisive leader despite her attempts to unify French people; attempts that in hindsight came in the too little too late category. It is not surprising that French people decided to stick with what they know; painful as it may be.
Whether Marie Le Pen reinvents herself or passes on the reigns to her niece Marine as some are speculating, little will change unless the French people reach a level of conviction that they have a leadership they can trust to take them forward into a very challenging future.
Either way, Macron does not have the hallmarks of the leader who is able to save France from a seemingly impending tsunami.
With his little experience, ill-defined policies, and little or no political support base that will enable him to form a stable and efficient government, the best that Macron can do is to maintain France’s status quo.
Either way again, France is in deep trouble. France has financial, political, ethnic and religious problems, and her biggest problem is in the lack of proper and unifying leadership; a situation that is historically akin to the days of the infamous Louis the XV and his perhaps only documented quote of turning the blind eye to the flood that was coming after his days.
Given all the damage and carnage that Hollande has generated for France and the French people, given how he kowtowed to Obama and Merkel, given how he played a big role in destabilizing Europe with his stands on Ukraine and Russia, given his position on the “War on Syria” and the eventual export of the rise in terrorism in Syria to the EU, given his inability to deal with rising terrorism that devastated France and divided her people, and finally, given his acceptance that he was not prepared to face the voters for another tenure at the Élysée, is he the one who is inadvertently saying after me the flood or is he passing on the baton to his protégé Macron?
France sadly seems to be set on course for major upheaval and the recent electoral decision French people made has only succeeded in delaying having to deal with the problem.
How will France move on from here will depend on how long will Macron last, how long will he need to bring France down to her knees or anarchy, and how long will it take before he incarnates either Louis, the XV or the XVI.
The short-term future of France seems to question of “après moi, le deluge” (after me, the flood), or après soi, le déluge (after him, the flood). This is how history is likely to read Hollande’s mind as he hands over the keys of the Élysée to the young Macron.
On the positive flip-side, what is of significant interest here is that France is leading a trend in Europe, a way in the West that seems unnoticed. Just like the French Revolution has led the way for liberation and inspired many generations globally, for better or for worse, the rise of Macron to power has broken the traditional Western two party monopoly, and that’s already something, or as the French put it, c’est déjà quelque chose.