Friday, February 27, 2009

The Tale of the Sheep and the Tiger

While taking a stroll through the Jardins de Luxembourg in Paris last week I spotted a photography exposition evoking ideas associated with the 27 states of the European Union. Naturally enough, my first thought was ‘what images would they choose to represent Ireland? The theme for the selection of photographs seemed rather random. There were three photographs representing each country, one of the parliament and the other evoking cultural and environmental themes. Having passed images of British industry in the 50s, the Berlin wall and the sky-scraping financial district of Paris’s La Defense, my irrepressible and perhaps fatuous sense of national pride filled me with fervid anticipation of the photographs representing Ireland. Then, there it was: a green field with sheep on it overlooking a blue sea. It was the classic cliché, the postcard image, a brochure for Bord Fáilte etc. I wondered if this was really the Ireland of grass and tree, stone and sea, the island of romantic dreams, Yeats country, or rather an ‘abode of lost ones each searching for its lost one’, the land of throes and interminable woes, Beckett country. Looking again at the sheep I was tempted to ask: who are the sheep in the photograph? Who are those woolly grazers oblivious to the world? Then an outrageous thought beset me .We are the sheep gently poised on the side of the cliff moments before the waves of the world financial crisis wash us away. We are the lost sheep of Europe, a bloated ovine carcass rotting upon the shores of the western Atlantic. There’s a thought to be going on with!
When I went home that night, I reflected again on the idea of the Irish landscape and the ovine hypothesis. As we all know, sheep are rather gregarious creatures; when one of them leaves the flock the others tend to follow. But how could one tell this particularly Irish fairytale? Once upon a time we (the sheep) were ruled by the British, let’s call them the dogs.(no offence intended!) Now the sheep didn’t really like being ruled by dogs but they did what they were told. Then one day, a few brave lambs decided they’d had enough and so they started a revolution. At first the rest of the flock almost choked on their cud. They repeated what their masters told them and called the revolutionaries a pack of black sheep. But when they saw the terror of the dogs they rapidly sheared their wool and disguised themselves as wolf-hounds. The dogs panicked and left but were soon replaced by a pack of real wolf-hounds, the Church. The sheep capitulated. As luck would have it, the sheep eventually realised that the wolf-hounds couldn’t really bite and so they happily returned to their old pastures. But grass was scarce and some had to leave the country. Thousands followed. Then one sunny day, a strange creature with stripped skin arrived on the island. Let’s call him the Celtic Tiger or neo-liberal economics. The tiger inspired shock and awe among the flock. He was wild, exotic, exiting and seemed to have magical qualities. Some distrusted him but the tiger was very cleaver. He said. “Hey, you too can acquire stripped skin and large teeth if you do as I say, and if you follow me you will run just as fast as I! So let me by your guide and guardian.” The sheep followed. Now the problem with tigers is that they need jungles in order to survive and sheep are not too comfortable in jungles! The tiger decided to create an artificial jungle by taking the sheep’s wool. It was proof of his magical powers. The sheep thought it was a great idea and happily donated. However, as the jungle got bigger it became more and more difficult to find the tiger. Some began to doubt if he really even existed. Then one day, a storm blew the woolly jungle away and the poor sheared flock was left bleating upon the Atlantic shore. The tiger had abandoned them in search of new flocks. The end.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gaudeloupe: the wraith and wrath of France's past

