Based in Chicago at a U.S. law firm, Lagarde “rose to become the first woman to head the firm’s executive committee and was named one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes magazine.”
And now she is back in France as part of the new Sarkozy government basically promoting what’s seen as pro-U.S. ideas such as “Don’t think too much. Work!”
In proposing a tax-cut law last week, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde bluntly advised the French people to abandon their “old national habit.”
“France is a country that thinks,” she told the National Assembly. (I guess she’s saying we aren’t.) “There is hardly an ideology that we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves.”
Citing Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” she said the French should work harder, earn more and be rewarded with lower taxes if they get rich.
Now I’m a big fan of rolling up one’s sleeves and doing the hard work that’s needed…but not without some damn good thinking first to figure out what it is we actually need to do. Still, it’s hard to believe that Sarkozy and his team don’t already know that.
So let me commit the immortal sin of thinking here. Could there be some deeper motives to what seems, on the surface, simply a policy of motivating the French people to work harder and emulate the successful business practices of the good old United States?
Let me start off by saying when I hear hard work being touted as a national solution (in place of those annoying intellectuals who muck stuff up with thought) I am reminded of another time when the words “arbeit macht frei” (German for “work brings freedom”) masked truly horrible things at a place called Auschwitz.
And don’t get me started on what Lagarde said about there being more than enough thought-filled books in the libraries! (Read this as: “So don’t go writing any more of those books if you disagree with us.”)
While I don’t claim to be an expert in politics, the one thing I do know is that when government tries to sell you on a simple solution that involves NOT THINKING SO MUCH, beware of why they might want to shut off thought in their citizens. Oh…one other thing I know is that the people telling you not to think so much are thinking all the time about how to get you to do what they want. And the best way is for them to limit opposition from the git-go by controlling the debate.
For Sarkozy, this means cutting off his opposition at the knees with a label like “intellectual” or “thinker” and making it into a dirty word – just like what was done here to “intellectuals” and “liberals”. What better weapon than to make thought itself suspect?
At risk of invoking any such label, I suggest thinking hard before buying what they’re selling. The package may look good to some, but I think this cheese smells rotten.
“Je travaille donc ne dois pas penser.”
The statue in the picture is Auguste Rodin’s awe-inspiring The Thinker. It’s one of my favorites. But I guess that’s no surprise.