There was a time when being French represented the height of Western civilization. The ‘grandeur’ Everything that came from the neighboring country was synonymous with sophistication and desire, the elegance of ‘haute couture’ and the delicacies of ‘nouvelle cuisine’, from Yves Saint Laurent to Paul Bocuse; the teaching of the language in schools until English became the universal language; the ‘bouquinistes’ of the Seine, the cafes of the Latin Quarter and Kiki de Montparnasse; Bordeaux wine, real champagne and the beaches of Normandy; the magic of the castles of the Loire and Mont Saint-Michel; jet-setting holidays in Saint-Tropez and the walk of the stars in Cannes; the indecent luxury of the Côte d’Azur, the Avenue Montaigne and the death of a British princess on the Pont de l’Alma. “Fashion fades, only style remains the same,” said Coco Chanel. The French exported style even to cross their border and watch movies in Perpinyà, ‘comme il faut’. Until Michel Platini was Ballon d’Or three years in a row at a time when as a nation it was not even enough for a married party.
And suddenly, France lost the style.
Where has that greatness been? Torn between a centrist without pedigree and the fascism of Le Pen and Zemmour, Vichy France 82 years later. Vargas Llosa, who is Peruvian and Spanish and a member of the French Academy, coined in 1969 one of the great outbursts in the history of literature, that of Santiago Zavala looking “without love” towards Tacna Avenue: “At what point did screwed up Peru?» When has the same thing happened to France? Jean Moulin must be turning over in his crypt in the Pantheon.
Is France richer than it was a few decades ago? Absolutely yes. economically and culturally, This is corroborated by their data on the evolution of wealth, job creation or inflation, even in times of covid and in the context of a war in Europe. French cinema, music or sports continue to live a great moment and there is nothing to predict that the country’s literature and the rest of the fine arts are threatened by the influence of cultures such as Italian, Spanish, British or the always exportable American model.
However, France, like many other neighboring countries, including Spain, has recorded in recent decades such an abrupt generational change, so immersive in the new social and cultural reality, with the incorporation of these new French arrived from other countries, that the ruling classes (political, economic, cultural) have not been able to digest or interpret the birth of a new nation, without noticing that this incipient social state was leading the country to a ‘big bang’ that should have caused its re-greening as a benchmark state on the continent. Instead of that, and in what should constitute a notice to Spain (we are already observing the unstoppable growth of the extreme right), derived this new anthropological scenario towards the outskirts of the big cities or he threw it away in certain neighborhoods of the urban centers, in the stands of the radicals on the soccer fields and in marginal movements that the always jealous Gallic cultural elite bordered on the margins of what was historically acceptable and socially established. Is France richer than it was a few decades ago? Absolutely yes, but not everyone agrees to participate in this enrichment to the same extent. These new French do not reside in Le Marais, but are condemned to the suburbs, with great social benefits, but without the acceptance that legitimately corresponds to them and, therefore, destined for a hardly hopeful future. And that’s when Peru got screwed.
The rise of the extreme right and the collapse of the traditional parties today constitute the still photo of a country whose x-ray cannot be understood in Europe as a reflection of nothing exemplary. In view of what is happening in Spain, here we are a couple of elections away from receiving the same diagnosis. For many countries, France is like that leader that others wait for to take the first step. If nothing helps, sooner or later we will see Marine Le Pen sitting in the Elysée and from then on there will be an open bar in Europe. Some, like in Castilla y León, have already requested the first round. Heard cooking?