When Barack Obama was elected American president over a month ago, the French satirical journal ‘Le Canard enchaîné ’ published a picture of the new president with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy. The famous slogan of the latter ‘ yes we can’ was mordantly juxtaposed with Sarkozy’s rhyming imitation, “Yes je crâne ! ”-yes I boast! The accession of the first black president in US history sparked off a series of lively debates in the French media on the question of racial and cultural diversity. Could France follow the American example and elect a black president? What measures are needed to address the question of race and socio-economic equality? France’s historical cubard contains many restless squelletons most notably the legacy of its African and Oceanic colonies. Serious discussion of French atrocities in the Algerian war of independence remains, according to many polemicists, quite mute. However, just as this debate was taking place in the cosmopolitan salons of Paris, workers in the French Carribean island of Gaudeloupe were taking to the streets en masse. In spite of the fact that the general strike has paralysed the French island for over a month, reporting on the Gaudeloupean crisis has been surprisingly scanty until now. Yet the signals were given to Elysée Palace as early as December 8th 2008 that workers had had enough of exorbitant prices and meagre wages. Paris ignored the warnings. On the 20th of January the Committee against extreme exploitation (LPK) launched a general strike crippling the island’s economy. Yet, it took the French government 10 days before asking the Secretary of State for overseas territories Yves Jégo to visit the island in an effort to resolve the crisis. Since then, the situation on the island has intensified with riots and larceny on the increase. On February 18th a syndicalist was shot dead after leaving a meeting. According to reports, a gang of youths mistook him for a police officer. The procrastination of the French government coupled with the incendiary comment by the president that the behaviour of the rioters, whom he described as hooligans and delinquents, proves that the conflict can no longer be considered social, have radicalised the animosity of many Gaudeloupeans. The protesters are demanding a significant increase in their salaries. The French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has proposed an increase of 200 euro per month. It remains to be seen whether this measure will suffice to quell the flames of discontent that have gripped the island in the past few months.
The Guadeloupean crisis raises serious problems for France and indeed Europe. As a department of France, it is also part of the European Union. However, along with its neighbouring island of Martinique and the South American country of French Guyana, it forms part of the only EU region inextricably linked to the history of slavery. Conquered by France in 1635, it has remained in French possession ever since. To finance their sugar and cane industries, the French imported slaves from Africa to work in the new colony. Slavery was temporarily abolished in 1794, only to be re-introduced under the dictatorship of Napoléon in 1802. Slavery was finally abolished in 1848. However, after the abolition the French government continued to maintain the sugar and cane industries, the only difference for the slaves being that they were now free to earn a meagre wage with which to buy their own food at high prices. In 1971 the Martinique poet and French deputy declared that the new capitalist system was even more colonial than the old. Much of the old slave businesses stayed in the possession of white colonial families whose descendants still have a monopoly on the island’s industries today. In spite of their traumatic past, Gaudeloupeans are proud of their French identity. Unlike their neighbours in Haiti who secured independence in 1804, Gaudeloupe sought equality at the heart of the French Republic, creating a concept of identity which transcended geographical and racial boundaries. They represent in this sense the essence of French republicanism, yet the historical wounds of institutionalised racism have been re-opened by what many perceive as the blind indifference of the French government to France’s most impoverished region.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Seán Eoghain O Tuathalán or John Toland: The oracle of the anti-christians

In the windswept peninsula of Inisowen in County Donegal in the year 1670, a child was conceived whose perception of the world would change the course of European history. His name was Seán Eoghain Ó Tuathalán or Janus Junius Eoganensius or Joannes Tolandus Hibernicus or as he is commonly known today John Toland. We don’t know much about his early life. Some biographies relate that he was the son of a Catholic priest and a prostitute, a common phenomenon at the time.

However, the Scholars in the Irish college in Prague where Toland studied for a while, wrote him a testament in Latin claiming he came from a noble Gaelic family. At the age of 16 Toland converted to Protestantism. He received a thorough grounding in Theology, Greek and Latin in Londonderry before departing for university studies in Glasgow and Edinburgh, where he received a Master of Arts in 1690.

Toland continued his studies in Holland at Leiden University, at the time, a bastion of liberal thinking founded by William of Orange. In Holland, O Tuathaláin frequented the coffee-houses and taverns meeting all the greatest minds of his day. It was here that he came across the works of the Dutch philosopher Spinoza, whose radical ideas were to have a profound effect on his subsequent writing.

Having imbibed the liberal intellectual spirit of Holland, Toland went to Oxford where he read the philosophy of John Locke. Locke had argued that there was no contradiction between reason and religious faith. Toland decided to test this idea through a thorough examination of the bible. The result was a book that would send shock-waves throughout Europe. 'Christianity Not Mysterious; or, A treatise Shewing That There Is Nothing in the Gospel Contrary to Reason, nor above It, and That No Christian Doctrine Can Be Properly Call'd a Mystery'.

Toland’s book asserted that Christianity did not contain any mysteries. These so –called mysteries, he argued, had been invented by priests to frighten and hoodwink the ignorant. Christianity Not Mysterious proved to be a best-seller throughout Europe. Its radicalism was such that it provoked over 50 separate publications attempting to refute its ideas.

