France has popped into the news cycle lately. First, France’s President, Emanuel Macron, was apparently stunned and offended by a new arms deal between Australia and America. Australia has recently decided to strengthen its blue water capabilities by purchasing American nuclear-powered submarines. Unfortunately for France, that means that a much-delayed deal previously signed with France, for diesel-powered submarines, is no longer needed.
“Oh, the perfidy of the English-speaking peoples!” cried Macron, and made a big fuss by recalling his ambassadors to Canberra and Washington.
But then France was also featured in the news on account of something completely different. The performative display of covering the Parisian Arc de Triomphe with some kind of wrapping cloth.
Naturally, this adult version of TP-ing someone’s house was celebrated by much tweeting, selfie-taking, and mentions in the various international media.
In my mind, the two incidents are tied, but inversely. In the first incident, Macron seems to be invoking an old-fashioned, even naive, expectation for truth and goodness in international relations. The bad Australians have kept a secret from him, were untruthful, and caused his country harm. Oh, the ugliness of the whole situation!
But in the second incident, France seems to be actually celebrating ugliness. Not that the original Arc de Triomphe was that great of a piece of art, but it was nice to look at. It featured a few pleasant features of traditional art: Beautiful figures sculpted, nice ornaments, and a festive celebration of victory.
The covering, well, covers all of that. It is not repulsive necessarily, since it doesn’t really feature anything, but it is ugly in the ultimate sense of being a piece of nothing to cover up beauty.
And so we have France, on one hand, complaining about the loss of traditional values, and then, on the other hand, we have France covering up tradition with nihilism and ugliness.
You may say that Macron has nothing to do with the ugly business in Paris, but he does: He inaugurated the whole thing!
And so in the name of the unity of truth, beauty, and goodness, I am not impressed by France’s protestations over the submarine affair. It is an empty performative act, probably meant to satisfy French workers who have now lost the prospect of an income. It is also meant to provide support for Macron’s persistent dream of detaching France from America’s defense orbit and establishing a European military, commanded by himself.
Macron, a cynical priest of globalism who mocked Trump’s America First agenda with quips about an “Earth First” idealism, is himself a kind of covering wrap. He covers his agenda with empty invocations of truth, beauty, and goodness, of the kind that has not animated France’s policy since at least the days of Talleyrand.
Just like the wrap over the Arc de Triomphe, it would be nice to see Macron gone with the wind.
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