21.3.07

Why I Will Vote for Bayrou

Some of my readers have been pressing me to explain my choice of Bayrou for the French presidential elections because they were surprised by my choice, a surprise based, I assume, on two major assumptions:
-This is an anti-zionist blog and Bayrou is not known for his anti-zionism,
-This blog being anti-zionist must be leftist and Bayrou is not the candidate of the left in France,
-Being leftist I must be a secularist and Bayrou is a declared Catholic.

Behind these assumptions there are some false beliefs:
-The left is always more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause,
-Being a secularist is to be against candidates who are not secularists.

Zionism and leftism:
It is then assumed in the West that anti-zionism is synonymous of leftism. Some links established between the extraterritorial Palestinian resistance, which was mainly a leftist secularit movement, in the seventies and marxist leftist movements could have contributed to this false belief. However these links were short in time because the resistance and its secularism were crushed around the beginning of the eighties. Moreover, many western readers confound leftism and anti-zionism because they ignore, on the other hand, the close historical ties between socialism and zionism (on these ties you can consult the excellent John Rose's book 'The myths of zionism', Pluto Press, 2004). For many European and North American socialists, Israel was and still the model of socialism and the proof that socialism worked for some time, even though it is a fierce neocapitalist neoliberal country, 12th on the scale of arms and weapons trade.
Israel is to the Left what the football match at Wembley between England and Hungary was once to Communism. Jean-Luc Godard said once jokingly in his movie 'Notre Musique' featuring Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish :'Communism existed twice in history, two times 45 minutes when Hungarians won the football game at Wembley against the British because they played it collectively'. Kibbutzism which was at the very foundation of Israel is now reduced to a simple touristic curiosity and Israel is a country in which neoliberalism is rampant and triumphant leaving many of its citizens on the edge.

Me and the left:
Sorry to disappoint but I am not a leftist in the sense that I don't follow an ideology with its complete set of beliefs. I can for example defend the Cuban model of socialism for rural areas but not for cities. I visited Cuba recently with a negative preconception of the model to end up with some positive impressions. You can read my posts on Cuba here, my view is expressed mostly in parts II and III, although I still have to write my impressions of my second week in Havana to give a more complete picture about this the country I was lucky enough to visit partly from the inside.

Me and Secularism:
I am an atheist secularist. I have no religion, I married in a civil only ceremony, my children are not baptised, I never pray. However, I deeply disagree with western secularists because they define their secualrism against and not without religion and faith. In my opinion this is what brought about the demise of secularism in our societies. The secularist attitude should not be defined in relation to any religious faith. The secularist attitude should be attained through profound personal conviction that being Human is all what matters, a quite unique creature with reason, emotions, beliefs, etc...From this standpoint, a secularist like me is able to understand people of faith, not by opposing our values but by seeing what is common in our values as Human beings. And believe me there are many things in common, most notably our urgent need for a spiritual self which exists as an aspiration for another self, be it a god, a pet, a natural scene, a starry sky, a work of art, a book, a story, an imagined other, better than ourselves, beautiful and bountiful. I think western secularism simply failed to give people the promise of a better self by abandoning the field of morality to religions and reducing human life to a series of material achievements. I can be fiercely opposed to people of faith and religion when they try to impose their beliefs upon others and on public life. But in all other matters, I can understand those people. I think western secularism is making a great error also in joining the present 'war of religions', Christian zionism and Jewish zionism against Islam. Because in joining this war it is contributing to its further demise and loss of credibility about its attachement to fundamental Human values. Moreover, most western leftists and so called secularists who joined in this war would never behave the same if they were to defend their societies against Christian fundamentalism. We all know that Christian fundamentalism has already done more damage inside the US than Muslim fundamentalism without provoking an arms appeal among so called western secularists like Bernard-Henri Lévy, Claude Lanzmann, Fleming Rose, Ayan Hirsi Ali who all, on the other hand, stand by the Christian fundamentalist inspired neocon agenda for global social engineering of Muslim immigration by provocation and how to treat Muslim countries which they perceive as ennemies and as a threat, by way of military intimidation and invasions. Why wouldn't they behave the same with Christian fundamentalists ? There are many reasons, apart from clear political agendas for some. Mainly they behave toward Muslims as if they were radically different people who do not deserve their full respect. This is a colonialist attitude from which the western left was not able to liberate itself. Recently at the trial opposing representatives of French Msulims to 'Le Canard Enchaîné', the journal that published the Danish cartoons, and which french Muslims lost, François Hollande, the socialist party leader told Muslims who were sitting in the room that this was not helping their cause. Would he have said this to French Christian leaders ? I doubt. It is so arrogant.