The Irish parliament immediately ordered Toland's book to be burned and sent out a warrant for the author’s arrest. Toland fled to Oxford, where he would remain for a number of years. But it wasn’t long before the Gaelic philosopher would be the source of controversy yet again. In 1698 he published his monumental biography of the poet John Milton, where certain passages casting doubt about the authenticity of the New Testament caused outrage. However, his work Anglia Libera, which argued in favour of the Hanover succession, won him favour among the British authorities. He was employed by the British government as a foreign diplomat, frequenting the Court of Prussia, where he greatly impressed the Princess Sophia.

Toland also corresponded with the German philosopher Gotfried Leibniz, whose letters reveal a deep admiration for Toland’s genius mixed with a degree of reservation concerning his radical anti-religious views. Toland’s conversations with Princess Sophia resulted in a book entitled ‘Letters to Sophia’ where he argued that motion was an intrinsic quality of matter, thus refuting the Cartesian conception of the world.
Toland’s writings are said to be in the range of 30 to 100 books and pamphlets. He was the first thinker to argue for the naturalisation of the Jews in Europe. During the course of his career Toland became increasingly atheistic. His opposition to established religion was argued in his book 'On Christianity, Judaism and Islam', three religions which he described as the three 'great frauds of humanity'. However, his magnum opus is generally considered to be his book written in Latin entitled Pantheisticon. Combining many ideas from Ancient Greek and Roman authors, this work proposed the concept of pantheism, which means that God and nature are one, and that the study of nature is the only true knowledge.

Toland’s works so obsessed the French philosopher Le Baron D’Holbach, the first confessed atheist, that his friend Denis Diderot, described its reception among the French intelligentsia as being like a bomb! D’Holbach immediately undertook the translation of some of Toland’s works into French. Diderot and Voltaire read the Irish philosopher with devotion. Toland also undertook a number of significant translations, the most important of which were works from the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno.

Later in Life, Toland, who spoke over 10 languages, turned again to his native Irish. He studied documents pertaining to the Celtic languages in Oxford and tried to show that the Ancient Order of the Druids represented a more primitive form of his own thinking. He is also said to have translated part of the Gaelic historian Seathrún Céitinn’s Foras Feasa ar Éireann.
Described by eighteenth century Irish philosopher George Berkeley as the 'first free thinker', and by Johnathon Swift as the ‘oracle of the anti-Christians’, this Gaelic, British, European, republican, cosmopolitan genius has, with the exception of a few scholars, has been hitherto ignored by the Irish intellectual establishment. However, new editions of his works have recently appeared in France, where he has even been compared to Nietszche and Marx. Italian scholars have been studying his works for over fifty years, dedicating a research institute in the University of Florence to his name.

Seán Ó Tuathaláin is one of the greatest geniuses Ireland has ever produced. His overwhelming erudition and the radicalism of his ideas make him a man centuries ahead of his time and as the French scholar Albert Lontoine has noted, 'dangerous for his epoch'. But how could a philosopher of such importance still remain unknown in Ireland? That is perhaps a question best asked of the Catholic Church, who controlled our philosophy departments for decades since Irish independence, stifling intellectual debate with pious medievalism.

