Those who witnessed the Spanish Civil War or the triumph of Nazism in
Germany realize how fragile democracy can be. While in Spain and Germany it
seems to be working well, not so in France, where government by demonstration is almost the rule. Each pressure group stages demonstrations which can turn nasty; those of French farmers have featured not only the usual fights with the police, but also the destruction of trucks carrying foodstuffs and the burning of sheep alive.
The latest example is the highschool student riots, which featured a few
more or less reasonable students, who had no idea of how their proposals
would be funded, then hundreds of students for whom the whole thing was a
lark, then some, mostly girls, in a state of mass hysteria, and finally a gang of casseurs, who smashed store windows, overturned cars, fought over pilfered ciragettes, and battled the police. One students was killed, several police were badly wounded. Then the police were blamed for failure to act!
Students are violence prone, and the old analysis by Maurice Barres in Les Deracines seems to the point: the students are rootless. The remedy is
something Barres could never dream of: distance learning, which makes home
learning generally feasible. Even in democratic France, democracy is fragile; in the scale of general values, it is subordinate to order. De Gaulle strengthened the presidency to ensure order. The French might conclude that he did not go far enough. Shades of Napoleon I and III!
Ronald Hilton - 10/16/98