Here is a quick update for those of you who haven’t heard of the story yet, if that’s even possible: Jean Sarkozy, 23, repeating his sophomore year at law school in Paris, son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is due to take the head of EPAD – the public agency in charge of developing La Défense, Europe’s largest business district- 72 employees, budget: €115m. For many years, Nicolas Sarkozy was mayor of Neuilly sur Seine -a town located in the same administrative district as La Défense- and he still has tremendous political connections and influence on this district.
The left cries nepotism. The right is embarrassed. Sarkozist Patrick Devedjian, EPAD’s current boss, unable to stand again for age limit reason, used a beautiful sentence to comment on the nomination, a sentence that comes from another era, when France was not a republic, when destinies were determined right from the birth: “In souls nobly born valour does not depend upon age” Bitterness or black comedy?
In the meantime, the Internet has turned the story into laughing matter. Better to look on the funny side of things? A massive joke contest is taking place on Twitter using the hashtag #jeansarkozypartout (jeansarkozyeverywhere). A group has been created on Facebook “Let little Jean finish his studies!!!”. Another one calls for “Louis Sarkozy to represent France at the United Nations when he finishes primary school”. A group of youngsters have gone to the Elysée palace to formally hand Nicolas Sarkozy a request for adoption.
The right fired back! Isabelle Balkany, Jean Sarkozy’s godmother, and wife of politician Patrick Balkany – a convicted felon, said Jean is the best among them. Sic. They said Jean is being “victimised”. Poor thing. It is “heinous” to hit out at someone in such a way, they added. They even accused Jean’s detractors of jealousy. Then I noticed a change of strategy. They started to do their best at making Jean look more credible. Jean is very experienced: two years as conseiller géneral, member of a district assembly… a position he earned thanks to his father. Jean is a responsible man: he is a married father of one. Jean works hard. He doesn’t have time for studying. He has better things to do. Destiny is calling. The best joke of it all was when Jean appeared on TV, with a totally different look. He used to look like a golden boy with his long blond hair. Suddenly, he had shorter, darker hair, and wore square glasses. Since when does Jean need glasses? Apart from that, he looked exactly like his father, using the same rhetorical tricks and the same body language. It was quite terrifying actually. At the same time his father introduced a new reform of secondary school. He dared say that when Napoléon created secondary school, it meant the end of privileges coming from birth. He added that from then on, what would matter in France, would not be to be “nobly born” but to have worked hard and to have conveyed one’s value through studying. Totally surreal.
But amid the controversy, I was stroke by an article that appeared in Le Monde and left unnoticed. It tells the story of David, a young business school graduate. It is entitled “I was an intern for 14 months and had a 6-month trial period before I got sacked”. David represents his generation. A precarious generation. A generation that was told: «study, my son, that’s how you’ll make it in life», and that ends up, to their parents’ distress, going from one internship to another, from one short-term contract to another, being exploited ever after. What’s shocking about the Jean Sarkozy scandal is that it points out the fact that our generation has been lied to. We were told that by working hard, we would make it. The harsh reality is that what matters is not to earn diplomas, but to be “nobly born”. We thought we were living in a republic. We are still living in a monarchy. The “Sarkozia” embodies this fraud. That is what is actually shocking to French people.
A touch of humour to end this post. If you understand French, I strongly recommend you watch this fantastic piece of humour and poetry, which perfectly describes what life is like in Sarkozia:
On my way back from Barcelona, I stopped at the lovely coastal town of La Rochelle where the Parti socialiste summer university was held. The sun was shining, people were in a good mood, and optimism was in the air. Journalists felt it too as for once in a very long time they wrote positive articles on the PS. What has caused that sudden turnaround? Could they actually feel the activists’ enthusiasm? Have they been seduced by the reforms announced by PS leader Martine Aubry? Or is it simply that they have finally realised that their approach to the PS in the past years has been overly negative? The PS is by far not only about internal fights. The PS is not dead. The PS is an activist party. It is alive and kicking, lifted up by the dedication of its thousands of activists, who relentlessly and voluntarily give some of their free time to the pursuit of their ideals because they refuse fatality, and decided one day to take their destiny into their own hands. I am regularly dumbstruck when I notice the gap between the party’s life as I see it from inside, and the image that is given by the mainstream media. I feel betrayed and usurped. I am happy to see that finally there are signs of change in this regard.
This weekend at La Rochelle, the activists’ enthusiasm warmed up my heart. Among the reforms announced by Martine Aubry in her opening speech, especially two of them were greeted by thunderous applause, spiced up by bravos and hurrays: the first one was about putting an end to the very French habit of plurality of offices, and the second one was about following the American model and opting for open primaries for the presidential election in 2012. Besides these two groundbreaking reforms, Martine Aubry announced the upcoming launch of a social network dedicated to PS activists and sympathisers. This “socialist Facebook” will be called Coopol from “coopérative politique”, political cooperative in French. I am thrilled by these three announcements as they all go towards a greater openness of the Parti socialiste.
Openness to the diversity of society by putting an end to plurality of offices. In order to renew itself, the Parti socialiste needs to promote more women, young people, people of foreign origin, people from any social and economic backgrounds. Not only will it better reflect the diversity of French society, but it will also convey that diversity engenders creativity.
