France’s identity crisis: ‘People just don’t know what to think any more’ – Natalie Nougayrède Saturday 22 April 2017 02.00 EDT


A far-right Front National supporter in Perpignan, south-western France.
A far-right Front National supporter in Perpignan, south-western France. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

The quiet, lovely medieval towns and soft, rolling hills covered with orchards and vineyards of south-west France are an unlikely setting for a citizens’ uprising. Yet just days before the presidential election, conversations with the inhabitants of this once leftwing region, stretching from the city of Toulouse to the rural settings of the Tarn-et-Garonne, offer a glimpse into France’s mood of rage and confusion. Popular resentment, fears and frustrations set the stage for a major political upheaval, almost 60 years after De Gaulle founded the country’s Fifth Republic.

France is a republican quasi-monarchy. Its institutions are centred on the president. But what is at stake in this vote isn’t just the choice of a personality, nor only an economic or political programme. The very essence of France’s democracy hangs in the balance, as well as the survival of the 60-year-old European project. Much of what is at work resembles the trends that produced Brexit in Britain and Trump in the US – not least the disgruntlement of those who feel they have lost out to globalisation. But there are also specific, distinct elements of a collective French identity crisis.

In the town of Moissac, a doctor in her 50s describes the mood this way: “We are experiencing a huge evolution, and it might well become a revolution. It would only take a spark.” “People are fed up and disorientated,” says a shopkeeper in Montauban, a town 30 miles north of Toulouse. “Many don’t yet know how they’ll vote, but be sure they will want to kick some bums. Things can’t go on like this”.

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One thought on “France’s identity crisis: ‘People just don’t know what to think any more’ – Natalie Nougayrède Saturday 22 April 2017 02.00 EDT

  1. What people don’t know anymore is HOW to think. That’s because government education is focused on teaching people what to think, not how to think.

    And, once it becomes apparent that what you’ve been indoctrinated with is wrong, and you’ve never been taught how to think for yourself…well, Trump, Boris Johnson and Le Pen happens.

    Like

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