De non existensia Dei. Poland's intellectual slumber

The snow fell interminably as I took a bus for Auschwitz. It was early January 2005, 60 years after the liberation of the concentration camps. All I can remember of the journey was the pale, grey empty sky covering a vast expanse of forest. I looked attentively through the windows of our shabby bus for signs of life amid the winter desert. Nothing. Auschwitz is perhaps the only place of pilgrimage worth visiting in Europe. Unlike religious places of pilgrimage dedicated to the infusion of superstition and lies, Auscchwitz confronts us with pure mortality, that to which we are all heading and from which none of us can escape. This is not a holy pilgrimage, it is a hollow one. Going to Auschwitz is like drinking a cold stiff coffee. It is deeply unpalatable but it wakes you from your slumber. Yet, strangely, slumber is one of the first words that occured to me when I visited Krakow that January. Krakow is a fine cultured city yet plagued by unemployment and deep-rooted religiosity. If you go to Krakow on a Saturday night or Sunday morning you will see throngs of young people huddling into the local churches to worship. It is not uncommon to see young men and women attired in full ecclesiastical garb traversing the public squares. For a country with a highly educated population like Poland, it is surprising if not paradoxical that so many should practice religion. Coming back to my hostel from my trip to Auschwitz, I did a search on the internet for Polish philosophers. I wanted to see if this intellectual obsequiousness had always been a feature of Polish life. Could Auschwitz be the reason for the return to religion? Yet, how could they not realise the intrinsic connection between fascism and Christianity? How could modern Poland not see that the only reason their beloved church didn’t murder the same amount of people so quickly was because they didn’t possess the same technology during the 500 years of the infamous Inquisition?
For the most part, my googling left me disappointed. That is until I made a happy discovery. I stumbled upon the name Kasimierz Lyzcynsinski. According to Wikepedia, Liszinski was a ‘Polish noble, landowner, philosopher, and soldier in the ranks of the Sapheia family, who was accused, tried and executed for atheism in 1689.’ As a landowner, Liszinski also functioned as a podsedek, a Polish term for a magistrate dealing with land ownership issues. Liszinskis’s downfall came when he got into dispute with a the nuncio of Brest in Lithuania ( then part of the Polish kingdom), by the name of Jan Kazimierz Bzroska, who owed Liszinski a considerable sum of money. At the time, Liszinski had been reading a book by the theologian Henry Alsted called Theologica Naturalis, who had attempted to prove the existence of God. Unimpressed by Alsted’s thesis, Liszinski wrote in the margins ‘ ergo non est Deus’, therefore God does not exist. When he discovered this, Bzroska quickly informed the local clergy, who immediately ordered an investigation into Liszinski’s writings. It wasn’t long before they discovered the philosopher’s magnum opus boldly entitled ‘ De non existensia Dei, on the non-existence of God. Liszinski was tried and sentenced to death. Among the extracts remaining from this important book are the following.
“that Man is a creator of God, and God is a concept and creation of Man. Hence the people are architects and engineers of God and God is not a true being, but a being existing only within mind, being chimeric by its nature, because a God and a chimera are the same’
Liszinski goes on to proclaim
‘Religion was constituted by people without religion, so they could be worshipped although the God is not existent. Piety was introduced by the impious. The fear of God was spread by the unafraid so that the people were afraid of them in the end. Devotion named godly is a design of Man. Doctrine, be it logical or philosophical, bragging to be teaching the truth of God, is false, and on the contrary, the one condemned as false, is the very true one’
Liszinski also claimed that when intellectuals would try to explain to ordinary people how they were been duped by the church, they in their ignorance would attack those who were trying to free them. For his good sense Liszinski’s tongue was cut out by burning iron and his hands were burned over a slow fire before his head was chopped off. I guess it was the Catholic Church’s way of proving to him the reality of hell! What a pity Liszinski has been forgotten in modern Poland! On the Liszinski Wikipedia page you will find a link to a society dedicated to the promotion of reason in Polish society called racjonalista. Though hopelessly outnumbered by a population slumbering in religion, these intellectuals are nevertheless a ray of hope in a country suffering from the post-traumatic disorder of history.

