Rethinking political values
Weeks after François Hollande became the new French President, the French Embassy website in Malta still shows pictures of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, proving that www means wakey, wakey webmaster.
Following ultra-conservative defeats in France – and the gloom of the strong Sarkozyan feelings among many French residents in Malta – one of the main exponents of the new UMP opposition, Alain Juppé, a former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister, declared that his party must rethink its charter of basic tenets published in 2002.
“Horror of horrors,” exclaimed some people in his party. “The 2002 charter is the solemn declaration of our values! How can you touch that?” This reminds me of the old widow who nipped the entrepreneurial gentleman in the bud by stating that he was allowed to touch anything but her values.
A big deal used to be made of the word “values” as if it were not man-made, as if it were a set of divine commandments the lack of respect thereof leads to the eternal perdition of body and soul. Indeed, the UMP charter of 2002 itself had thrown a number of conservative and traditional values into the dustbin of political history, while hardliner horror and resistance, tearfully lamented the fragmentation of “the foundations of our society”.
When serious tremors and cracks appear at the base of a political party, it is time for values to be rethought. But how can one do this without provoking the ultra-conservatives in the party who have permanent nocturnal and diurnal dreams of values, at least the values they themselves inherited and want to impose on their children?
It is rather easy and has been done many times. The party administration changes its values and declares that only attitudes have been changed, while values have not been tickled. This socio-political trompe l’oeil defence mechanism works very well and everybody is happy, except the suspicious who feel they have been cheated out of something.
The UMP 2002 charter seems to be quite dignified and correct (like men’s hot summer jackets only in Maltese courts) and, at first glance, one gets the impression that it should not be proofread for the next 20 generations. But that is not the point. The best-looking charter needs to be changed when there is political disaster, when there are external and/or internal tremors or simply because it has been there too long.
Let us take a look at the main points of the UMP 2002 charter, which I cannot reproduce here in toto for lack of space.
Readers are invited to give their opinion on what they think could be modified – in attitude, of course, not in values – God forbid!
(Over 20 years ago, the Nationalist Party had asked me to translate its basic beliefs from Maltese to French. I had suggested at the time that emphasis on the party’s Latin and Catholic enthusiasm did not conform to secular and socio-cultural emancipation. These value-attitudes remain today – making the faldetta victorious.)
Here are the main points of the UMP 2002 charter (most look socialist but are actually conservative
People must be listened to.
The politician must be a mediator.
No political commitment is sustainable without listening to those who are not usually listened to.
We have to be close to our citizens, measure the difficulties and aspirations of each person.
Each citizen must participate in every decision.
Social dialogue and direct democracy are important.
Good planning is a new art of action.
Ideology may bring blindness and disaster; we must change to ideas and values.
We believe in the individual destiny of the person more than in social determinism.
We believe in the promotion of talent.
Our society must show appreciation of those who accomplish (meritocracy).
Every citizen must be respected.
Fear and anxiety threaten people – who must be protected.
Solidarity with the unfortunate is necessary.
Workers must participate in all decisions at their place of work.
Republican values must be encouraged; these include the promotion of our culture, our language – a general promotion of patriotism. We refuse communitarianism, which melts identity. All foreigners living in France must respect French values.
Europe must be closer to its citizens. It must go beyond economic cooperation.
The above value-attitudes do not seem particularly alarming after having displaced previous ones. Most give the impression of having been taken out of a PES manifesto, proving clustering of ideologies towards the centre, were it not for the anxiety brought about by illegal immigration. However, they too have overstayed their presence in the French centre-right mentality and must be modified since change for change’s sake and young people’s refusal of tradition demand it.
At the same time, a party must show that these ideals are not poetry but practical, workable promises meant to be kept... unlike the photos of Mr Sarkozy in Malta’s French Embassy website.