No, I haven't muddled minuscules and majuscules in a fuddle of Funchal:
I wish to consider two institutions.
The first, Ena Sharples, prominent character in the early days of the soap opera 'Coronation Street'.
The second, ENA, l'Ecole Nationale d'Administration, sausage machine for turning out bureaucrats in the soap opera France.
Ena Sharples was an eldery harridan in a hairnet, whose self proclaimed high moral principles enabled her to terrorise all around her into overlooking her propensity for passing her time in the pub and ruining reputations.
One flick of the basilisk eye was enough to reduce any critic to ashes.
The ENA is another elderly harridan, though without hairnet, whose control of French public life is such that it too, with a flick of a basilisk eye, can light a funeral pyre under its critics.
General de Gaulle founded it in 1945, with the idea of forming people to become bureaucrats on the grounds of merit...to give France a dynamic internal direction.
Needless to say, it soon fell under the influence of the very people de Gaulle decried and mistrusted.
The well connected.
The very same who had let France walk into the abyss in 1940.
I have just been re reading a 'L'Etrange Defaite' by Marcel Bloc, radical historian of the Middle Ages and before, a reserve officer called up in 1939 and member of the real Resistance, shot in the later stages of the war, where he treats of the reasons for the collapse of France in 1940.
He puts it down to people in authority being hidebound, stuck in a career path where their superiors would command their fate for the rest of their working lives, where it was better to do something stupid, but approved, than to do what was needed.
The ultimate horror...using their initiative!
And then serendipity, in 'Le Nouvel Observateur' this weekend is an article by Patrick Fauconnier who compares a book by Olivier Saby on his time at ENA with that of Bloc.
Saby describes the plodding, uninspirational ambience...where no one dare buck the system for fear of bearing the cost all their working life...for the future depends on how you are graded at the end of your studies...
Up at the top and its the Inspection des Finances...finangling between state jobs and top jobs in the private sector, with the little retirement prize of being named Conservateur des Hypotheques for your area where you get a percentage of the fees paid when property changes hands....something else the 'living the dream' magazines and blogs don't tell you.
At the bottom..and it's off to a sub prefecture in the Deux Sevres...or, if you've really been radical...Bethune in the Nord. Bienvenue chez les Cht'is.
The essential art is to memorise French and European legislation...and don't make waves.
Above all...don't contradict your superior...don't let yourself stand out as an individual...or your career will get nowhere.
Those formed by the ENA are not just civil servants...they can take indefinite leave of absence to go into politics or the private sector, sure of returning to the bosom of the public services when the balloon bursts, guaranteed by their passage at ENA.
For all the good people formed like this are to France they might as well spend their time sitting in the pub wearing a hairnet, slagging off those who don't conform to their views.
And Francois Hollande, product of ENA and so dim that he never made it to the private sector, President of France, has surrounded himself with his colleagues from his year at ENA...the promotion Voltaire...who must be revolving at Mach 3 at the misuse of his name.
Ena Sharples would have eaten Hollande for breakfast.
Merkel is heating the toaster......