Some things about candidates for public office excite us (rarely, these days), while others are an instant turn-off.
One thing that invariably crosses a candidate off my list is his excessive commitment to a single issue. This, even if I happen to agree with the issue.
It’s awful to say so, but I’d rather be governed by an unprincipled, lightweight weathercock like Johnson than by a champion of one cause above all.
For example, I consider the EU wicked and detested Britain’s membership in it. Nevertheless I was wary of activists – and I knew quite a few – who defined their whole political being by a craving for Brexit.
Without those zealots Brexit wouldn’t have happened, and I’m grateful to them. Unlike single-issue politicians, single-issue campaigners are indispensable. But if, say, Nigel Farage had stood for Parliament in my constituency in, say, 2015, I wouldn’t have voted for him.
Governing a country is a complex, multifarious activity that doesn’t lend itself to simplistic reductions. Anyone who doesn’t realise this will always end up cutting his own political throat with Occam’s razor.
There’s always a tinge of fanaticism about single-issue politicians, and a concomitant inability to sense nuances and seek workable balances. This brings me to Eric Zemmour, who has now officially announced his candidature for France’s presidency.
Perhaps it’s unfair to describe him as a single-issue politician. If I were to express Zemmour’s electoral programme in a schematic, it would look like a trident: hate the Muslims – dislike les anglo-saxons, especially Britain – love Putin.
But the prongs of this trident are of unequal sizes: the biggest one by far is Zemmour’s palpable hatred of Muslims. He believes they threaten to make Houellebecq’s dystopic fantasy come true by replacing the indigenous population and turning France into an Islamic republic.
As a believer in individual free will, and therefore individual guilt, I’m uneasy about hatred by category. I much prefer the Christian duality of loving the sinner while hating the sin.
But if we overlook the dangerous glimmer in his eyes, by and large I’m with Zemmour on this one. Simple arithmetic seems to vindicate the replacement theory: due to growing immigration and relative birth rates, France’s demographic balance is indeed shifting the wrong way.
France has failed worse than Britain (which is saying a lot) in trying to assimilate the Muslim population – mainly because the French proceed from a dubious cultural premise. They regard any native Francophone as French, expecting their cherished language to act as a magic wand whose wave can work miracles.
(In War and Peace, Tolstoy observed this national trait with his usual acuity. A French officer insists Pierre Bezukhov is French even though he knows he is Russian. But Pierre’s impeccable French elevates him to the Gallic Olympus.)
Turns out the wand isn’t as magic as all that: even many native-born Muslims trash cities to the accompaniment of a thunderous “Nique la France!” choir (the first word has four letters in English). This goes to show that, language or no language, you can’t assimilate people who won’t assimilate.
Such widespread recalcitrance creates a catastrophic social problem with a group that already makes up almost 10 per cent of the country’s population – especially if it communicates its obduracy with bombs and AKs.
Looking at the hundreds of Frenchmen swimming in their own blood over the past few years, one can see Zemmour has a bloody good point. But the biggest peg on which he hangs his political mantle is way too prominent for my liking.
His manifest lack of affection for Britain is a smaller peg, and it’s cut out of Zemmour’s general traditionalism. Judging by his campaign pronouncements and articles in Le Figaro, he regards the Middle Ages as France’s golden age.
Again I agree with him, as does anyone who compares the intellectual level of Paris University in the 13th century and now – or, for that matter, Notre-Dame Cathedral or La Sainte Chapelle with Tour Montparnasse or La Défense. Alas, that period ended in a Hundred Years’ War with England, and Zemmour’s medievalism seems to come as a package deal.
His affection for Putin and, even worse, Putinism is the third prong of the triad, and I first noticed it in his 2013 article Tsar Poutine. This third prong extends from the same shaft as the other two. Zemmour, along with so many Europeans who are sick of our woke modernity, detects, with his viscera more than his mind, a kindred soul in the KGB colonel.
Unlike “Yeltsyn who sold his country out to trans-Atlantic groups”, he wrote, Putin “has restored the state. And Russian patriotism. By authoritarian methods. In the tradition of the tsars…
“Little by little, he has become the leader of world opposition to the new ideological order dominated by the West [and characterised by] anti-racism, globalism, homophilia, feminism, Islamophilia and Christianophobia.”
Hence, if elected, Zemmour plans to move France away from NATO and closer to Russia. That would effectively give the freedom of Europe to an evil state formed by history’s unique fusion of secret police and organised crime.
We are observing an interesting phenomenon here. To paraphrase Buffon ever so slightly, Le style, c’est la politique même – the style is politics itself.
This modified aphorism gains validity as one moves away in any direction from a solid conservative centre towards the extreme periphery. The closer to the edges one gets, the more importance does style acquire at the expense of substance.
That’s why Zemmour feels kinship with Putin – he goes beyond the appalling facts of Putin’s tenure, which I’m sure he knows and, if queried, would disavow.
But, like a woman reaching tropistically for the energy exuded by an alpha male, Zemmour clearly responds to the fascisoid miasma emanating from Putin’s every pore. And because he responds to it, one knows he is fascisoid himself. He doesn’t seem to mind “authoritarian methods”.
The problems he talks about are real, and they do demand a solution if the last vestiges of our civilisation are to survive – everywhere, not just in France. Yet the right remedies must be administered by the right people.
If the people are wrong, the remedies won’t remain right for long. They’ll kill the patient more surely and quickly than the disease itself.
P.S. There’s a cultural trend I’d call PROC (Prole Overcompensation). For example, our less fortunate countrymen have heard that the pronoun ‘me’ is suspect in many sentences. Trying to overcompensate, they hope to sound toff by saying things like “They invited my friend and I”, only succeeding in sounding illiterate.
Now PROC is doing seasonal duty, with every newspaper talking about ‘Christmas lunch’. Our under-privileged writers know not to refer to the afternoon meal as ‘dinner’, the way their parents did. Hence ‘Christmas lunch’ is supposed to sound ‘posh’. It doesn’t. This meal has always been Christmas dinner, and, as far as I’m concerned, so it’ll remain.