Just before the French election I installed the Le Monde app on my phone. French news doesn’t interest me except as it impacts financial markets or (rarely) geopolitics. That was a mistake; the lead story in France’s top national daily yesterday at 7:00 a.m. EST involved a “tutu protest” against the allegedly homophobic Wyoming senator Mike Enzi, in which men and women donned frilly ballet skirts for a gay rights demonstration.
President-elect Emmanuel Macron is scrambling to field candidates for the National Assembly elections and proclaiming a grand reorganization of the European Union — but Le Monde reminds us what the French are really about. Trust them to point up the things we most dislike about ourselves.
Pace James Carville, we need a sign that reminds us: “It’s the culture, stupid.” One big idea unifies all of Nietzsche’s offspring — the Marxists, the Freudians, the French Existentialists, the critical theorists, the Deconstructionists, the queer theorists — and that is the right to self-invention. That is the cruelest hoax ever perpetrated on human beings, for we are not clever or strong enough to reinvent ourselves. To the extent we succeed, we become monsters.