Tag Archives: City Journal

Oh for Joy!

The sub-titleThe Western cult of happiness’ is a mirthless enterprise’, in the City Journal caught my attention; partly because the French author Pascal Bruckner belongs to a nation which, according to a Gallup Poll, are the world’s most gloomy, and partly because the UK government tried to measure the nations happiness.  The French may indeed be gloomy’ but that doesn’t necessarily make them ‘Les Misérables’. On the other hand the British may indeed be Les Misérables but not necessarily gloomy. Perhaps, both nations would regard the European national anthem  ‘Ode to Joy’ , a paean to spiritual joy, as an allusion to some form of earthly happiness, now muted as being a goal of European social policy that requires political intervention. At least that’s one of the propositions put forward in the ‘First European Quality of Life Survey: Life Satisfaction, happiness and sense of belonging’.  This would seem to give credence to Pascal Bruckner’s proposition that joy is no longer an option.

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‘The State’ and Public Disorder

The recent riots in the UK received worldwide media attention, from newspapers and television to the internet and blogspots.  The English edition of the French newspaper Le Monde diplomatique gave one of the more empathetic reports on the riots in its article, UK riots: lessons from the banlieues?. In comparing David Cameron calling the rioters ‘opportunist thugs’, to that of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2005 dismissing the rioters in the banlieues as ‘voyous’ or thugs, reflects terms that are apt when applied to the wantonly mindless acts of destruction that occurred in France and England. However, there are differences between the actions of the rioters that would seem to suggest a lack of ’common purpose’ between the rioters in France and those in England.

The French riots of 2005 were mainly directed towards attacking state-owned buildings such as schools and police stations, with less emphasis on looting.  The 2011 riots in England focused on looting, orchestrated by attacking private and business property. This would suggest that any comparison is difficult, if not impossible. Yet in both cases the term ‘social exclusion’ has a resonance, even given its nuances when applied to both of these cases.  Sarkozy’s 2007 promised ‘Marshal Plan’ has done little to reverse the perceived social and economic problems that divide many in the French suburbs from mainstream society. The reasons for this slow progress towards change are, in themselves, lessons worth learning.  As Le Monde puts it:

if the British government can learn anything from the French case, it is that conclusions drawn in the heat of the moment, from a situation that is still fluid and evolving, are not ones upon which to base any longer-term response.  Read more of this post

From Bowdler to Gribben

Stefan Kanfer writing in City Journal- Gribbenizing Finn, claims that a valuable new verb has entered the English language with the exit of a noun from a classic novel.

He writes that Alan Gribben, a member of the English faculty at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, has been called a Mark Twain scholar by no less an authority than Entertainment Weekly. It’s in that role that this learned teacher joins with the great censors of the past.
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