Thursday, February 19, 2015


France, La Belle Pays, home of Champagne wines and Camembert cheeses, Brigitte Bardot and, and...Dominique Strauss-Kahn. France, sixty million people living in two hundred and ten thousand square miles of western Europe, plus a handful of coral islands and volcanic atolls just off the coast, allowing the word "just" to stretch to its maximum, even as far the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Southern Atlantic, parts of the Arctic and Antarctic, and even into those sections of the public library in which books on post-imperialism and post-colonialism have not yet been stacked. Ah yes, France, La Belle Pays (Le Beau Pays is more correct, but then giving up colonies and empires is also more correct, and not indulging in orgies with prostitutes when you are the Head of the International Monetary Fund is also more correct; so if they can get away with being incorrect, why can't I? La Belle Pays sounds so much more refined).

I cannot resist, given what most Americans claim to think of France, this excerpt from the CIA WorldFactbook: “France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. It plays an influential global role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the G-8, the G-20, the EU and other multilateral organizations. France rejoined NATO's integrated military command structure in 2009, reversing DE GAULLE's 1966 decision to take French forces out of NATO. Since 1958, it has constructed a hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier, more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent decades, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common currency, the Euro, in January 1999. In the early 21st century, five French overseas entities - French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion - became French regions and were made part of France proper.”

The BBC is more factual, describing France's colonial past as a major contributing factor in the presence of “a richly diverse multicultural population.” In fact it is home to more than five million people of Arab and African descent and has more racism, including resurgent anti-Semitism, than any other country in western Europe - though it probably won't hold that number one spot for very long; Britain, Germany and Holland are on its heels, like Bubba Watkins in pursuit of Rory Mcilroy. Not that “colonial past” is strictly accurate either. As noted above, a full map of France needs to include Corsica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, RĂ©union and Mayotte, plus odds and ends and bits of pieces of the world detailed elsewhere in this encyclopaedia.

Where France scores high of course is in the arts, music, literature and philosophy, with only Austro-Germany in any position to compare, though Britain and Italy would like to think they do. Food and drink as well. Even the Austro-Germans and the Brits don’t try to draw comparisons in that field. And love. L'amour. No one does l'amour quite like the French. Multiple marks for this, though I confess that, honestly, please believe me, until I saw the T-shirt pictured above, I had never registered the Eiffel Tower as a phallic symbol.

Marks For: 69

Marks Against: 69.000000001

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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