Theodore Dalrymple

Global Warning | 24 January 2009

We should always try to see ourselves as others see us, but not when the others are French.

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We should always try to see ourselves as others see us, but not when the others are French. They are so biased against us that they can see nothing clearly: their animus obscures their view and makes it worthless.

This was proved to me yet again when I arrived in Paris recently. I always stay in the same hotel in that city, where I have developed my little habits. In the morning, I go out and buy Le Monde, which I read at breakfast in the same cafe. This particular morning, Le Monde carried a short commentary on the economic situation of Britain.

The satirical rogue who wrote it claimed that the fall in the value of the pound — 17 per cent against the euro in two months — was well justified by the economic situation of our tight little island. For, he said, the deficit in our balance of payments is 3 per cent of our gross national product. Moreover, he continued, the government is borrowing the equivalent of 8 per cent of the GNP this year, a figure that is likely to rise, and foreign currency markets don’t like governments that maintain public deficits. True, inflation has fallen, but that is not likely to last long (said this vile Anglophobe) because the value of our importations is a third of the GNP. Mere prejudice led him to claim that inflationary pressures were building.

He admitted that the fall in the value of the pound might benefit our exports, but in the snide and underhand way typical of his nation, he went on to ask: which exports? Could anything establish his bad faith better than the ridiculous suggestion that, before we export something that others wish to buy, we have first to make it? One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the pathetic assertion that he makes to substantiate this ludicrous claim, that Albion — yes, always la perfide Albion — had de-industrialised further than any other country and that it no longer possessed either the productive capacity or the ability to innovate that would allow it to take advantage of the devaluation of its currency.

Does this man not realise that we have trained thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands, of our young people in media studies? Does he not know that equal numbers of young British girls, despite having a baby or two, have finished courses on hair and beauty (admittedly without much positive effect on their own appearance, but as the great Doctor Johnson pointed out a long time ago, you can criticise a table without being able to make one). Does the author of this scurrilous article masquerading as serious commentary think that, in a crisis, people will go without their televisions, their hair or their beauty?

Lo and behold, when I reached the end of the article I realised that it was not French at all, that it was a translation, presumably from the English, from something written by one Edward Hadas. I am all in favour of freedom of criticism, of course but, as with all freedoms, there have to be limits. Surely there is no place in the modern world for such ill-informed, prejudiced nonsense by people who are little short of traitors. If we can legislate against religious hatred, surely we can legislate against gross misrepresentations of our country’s situation?