The real outcome of the 2017 French election

Regardless of what happens in France today (and the numbers appear to show a victory for Liberal-Centrist En Marche’s Macron), tomorrow is the dawn of a new reality in France. That awakening isn’t that there is an Extreme Nationalist party in France with significant followers, it’s that people are going to acknowledge it. Regardless of what the final numbers show, the Front National is a very real part of France today and tomorrow.

The fact that 26% of French voters, the lowest since 1969, have abstained from voting and that the second place party in the country, even if it’s by a large margin, is an Extreme Conservative Nationalist party speaks volumes about what France is today. If the exit polls are correct and Macron is to win 65%-35%, then that means Le Pen got 17 million people in France to vote for her. That’s 35% of the people who voted, but still an impressive 25%, a quarter of the country that voted for her. Le Pen doesn’t need to win, she just needs to exist. For all the joking and mockery of the Tea Party movement in the US of the last ten years, it undeniably shifted the political thermometer of the United States. It created a world where the traditional left and right parties faded in relevance to the majority of voters and where someone like Trump could win if they just produced their show properly.

Second place for Le Pen and the Front National is actually a victory because it means the political landscape of France is different than what people were willing to accept or believe. Beginning tomorrow, with the massive support they gained, things will happen in France with input from the Front National whether people like it or not.

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The Ramses II Discovery and Colossal Egos

In what might be one of the most fascinating historical discoveries in the world since the British discovery of Bronze Age settlements in East Anglia last year, an artifact was unearthed this week in Cairo. The Colossus or large statue of Ramses II who ruled 3000 years ago was found near where his temple once stood. He was one of the most powerful rulers in Egypt, reigning for 66 years. Needless to say, they didn’t talk about term limits in those days.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that this statue is likely older than anything around you at this very moment wherever you happen to be sitting, it’s fascinating if a bit challenging to get one’s head around the fact that this statue was buried all this time without being spotted. Buried, in fact, in roughly the same spot as the entire world that belonged to those people 3000 years ago, known today only to Ancient Egyptian History enthusiasts, historians, and archaeologists. What exactly of whatever that man thought of himself, of his prominence, of his importance, or indeed of his reign of power, matters today other than as a period in history?

Ramses II, to the Greeks, was known as Ozymandias. In romantic English poet Percy Shelley’s poem of the same name, a man finds a statue of the famed pharaoh, and sees a pedestal on the statue that reads,

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

However, the man says in response to this boastful declaration,

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Timely, I thought, that this statue of the powerful ruler immortalised in Shelley’s poem should be unearthed from relative obscurity despite all his prowess and magnitude, at our current moment in history when we seem surrounded by several leaders (apparent or actual) claiming their eminence, and yet seemingly oblivious to their own arrogance in thinking they’ll ever matter to anyone in the future. They might consider, if they’re not too enamoured by their self-proclaimed brilliance, whether they’ll leave behind anything more than a failed attempt to transcend and a pile of rubble.

Incidentally… on the aftermath of the referendum.

brexit
In Baseball, from time to time, a pitcher and catcher can’t understand each other’s non verbal communication through all the hand signals and the crowd noise and they take a time-out, a relatively common request to the umpire, and have a mini-conference on the field. Every time the visiting team does it, the home team’s supporters boo them for taking the relatively insignificant pause. The booing doesn’t bother most sports fans and it’s taken as regular heckling but I’ve always found it extremely unsportsmanlike and childish. It’s interesting to note, that baseball fans, the kind that really get into the game and boo at these moments tout “the human element” as being one of the most beautiful parts of the game. There’s not a lot that’s more human than two people taking a minute to clarify themselves to each other. The umpire asks them to finish up their chat and the game resumes. But then the very next inning, if the same happens to the home team’s pitcher and catcher, and they have trouble communicating and have a mini-conference, no one says a word and it’s perfectly acceptable for them to do so. The number of ways in which baseball, both the game and the spectator sport, mirrors social behaviour in society could fill a multi volume book series, but that is for another day. It’s quite common in sports and in life for people to be appalled by what the other side is doing when it’s very likely they’d not complain about their side doing the same.

 

I totally support everyone who is upset with the UK ‘Leave’ vote. I would have voted ‘Remain’ if I was English, let me make that clear in no uncertain terms. The internet has been swamped with talk of the final vote’s narrow margin of victory as a reason to not accept it and indeed in some  cases even as reason to reverse it. But I have to say, I do wonder if ‘Remain’ supporters would be as appalled by the 4 per cent difference in the final vote if the result had gone in their favour and the ‘Remain’ side had won. I think they’d have taken it (wishing surely that it had been higher) but I think they’d be very good about ignoring their 4 per cent margin of victory and would be silencing any attempt by the ‘Leave’ supporters to argue the percentage.

 

When two sides agree to the rules of a certain “game” and nobody offers any conditional rules and the game goes ahead as planned, isn’t it too late for people to come back later and discredit what the final score was? Didn’t everyone involved know that it could have ultimately gone even as close as 51% to 49%, or surely even 50.2% to 49.8% which is still a majority outcome? Like the home baseball team supporters that boo when the opposing team has a time-out, but not when their own team does, shouldn’t the rules of the game be accepted as the rules of the game for everyone and if you want that conditional rule applied that the visitors can’t take a timeout or the final vote needs to be by a minimum amount to count, shouldn’t that be established beforehand? Does the loser of a vote by 4 per cent care that it was 4 per cent only because they lost and isn’t that just down to the rules of the game? The legislation behind the referendum didn’t say that the winning side needed to get a minimum percentage. Perhaps more importantly, neither did it say that Parliament, the only governing body allowed to set laws in the United Kingdom, had to act in accordance with the final vote. The referendum just asked the question and Parliament is within its rights to ignore the answer; no matter what the answer and no matter what the margin of victory. Right now, this is truly much ado about nothing.

 

However, something that is not at all nothing, but rather a very frightening something, is the horrifying and unspeakable racism that has reared its ugly head since the ‘Leave’ side won. And that is the real issue in all this that is not getting enough attention. Not where Boris Johnson is, not what Angela Merkel thinks, not what the promises were. What matters is not how much the ‘Leave’ side won by but the unimaginably ugly intolerance and ignorance that has slowly emerged from under the surface of a nation not many people expected it from. The behaviour of people in supposedly civilised society has been disgusting and the discussion over the political and economic repercussions of the vote seem shallow compared to the discussion that isn’t being had about how a nation that was bombed by the most extreme forces of intolerance 75 years ago can possibly have citizens demonstrating today the same kind of anger towards its own fellow citizens rather than at the politicians who created this situation in the first place.