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A voté

Philosophical detours around the 2017 French presidential election

I voted Benoit Hamon. What can I say? I have always voted for the Parti Socialiste candidates at presidential and legislative elections, and at local elections when candidates were known to belong to the party. I’ll vote Macron in the second round.

 

‘…TWO HOURS.’

NON!’

‘Yes, yes, it took two hours.’

Aye!’

‘Apparently, it’s taking up to three hours in Montreal, and it was almost freezing there this morning. At least it’s warm and sunny here.’

Is the queue along the school fence two, three hundred metres long? Longer. It’s longer. As I walked to its end, it seemed to go on forever.

It is warm and sunny, and I don’t have a hat. I don’t have water. I haven’t applied sunscreen to my arms, neck or face.

The man standing next to me moves his lips in what I read as impatience.

I put on my sunglasses.

 

THE LEFT; THE right. As a child I believed that those who were right-handed voted for the right and those who were left-handed voted for the left. It made sense since I knew that most people in France were right-handed and the president and government were from the right. Then I discovered over fiery family dinners that all of my mother’s family voted for the left, even though none were left-handed, and my father’s family voted for the right, though one of my aunts was left-handed. During election years – whether regional or legislative, and especially presidential – my father regularly came under siege at my maternal grandparents’.

I did not entirely understand how these discussions between loved ones could culminate in their being red in the face and aggressively spluttering over their plates, when the rest of the time they all got on and laughed together.

My uncles and grandfather were labourers and my grandmother was a cleaner. All believed that only the Communist Party could represent them, ‘the little people’, betrayed by the corrupt elite of the right. My father and my mother had started their own business, which never grew to more than three employees, including themselves, and my father believed that the liberal policies of the Rassemblement Pour la République of Jacques Chirac would provide the conditions they needed to flourish.

The politicians had done a good job of stirring passions within my family. The Communist Party and the RPR’s propaganda had ignited their partisan spirits. The ideas they had received flew in circles, and arguments for and against repeated themselves, over and over. Did my uncles believe their opinions would change my father’s mind? Did my father really believe that his own would force my uncles to see reason?

In the mornings after those dinners I was relieved to see the enmity gone, or at least not visible, and my uncles and father building a new hutch or fishing together.

I rarely speak about politics with my parents or friends. It is hard for me to speak about politics. Speaking about politics means being for or against an opinion. It means, in the logic of political parties, using the propaganda they have concocted to condition our political attitudes in order to try to convince someone not only of the validity of our opinion, but of its supremacy. In other words, it takes us away from truth, because truth, in its plurality, is other than an opinion.

FOR A WHILE I joined my local Labor Party branch and attended its monthly meetings. I learnt a lot about street parking regulations (and the names of all the streets in my new suburb). I learnt, through sometimes effective jokes, that the local private school, since it had money, did not care for the community around it because it added new wings to buildings without due consultation. I learnt that the local Liberal candidate for the state legislative election was ‘completely mad’. One could not agree with or admit that an idea or a policy from the Liberal–National Coalition might be sensible – in fairness, these meetings took place during the prime ministership of Tony Abbott.

In 1943, a young French woman called Simone Weil wrote Note sur la Suppression Générale des Partis Politiques, which was translated in 2012 by Simon Leys for Black Inc. in Australia and published as On the Abolition of All Political Parties. In her essay, Weil describes political parties as machines that enslave the mind because they do not seek to educate, but to persuade. They offer talking points to their sympathisers – my family members repeated the French Communist Party’s over dinners just as my Sydney Inner-West comrades recited the Labor Party’s at branch meetings – and, because political parties castigate nonconformity and expel those who disagree with the party’s established opinions, they impose a discipline onto their members at the expense of their freedom of thought, better judgement and conscience.

I do not speak politics with my parents or my friends. I left the Labor Party. I find insufficient fuel in the left-wing opinions of France and Australia to keep my partisan spirit running. Or perhaps I should admit that my partisan spirit is simply weak. The politically vocal writer Jean d’Ormesson, when asked why he never got into politics, would answer with something like: ‘Politics is to say I’m right, others are wrong. When I speak with an opponent, I often wonder if they, after all, may not be right.’

 

I HAVE NEVER waited in a queue for two hours.