Openness to our sister parties on the left and to the participation of our sympathisers to the party’s life thanks to the presidential primaries. I am convinced that the left needs to unite. We are driven by the same values. What differs is our vision of what is needed to reach our common ideals. I believe that is something we can overcome. The primaries will also give our sympathisers the opportunity to play an important role in the campaign, thus certainly giving birth to new vocations.
Openness to new means of political activism thanks to Coopol. This new tool will allow activists who share common interests to gather and act together despite geographical distance. Opening up the tool to sympathisers will also show that our party is a common place for debate, as well as a laboratory for political innovation.
Openness is a left-wing concept, and so is participative democracy and transparency. It was high time we reasserted it.
As Al Green sings, “a change is gonna come”.
The French PS is going through a severe crisis. Nobody denies it anymore. Everybody knows. It’s out there. It’s a fact. On a more positive note, let’s keep in mind that one has to reach the bottom of the swimming-pool so they can give a good kick and surface again. I hope that’s where we stand now.
Let’s see why the 2009 European elections remind me so much of the bitter memory of the 2002 French presidential election:
13 days to go before the European elections.
Not quite used to it, I am watching the 8 o’clock news on France2.
News go by. The headlines: hailstones the size of tennis balls, shady insurance companies, children put in custody, sects – oh yes, that’s catchy, sects are scary – it even talks about Sarkozy’s facebook page, and Carla having a cup of tea with her lady friends and petting her brand new dog… that doesn’t feel right. I am waiting, listening carefully; I feel feverish. I am losing hope. Well, I guess it’s not for today.
But suddenly, there it comes!
On the 19th minute of the big TV monument that is the 8 o’clock news of the state-subsidised, pedagogy-oriented public TV channel, just two weeks before the vote: a report on the European elections! What a miracle. I was not even expecting it any more. Finally! So, there is still hope. Let’s see what it’s about. My ears and eyes are wide open.
Topic: “European elections: list registration closed”. Lists are presented one after the other. “The UMP is heading the polls for the time being. Its most media-friendly candidates, two ministers, Micher Barnier and Rachida Dati, candidates in the Ile-de-France region. Lagging behind, the PS is struggling to find its feet, weakened by internal disputes. Among its heads of list: Harlem Désir in the Ile-de-France region, Vincent Peillon parachuted in the South-East, and Henri Weber in the Centre”.
Hit pause: did you notice the use of positive terms for the UMP, and negative terms as for the PS? You didn’t? Well I did, and that’s the wake-up call that led me to start this blog. Read again:
UMP + heading + most media-friendly + two ministers
PS + lagging behind + struggling + weakened + disputes + parachuted
Let alone the fact that two candidates are mentioned for the UMP, a man and a woman, while only men are mentioned for the PS, even though it is championing gender equality. Do you see how unbalanced things are now? You might think I am being paranoid. Well I am not, this is but one example among many others – too many – of something that has become systematic. You heard me: SYS-TE-MA-TIC.
We are living in a world where the right-wingers have won the media and mind-domination war. It is time for the European progressives to face that fact, get on with it and fight back. We must restore some kind of balance in the media. It is time for us to take the floor back, and get heard.
Back to the France2 news report. The other lists are presented, 5 seconds each. “72 deputies to elect, spread amongst 8 regions. An artificial land division combined with heads of list that are uneasy to identify: here are two factors that probably explain somehow the lack of interests of voters in these elections. As a matter of fact, one of the key aspects in this vote, if not the most relevant, will be the low turnout rate.”
Report time: 2 minutes.
“Here are two factors that probably explain somehow the lack of interests of voters in these elections”. I am flabbergasted. What about the fact that less than two weeks before the vote, a TV report about the European elections only comes at the 19th minute of the evening news? Doesn’t it have anything to do with the matter? Who are they fooling? “As a matter of fact, one of the key aspects in this vote, if not the most relevant, will be the low turnout rate.” How can one state such a thing before the elections actually take place? Doesn’t France2, as a public TV channel, have a “key” role to play in favour of a higher turnout rate? In fact, this is also systematic. SYS-TE-MA-TIC. The media analyse these elections through national frames of reference. What is at stake is not national, so nothing is at stake. It is tiring. It is exhausting. It is depressing.
The Parti Socialiste and the Party of European Socialists, to which it is affiliated, have been fighting for months in order to politicise and europeanise these elections. Yet it does not show in the media. What is wrong, then? The French are not ready, people are not interested in Europe, Europe is too complicated: that would be the usual answer given. But it is nothing like that. Not this time at least. What is wrong is the UMP. The UMP and the European People’s Party, to which it is affiliated, are not campaigning. The truth is, it is of no interest for them to campaign as they are in power in most European governments. So they let time pass by, hoping no one will notice. As a consequence, the PS and the PES have no opponent to fight against. We want to debate. We organise meeting after meeting. Yet the media do not report on it. Why? It is simple. Because if they make a report on the PS, the media must make another one on the UMP, or at least give them a chance to react in order to be fair. But the UMP is not campaigning, and there is no available counterpart. Until the last minute the UMP had neither lists nor programme. No matter how outrageous that is, the media have hardly talked about it. This absolute scandal has been covered up by images of Carla in Chanel outfits.
The show must not go on.