El ultimo brigadista Irlandes

Bob Doyle (1916-2009) Commemoration(The last Irish Brigadista)O'Connell Street, DublinOil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás50cm x 60cm / 19.7 in x 23.6
On the 22 of January this year, one of Ireland’s last true communists died. Bob Doyle was born in Dublin in 1916 to a poor working class family. Bob had a difficult childhood.While his father was away at sea, his mother was interned in a mental asylum. Bob was sent to a convent to be educated. In his memoires, he recalled the peculiar mixture of nationalism and anti-semitism inculcated by the nuns. Bob, like so many of his generation, was brought up to be an obsequious Catholic. Yet ironically, it was the Catholic Church which inspired his conversion to communism. On the 27th of March 1933 in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, Bob listened to a sermon by a Jesuit priest condemning all forms of socialists whom he described as ‘vile creatures’. After the service, a mob of up to a thousand parishioners marched to Connolly House, the meeting place of Irish socialists, and set fire to the building. This virulent mixture of racism and anti-communism was propagated by a newspaper called Catholic Mind. In may 1934, an article appeared claiming that ‘ the founders of communism were all Jews’. The article goes on to name Marx, Engels, Lenin and a host of others in an evil Jewish conspiracy to take over the world! Ireland’s love-affair with fascism was eloquently expressed by the Fine Gael leader John Aloysius Costello, who wrote in the same year ‘The Blackshirts have been victorious in Italy; and Hitler’s brownshirts were victorious in Germany, as, assuredly, the Blueshirts will be victorious in the Irish> Free State.’In his book ‘An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism’, Bob recalled his shame at having been among the Catholic mob> that attacked Connolly House. However, soon thereafter, he met Kit Conway who explained socialist theory to him. Bob soon became a committed communist vehemently opposing the rise of the staunchly Catholic blue-shirt fascists lead by Eoin O Duffy. In 1936, when the shadow of fascism was spreading throughout Europe, he enlisted with Frank Ryan, Micheal O Riordan and others as a brigadista of the 15th> International Brigade in the Spanish civil war to fight for the republicans. The trauma of Spains’s fascist past is still being felt today. Since the election of Zapatero in 2004- whose form of Neo-republicanism has been largely influenced by the Irish philosopher Philip Petit-the legacy of the Spanish Civil War is being discussed more openly. The divisions remain, with Aznar’s right-wing Parti Popular and the Catholic Church eager to promote historical amnesia, so that their support for Franco’s brutal dictatorship may be forgotten. One wonders how far the Catholic Church will go in their attempt to re-write history. Following the example of the previous Pope, Benedict XVI has recently attempted to cover up the crimes of his church by beatifying Pope Pius XII, a Nazi sympathiser. The Pontiff, himself a former member of the Hitler Youth, has recently re-instated Bishop Williamson, who denies that the Holocaust ever took place. None of this is surprising, as the evidence of history proves the ideological link between fascism and the Catholic Church. What is surprising, however, is that extreme> right-wing ideology has not yet been fully eradicated from mainstream European societies, and that there is a dangerous apathy shown by many to confront it. Responding to the financial crisis shortly before he died, Bob Doyle regretted that capitalism continues to oppress the> workers of the world. When the racist Eoin O Duffy died in 1944, he was given a state funeral. The Irish state, yet again, paid its respects to a Nazi sympathiser. There was no such funeral for Bob Doyle, a true republican with the courage to take up arms in the fight for social justice. The fact that the Labour Party would ally itself in the last general election with a party historically linked to fascism, shows the absurdity of the Irish democratic system, which consists principally of the right-wing Fianna Fáil and their opponents, the even more right-wing Fine Gael! I was amused by former TD Noel Tracey’s statemention November 7th last year accusing RTE of being ‘left-wing’. Needless to say, I am looking forward to ‘Red’ Telifís na h’ Éireann’s documentary on the history of Irish communism!

An labhróidh Washington le Tehran? An labhróidh Tehran le Tel Aviv?

An labhróidh Washington le Tehran? An labhróidh Tehran le Tel Aviv?

Ní chloistear mórán faoi choimhlint i bPailistín faoi láthair. Tá an olltoghchán Iosraelach faoi lánseol, ach cé go mba sin ceann de na cúiseanna chun an cogadh a fhearadh, ní dhealraíonn sé anois go raibh an beartas sin rathúil. Sular sheol siad na trúpaí chun Gaza, dúirt rialtas na hIosraele go raibh sé mar aihm acu, Hamas a scriosadh agus a chur as feidhm. Ach tar éis níos mó na 1330 daoine maraithe agus 5450 gortaithe, tá Hamas fós ann agus, de réir cosúlachta, ag bailiú nirt.
Tá muintir an domhain ag feidheamh le ráiteas Obama faoin gcogadh sa Mheán Oirthear. Shílfeá go mbeadh dearacadh agus straitéis eile aige chun dul i ngleic le coimhlint den chineál sin. Go deimhin, ba chomhartha maith é cinneadh Obama George Mitchel a sheoladh don réigiún. Ar a laghad, tá taithí chuimsitheach faighte aige ón gcloimhlint i d’Tuisceart na hÉireann. Tá sé tharr am anois don Teach Bán ról níos pragmataí a ghlacadh sa Mheán Oirthear. Anois agus na Stáit Aontaithe ag ullmhú a dtrupaí a tharraingt as an Iaráic, tá comharthaí ann go bhfuil an cúlra geopholaitiúil ag athrú sa réigiún. Tá an Iaráin ag oscailt an dorais do dhioscúrsa leis na Stáit Aonaithe , comhartha eile go bhfuil teacht i láthair Obama ag spreagadh athrú intinne sa Phoblacht Ioslamach. Má labhraíonn Washington le Tehran, d’fhéadfadh sé an seanchaidhreamh a bhí idir an dá tir roimh an réabhlóid ioslamach i 1979 a athbunú.
O bunaíodh Poblacht Ioslamach na Iaráine i 1979, bhí drogall ar rialtais na Stát Aontaithe taidhleoireacht shaoithínteach a chur i bhfeidhm le rialtas na hIaráine. Ach nuair a tháinig an Ayatollah Khoméini i gcumhacht san Iaráin i 1979, bhí sé brea sásta dul i ndáil chomhairle le hIosrael. Bhí gá do Therhan margadh a dhéanamh le hIosrael chun gunnaí a cheannach. Bhí a fhios ag Iaráin go mbeadh sé usáideach dóibh a bheith cairdiúil le Iosrael dá bharr. Ach céard faoi ráiteas d’Athmadinijad cúplá bliain ó shin go raibh sé ar intinn aige Iosrael a scriosadh? Chuala mé taidhleoir Iaráineach sa Radio na Fraince an tseachtain seo caite agus é a ag maíomh nár aistríodh na focail an uachtaráin go ceart. Bhí sé a rá, dar leis, go mba choir go scriosfaí an sionachas. Bheul, b’fheidir go raibh mícheart againne. Ach ta rud amháin soléir anois: má fheicfimid rapprochement idir na Stáit Aontaithe agus an Iaráin, ta sé dealraitheach go laghdóidh sé sin an brú faoi Iosrael deireadh a chur ar a dhaorsmacht faoi mhuintir na Pailistíne. I ndeireadh an lae, is muintir bhocht iad na Pailistínigh agus is beag an meas atá ag na rialtais arabacha eile sa réigúin ar chearta daonna a gcomharsana