I can’t face queues. I cannot wait; and I cannot wait with others, nor can I do the same thing that others do at the same time. In class, I was an inattentive, restless pupil, always wishing I was doing something else. There were subjects and activities I enjoyed, but I wished I could enjoy them alone. I read.

What pleasure in my early twenties to enter the small theatre of a cinéma de quartier and observe it was deserted. What comfort to see the short films, then the feature film start, without anyone else having taken their seat in the room. What privilege to be alone, the unique member of the audience, the complete audience.

Leaving crosses my mind. I have left before, often before even joining a queue, when looking at the queue. I haven’t attended events I was interested in because I knew I would have to queue. I don’t enjoy writers’ festivals for that very reason, and also for being in the same room as dozens or hundreds of people, all of us listening to the same person. On the few occasions I attended writers’ events, in support of friends who would be speaking, I wanted to leave the moment I stepped in the queue. I would then take a seat in the audience next to a friend who had come for the same reason. If it were not for that friend sitting next to me, I would leave within minutes.

I stay in the queue. I open the book I brought to read on the train and in the bus, not anticipating I would also read it in a queue.

A young woman says to her friend, ‘We should be able to talk about it, at least.’

Reading when she and her friend began their conversation, I didn’t hear what was said before. What is the it we should be able to, at least, talk about? What else could we do with it? Dance, play, laugh?

‘Anyway…’ she concludes with resignation.

What mightn’t one feel allowed to talk about? The things that once perhaps were not allowed to be discussed? Allowed, meaning accepted. Subjects with potential to offend others? Should we not be able to talk about anything?

 

I WAS EIGHTEEN. I could not understand why the far-right Front National party (FN) had any members at all. Why would anyone choose to sympathise with, vote for, or join a far-right political party? Isn’t it akin to telling everyone that you are stupid, that you don’t know better? That your opinions are wrong? Evil?

I was studying in the Norman town of Caen, preparing to enter the Grandes écoles de commerce – a path my parents had chosen for me since I had no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life.

I often skipped class, especially English and Algebra, and seldom studied when I returned to my fifteen-square-metre apartment. Philosophy was the only subject I performed well in. Only truth – searching for it and investigating ideas and conditions – interested me.

My philosophy lecturer, Charles-Edouard Leroux, was in his forties. Did he believe that philosophy was more than reading philosophy and philosophising in exams? Did he try to teach us to think in ways other than those expected of us as future business students? One night, he took the whole class to see a production of Milan Kundera’s Jacques et Son Maître at the Espace Puzzle, a small theatre he was involved in.

What happened to my love of philosophy? I seldom read it these days. Why was I so attracted to philosophy? Did I find any truths then? Did I leave the cave? Was it because it was the only subject that brought some pleasure and satisfaction? Because for the first time something I was studying seemed to affect me?

In the end, after the final exams, admission to a business school in Paris and a summer holiday in a provincial town whose library had no philosophy books, fiction took me away from philosophy.

 

THE QUEUE IS not single file. It is a crowd of people occupying the footpath. Older people and couples with babies walk to the end of the queue, then walk back to the front.

In Marine Le Pen’s society, would older people and couples with babies be expected to join the back of the queue, like everyone else, and wait their turn?

What is the it that we should, at least, be able to talk about?

At the core of politics, as we practice it in democracies, is freedom of opinion. Are there political opinions we do not want to talk about? Are there opinions we refuse to consider as political? Is, for instance, the notion of pétainisme, espoused by many of the founders of the FN at its inception in 1972, not a legitimate political opinion? How, then, can we debate Pierre Bousquet, François Brigneau, François Duprat? The French philosopher Alain Badiou proposes that anti-Semitism is a political opinion, Nazism a politics, in Abrégé de métapolitique (Seuil, 1998).

To counter such opinions, one has to regard them as political for they aim to persuade. Considering them as ‘fanatical non-opinions undermining being-together’ and not worth debating but simply relying on common sense to defeat them will not lead to their evaporation from the society, but see them shift common sense. To counter such opinions, another politics is required. In that sense, real politics, affirms Badiou, is a form of resistance against evil.

For close to forty years, French politicians and intellectuals have refused to debate the FN and their ideas, judging them as lacking dignity. President Jacques Chirac refused to debate with Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election of 2002. Until then, the (often oscillating, in retrospect) fortunes of the FN at European, departmental and municipal elections of the 1980s and ’90s was seen as a fever spurt which would not last.

