10 Jul 2015

Marching Down the Champs-Elysées

On foot, horse-back, motorbikes, in camouflaged tanks and other combat vehicles, on fighter planes and helicopters short of a supersonic bang, French troops and allies will be marching down, driving past, flying over, and jumping off aircrafts down the Champs-Elysées for their yearly military parade, on 14th July, otherwise known as Bastille Day. The super-mediatised military event packs a punch and raises the goose bumps, but do we still feel grand and patriot in a fractured nation within a fractured Europe within a fractured world?

The foreign legion marches on! (14 July 2013)

First off, here's a little-known fact for our foreign friends: France is only one of less than half a dozen nations in the world to conduct military parades of the sort, alongside Russia, China and North Korea. Sounds a little, ahem, unsettling? Thing is, this is not just a military parade, it is a solemn and orchestrated showcase of our savoir-faire, technological expertise and prowess, and other tools of propaganda and self-promotion flaunted not just to France itself but also to the rest of the world, as a military power and potential belligerent to be reckoned with, alongside being a manufacturer of top-notch military engines, and re-affirming our services as an intelligence consultancy, and other 'peace-keeping' endeavours. Any warmongering undertone is channelled into 'Si vis pacem, para bellum' (If you want peace, prepare war). The Bastille Day send-off is a little like a fashion catwalk for military gear. Foreign nations watch the show, scratch their noses and fill in those order forms. The message sounds clear enough.

Yet not clear enough as to why we need to flaunt such an expensive and lavish operation in times of economic austerity and when so-called European unity dispenses us from any overzealous national pride. In terms of costs, the parade might have worked out at only 5 cents per French inhabitant back in 2013, it still added up to €3.3 million, no less! And the sumptuous firework displays that are partaken with later in the night are not accounted for. Besides I doubt that deep down the military feel like parading past the French president, when the government's cutbacks are drastically affecting their budgets.

La Garde Républicaine (14 July 2013)
Sadly, as grand and respectable as the parade is, I cannot help but see it turn more and more into some obligatory charade, not only because European rule and the worldwide banking system rule out any national spirit and pride and squash in the bud those Free Trade and entrepreneurship values that once gave an individual their chance at making it for themselves and for their nation, but also because what remains of national spirit and pride is either condensed into a national holiday, or channelled by the media into a political rally. It feels almost contrived and certainly out of context, almost discordant.

The irony of the Bastille Day parade goes even further. A few years ago, France landed a juicy military order from Russia: two BPC Mistral warships, Vladivostok and Sébastopol. With the French presidency being nowadays little more than Obama's labradoodle and Merkel's schnauzer, it bowed to the pressure and refused to deliver the goods to Russia in some sort of blackmail retaliation regarding the Ukraine and NATO. Problem is, the warships had been manufactured, they were ready to be delivered, and Russia had paid the bill. The ships are now stranded in a French port and their upkeep alone is costing us €5 million a month, notwistanding the hefty penalty charges. I doubt the US and Germany will help us with that!

Going over(board)? (14 July 2012)
When a government bangs on about employment, and bangs on about cost-saving measures, and bangs on about Bastille Day - virtually all in one sentence, and then in the next refuses to deliver a military order they originally honoured, they find no other response than to promise to create 8500 public service jobs in 2016! Forget about the logic, there is none.

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