Image by Romain [ apictureourselves.org ] via FlickrI shall have to go to the public library in the nearest big town, and have telephoned the chief librarian, for this is how things are done in France, to find, reserve and sit upon a copy of a book published by Frederic Mitterand, nephew of the late President Mitterand and currently Minister for Culture and outdated treatment of domestic staff. Under no circumstances will I be buying it, but I want to read, not only the excerpt about which so much fuss is being made, but the whole book. My one fear is that, from the style of the excerpt so far quoted, it will be one of those ghastly inch by inch inspections of the navel indulged in by the well connected nonentities who so often crawl to the heights in our society, and I shall be obliged to return the book earlier than planned, thus mucking up my economy shopping schedule.
Now, in French politics it is a given that anything proposed or done by the 'Front National' has to be either ignored or treated as if one had accidentally trodden in something unmentionable. Given this clue, you will have realised that the FN is a right wing party whose policy is that France is for the French. Speaking as an outsider, I think that is the policy of all French political parties, it's just that the rest don't make it so obvious. Whiffs of anti semitism used to emanate from the party, but as they seem also to be against everyone else outside France and anyone inside France who can't show they were descended from Joan of Arc's granny, I don't get too worried about it. I don't know if anyone remembers seeing the First World War cartoon of 'the morning hate', with the Prussian junker family sitting around the breakfast table in glowering unity, but that seems to sum up the attitude of the FN. Whatever it is, they're agin it. However so widespread are their targets that you can't take it to heart.
Except that one of their targets has.
When the film director Roman Polanski was copped in Switzerland on a warrant from the Americans concerning sex with an underage girl, Mitterand blew his top. Polanski, after all, had French citizenship. Polanski was an artist. Polanski had suffered enough. He had lost family in the Nazi death camps. His wife had been murdered by the Manson gang. As Minister for Culture, Mitterand aligned himself firmly with all the artists and celebrities who seem to think that one's talent exempts one from punishment for unlawful acts.
It didn't go down too well in the country at large, and in the supporters of the ruling right wing UMP party in particular. You could see them thinking
'Well, the next time someone comes to court for touching up little girls in the swimming baths, he'll be claiming that he has been punished enough....his grandfather did forced labour in Germany....and he paints pictures that the council, with no sense of artistic discrimination, wash off the walls.'
The UMP is against touching up little girls, let alone what Polanski is supposed to have done to one. I think most people anywhere are against it and want it stopped. As they do the child sex trade in Thailand. France has in fact prosecuted people guilty of participating in this filthy business on their return to France.
Now we return to the book, 'La Mauvaise Vie'. Published in 2005, part of it deals, apparently, with Mitterand's sexual preferences and practices, including his experiences in Thailand, and would appear to make him as guilty as those whom France has already punished for such activities. They are punished, but he is in power.
The leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen, read an excerpt from the book on national television and called for Mitterand's dismissal. I shouldn't think most people even knew that the book existed up until that moment and, casting my mind back, I can't say that I recall reading any reviews, either, but I do tend to cut out whole areas of stuff that doesn't appeal to me when I go through the papers. It might have made a stir in 'precious' circles, but clearly not in the nation at large, although ignorance of the literary reviews is no excuse for appointing such a person a minister.
The first reaction in high circles? Well, as always, where the FN is concerned, ignore it...it will go away. No reporting in the Figaro.
Questioned by journalists, Mitterand shrugged it off
'It's an honour to have your name dragged through the mud by the FN.'
Then, it seems, the Socialist Party - PS - decided to break ranks. Their spokesperson, while uttering the phrases of revulsion obligatory when mentioning the FN, concurred with them that Mitterand should be held to account for his activities. Now, the PS has always claimed some intellectuals in its' ranks, and certainly has plenty of campaigners against exploitation of children, so why is it that Mitterand's proclivities and activities passed them by?
Only the cynical would observe that he was a member of the PS.
Only the cynical would observe that he broke ranks with the PS when he accepted Sarkozy's offer of a job in government.
Only the cynical would observe that the PS suddenly wakes up to all this when it has a chance of a bit of political infighting.
I don't care for the witch hunt which will surely start up. Mitterand's proclivities were known when he was appointed, but he will inevitably be thrown to the wolves.
The responsibility lies with the main political parties, the PS and the UMP. The former should never have allowed him to come to his somewhat limited prominence and the latter should never have allowed him to be appointed to government. Weasel words about the law not having been in effect when he was enjoying himself in Thailand excuse nothing.
The worrying thing is that it has to be left to the 'outcast' party, the FN, to bring the matter to public attention. They have been agitating since he was appointed, and while one cannot exclude political infighting from their motivation either, at least they did something while main stream politics sat on its' hands.
I would be happier with the state of our society and government if the newspapers would turn their attention to just how divorced the ruling caste have become from the people they rule, as evidenced by this man's rise to prominence, rather than turning the spotlight on the man himself, but, as always, uncomfortable questions are never addressed. If it were the child of one of our rulers being abused, no stone would be left unturned to find and punish the perpetrator...but if it is one of their own abusing a child of the caste they rule, then it can be passed off with a shrug. A child is a child, wherever or whoever they are, but our rulers don't appear to understand this.
So why am I ordering the book from the library? Well, to see whether there is any basis at all for the claim that he is describing what took place in his imagination, though from the excerpts I've seen in the press that would be a very long shot indeed, but also rather in the same spirit that, as a child in my aunt's house, I used to read the sheets of 'The News of the World' spread over the floor when it had been washed. Horrified fascination with the unknown. However, I have a feeling that the book will produce the same effect as that of the lurid revelations of activity in turkish bath houses used to do... distaste followed by boredom. I shall probably be echoing the words of that immortal journal's investigators
'I made an excuse and left.....'
Pity Mitterand didn't.