Between the two rounds of this year’s presidential election Emmanuel Macron said that one should debate the FN, even if one gets a little dirty doing so. Macron debated with Marine Le Pen on Wednesday evening.

Many in the press have recently attempted to elucidate whether the FN has changed over the years. Has it cleared the stench of anti-Semitism, of racism, that has surrounded the party’s vision and policies since its conception by the Ordre Nouveau movement? Has Marine Le Pen, who replaced her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011, succeeded in ‘de-demonising’ the party?

The way many news reports have treated the subject reminded me of how Mr Leroux taught us to structure our essays: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The question posed, the problem to examine, is not a simple problem, but a set of problems – problématique – and one cannot arrive at a yes or a no answer, but at a new set of problems – a dépassement of the question.

Many during the campaign have said that Emmanuel Macron is vague, unclear. Can’t he answer the question with a yes or no? Would he deploy troops or not? Is Russia evil? Yes or no? Macron, who has a doctorate in philosophy and worked with Paul Ricoeur, treated each question as a set of problems and provided arguments in response. Syria, we know, is not a single problem but a set of problems…

The FN was created to represent several nationalistic currents. It was inspired by the fascist mystic of the Movimento Sociale Italiano – founded by Mussolini’s friends in 1946 – to the point of adopting the MSI’s tricolour flame as its logo. The party chose Jean-Marie Le Pen as its leader because he cut a respectable political figure; its militants, however, were animated by radical ideologies. They were against things, against liberal-democracies, against legal abortion (‘a genocide of the French’), against anti-racism, against anti-homophobia… The FN’s raison d’être was to insert this gathering of anti-system, nationalistic voices into the system they denounced. Over the years, it has calibrated its policies to maintain credibility with the party’s core militants by posing as anti-system, while normalising its opinions to attract new sympathisers and win elections.

Having moved away from anti-abortion diatribes and anti-Semitic bons mots, the FN’s leaders now prefer sophistry and focus on attacking the mainstream parties’ occupying power – which it likens as an abominable conglomerate of self-interested elites – and their economic, social and law-and-order failures.

The FN has changed its style, but its ideological evolution has been minimal. What is the difference between the immigration ban it prescribed in the 1980s and today’s proposition of reducing new entries from two hundred thousand to ten thousand with a ban on immigration from Muslim countries? The party’s opinions remain intolerant. It is clear that, should it take power, the FN would seek to curtail the expression of opinions it does not agree with. It is also clear that, despite its claim to be the only party that truly understands laïcité, its lack of belief in actual tolerance would lead to the mutilation of the notion of laïcité. The FN’s opinions are not built upon moral sentiments, such as pluralism, compassion freedom, but on the denigration of others’ opinions and identities. The FN epitomises the Kantian idea of radical evil: self-interest above sociability, scapegoating over being-together, intolerance in the sight of the other. It is what you read in the party’s program, what you hear at rallies – a never-ending litany of accusations sparing no one.

 

A STRANGE THING happened the year of the classe prépa: I made a lot of friends. As a matter of fact, the whole class became one group of friends. There were evenings when that group would go to a bar together, then later at night walk the streets of Caen singing.

Hermann became a close friend of mine. He was from the small town of Saint-Lô. He listened to local punk-rock bands and was a regional karate champion. He drove a dark-silver Golf, which we all envied. He had a crew cut and mainly wore black or grey clothes. He was slender, short statured and, if it were not for his large, expressive eyes, one could have taken him for a reformed thug, a skinhead who had missed a haircut or two.

Did I ever question Hermann about his membership to the FN? I must have. An intelligent nineteen year old’s adherence to the party’s ideas seemed as backward as believing a layer of dirt on your skin protects you from disease. To me, it showed not only a lack of political and intellectual discernment but some kind of weakness, even impurity. How would he have responded? Something humorous.

Hermann’s father was a successful businessman who had established prosperous printing companies around Normandy. He was an important donor to the FN, a member of the executive committee, and close to Jean-Marie Le Pen. Hermann’s father printed all the FN’s material. That was what I first learned about his involvement with the party.

