Image via WikipediaI was reading an article castigating the Sarkozy government - well, it's him really, isn't it, the rest are just there for show, like Napoleon's brothers - for nominating another of Carla Bruni's mates for a job at the Culture Ministry.
Not content with nudging the insalubrious Mitterand into office, she is now credited with asking for a job for another somewhat dubious personality...an elderly wastrel of an interior decorator called Francois Baudot, who could do with about 5,000 Euros a month and so is being nominated for the grand sounding post of
Inspecteur General de l'Administration des Affaires Culturelles.
His name was put up to the appointments committee and turned down unanimously, it appears, on the strength of a book he wrote about the dissipated days of his youth - not in the Mitterand league, let it be said, but then, what could be outside the pages of Genet?
However, the committee can whistle. The job is in the gift of the President, and like any sensible man faced with the prospect of sharing a cage with a shark, he will do as his wife tells him.
Now, M. Baudot has diplomas, etc...but absolutely no relevent experience to assist him in carrying out the functions of his proposed post. Further, although at lower levels of the greasy pole, M. Mitterand has been culling his functionaries in order to comply with the Presidential policy of not replacing one in two beaurocrats as they come up to retirement, it appears that at the level of IGAC - to give the post its' French initials - two IGACs have been turned into four IGACs.
Still, as an interior designer, perhaps he can advise Mitterand on how to decorate his office and private dining room...perhaps design a new bell for summoning the servants...
Oh, but I was forgetting...M. Baudot has one great qualification. He is godfather to Bruni's son. So that's it, then.
What was interesting to me is why there is so much fuss. He isn't an untouchable, like Mitterand, just dubious and there are plenty more like him around - though why the French have to write books about things that most people would take good care to keep under their hats is something that I have never understood.
All Presidents appoint their friends, the friends of their friends, and particularly the friends of their grandes horizontales. So just why the fuss?
I think it is because the old order is changing, and the old order doesn't like it.
In the past, the enarques - graduates of the Ecole Nationale de l'Administration - ran the show. Privileged enough to gain entrance to the ENA via the specialist crammers, they ran France's intertwined network of state and business, moving from one sphere to another and leaving their mess for the taxpayer to pick up.
Sarkozy is not an enarque.
His friends are from the world of finance and business.
His sons were not even asked to try for the ENA.
He presents a different, unpredictable model.
His candidates are being put into jobs once reserved for enarques.
Now, there is nothing so vicious as a Frenchman thwarted of what he regards as his privileges and I think that there is a trial of strength going on between the new and old order...thus the uncharacteristic daring of the French press in mentioning these little governmental hiccups, geed on by the old warhorses of the right who aren't getting the jobs for their boys.
It was while I was reading the comments in Le Point that I came across a phrase which struck me. The writer, dealing with the Ministry of Culture, was of the view that with Mitterand and Baudot in place, the whole thing could be characterised as a Baudelairian capharnaum. It isn't often that I find a phrase in French striking, but this was a delight.
Baudelaire...the poet for whom aesthetics owed no responsibility to morals or ethics...and a capharnaum....somewhat of a junk pile, a mess, where everything is in wild disorder.
The Ministry of Culture...a mess run by the morally irresponsible.
Then something else occured to me. The Ministry of Culture is supposed to have an eye to the state of French national identity - the great subject of debate at the moment.
Could the the debate about French national identity also be described as a Baudelairian capharnaum?