Category Archives: France

Pyongyang-sur-Seine

When you look at much modern architecture in the West, writes Dalrymple,

it bears a striking resemblance to that of Pyongyang.

In France,

whose intellectuals have long had a fascination with totalitarianism, the deeply fascist architect Le Corbusier is an almost untouchable figure in schools of architecture. Criticism of his work is career suicide.

Dalrymple says that Le Corbusier’s urbanism bears a very strong resemblance to Pyongyang’s. Le Corbusier

hated the street and spontaneous street life. He saw it as a bacterial infection of his otherwise pure culture of architecture without humans. The North Korean regime hates and fears street life, as did Le Corbusier, as a kind of contamination that escapes its control. It builds like Le Corbusier, whose plan Voisin was to turn Paris into Pyongyang-sur-Seine before Pyongyang had been conceived. The parallels between Le Corbusier and other modernists, such as Lúcio Costa, the urbanist of Brasília, and the Kim dynasty are very strong.

Return of industrial action lifts the spirits

On the slight relaxation of the lockdown in Paris, Dalrymple writes:

No sooner were people allowed a little more freedom than the rail union, controlled by the communist CGT, went on strike. Yes, life is definitely returning to normal in Paris.

Our élites man the rudder of state like drunken sailors

In Paris, writes Dalrymple,

the population was at first informed that wearing masks was not necessary because doing so served no useful purpose.

It turned out that this advice was given

not because it was believed to be true but because there were not enough masks. Now the wearing of masks is compulsory on public transport.

Dalrymple remarks:

Children are acutely aware of injustice; adolescents and young adults, susceptible already to rebellion, are acutely aware of the hypocrisies and contradictions of authority. Why, then, should they obey those who have lied to them and to everyone else?

The two French nations

There are, writes Dalrymple, two Frances, living in enmity:

  • the good France, residing in city centres or good suburbs, that respects authority and obeys the rules.
  • the bad France — the lower class, the uneducated, the immigrant, the poor, the unskilled, the ones who cannot work from home, the recalcitrant — living in the banlieues who, at the best of times, detest the constraints and rules that emanate from the élite, and try not to obey them on principle.

Paris under the shadow of Chinese flu

The doctor-writer reports that the Wuhan virus has emptied the City of Light. Anyone with a country place has left. The bright lights have gone. Père-Lachaise, where he likes to stroll, is shut. La Peste, the Camus allegory, has turned literal. A taxi driver tells Dalrymple that he thanks God

that the tabacs are kept open. To live through an epidemic and have to give up smoking would have been too much.

Dalrymple says that

a few days’ confinement to barracks is one thing, a prolonged period quite another. So far, it has all felt a bit like one long bank holiday or, at worst, a Sunday in Wales in the old days.

You must carry

a laissez-passer that can be demanded and inspected at any time.

Dalrymple’s wife, also a doctor, has been ‘controlled’ three times; he has been ‘controlled’ once. This is

every policeman’s dream. Fighting crime is difficult, demanding papiers is easy but nevertheless a fulfilment of duty.

The police were polite, in Dalrymple’s case.

I had forgotten to tick the box stating my reason for being outside, and strictly speaking, could have been fined. But since no truly bad man wears a tweed jacket such as mine, the policeman let me off.

He explains that Parisians of the type who can work at home

are prohibited from jogging from ten in the morning to seven at night. The authorities feel that there are still too many of them and it is difficult to keep a jogger at the regulation distance of two metres when he is hurtling towards you in his fluorescent Lycra outfit. I won’t miss them: joggers always seem to me to have an expression of reproach of the sedentary on their faces.

As he walks through the streets in which there are scores of shuttered shops and other enterprises,

I wonder how many of them will open again. Will only large companies survive, leading to the yet greater corporatisation of our politico-economic dispensation?

Theodore Dalrymple: no truly bad man wears a tweed jacket such as his

Dr et Mme Dr Dalrymple

The French ask only to be free, like the butterflies

Harold Skimpole

It is understandable, writes Dalrymple,

that those who benefit from the Byzantine system of pension arrangements in France should be anxious for them to continue. Workers on the railways, for example, mostly retire in their early 50s, and a train driver who retires as soon as the rules allow him will quite possibly be in receipt of a pension for twice as long as he worked. His pension theoretically is paid from the contributions of current workers, but since the number of current workers is half the number of former workers in receipt of a pension, the contributions have to be topped up by the government from tax. The 42 privileged pension schemes of early and generous retirement for specially-designated workers — a small minority of the population— are subsidised by the rest of the population, who have to work much longer in order to receive less generous pensions.

Why then, he asks, is there an apparently quite high degree of public support for the present wave of strikes? The answer is that

many French people do not see that what they are sympathising with is the maintenance of a system of privileges. Neither do they see that it is they who are paying for those privileges.

They support the strikers because they are

unaware of the underlying realities of the situation, also because of a general dissatisfaction with life, when anything that discomfits those in authority is welcomed, even if it is even more inconvenient for themselves.

An American ninny in Paris

A breathless New York Times booby on a visit to the French capital writes that the barbaric Centre national de la danse building (Jacques Kalisz, 1972), at which she

stared open-mouthed

for a long, long time,

radiates childlike exuberance.

Dalrymple remarks:

Anyone who can see childlike exuberance in such a building is capable of seeing the milk of human kindness in a Nuremberg Rally.

 

Repulsive, disfigured Paris

The approaches to the city are visually hideous, writes Dalrymple.

Practically everywhere beyond the confines of the centre, the eye is greeted by a modernist mess of gargantuan proportions, and every occasional building that is not a total eyesore was built before 1945.

He notes that there has been

an utter collapse of æsthetic ability, judgment, and appreciation in France.

M. Clean

Freelance riot control: Alexandre Benalla, right, in action on May Day. He stands accused of assault and impersonating a police officer, apparently for the heck of it

An agent of presidential security, writes Dalrymple,

is not supposed to comport himself like the bouncer of a provincial nightclub.

Dalrymple asks whether this is the moment

to bring Emmanuel Macron back down to earth, with the president increasingly criticised for his monarchical manner and basking in the reflected glory of the French victory in the World Cup.

The affair, Dalrymple says,

has not yet run its course, and though it will fizzle out, it is another nail in the coffin of Macron’s popularity. Impunity in high places can only promote disorder below.

He adds:

Any politician who lives by cleanliness dies by dirt.

Did Goolagong’s victory help the Aborigines?

Dalrymple writes that the victory of les Bleus in the World Cup

no more solves the social problems of France than did the victory of ­Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon solve the problem of Australia’s Aborigines.

The outburst of hysterical optimism in France

is destined not to last very long — as it did not the previous time, in 1998, and as the riots in the Champs-Élysées and elsewhere indicate.

Of course, he says,

the desire for a magical or symbolic solution to intractable problems springs eternal.