Sarko's sober sermon

On Thursday January 5th the French president Nicolas Sarkozy participated in a televised debate to discuss his new rescue package for the French economy. The financial plan comprising 1.4 billion euro will be used to re-finance the banks. The president also intends to invest in infrastructure and social projects. In order to save France’s disappearing automobile industry, professional tax will be cut from 2010. Since the financial crisis struck last year, France’s chief car manufacturers have hit an all-time production slump, with Renault, Citroen and Peugeot all closing factories. Outsourcing of manufacture to poorer countries such as Roumania and the Czech Republic has led to a serious rise in French unemployment. Sarkozy hopes that the removal of corporation tax will remedy this problem. Watching the debate, one got the impression that this was a man feeling the pressure. 

In spite of the democratic appearance of such a public debate with the president, his interrogation by three regular French news readers was far from rigorous. The general strike which has brought Guadaloupe to a standstill over the past few weeks was not even broached, and what about his famous ‘plan banlieu’, the ambitious development plan for France’s troubled suburbs? Nothing.
The only independent journalist who was allowed to question Sarkozy was the conservative Alain Duhamel, who has recently written a book called La Marche Consulaire ( The Consular March) comparing Sarkozy to Napoleon and the current financial crisis to the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo! The president managed to evade the vexed question of French purchasing power, which is considerably weaker than that of Germany. French teachers are among the lowest paid in the Euro Zone.
When it came to the question of Europe, Sarkozy referred to Ireland twice. However, this time there was no mention of the no- vote on The Lisbon Treaty. Instead, Ireland was mentioned as one of the worst cases of the financial capitalist catastrophe! Needless to say, the United Kingdom was also criticised for its role in the sub-prime mortgage scandal. It would be easy to forget, considering the ebullience of Sarkozy’s recent anti-capitalist rhetoric that this was the man who proposed to introduce the so-called ‘Anglo-Saxon’ model into French society during his 2007 election campaign. His slogan then was ‘travailler plus pour gagner plus’ - ‘ work more to earn more’. The thirty-five hour limit on the working week was to be reformed so that people could be encouraged to work themselves to death! Mr Sarkozy also expresses a considerable antipathy for rogue traders, in spite of the fact that one of his many recent constitutional reforms proposed the suspension of custodial sentences for financial misdemeanours.

 The French president has a rather idiosyncratic way of speaking. He frequently follows a statement with the question ‘pourquoi’-why, before proceeding to hammer home the answer. He also makes extensive use of repetition.  According to a recent survey, only 37 percent of the French population are happy with the performance of the French president, with over 60 percent expressing serious discontent. Nicolas Sarkozy showed remarkable dexterity in answering a range of highly predictable questions with platitudes and rhetorical flourishes. But, the real debate is heating up outside the Elysée Palace, and as the general strike on the 29th of January showed, French workers are becoming increasingly hostile to a Sarkozy’s relaunch of a bankrupt system.