Me and Bayrou:
Where do I stand now. As a French citizen, I stand for Bayrou. I think one has to judge the candidate for what he can do for his country, in this case France, not for what he can do for the causes I defend personally and which are outside France's citizens immediate scope and interests, and not what he can do for other countries like what is being asked from French presidential candidates now on Israel and Darfur. We have to start by tending to our own needs and by cultivating our gardens. Of course, Bayrou is not pro-Palestinian but at least he is more neutral then the other candidates. All I ask from a candidate I will vote for is to be the more neutral possible as to leave way for chances for peace which the ME is lacking right now. I am not saying Bayrou has the ideal neutrality this conflict deserves but he is the most neutral among the three candidates. He only made an error recently by answering and signing an appeal for action in the Darfur crisis, appeal launched by 'Urgence Darfur' in France and sponsored by the zionist Bernard-Henri Lévy. Bayrou went even further, he threatened to boycott the Chinese olympic games in 2008 on the basis that China, a strong business partner to Sudan, is vetoing any sanction against this country. Ségolène did it also but only Bayrou got the reprieve in the tilte from Le Monde who is covering the campaign of Bayrou in a scandalously biased manner.
I find it appalling when defence of foreign interests interfere in a national election campaign. I find it appalling that zionists invited the Darfur crisis into the French national elections simply, in my opinion, to divert attention on progresses made by Palestinians toward a unity government appeasing the west. Bayrou fell in the trap and so Ségolène because they are the weakest in their chances for getting elected. I find it appalling that a foreign country invites itself in the national elections of another country. A blogger asked me to support the campaign of Jim Webb to the US senate and I refused because I am not a US citizen. I find it appalling that Israel could, through its binational citizens, exert so much pressure on national elections in the US, and to a lesser extent in France. I find it appalling that Nicolas Sarkozy claims to whom it may concern his love for Israel in order to buy support and influence. I would find it appalling too if he did that for Palestine, was it for the sake to boost his votes. I find it appalling when Ségolène made her ME trip claiming she was going to meet every elected member, to back shamelessely after Sarkozy and his Lebanese friends and their Israeli friends arranged a controversy for her in Lebanon in order to stop her from meeting Hamas elected officials in Palestine. I find it appalling when the US, UK, the EU and Israel interfere in Palestinian national elections. I find it appalling when France, the US and Israel interfere in Lebanese national elections. I find it appalling when Syria interfered in Lebanese national elections.
I think this is disregard from the international political elite for the citizens of Lebanon, the US, Palestine, France, and Lebanon. If we were to internationalise democratic elections in a country then we are creating the conditions for the demise of the democratic process in our globalised civilisation, leaving the matters of this world to a few members of a new brotherhood (and sisterhood as Ségolène might choose to say), the brotherhood of leaders who sell their souls to foreign interests before tending to the problems of their own countries and citizens. And this is what is happening with the paradigm of international terror and the war on terror where both Bin Laden and Bush have overruled national priorities by inventing a new paradigm for national security based on exported political dissent, preemptive wars, and radicalisation of societies. Look at those leaders who went to war, they did nothing for their countries inside. What did Bush when Katrina struck ? What did Blair with the mounting inequalities and the unbearable levels of personal debt and the rising costs of affordable housing for Britons ?
The demise of democracy starts with this simple fact, disrespect for the people emanating from the political elite. And there is clear disrespect from world leaders and world citizens for the citizens of a given country when these world leaders and citizens try to interfere in the choices the citizens of a given country will make to elect their own leader and determine their national priorities.