When our fellow students went home, Hermann and I stayed up and talked. We talked about music; we had radically different tastes and argued about the musical merit of our favourite bands. We agreed on Iggy Pop, though Hermann preferred his work with the Stooges, and I, his solo albums. We listened to Blah-Blah-Blah, Hermann’s last Iggy album, my first. We wondered if this new band with an unheard sound, Nirvana, was going to render the division between punk rock and more traditional rock outdated. Sometimes we drove around Caen in the Golf.

 

SOMEONE BEHIND ME in the queue says that the mustard factories of Dijon have closed and relocated to Poland, three-hundred years after they had been established by Maître-Vinaigrier François Naigeon.

 

HERMANN AND I almost lost touch after I left Caen for Paris. He stayed another year in Caen before being admitted to a business school in Dijon, and we saw each other once or twice, I think. My first few months in Paris augured the beginning of an unhappy period and I had gone back to Caen to see him and other friends, to feel again some of the exhilaration I had felt living there. I met him at his apartment and he introduced me to his girlfriend. He and I took the Golf and drove through town before settling down in a bar in the Vaugueux neighbourhood.

We met again three years later. I was about to leave for Australia and hosted a dinner party in my suburban apartment. I invited Hermann, curious to see what he had been up to, before I turned my back on my life in France to start a new one in the Antipodes.

He had been studying hard and was planning to work in Germany (his mother was German). I asked how his girlfriend was. He said she had left him, not too long ago, and what I had read on his face and demeanour as fatigue from driving all the way from Dijon now looked more like dejection. I asked how the Golf was going. He said he had wrecked it when he tried, one night after his girlfriend left him, to kill himself.

 

HERMANN AND I never spoke about politics. Not true. We did. We were eighteen and nineteen, and we spoke about everything. We spoke about politics, I’m sure, but not often. We knew we would not understand each other. We were best friends.

Hermann seemed to know that his political opinions, his membership, his belonging to the far right was something he could not hide, but could not disclose willy-nilly. Was he proud of his association? Did it come from an imperious, visceral need? Was it something he had to do?

Driving me home one evening after class, he asked without warning if I wanted to go with him to un meeting, as we call a political rally in France. Jean-Marie was going to be there.

‘Tonight? Is he in Caen?’

‘My father will be there too.’

‘I’ll meet your father…’

 

THE MAN STANDING next to me says, to himself, ‘I’m thirsty.’

He is wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt and jeans. His hair is white and long. Is he a music composer, a conductor, an artist of some sort? He’s wearing round, gold-rimmed glasses.

He hasn’t talked to me since we began waiting together and I’m thankful. I greeted him when we arrived and made a joke about the queue.

 

HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS surrounded a fence in front of the conference centre.

No chants, no slogans.

Shouts. Insults.

Facistes!’

Collabos!’

How would we enter? The crowd of students sounded like a lynch mob. Things were being thrown on the other side of the fence, inside the perimeter. An older couple passed the fence.

Vieux cons! Collabos!’

Eggs were thrown. One hit the woman on the back.

I didn’t want to go in. What if someone called me ‘fasciste’? What if someone threw something at me? What if, later in the month, later in the year, I was at a bar drinking with my friends and someone approached me and said, ‘I recognise you, you were at the rally, you went to listen to Jean-Marie Le Pen!’ And what if that person turned to all in the bar, raised his voice, and, haranguing the crowd, said, ‘Everyone! This guy was at a FN rally. I reckon he should go and drink somewhere else, don’t you?’ Everyone would agree, of course. Everyone would start booing me. My friends would look at me quizzically. ‘Were you really at a FN meeting? You?’ their eyes would say. Hermann would lower his head, no one would recognise him. I would have had to leave before someone decided to force me. I would not wave to my friends so as to not further embarrass them. I would leave. As I would walk across the bar, insults would start to fly. As I approached the door, someone would dip their fingers in their beer and spray me as if casting a spell.

Hermann and I were at the fence. At the end of the perimeter, on the left. Hermann smiled at me. He read my reluctance, my fear. He smiled.

‘Will you be at SOS Racisme’s demonstration in Paris this weekend?’ a gravelly female voice asked me.

‘What?’

‘Will you be in Paris?’

I didn’t know the young woman who accosted me. She then saw a man with white hair pass the fence, next to us. I looked at him, he somehow resembled my paternal grandfather. It must have been the white hair, the elegant allure.

She shouted, ‘Facho!’

My blood boiled.

Ta gueule!’ I snapped at her.

She walked away from me.

