“That's just the way we are!”

Vive la France? © Ian Langsdon

France has rebelled again at the end of the year. President Emmanuel Macron has his back against the wall in 2019. Marianne, the legendary standard bearer of the Grande Nation, has already experienced all sorts of things.

In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA), Marianne talks about the current crisis and different ways of dealing with it through reforms. The conversation is of course – how could it be otherwise – purely fictional. The broken windows and illusions of 2018 are real.

CBA: Marianne, the recent scenario in Paris and Toulouse should sound familiar: burning barricades, tear gas, police with clubs and shields. In the past we wore shorts and Jacobin caps, today yellow vests.

Marianne: Oh you know – in over 225 years I know my Frenchmen. The message is: make it better for me, but don't change what I know and have – otherwise I'll smash everything to bits! That's just the way we are, fractious.

CBA: That's just the way we are? You mean: Franck Ribery as a normal Frenchman?
Marianne: Well, don't exaggerate. But look: I myself grew up in the front of the barricades.
CBA: Then explain: the French always demand radical rethinking from their politicians, a whole new country. But as soon as the first proposals are on the table that do anything different, you block roads, dump manure in front of doors, set cars on fire, all that. Wash my fur, but don't get me wet.

Marianne: Of course, we don't want upheavals that make things worse – but that restore us to what we should be: the cultural and economic elite of Europe.

CBA: With a 35-hour week and retirement at 60 or 62? But Madame, that was the 70s …
Marianne: The 70s, the 80s … Young man, it seems to me that you are missing the big picture. I have seen them all come and go: Kings, welfare committees, emperors, generals, presidents. I am the standard bearer of freedom – you can't be satisfied with gossip and false promises.

CBA: So where do you draw the line between chatter and real reform proposals?

Marianne: You Germans even dutifully let your left pour reform that overtakes the Union on the right.

CBA: You mean the Agenda 2010. Would such a thing be so terribly bad for France??

Marianne: Oh – let's talk about something else …

CBA: Good. Then we talk again about the presidential elections 2017. Ante portas stood the Front National with Marine Le Pen. All of Europe was already trembling before it – but the young liberal, almost unsophisticated bringer of salvation Emmanuel Macron was elected with a landslide victory.

Marianne: Even then I had doubts about what this young boy from the elite school would do with this historic opportunity. He was our cat in the bag. And what has he delivered so far? Nothing at all. Phenotypically and in terms of her name, Marine Le Pen was actually a bit closer to me. She always emphasized that France's flag had to be taken out of the gutter. That impressed me too.

CBA: Speaking of which, where was Marianne actually between 1940 and 1945: in Paris, in London, or in Vichy??

Marianne: Everywhere there. A Marianne's central task is to unite all French people under the banner of liberty, equality and fraternity. That is sometimes more difficult and sometimes less difficult. The events to which you allude deeply divided the country at that time. That was definitely tricky. And we are at a similar point again today.

CBA: Macron and Merkel were supposed to be the tandem for a new start of the European Union. In the meantime, Merkel is heading for retirement, and you are giving your Macron a run for his money.

Marianne: You seem to think it's very easy with the unification bodies. Let others take responsibility. There are 28 states in the EU, not just France and Germany.

CBA: Soon only 27. And the solidarity crumbles. What does the Brexit actually do to you??

Marianne: Do you seriously want to talk to me about England now??

CBA: But yes. What connects you, for example, with Theresa May – after all, also a femme d'etat?

Marianne: I ask you! She's only 62, has infinitely less experience than me. All I can say is: We didn't start this with the Brexit. Otherwise: Everyone sweeps in front of his own door, there he has enough dirt for it.

The interview was conducted by Alexander Bruggemann.

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