May 6, 2012 7:42 PM
Just who is Francois Hollande?
Hollande had long been sidelined from France's national affairs. Longtime friends and colleagues compared him to a jiggly pudding, or the captain of a pedal boat — a way to suggest he had no political spine. He led the Socialist Party through 11 years — years fraught with divisions and two consecutive presidential defeats.
That was before the "Affaire DSK," the New York sex scandal that engulfed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man France's Socialists were counting on to be their champion in the election battle with incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.
Now, Hollande will have to show the French, and the world, that he brings the talents of a statesman to the table, not just the fact that he's not Sarkozy.
Hollande, 57, won the presidency in a campaign that reflected his personality — slow and steady. Like the tortoise in Aesop's fable, he managed to overtake the hyperactive hare in front of him and win the race without ever igniting passions.
Hollande defeats Sarkozy in French election And after a strong performance in his only debate with the tough-tongued Sarkozy, Hollande's looking ready to slip right into his new role as head of state.
"The change ... starts now," he said in his victory speech.
After a bitter campaign and five years under the often-divisive Sarkozy, Hollande promised to be the "president of everyone" and not just those who voted for him.
"There is just one France ... one single nation, united in the same destiny," Hollande said.
He promised to reduce the budget deficit and preserve the French social model, and said youth and justice are his two top commitments.
Affable, soft-spoken and witty, the president-elect has built his reputation as a manager and consensus-builder rather than as a visionary. He's never held high government office, despite a 30-year career in French politics. An image makeover during the campaign — slimming down and donning more fashionable suits and eyeglasses — was a bid for greater presidential gravitas.
A high point in this transformation came during the televised debate May 2. Hollande teed off on a presenter's question about what kind of president he'd be, tipping back in his chair, folding his arms, and launching into a litany of points starting with the phrase: "As president of the Republic, I ..."
The gutsy performance was one of the most talked about moments of the rough-and-tumble debate, and went a long way to making Hollande look presidential in the eyes of the French.
His girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiler, a well-dressed and impeccably coiffed political journalist, is also seen as an asset to the presidential ticket.
Hollande promises to be a "normal" president, signaling a dramatic change of tone both at home and abroad for the French president after five years in which Sarkozy ruffled feathers with his aggressive, brash personality.
Sarkozy tried to turn this claim against Hollande, saying his "normality" was insufficient to take on the broad economic, political and social challenges facing France.
A majority of French voters disagreed Sunday. Hollande will have five years to prove his win was no accident.
There are a zillion guides to France jostling for position on travel shelves, but none gives more than a cursory Gallic nod to the people some people love to hate--the French themselves. Theodore Zeldin, an Englishman with great insight into his neighbors across the channel, has written the ultimate guide to the French, including how to laugh at their jokes, when to look solemn, how to appreciate French grandmothers, and how not to be intimidated by their intellectuals. It's a sympathetic, funny, serious, richly readable, charming book that hits the spot and fills a need.
"The best expert on France is British citizen. His name is Theodore Zeldin."-Les Nouvelles d'Orlï¿½ans
"Everything is fascinating in this enquiry by an Englishman who knows us better than we know ourselves."-Livres de France
"Highly intelligent, observant, perceptive, humorous, and sympathetic."-The Spectator
"[This] highly readable...book topples one Gallic Stereotype after another....Centuries of inaccurate assumptions melt away."-Newsweek
- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Kodansha USA (November 15, 1996)
- Language: English
A nation of pessimists
Anyone who spends time in Paris comes away wondering why Parisians are so miserable. The capital city with the lowest smiles-per-hour ratio got gloomier during this election. I’ve lived here 10 years, and I’m a political junkie, but my overriding image of the campaign is of sour Parisians trudging past torn election posters in the rain.
At a glance, things aren’t bad. The world’s most visited country has a nice work-life balance, high productivity per hour, decent grub, oodles of foreign investment and trains that run on time. The average citizen lives to be 81. Oh, and France has what Adam Gopnik calls “the most beautiful commonplace civilization there has ever been”. Admittedly government debt is 86 per cent of gross domestic product, but that’s barely above Germany’s.