Hermann pulled my arm and I followed. We were on the other side of the fence. His arm around my shoulder, Hermann led me towards the entrance of the conference centre. I fixed my eyes on the glass doors, attempting to forget the hostile crowd behind us.

 

I LEAN AGAINST the metal fence and feel it move. If all those waiting along the fence were to lean against it at the same time, it would collapse.

How long has it been? I don’t look at the time. In any case, I’m unsure what time I arrived.

It is a warm and sunny day. Today, American Vice-President Mike Pence is visiting Sydney. It is a perfect day for a cruise on the harbour.

Sensus communis. Madame Morin, my Latin teacher in high school, who despaired at my inability to make one sentence in the dead language, would be proud, albeit confused, to hear me pronounce these two words. I haven’t started reading Latin, but I opened Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgement the other day. Since the political rise of Donald Trump, I have been preoccupied by the idea of common sense. Sensus communis – just two words in Latin in the French text.

Where was common sense during the American presidential election? How can the public exercise of judgement go as far as acquiescing the political opinions represented by Trump? And why am I unable to understand what took place?

Kant develops his notion of common sense in his theories of aesthetic judgement. It is no easy task to explain, or even summarise, Kant’s sensus communis. My understanding is that we all have an ability to sense, which roughly works the same way, by virtue of being human. We use that ability to make judgements. Since we all share that ability, my judgement can be used as an example of everyone else’s judgement and I can expect that others will agree with my judgement.

While the Kantian notion of common sense was born in a discourse on aesthetics, it has been applied to and expounded in political philosophy. There is an aesthetic dimension to politics (and aesthetic practices can be political). Like an aesthetic judgement, a political one is based on a feeling of pleasure or displeasure.

‘Politics,’ says Jacques Rancière in The Politics of Aesthetics, ‘revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak…’ (La Fabrique-Éditions, 2000). Those who have the ability to speak about what we see can legitimise certain ways of seeing, feeling, acting and speaking – in other words, being in the world with one another. And as such, their political opinions, indeed their behaviour, have the power to shift common sense.

Common sense in politics might not be the discernment between good and evil, the guarantor of good. When I compare my political judgement with that of half the Americans and at least a third of the French, I find no consensus. I find myself lacking the sense of in-common.

But then, can a politics of identity ever lead to consensus? Can the political representation made by Trump and Le Pen of the ‘migrant’ really reflect a shared sense of what we all have in common? Common sense has not gone away, it has shifted – so much that it has left some of us outside of it, wondering how our political judgement came to be so far from that of the majority.

Overall, Jean-Jacques Rousseau says, the general will of a nation will conform to justice. But he was also aware that the general will could fall victim to collective passion, bringing evil opinions into power. A thing is not systematic just because it is the will of the people, it can in fact be criminal. Rousseau explains that the people are not corrupted in such cases, but deceived.

Common sense is fallible. We can be deceived, charmed. Politicians like Trump, political parties like the FN, cultivate our deleterious emotions, attempt to raise the collective passions Rousseau denounced.

 

INSIDE THE CONFERENCE centre, Hermann asked a security guard where we could find Jean-Marie.

We arrived in a large room, somewhere behind the main hall. I could still hear the angry crowd outside. People – I assumed cadres of the party and their advisors, perhaps friends, family members – chatted in small groups. Hermann spotted his father in one of the groups, and as we moved to go and meet him, I spotted Jean-Marie Le Pen, towering over a group of partisans.

Hermann’s father hugged him and warmly greeted me. There was excitement in his voice when he said, ‘Come. We’ll say hello to Jean-Marie.’

I’m sure that today I remember the moment differently to how it unfolded. It seemed that, as we approached him, Jean-Marie Le Pen grew bigger and bigger, until, standing in front of him, he was much taller than me. In fact, I would have been close to ten centimetres taller than him.

He told Hermann he looked forward to seeing him at the youth gathering at La Trinité-sur-Mer in the summer. Did he ask me if I was joining les jeunesses du Front?

Did he assume I was a sympathiser, a party member? Why would I be there if I were not? Did he look at me, trying to recall where he might have met me? Had I accompanied Hermann at a rally, earlier in the year? Had I been at one of the Trinité camps? Did Hermann’s father say I was yet to be recruited? Had I planned to challenge him? Had I prepared something in my mind on the way to the conference centre to say to him?

