IS A MACRON A GREAT MAN OR A DIACRITICAL MARK?
By David Arthur Walters
30 November 2018
President Emmanuel Macron of France has been characterized by mainstream media, on the one hand, as charismatic, handsome, and articulate, and, on the other hand, as arrogant, imperious, and condescending. Is he a great man or a mere diacritical mark over a vowel in French history?
Charisma is the key to transformative leadership, and charisma, like prestige, depends on virtually miraculous deeds, not on good looks and sophistry, and it may be appreciated all the more when the man is arrogant, imperious and condescending as people bask in the reflected glory of his deeds. When success turns to failure, charisma is lost forthwith, and the man had better retire before he is utterly disgraced.
The fact that Macron was an investment banker and bureaucrat and is now an elected politician tends to disqualify him from punctuating world history with marvelous deeds although not necessarily so. Thus far he has wasted public money on expensive dishware and talked the liberal talk of the upper bourgeoisie, casting himself as a president of the rich and a wannabe king. He condemns welfare fraud and labor unions, makes snide remarks to workers who complain of unemployment, and proposes tax cuts for the wealthy and refers to their tax evasions as “fiscal optimizations.”
Yet the debonair French president has been quite charming on the international stage. He certainly used his charm to make a fool out of President Trump, the epitome of vulgar populism in America, going so far as to pat him on the knee, and the intellectual world is grateful for that.
Macron was never popular in France, where he was portrayed as leading a grand march to victory over populist foes. Elected as the least of several evils on the left-right political spectrum, he was so out of touch with the travails of labor that riots were incited by his gas tax hike to save the climate. Eighty-percent of the population, almost everyone who works or wants work, sympathized with the hordes of demonstrators wearing emergency yellow jackets. Wherefore the suave gentleman in his fine suit and shiny shoes has lately been dubbed “toxic.”
That does not mean Macron will never be a great man. He is naïve and may yet prove blessed by the gods. Great men, like gods, make big mistakes, and are accordingly defamed, but their goods exceed their evils in the final analysis, when the universe implodes to expand yet again from nothing, for nothing and only nothing is perfect.
Victor Cousin, the French philosopher who laid the foundation for the French and American education systems, developed a great man theory from his studies of history, which convinced him that there were more great men among philosophers than elsewhere.
“The fundamental rule of philosophy,” declared Cousin, “in regard to great men is to do as humanity does… to neglect the description of weaknesses inherent in their individuality and which have perished with it… to fasten itself upon the great things which they have done, which have served humanity, and which still endure in the memories of men… to search out what has given them power and glory, namely, the idea they represent, and their intimate relation with the spirit of their times and their nation….”
Macron’s big mistake has been his treatment of ordinary workers, the concrete foundation that upholds his elitist regime on the top floors.
Gaulish workers have not forgotten the socialist Principles of ’89 the aristocracy would monopolize for themselves. Gauls have real revolution in their blood, and are not inclined to bend over as far their reformist cousins in America do in hopes of getting rich quick themselves. Macron sympathized with the wage slaves after the Yellow Jacket protests, but they require more than fancy talk, and soon. Although they are not yet forced to buy sawdust flour or rotting bread, they are not prepared to wait for scraps to trickle down from the dinner table Macron has laid out for capitalists eager to cheapen labor until workers are desperate enough to work for a pittance.
The liberal conservatives, in the interest of conserving the lion’s share of the world’s wealth, persuaded themselves that France was impeding progress with its mixed economy. A highly regulated labor market with generous social benefits supported by high taxes simply would not suffice for global prosperity.
One might imagine that the typical French worker was rendered lazy and incompetent, fat, dumb and happy by short working hours, long holidays, extended vacations, free medical care, cheap bread, discounted fine wine and cheese. That would be the ideal state as far as lazy Chinese emperors of yore were concerned as they changed palaces every month, for then they could rule by doing nothing except collect taxes. Such is not the case in France, where many thousands of honest workers have been taxed into the red, and are beginning to thirst for blood.
The same thing said about the French market was once said about the German mixed market, which was expected to collapse after the Wall came down, absorbing millions of poor people into the democratic federal republic, yet it has prospered, wages are high, and the generous social benefits persist. Is that because Germany is a hog, or are the Germans more efficient? Could it be a question of mental attitude? Should the French language become more guttural and less slurred, impressionistic and romantic?
Perhaps France needs an upgraded Napoleon I or Napoleon III or Charles de Gaulle to prosper the economy and restore prestige to France. The quest for glory and the hubris of great men toppled their empires, so it is a wonder that the charisma of the first Napoleon still persists while that of the third was lost with the German victory. The third deserves celebration because Napoleon III recognized the worth of labor and advanced the industrial revolution.
Hail Caesar! France loves strong military leaders. General de Gaulle was not an imperialist although he expected France, made great again, to be the European leader as a nation state, not as a member of a European union. He rejected U.S. domination. Roosevelt feared de Gaulle would become a dictator if not an emperor. Thanks in part to the U.S. Marshall Plan, France enjoyed thirty prosperous years from 1945 to 1975, dubbed Les Trente Glorieuses, ou la révolution invisible de 1946 à 1975, by demographer Jean Fourastié.
Macron’s poses has caused him to be disparagingly compared to Caesar and Louis XIV. The satire reveals a certain truth, to wit, the great expectation that a savior will appear to save France from its predicaments whatever they might be. The French have yet to be advised, “Ask not what the government can do for you, ask what you can do for France, and then get it done.” We deserve our leaders, even absent a republic or democracy, therefore everyone should strive to be a better leader in order to press the best leaders forward and remove the worst ones from office by the best means available for the change or overthrow of governments.
It is said that Russians love to obey strong men. Yet a great Russian author noted that great men are made men. “A king is history’s slave,” Tolstoy penned in War and Peace. “Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal, aims of humanity. A deed done is irrevocable, and its result coinciding in time with the actions of millions of other men assumes an historic significance. The higher a man stands on the social ladder, the more people he is connected with and the more power he has over others, the more evidence is the predestination and inevitability of his every action.”
Macron is the man of the moment, and he can be a great man for France and Europe if persuaded to be history’s slave, that is, if history is, as Victor Cousin averred, the history of progress, and progress is the history of liberty.
The People are ready to act, and want positive inspiration and a great plan that is in accord with the survival and progress of the race.
Macron wants to save the planet, for example, from the ravages of climate change caused by man, so let him come up with a business plan to finance and implement a salvation plan immediately, and include in the budget for that program and other public works ample funding for the training and employment of a well paid, massive workforce, including women standing on a equal footing with men, and immigrants as well, so that migrants will want to stay in France and work instead of pile up trying to get to England. Engage that workforce to perfect a rapid, distributed public transportation system that runs like clockwork, and to invent and manufacture French alternative energy folk cars. Take advantage of technology to build a vast virtual workplace in the cloud for telecommuters. Convert land from the production of livestock protein to plant protein. Make sure livestock feed is supplanted with Gas-X to reduce methane pollution for the production of great cheeses. That is not all. Review science fiction for ideas.
“But where is the money going to come from? Certainly the economy will fail if we embark on such quixotic endeavors.”
Macron, if he personifies progress, knows well the trade secret of money, and he is fully aware that much of the medium of exchange goes for the purchase of wanted things instead of necessities. Today a great deal of the gross product is immaterial! And much of the material product is trash, at least in the eyes of the well to do who can afford fine plates and silver at the dinner table.
A great man with a glib tongue, great ideas, and budgeting skills can make France great again if he gives full faith and credit to the workforce. Then he shall have the prestige of a great man, an elite man, a member of the great man aristocracy.