Bayrou and France
With the globalisation of Politics I described above, the space given for a leader in the economic and political choices he or she must make is very narrow. What then makes a difference, in my opinion, in the choice of a leader, is his personnality. Politicians are walking a fine line when they have to make decisions for the citizens of their countries, more than before, thanks for globalisation. Who will be walking the fine line is an important matter because one must be an acrobat, trained in matters of independance of mind, rational thinking, and close to the preoccupations of the people. Bayrou, even though he has been doing Politics for a long time now, is not a Parisian Politician. He is a country man who has always lived close to his land, his family and his native village. For to understand the reality of the people one has to stay close to them and not to live in a political bubble. Other leaders may attempt at appearing like the people but they live in a bubble nonetheless, Bush is their epitome and his life in a bubble of wealth and privilege has brought a lot of misery to his fellow citizens by making him out of touch with reality even during katrina.

Walking a fine line also means that in the globalisation context, and with the huge challenges facing them from security, to immigartion to global warming, to chronic unemployement, countries cannot afford partisan politics. It is as simple as that and Bayrou's first message is exactly this: lets make, outside ideologies, a team for our country, lets work together. Some people are skeptical of this move but I see in this move, if performed really outside partisan politics and ideologies, a futur for politics. It will be a different kind of politics, not a politic based on ideologies but a politic based on ethical and rational principles governing the choices and decisions of leaders. Some might see in this a politic of values and it might remind them of the last two US presdiential elections won with a value based approach. But we all know that the value politics of bush is fake and it is made to keep in his stable the 50 million votes given by the Christian right. But if we take the French model, and I have to go back to secularism again, French state secularism has achieved an important irreversible step, the complete separation of state and church, something that was never achieved in the US, and it carries potentially its own set of values, 'la déclaration des droits de l'homme' which is quite different from 'les droits de la personne' that exist in North America. L'homme, transcending the individual and the person is basically a secularism cleared from its opposition to religion and faith because it is based on common Human values. As Bayrou said to the Daily Telegraph :'France holds in itself its own social project'. But this project must come to live and must be concretised. Now I am maybe pinning fool hopes on this kind of political approach and on Bayrou himself but lets give this approach a chance.

On all matters related to his policy and his views, you can go directly to Bayrou's website by clicking on the banner which is at the top of the page of this blog. You can watch his short videos and read his discourses on specific topics.

One more thing I still want to add. Everybody was reminding me of Bayrou giving a slap to a boy who was attempting a theft on him during the last election campaign. On that matter I will say that our society has become ridiculously politically correct. Because of many physical abuses on children we have come to abhorre not only physical violence but also physical contact and physical authority. Before they developp a full moral consciousness, some aspects related to hierarchical relations to others in children function probably closer to chimps than to adult humans. In chimps and Orang-Outans societies tough play is an integral part of structuring hierarchical relations in the group and in regulating violence of individuals. I think we have come to fear this kind of contact with children because of the social context. Slaps are a way traditional societies developped as a form of physical authority. They are now seen as backward when not seen as an act of violence. By the same way, we didn't find an alternative for regulating the violence of children, and especially boys, and reinstating hierarchical authority. More and more children, and again especially boys, are showing signs of conduct disorders and are put on medication for their entire childhood. The origins of such a disorder are biological but the expression of the disorder is modulated by the social context and the social context has for now institutionnalised and medicalised violence: a parent does not have the right neither the auhtority to give his child a minor slap but the state has the right to imprison him was soon as he is 12 years old and sometimes, as in the US, to treat him as a criminal adult. This is a big problem facing our societies, the gradual obliteration of the generational gaps making of children small adults and not individuals fundamentally different from us in matters of social and moral awareness and requiring our full participation in the structuring of these awarnesses.

