Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Daniel Cohn-Bendit

I like this guy. I couldn't tell you much about his politics, much less if I agree with them, but I can tell you that I appreciate his appearances on French TV. I first heard about him last May, in the context of debates about the European Constitution, when he was a frequent guest for televised debates. My favorite moment was an argument with Philippe de Villiers, who was blatantly lying about Turkey's participation in some accords, brandishing some papers with Turkey's signature in Cohn-Bendit's face. I think the "moderator" had to repeat "please, gentlemen" for about 3 minutes straight before they finally calmed down.

But disagreeing with de Villiers (one of the most ridiculous French characters ever), is not the only reason I appreciate C-B. Unlike most US, or even French (read: de Villepin, Chirac) politicans, he seems believable. Like most politicians, de Villepin has the amazing ability to talk about nothing and everything for minutes on end, all the while evading any direct answers.** In contrast, C-B gets straight to the point, says what's on his mind, is moderately respectful and polite towards the other guests, and just seems genuine, period. I don't know if anyone else gets this impression, but I do.

All this to say: there's an interesting interview with C-B in this weekend's Le Monde 2. He gave the German perspective on all that's going on (the left envy the mobilization, while the right make fun of the need to turn everything into some kind of historical drama), and makes some funny observations about the French. In comparing the student movement to the anti-referendum movement and his experience in France with that, he relates what one anti-referendum person told him during a debate: "I have an existential need to say 'no'." C-B says that he had no comeback to this, and he tried to explain the guy's comment in the interview, saying that most French are afraid and suspicious because the government and the schools are having so many problems. He also gives his take on the CPE, offers his own solutions, and makes comparisons with systems already in place in other EU countries.

But I couldn't get past the quote. WTF. Are we still toddlers? Must we refuse something just because we like saying no? Admittedly, I have but a toddler's understanding of the CPE and all the mess going on right now (I know, shameful, but comprehending the nonsense of politics eludes me at the moment), and I'm probably missing the whole point of the article. But I think it's pretty flaky to use the existential "need" to say no as justification for a political movement, be it anti-referendum or anti-CPE. This line is gonna stick with me, though, and I can't wait to repeat it, preferably in a perfectly incongruous situation. On second thought, can't you just imagine the "Just Say No" anti-drug slogan replaced with "An existential need to say no"?

**Perhaps his hair gives him mystical powers that prevent the journalists from cutting him off - Villy Villy Villy don't you see, sometimes your locks just hyptonize me?


Anonymous said...

You should research the character. He was one of the leaders in the 1968 student riots, and anaged to get expelled of the country. He now runs on a gren-red french-german kind of platform, trying to make the most political hay from the issues at hand, usually by saying no.

Very trustworthy for sure, not very constructive

Anonymous said...

Yes, "Dany le Rouge" as he was called in 1968, is still around.

Note that he has German nationality, since he apparently gave up his chance at French nationality to avoid military service.