Seanachie's old friend Nicolas Sarkozy has been catapulted into the news again having been warned of a possible terrorist attack at a meeting in Lyon tomorrow (the fact that he will be attending with his old nemesis, the bourgeois battleaxe Bernadette Chirac, was shocking enough to my sensibilities). The terrorist had the decency to announce his or her intention to strike 24 hours in advance - in e-mails to TV5 and an employee of the Socialist Party - which allows Sarko the opportunity to organise better security, as well as gain a bit of valuable publicity for the forthcoming election.
Old Nick, never a man to waste an opportunity for creative demagoguery, announced the other day that he intends to tighten the screw on 'immigration gone mad' by imposing citizenship tests, to be administered, no doubt, by his brand new 'Ministry for Immigration and Cultural Identity'. He is quoted in Libération the other day as saying that
'I would like legal immigrants to bring their families here only in the case of their having learned, before entering our territory, to speak French...that one would not settle long-term in France without taking the trouble to write and speak French. Because, at the heart of French national identity is, of course, the French language. French is the cement, French is a culture, a way of thinking, a form of resistance to the homogenisation of the world'.'A form of resistance to the homogenisation of the world'? We're a long way now from the enthusiastic pro-American Sarkozy of not too long ago, the same man that was afforded an audience with Tom Cruise and told him how much he admired the 'American way' (Sarkozy clearly has less of a problem with some religious fanatics than with others).
I agree with him of course about the centrality of the French language to French culture and to the country itself but I would say the same thing about Slovene, Lithuanian, Farsi, Italian and even any of the Scandinavian languages, among many others. But Sarko knows very well that most of the people that he has a real problem with (and who have a problem of similar magnitude with him) are immigrants from the former colonies, such as the Maghreb, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Togo, Congo and Cameroon, and most of them speak at the very least a decent level of French before 'entering our territory'. Language is not really the problem at all, unless Sarko is talking about the verlan spoken by the sons of Johnny L'Étranger in the banlieues. Or perhaps he is really talking about the English speakers living in France, a depressingly large amount of whom never make any effort to learn any French or to interest themselves in the slightest way in French culture (while not foregoing the right to whinge about the French at every available opportunity)? If Sarko were to implement his pre-election plans with a firm consistency, France's language schools and Anglophone bars could be a thing of the past come September. But it may be that he is only creating bogeymen to facilitate his resistible rise.
Sarkozy refused a challenge to an Internet debate by third-place runner François Bayrou the other day, claiming, in a flourish of mendacity previously unrivalled even by himself that he would only take part if all twelve candidates took part. He said, 'either a debate with all 12 candidates or none at all. It is artificial to choose one candidate over the other and it even shows lack of respect towards the other candidates.' The man's principles are endless, and if we don't like them, well, I suppose, à la Groucho Marx, here are some more. A French TV journalist suggested to the BBC that Sarkozy is wont to lose his cool and was worried about the negative publicity that might follow such a scenario. Not totally unlike his Irish counterpart Michael McDowell, who threw a hissy fit in the Seanad recently, and who has a similar propensity to act the bully casting himself as the victim, a ploy that was used to some effect by a certain political party that enjoyed great success from 1931 to 1945...