Yet France is world champion of pessimism. In Gallup International’s survey of expectations for 2012 in 51 countries, the French were the most morose. “We’ve never recorded such a low score in 34 years of surveys,” marvelled one pollster. Afghans and Iraqis were far more optimistic. The economist Claudia Senik calls it “The French Unhappiness Puzzle” – why French people report less happiness than their incomes would predict. Even French people living abroad, Senik writes, “are less happy, everything else equal, than the average European migrants”.
I can see two main explanations, one micro, the other macro. The micro one has to do with schools. Early childhood here is mostly happy, but then French schools seem to make people miserable for life. I first glimpsed this when my wife and I went to a parent-teacher meeting. It was the only one we were granted all year, so we were itching to hear about our daughter’s triumphs. “Things are OK,” the teacher told us. With that, she seemed to feel the conversation was over. Was there nothing else? She thought. “No real problems,” she said. Actually, she added, there was one task our daughter had struggled with – but other children had too.
This teacher saw her job solely as pointing out shortcomings. That’s pretty much the essence of French schooling, notes Peter Gumbel in his shocking book On achève bien les écoliers (They Shoot School Kids, Don’t They?). French pupils, Gumbel explains, are almost never praised and frequently told they are worthless. He writes, “Everyone I know who went to school in France bears the scars.” The French school “has become an anxiety-inducing environment”, agree the scholars Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc and André Zylberberg. This seems to breed a lasting negative outlook. Hence perhaps that characteristic French mode: the bureaucrat, shop assistant, or neighbour who addresses you like a teacher chastising a stupid child.
French pupils usually get low grades, but what determines each child’s exact grade is their performance relative to their classmates. In short, they are made into rivals. That may help explain low trust among French people. When the World Values Survey asked, “Would you say most people can be trusted?”, more than 60 per cent of Nordics replied “yes”. Only 21 per cent of French people did. Most French people don’t merely mistrust foreigners, politicians and the rich. They mistrust almost everybody.
On a macro level, you can see why they are miserable. France since 1940 is a story of declining global status. As the historian Eric Hobsbawm says, “It is a hard fate to go from global hegemony to regionalism in two generations.” Almost everything the French most prize about France is either in the past or the countryside, which comes to much the same thing. Of course Britain has also had relative decline, but at least globalisation is now happening in our language. That makes it less scary. Whenever the French try to enter global debate, their wonderful fluency is taken from them and they have to hack along in Globish.