I most likely smiled and said nothing, looking like a common, dishevelled eighteen-year-old boy with no plan, no particular aspiration and no political affinity. No opinion that could be shared in a short encounter with a political celebrity.

I saw him as an exceptional orator. Did I really understand that he carried evil political opinions? Did I believe him to be a fascist? Did I share the political opinions of the young woman of the crowd outside?

An aide came to remind Jean-Marie that he had to take the stage. He shook my hand and smiled at me, pulled Hermann against him by the shoulder, said à bientôt and walked away.

Hermann and I didn’t stay for the speeches. We went out drinking. Hermann asked me what I made of the encounter. To infuriate him, I brought up that Le Pen’s ex-wife posed in the French edition of Playboy dressed as a soubrette. During their separation, Le Pen had declared in Playboy that he had refused to pay alimony; if Pierrette needed money, she could always take cleaning jobs. Hermann hated to hear about the story. He had nothing polite to say about Pierrette.

I can’t recall what I made of the encounter the following days and weeks. Hermann, our friends and I went out drinking in the evenings. I read when I got home late at night. I read in the morning before Hermann picked me up for class.

I didn’t join the FN. Did I tell my parents I had met Jean-Marie Le Pen? I told my grandfather, maybe because the image of the man who looked like him and had been abused by the crowd stuck with me.

The crowd… Young people throwing eggs at older people, young people spitting at security guards. Hermann and I hunched, our jackets over our heads, running for the glass doors.

Was Marine there? It was in 1991, she would have been about twenty-three.

 

I HAVE NEVER queued for this long. Why is it taking so long to reach the polling booth? The number of people? Are there that many French nationals living in New South Wales who have travelled to the French school in Maroubra to vote? Is everyone here? Will everyone vote? Voting is not compulsory, so how many will stay home? What will be the abstention rate?

We are now in the school grounds, but the queue ahead of us forms the sort of geometrical figure a pencil would trace to find the exit of the labyrinth in a children’s magazine.

Inside the hall, the queue divides into three. There is now a queue for those whose surname starts with a letter from A to C, another for D to L and also M to Z. It seems the vast majority of French voters have names starting with letters D to L. That queue coils inside the school hall to reach a desk with three teenagers who register each voter’s presence after checking their passport and sticking on a Post-it that details the page and line number where their name is noted in the voters’ register. After queuing again to reach another desk, I am given a small brown envelope and invited to take the ballot papers that list the names of the eleven candidates. I take a few, leaving Marine Le Pen’s behind.

I enter the booth and place the paper with the name Benoit Hamon in the envelope, then I’m back in another coiling queue to the ballot box. Serendipitously, the music composer is again my queuing neighbour. I smile to him. I want to say something to him, but in the three hours we stood next to each other we did not speak, so I say nothing.

We get to the table with the ballot box, where once more an election official checks our passports.

‘Monsieur Henri, Jean Pierre…page 106, line two…a voté.’

So that is his name – Jean-Pierre Henri. Or is it Jean Henri? Pierre, being his middle name.

I hand my passport to the man standing behind the ballot box. I hold my ballot above its slot.

‘Monsieur Hennekinne, Xavier, Yves Patrick, page 121, line seven…’

A woman sitting next to him, using a ruler, crosses my name in the register with her blue ballpoint pen.

I let my ballot slide in the box.

‘…a voté.

 

IT IS THE first of May in Paris, fête du travail. It is also the day that the FN has chosen to celebrate Jeanne d’Arc, a symbol of resistance against invaders.

Jean-Marie Le Pen walks feebly onto a stage in front of a small crowd by the statue of Jeanne d’Arc at the Place des Pyramides. A reporter tells us that the crowd is made of sympathisers and members of small far-right parties such as the Parti de France. There are no cadres of the FN present because the eighty-eight year old has been expelled from the party by his daughter Marine for his recent public statements on the Holocaust and Pétain.

His microphone is not working and he is unable to make his speech. Waiting for the microphone to be fixed, he sings to himself. Those near the stage hear him say, ‘The midwife who gave birth to me said, this one will have a big mouth…but it’s obviously not big enough for everyone to hear me.’

 

Sydney, Villiers-en-Désoeuvre, 23 April–7 May 2017

 

 


From Griffith Review Edition 57: Perils of Populism © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

Griffith Review