Monday, May 15, 2017

En marche!

On the 9th of May, days before yesterday's inauguration of the new French president, the term ‘Macronisme’ returned 30,700 Google results, and ‘Macroniste’ 43,800. A week later the tally is 43,900 and 70,500 respectively. Even if almost eleven million voters cast their ballot for his  nationalist populist opponent, the improbable new man in the Elysées Palais will be watched closely, not only by the French but also by citizens of the twenty-seven nations remaining in the European Union.

Should we anticipate a twenty-first century French revolution, a sixième république, a post-Gaullist construct suited not only to an overdue reform of the nation’s governance, but also a matrix for the belated modernisation of the EU? Can we expect from Emmanuel Macron a bold historic realo-futurist agenda? He will assuredly not hoodwink us with the promises which amount to little more than a ‘better yesterday’. But does he have the courage to scare the shit out of us with a comprehensive and reasoned picture of the difficult and radically different ‘tomorrows’ that await us during the five years of his presidency and beyond.

The Guardian’s writer asks…

"What is in Macron’s in-tray as president? France’s youngest president takes over a country exhausted by years of unemployment and facing a constant terrorist threat. So what will his first moves be? First, Macron, who comes from no established political party, needs to appoint a prime minister and a cabinet, and ;win a parliamentary majority in next month’s election. Next, he will need to swiftly fulfil some of his manifesto promises, including streamlining ;France’s strict labour laws in favour of businesses, overhauling the ethics rules for politicians, and strengthening ties with Germany’s Angela Merkel and the rest of the EU." 

Above all, however, President Macron must be uncompromisingly blunt. His compatriots are already tragically aware that the ‘new normal’ takes into account the murderous exploits of radicalized extremists or of mental defectives misusing a muddled understanding of jihadism as an excuse for their actions. Currently not only the French but the world population is reeling from the upheaval occasioned by the spectral perpetrators of cyberwar. Macron cannot pretend to guarantee security in either of these contexts.

He can and must make it abundantly clear that the ‘world of work’ will never again be as it was before. The robots are here to stay and their proliferation is unstoppable. Artificial Intelligence lurks everywhere in our ‘Internet Of Things’. Not only France must face the ominous reality of the digital hegemony exercised by ‘Gafa’, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, American cultural imperialism at its most virulent. Add the vicissitudes of a post-truth world in which rational discourse loses out to incoherent Tweets and ‘alternative facts’ and the overall picture becomes even more bleak.

Nevertheless the hope must be that a Macron who refuses to disguise the realities of today and tomorrow by ‘telling it like it is’ will strip away the outdated illusions which have impeded societal and economic progress for far too long. When Oscar Wilde first saw Niagara Falls, he said, “It would be more impressive if it flowed the other way.”

Maybe that sums up what could soon happen in France and in Europe.

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