Image via WikipediaWe've seen a day of wrath, of anger, in Tunisia and now in Egypt...others in Bahrein, Yemen, Algeria and Libya....days when the people of these countries, denied opportunity, denied expression, denied hope, have risen against their corrupt masters despite the fears of imprisonment, torture and death at the hands of the security forces.
Dies Irae, the day of wrath,which I suppose most of us associate with the traditional requiem mass, comes from a reference in Zephaniah chapter one, verse fifteen....and earlier in the chapter the prophet treats of what will happen to those who have turned from the right path...
'.....I will punish the princes, and the king's children. and al such as are clothed with strange apparell.
In the same day also wil I punish all those that leape upon the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.
...And....there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hils.
Howl...for all the merchant people are cut downe; all they that bear silver are cut off.'
You have to hand it to the King James' version for colour and interest....and have to hand it to the prophet for a neat description of what happens when the unrighteous finally get their comeuppance, although it has to be said that the Tunisian and Egyptian protesters were remarkably peaceable.
In France, the days of wrath in North Africa have had a special relevance.....it appears that the Prime Minister, M. Fillon, spent his Christmas hols in Egypt, at Aswan...paid for by the Egyptian government of President Mubarak, the tyrant overthrown a couple of months later by the efforts of the protestors who just refused to go home.
Before revealing his little escapade on the Nile, M. Fillon had given his full support to his Foreign Minister, Mme. Alliot-Marie - who had offered the Tunisian president, Ben Ali, the benefit of French security advice as dissent in Tunisia became apparent - when it was revealed that as the uprising started she had accepted a trip in the private jet of a Tunisian businessman closely linked to the Ben Ali family.
Unfortunately it later became evident that she was accompanied on this surprise jaunt by her parents, on the point of becoming majority shareholders in her Tunisian friend's company.
These revelations she brushes off as being an intrusion on the private life of her family.
Any number of French politicians and 'movers and shakers' are beginning to wonder whether...in the interests of transparency, you understand....they should declare their presence at the pseudo conferences and open jollies held at the swisher coastal resorts of Tunisia, all paid for by the benevolent Ben Ali, friend of France if not of his own people.
That is, in the interests of transparency, whether they should own up before the new Tunisian regime drops them in it from a great height.
A number of those in politics who criticised Frederic Mitterand, the Culture Minister, for what he denied ever doing with young men in Thailand are now keeping their heads below the parapet...just in case the kicking over of the beehives in Tunisia reveals what they will, in the interests of transparency of course, deny ever doing with young men in Tunisia.
The days of wrath have revealed a very unsavoury state of affairs in French foreign policy...but also a very unsavoury state of affairs in French politics generally.
The politicians are elected...they are representatives of the French people whose interests they are supposed to further while in power.
How can anyone imagine that the interests of the French people are served by preserving the regimes of foreign dictators?
Or perhaps I've misunderstood.....should I be asking rather which French people are served by the preservation of corrupt regimes abroad?
Well, French commmercial interests who were outsourcing to their old colonies long before French politicians denounced this anglo-saxon practice....who are in need of political stability to enable them to go on exploiting a cheap source of labour.
That's who, or what.
That's who or what is at the bottom of the offers of help from a French Foreign Minister to a Tunisian despot....all the free flights and holidays....the tawdry rewards of salesmanship.
A French supported dictator's attitude to his people may be summed up in the lapid phrase of the current French president when faced with a dissident at an agricultural show..
'Casse-toi, pauvre con.'
'Piss off, loser!'
It is also, in practice, the reaction of a French politician to the ordinary French person....the people who can't afford to reduce their tax bill by investing in the Dom Toms....who can't afford to reduce their tax bill by investing in racehorses...the ones who don't have enough to pay the Impot de Solidarite sur la Fortune but who will be paying to fill the hole made when the ISF is abolished.... the ones who don't belong to powerful lobbies like public sector or farming unions...
A lot of these ordinary French people voted for Sarkozy to get France moving....his party, the UMP, soon put a stop to any such idea, frightened that more fingers might be getting into a pie previously reserved for the rich and their cronies, so where are the Sarkozy voters of 2007 to go?
The UMP doesn't want him to stand...not that he'll take much notice of that...so there's a risk of a split in their vote between Sarkozy, the dreaded Juppe and de Villepin...if he is not on a meathook by then - another lapid phrase of the current French president - as his case comes to court shortly.
Then there's the PS, the socialist party, as usual quarreling over the spoils before winning the prize...
The centrist parties...
The FN, the National Front....
But that's all from the politicians' viewpoint...this is what they are putting before people.
They might care to learn a lesson from the days of anger.....you can treat people as 'pauvre cons' for only so long. It might be a long time, but it is finite.
A day of wrath does come....and in countries where democracy is feeble the day of wrath does not take the form of choosing between political parties, it takes the form of overthrowing whole systems of power.
Peacefully, or by violence.
You might judge the health of French democracy by counting the number of republics that have been declared since the big revolution of 1789....they're on their fifth by now, with sundry monarchies in between.....and compare that to the relative solidity of the U.K. - until Blair got his hands on power.
The difference? The French political caste is just that...many faces but the same interests, imposed from above, whereas until the Blair years the British party system allowed pressure from the bottom to have representation...to have a chance of changing things.
Sarkozy came to power offering change and thats what the 'pauvre cons' want. Change....opportunity, an
end to the stranglehold of the 'haves' on power.....
The friends of the friends of the dictators should keep an ear to the ground as the 2012 elections approach.
If the people don't get change then there may be 'the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hils' as 'all they that bear silver are cut down'.