I have a story to illustrate this: ten years ago we were with friends in a bookstore. The couple had a child, two and a half, a strong boy. He enjoyed the visit and was lively but couldn't get to stay still when queuing for the cashier. At one point he hit his father who was holding him in his arms on his lips. The father was bleeding. He took his son out, posted him on the sidewalk and gave him a spank. People who were on the sidewalk en face shouted words against the father. Our friend took his son and we all embarked in his car because we were going to dine at his house. An hour later, the police showed at the door of the house. There was a complaint filed for violence against a child, the mob that was on the sidewalk has taken the immatriculation number of the car. The child was running happy in the house. He was inspected. The mother was questioned about her husband in a separate room and after with the police chief on the phone. They asked her if her husband was violent with her. We were questioned about the incident. As the police saw that this was a normal happy family and there was nothing wrong, they withdrew any possible charge. They also gave excuses and clearly said that often they are targeted for not answering complaints of the sort. Our friend was shaken and up to now this incident has completely changed his relation with his child. Suppose that the policemen were adults who have been physically abused by their parents when they were children and therefore have come with a twisted preconception about parents-children relationships they could have never let him go and it could have resulted in a lot of professional damage for him, he is a pediatrician.

It takes a lot of judgement, rationality, knowledge, temperance, openness, tolerance, and independance of mind, it takes to know who we really are, in order to navigate the murky social and economic waters left to ordinary citizens by the US led globalisation which is having great impacts on daily lives worldwide. I think, among the three front runners in France, Bayrou is the most able to lead his country and mine, France, through all this. And I really think that France has already the human and cultural potential to achieve its long awaited economic and social mutation for the 21st century. It just takes a leader to know how to achieve the mutations by exploiting the already existing potential in the French society and not borrowing from the US model as Sarkozy claims we shoudl do or even the Blairist socialist catastrophic third way UK model for which Ségolène has declared her fondness on many occasions.

5 comments:

jij said...

Sophia, wow, many things to digest. I just have to make a quick point: I was curious about your supporting Bayrou because I know next to nothing about him. I never meant to say that I thought you should support the socialist nominee; in fact I have absolutely no illusions about the French socialist party. The socialist/right wing divide in France is very similar to the traditional Republican/Democrat one in the United States. There is no fundamental difference between them as far as I understand, certainly not in matters of international policy. I also totally agree with you when you say that many secular and "leftist" figures in the West have often been more pro-Zionist than fundamental religious figures.
About the slap: Again, I didn’t mean it as a judgment about Bayrou really. I just remember it very clearly because back then there was a lot of talk about the lack of security and discipline in French society, then Bayrou slaps that kid in a demo, and his numbers spike by 5 or 10%. I actually saw the footage on TV back then. Then Les Gignols wouldn’t not drop it for weeks (they had whole hilarious sketches about it). The whole incident was fairly ridiculous. So in my head the name "Bayrou" has comical connotations. But best of luck for your candidate. I sure hope he can beat Sarkozy in the first round!

Sophia said...

Jij,
Thanks for reading. In fact I was referring not to your question in particular but to questions from other readers and I assumed that they came from the assumptions I mentioned. Although, one or two readers questioned Bayrou,s support for Palestine. I think these are legitimate questions when we open up and exchange on Politics as we do on our blogs.
Take care.

Sophia said...

Jij,
Sorry, you read a preliminary version full of errors. Now this was taken care of.

homeyra said...

Very interesting article. I used to live in France, but I have lost touch in recent years. Your articles help me to relate to the current situation.
In a previous post you wrote about "enlightment", and here about the secular vs religious attitudes.
Personally I appreciate these basic reviews. These clarifications can save a lot of useless debates.

Sophia said...

Homeyra,
There are many differences between north american secularists and european secularists, mainly the relation begtween the secular and the religious. North american secularists still live in mostly religious societies and countries while european secularists mostly live in secular societies and in a complete separation between church and state. In north america a secualrist defines himself against religion and is a marginal kind while in europe a secualrist is a maisntream kind and defines himself less against religion and more according to valueswhich exist outside religion (human rights).
The relation to Islam, which the neocons and Bin Laden and radicals on both sides have made a political and social immigration issues, is totally different. The neocons, who are backed by christian radicals, have the sympathy of secularists liberals in north america. There lies a profound contradiction in the attitude of US so called liberals secuarists.
However sme european liberals and secualrists are defining themselves against islam because of teir zionist or anti-immigration political agenda

 
Since March 29th 2006