Manny Macron’s decision to discuss global education with the West Indian singer Rihanna has made me feel ashamed of myself.
Before Manny showed the way, Rihanna wouldn’t have been my first choice of interlocutor in such a conversation. In fact – and it pains me to admit this – she wouldn’t have made the list of choices at all.
This only goes to show what a hopeless retrograde I am, how deeply in the thrall of my snobbish prejudices. After all, we’ve known since the eighteenth century that vox populi is in fact vox dei. In other words, it’s Almighty God himself who speaks through the millions of Rihanna admirers around the world.
Since she’s chosen by God, questioning her qualifications to expound on any subject is therefore sheer blasphemy. By contrast, Manny and his foster mother Brigitte are obviously better attuned to divine messages than I am – which they showed by welcoming Rihanna to the Elysée Palace.
To put me to shame even further, and also to teach me a thing or two, they’ve sent me the transcript of the discussion, which I’m happy to share with you.
Manny and Brigitte: Bonjour!
Rihanna: What a gwaan?
M: Oh, we’re bien, thank you. Now I ‘ear you ‘ave been named the 2017 ‘arvard University ‘umanitarian of the Year.
R: Yah mon. Tis big ting for me.
B: Felicitations. Manny knows all your songs, don’t you Manny?
M: Oui, Maman.
B: What’s your particular favourite, Manny? You know, the song I made you learn by heart last night?
M: Zat goes like zis: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?// Thou art more lovely and more temperate.// Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,// And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.// Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,// And often is his gold complexion dimmed;// And every fair from fair sometime declines,// By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed…
R: How di boy deh ah act so doltish? I don’t even know dis crap.
M: What did she say, Maman?
B: She said you’re un con. Stupide. Zat’s what I made you learn two days ago, but no? What was on that sheet of paper I gave you hier soir?
M: Oh oui, Maman, ‘ere it is: “Can we burn something, babe?// And I’ll run for miles just to get a taste// Must be love on the brain// That’s got me feeling this way, feeling this way// It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good// And I can’t get enough// Must be love on the brain, yeah…”
R: Yu done know, mon.
B: Isn’t zat charmant? Zis must be taught in all French schools. Non, in all schools of ze world. I’m a teacher myself, moi-même.
M: A great teacher, Maman. Je me souviens… I still remember zose leather trousers you wore when you first walked into our classroom…
R: Respect, mon. Dese are da big tings.
B: My trousers weren’t big. Zey were quite tight, but no?
M: Zat’s why I remember, Maman.
R: Lookinh sharp, Bridge. Now mek wi reason education?
B: But of course, let’s talk education by all means. As one educator to another, how can we help your cause, Rihanna?
M: How can I help, Maman! I’m ze president.
B: Oh ferme ta bouche, mon petit. Shut up and listen, no talking in class… or at ze palace for zat matter. So Rihanna, chérie, how can we help?
R: Paypa, mon.
M: Paper? Papier? Do you mean money?
R: Yah, mon. Frackles. Bills. Paypa. Money for my education fund for developing countries. Do yu ting, mon.
M: Oh, sans problème. Zere’s plenty of money still left in ze defence budget…
B: Ferme ta bouche, mon petit! Our top general has already resigned because of your budget cuts…
M: But Maman, l’education globale is more important than defence. Don’t worry, Rihanna. We’ll find ze money.
B: On your tête be it, mon petit.
R: Tenk ya, mon.
According to the reports, Rihanna made the following statement immediately after the meeting: “I’ve just had the most incredible meeting with the president and the first lady. They were incredibly welcoming to us. We focused on the topic of education from a global aspect. And I’m so inspired and impressed with Mr Macron’s leadership.”
So am I. And so, I’m sure, are the French. It’s thus inexplicable why Manny’s popularity has dipped more than any other president’s at this stage of his tenure. Must be something wrong with the polls.