The New York Times has been covering the trial of former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (and others) in what has become known as the Clearstream trial. Basically, the accusation is that de Villepin faked a list of bank accounts, linked them to arms dealers, and then put Sarkozy’s name on it to try to ruin his political career and gain the presidency for himself. If you remember, de Villepin was the guy who won the hearts of many on the American left when he denounced the U.S. war in Iraq at the UN. He at one point was also the main political rival of the up-and-coming Sarkozy.
Anyway, something jumped out at me from today’s article that seems really important:
The trial itself has become a spectacle, given the Sarkozy-de Villepin rivalry, which also has elements of social and class prejudice. Mr. Sarkozy is a lawyer, while Mr. de Villepin went to elite schools, served as a diplomat, writes poetry but was never elected to any national post.
In 2004, for example, according to the magazine Le Point, Mr. de Villepin said, “Nicolas doesn’t have the makings of a man of state, because he has no interior labyrinth.” Mr. Sarkozy, he said, lacks “the mystery that is the strength of great men.” With Mr. Sarkozy, he added, “all is there, on the table, for the taking.”
“Some take this for arrogance, aggression,” he added. “In reality, it is weakness.”
There’s something there–about the role of language, both as an ethos and as a politics–that I think is very important, that I’ve been trying to capture in my own work, and that I think–if one properly understands the stakes of the problem–is very perplexing.
I’m all for poetry. I’m all for beauty. But labyrinthine politicians make me nervous, mostly because I’m a liberal in the classic sense of the term. Jeremy Bentham, for example, equated metaphor with despotism in that it was a type of non-reasoning and therefore ultimately, as a politics, shear imposition of will.
The question I think is how to make sense of, and forge, a poetics for a post neoliberalism…