|“Turn-the-other-cheek pacifism,” George Orwell observed in 1941, “only flourishes among the more prosperous classes, or among workers who have in some way escaped from their own class. The real working class . . . are never really pacifist, because their life teaches them something different. To abjure violence it is necessary to have no experience of it.”
It's no coincidence that Orwell made this remark in 1941, months after the French capitulated to the Germans.
There's a very simply-put but complex question about France: does it, today, have any values?
My answer is equally simple and complex: no, it has only a lifestyle. Or, to be more fair, the country values only its lifestyle. It raises up its triune value system, the now-cliched "liberte, egalite, fraternite." Perhaps that once meant something, perhaps not. Today it's a banner -- or ceiling, is a better word, that the French use to ascertain the upper limit of action before it damages the status quo.
The 35 hour work week, some of the largest vacation time allotments in the world, and excessive welfare provisions all have no better expression than the unwillingness of the French to fight for something. A fight is a shakeup of the status quo; it spills coffee and bumps the artist's hand while he's at the easel.
Of course, the French go to work, some to the army. But very few French will deny the claim that the French quality of life is the best in the world. Leaders on the French left trump this claim as proof of the success of the French model, and proclaim that they will never give up the model, and the lifestyle that it produces, no matter what the cost.
But it's that last phrase that curdles. What is the cost? There's no need to rehash France's huge domestic problems, including, but not limited to, what is amounting to a population invasion by a group that has little desire to give up religious values that drown out the comparatively feeble calls for liberte, egalite, etc.
The French want to say there is no problem, or the problem is only a social one -- a sociological one, one that is solved by resource and integration. Well, there are two lessons to learn from the British. The first is that no matter how wealthy, how fluent in the language, and how gainfully employed your fifth columners might be, they, at times, are still eager to blow themselves up in buses, because they see each other, and not their countrymen who sing about "fraternite," as their true brothers. Perhaps not all of them, but enough.
The second lesson is Orwell's. A pleasant society, a society that values its lifestyle and how its citizens interact with one another and not WHY they interact with one another (a moral purpose in a nation), has no need for violence. It abjures it. It looks around at and sees a supremely healthy, if flawed, society. One that integrates others because, it reasons, it has what everyone wants-- it's beautiful quality of life.
Perhaps the French of the spring of 1940 saw things the same way: "the Nazis aren't so bad." What was the litmus test that led France into Vichy? Very simple: Will agreeing with the Nazis change our lifestyle more or less than disagreeing with them? France chose clearly in 1940.
Today the question is the same, but more acute. The majority of French society has chosen: agree, integrate, appease, and relate. Make excuses and find hidden causes for outrageous acts of violence committed (around the world) by a certain religious group. "It cannot be the fault of the group, since we know better than to fault groups, therefore it must be the fault of the country; our fault, not their fault."
Sarkozy's plans to bring France into the modern global economy are much more than just social plans. They are, to borrow a term, transcendental. If he is successful, he will change the nature of France by it. But in the end it is not Sarkozy but the people of France that must choose, that must ask themselves if there aren't real principles hiding behind the preferences of their nation.