How you see le scandal rests beaucoup on your politics
EUROPE: the IMF asks for EU members to share in a 78 billion euro bailout of Portugal. EU Finance Ministers unanimously agree.
NEW YORK: Head of the IMF offers to have his wife post $1million bail to get him out of Harlem police Cell. Judge refuses.
The most minute details concerning the incident that lead to Dominique Strauss-Kahn missing his flight this weekend will no doubt become common knowledge over the next few weeks.
What happens after that is relatively binary. If the facts are established to be anything like the official charge, then we won’t hear much more about the man formerly known as DSK (what the French call Mr Strauss-Kahn).
But if it proves to be a set up, he’ll be the next President of the hexagon underneath England.
On Sunday morning I read blogs suggesting the suspects include a) parties associated with hard-fighting centre-right President Sarkozy, b) the far right National Front who are simultaneous written off as uneducated nutters and conniving fascists (while their popularity continues to climb above Sarkozy’s), c) his own party which has a history of deep disunity, and d) Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick.
From inside France, the difference in global media coverage is mostly understandable: New York is focussed on the scandal while France is gripped with the political implications a year out from their version of Presidential elections.
The greatest difference in western media is the constant focus on the fact that he is a socialist.
In the US media, the phrases socialist and communist and witch/warlock are pretty much used interchangeably. In Europe, the phrase socialist is used to describe people from political parties that are on the left, but aren’t so green they care more about trees than people. That leaves a lot of territory for the Socialists to own, and it makes them quite normal over here.
Like shops shutting all day Sunday and 14 year old kids drinking wine: initially it’s jarring, but its not all bad when you understand it.
And very normal they seem to be: apparently they like fast cars, wild parties, flying first class, staying in $3000 suites in the Sofitel in New York. So while US/UK/Australian commentators are quick to jump on the fact that a Socialist is living the good life, I am not sure all European socialists will damn him for this.
Modern Euro-socialism isn’t built on dislike for the finer things in life. Its growing popularity is a reaction to perception that big-money-influenced-democratic-capitalism has failed to improve the life of people in the bulging middle part of the income distribution curve.
This “Working Class” plus “lower Middle Class” section is hard to define precisely (particularly between economies) but there is no doubt people know what it refers to. It might be more accurate but heavier-on-the-tongue to say households with pre-tax income between the 20th and 60th percentile of all households.
This group in the US has quite spectacularly been mere spectators to the wealth generation of the last 20 years. It is a neat quip to say that they now watch this event on much bigger televisions, but even high definition viewing does not negate a growing unease.
So when a socialist is pulled from the pointy end of a jet leaving New York, will socialists see him as betraying the cause?
French/Cuban writer Anais Nin, who I reckon must have been a socialist at some point, said it best: we don’t see things as they are, but as we are.
If you are a right wing capitalist, chances are you see a Porsche loving, champagne drinking French socialist as a sell out and a fake.
If you are a French socialist, you might think that the suites of the Sofitels should be occupied by people working for the IMF not executives of, for example, BP.
You might think First Class on Air France should be filled with people in public service not just foreign capitalists.
What does anyone think the French socialists are going to do with the champagne from Champagne if they get control? Let their opponents drink it? Of course not.
Why let your opponents have all the good stuff?
After all this is what it is all about: the opponents of socialism have run the world for a long time, and the top end has taken most of the good stuff. Or so it would seem from a socialist perspective. Their idea now is that it is better to work within the system, get control and share the weath. Including the better quality champagne.
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