They try. Whereas high-end New York toddlers now learn Mandarin, Parisian ones are learning English. But for French people already worried about globalisation, it’s ominous that Hollande’s key phrase of the campaign was spoken in English, in London: “I am not dangerous.”
Sarkozy is a merchant of fear, so he understands French anxieties. The message from far-right Front National voters, he said, was: “We don’t want to change our way of life.” Admittedly the Front National is built on fear of everything, but most French voters seem to feel similarly. They fear change precisely because they have the best way of life on earth. That gives them something to lose. Throw in a French education, and they’re bound to feel anxious.
任何一個在巴黎呆過的人離開時都會感到奇怪：巴黎人為何如此憂鬱？這個每小時笑容最少的首都城市，在此次法國大選期間變得更為憂鬱。我在巴黎生活過10年，我是一個政治迷，但我對此次競選的最深刻印像是：憂鬱的巴黎人在雨中拖著沉重的步伐，走過被撕破的選舉海報。政界人士都會談到法國人天生的悲觀主義。他們會像走過場一樣承諾，將“保護”法國人的利益不受外國資本家或移民的損害，至於尼古拉•薩科齊(Nicolas Sarkozy)則兩方面都提到了。擊敗薩科齊當選法國總統的社會黨人弗朗索瓦•奧朗德(François Hollande)說道：“在保護特權人群和法國兒童*之間，我已做出選擇。”那麼法國人為何如此擔驚受怕、憂心忡忡呢？
*可能錯誤 這是指法國之子嗎乍一看，情況並不糟。在這個全球遊客最多的國家，人們的工作生活達到良好的平衡，有著很高的每小時生產率、美食、大量外國投資以及準點的火車。法國人的平均壽命為81歲。哦，法國擁有亞當•戈普尼克(Adam Gopnik)稱之為“有史以來最美麗的平民文明”。誠然，法國政府債務佔該國國內生產總值(GDP)的86%，但也僅比德國略高一點。然而，論悲觀程度，法國卻處於全球之最。在蓋洛普國際(Gallup International)對51個國家展開的2012年預期調查中，法國人最為悲觀。一位調查者驚奇的說道：“在34年的調查中，我們從未遇到過如此低的分數。”阿富汗人和伊拉克人則樂觀的多。經濟學家克勞迪亞•塞尼克(Claudia Senik)將其稱為“法國的不幸福之謎”——為什麼法國人的幸福程度要低於他們的收入所預示的結果。塞尼克寫道，在其它因素相同的情況下，就連生活在海外的法國人也“比歐洲普通移民還不幸福”。我可以想到兩種主要解釋，一種是微觀的，另一種是宏觀的。微觀解釋與學校有關。在法國，童年早期通常是快樂的，但接著，法國學校似乎會讓人對生活感到悲慘。我第一次注意到這點是在我和妻子參加一次家長會時。這是整整一年裡我們唯一受邀參加的一次家長會，因此，我們盼望著聽到我們女兒的進步。老師告訴我們：“一切還不錯。”這時，她似乎認為談話結束了。沒有別的了嗎？她想了想。她回答：“沒有大問題。”實際上，她補充說，我們的女兒有一項任務做的有些吃力，但其他孩子也是如此。這名教師認為，自己的工作只是指出學生們的缺點。這大體上正是法國教育的本質——彼得•岡貝爾(Peter Gumbel)在驚世駭俗的《他們不是在扼殺學生嗎？ 》(On achève bien les écoliers)一書中如此說道。岡貝爾解釋說，法國的老師幾乎從來不會表揚學生，反而經常說他們沒用。他寫道：“在我認識的人中，每一個曾在法國上過中小學的人都帶著創傷。”學者揚•阿爾甘(Yann Algan)、皮埃爾•卡於克(Peter Cahuc)和安德烈•西爾伯貝格(André Zylberberg)也認為，法國學校“已變成一個令人焦慮的場所”。這似乎會導致法國人長期從負面角度看問題，或許因此形成了典型的“法國模式”：像老師教訓笨學生一樣老實不客氣地跟你說話的法國官員、商店營業員或鄰居。法國學校給學生打的分數通常很低，但學生的分數好不好，要看他們在班裡的相對成績。簡而言之，同班同學互相成為了競爭對手。這或許是法國人相互之間缺乏信任感的原因之一。 《世界價值觀調查》(World Values Survey)中有一個問題：“你認為大多數人都是可以信任的嗎？”超過60%的北歐人回答：“是。”只有21%的法國人作出肯定的回答。大多數法國人不僅不相信外國人、政客和有錢人，他們幾乎不相信任何人。從宏觀層面來看，你可以看出法國人為何憂鬱。自1940年以來，法國在全球的地位就在不斷下降。如歷史學家埃里克•霍布斯鮑姆(Eric Hobsbawn)所說：“在兩代人的時間裡從全球霸主之一淪為地區大國，這是種令人難以接受的命運。”法國人最引以為豪的東西，幾乎全都屬於過去，或屬於鄉村——這兩樣東西幾乎沒有區別。當然，英國的地位也相對下降了，但至少全球化正以英語為載體，於是全球化也就變得不那麼可怕了。而每當法國人想參與全球辯論時，他們說自己母語時的那種流利就一掃而光，只能磕磕巴巴地說著全球語。法國人在努力。在紐約上層家庭開始培養孩子學中文的當今時代，巴黎的上層家庭也開始培養孩子學英語。奧朗德的核心競選宣言“我不危險”是用英語在倫敦發表的，對那些已經在擔心全球化的法國人而言，這是個不祥的信號。薩科齊專門販賣恐懼，因此他理解法國人的焦慮。薩科齊說，投票給極右翼國民戰線(National Front)的選民傳達了一個信息：“我們不願意改變生活方式。”誠然，國民戰線建立在恐懼一切的基礎上，但大多數法國選民似乎都有類似的感受。法國人之所以害怕改變，恰恰是因為他們的生活方式已經是地球上最好的。改變意味著要失去一些東西。再加上受過法國式教育，法國人必然感到焦慮。譯者/何黎