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I don't think he meant it that way. He was simply comparing the difference in the celebrations between the two countries. Maybe it's a good thing that the French are able to see the two sides of their history (as Austerlitz is linked to slavery when we talk about the celebrations), but there are also times when it can temporarily be put to rest - and that does not seem to be happening. The point is not the debate about colonialism - it's the debate on whether talking about colonialism on the anniversary of Austerlitz is relevant.

As to your note on the riots, I don't see how you read this in his words. All he is saying is - those that think (gleefully) that this is a specifically French problem are probably wrong. He said nothing about France not looking elsewhere, he is only saying that France is not the only one with integration problems. In this case, YOU are putting spin in his words.

In fact, you are basically proving his point, because you are criticizing him for daring to say that there are shades of grey, and that not everything about France is black. So you are effectively saying that we have no right to say anything positive about France, because that would be neglecting all that is wrong.

And the dig about this article being worthy of Chevénement is a pretty damn cheap one. I am opposed to a lot of things coming from Chevénement, but I did not find this article objectionable for these reasons.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 29th, 2005 at 11:36:53 AM EST
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If a op ed writer in the US says stop talking so much about US problems with civil liberties and rule of law - look at other countries. Stop talking so much about the US budget deficit - look at other countries. Stop talking so much about problems with Katrina - look at France and the heatwave. When you talk about problems with racial discrimination and marginalization don't forget too mention that it isn't a uniquely US problem. Hmmh, I guess talking about Jim Crow and slavery is ok, we do after all have a usable national past of anti-segregation politics.  Why aren't we properly honouring the settling of the West or whatever other not so black and white historical event.  All this criticism is just those sneaky purveyors of the European welfare state model taking advantage of our willingness to self-criticize.

How would you read that - as a 'remember, both the past and present are grey, not black'? I wouldn't.

The reference to Chevenement may have been cheap, but I meant it as a symbol of a certain political tradition on the French left that is suffused with a blind, nationalist worship of a constructed Republican memory and allergic to any criticism which cannot be located firmly within that tradition.  

I wouldn't have said that if the article had confined itself to merely attacking the neo-liberal attack on France's socio-economic model, but the author's choice to begin with Austerlitz and then to mention the equally irrelevant debate over colonization show that he is driven by something much more than that.

by MarekNYC on Thu Dec 29th, 2005 at 12:12:23 PM EST
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Nothing like waking up at noon to hop onto ET and read some good debate.  4's for you both.  Now, if only I could find that damned French-English dictionary.... ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Dec 29th, 2005 at 01:11:28 PM EST
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You make a fair point, but the topic of the editorial is not whether the deficit is too high or whether colonisation is properly debated in France, it is whether it is justified to talk only in negatives about France, espcecially when the debate is ideologically driven and inspired by the supposedly superior systems elsewhere. In THAT context, it is highly relevant, and appropriate, to point out that France is not doing worse, or even better, on a number of measures, than the "systems elsewhere", and thus that holding these systems as examples of the reforms that should be done in  France is not necessarily a good idea.

I know exactly what you mean about Chevénement, that's precisely why I don't like him - and why I found the reference slightly unseemly here, as I don't agree with your interpretation of the article.

As far as Austerlitz and colonisation are concerned, I suppose these were used as recent examples of the trends described, with Austerlitz being particularly relevant in view of the Trafalgar parallel, and decolonisation brought in as the reason Austerlitz was sidetracked was because of the slavery issue, somewhat related to colonisation. I did not find these references inappropriate, even if they are certainly not the most significant one can find.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 29th, 2005 at 01:25:16 PM EST
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