The Juppé cushion

I often feel like we’ve slipped into an alternative reality and another more legitimate version of myself is somewhere having a great time, and everything is inconspicuously normal. There are plenty of other hypotheses that attempt to explain the surreality we find ourselves in, such as the simulation theory I read about in the Guardian yesterday where boffins believe we’ve slipped into a version of The Matrix (the paradigm isn’t new and is likely Cartesian in origin, apart from the bit about The Matrix obviously). Fancy theories abound, and we can hypothesise all we like, but it doesn’t change the fact that everything’s gone a bit batshit politically recently, whether it feels like it’s really happening or not.

Right now I’m more obsessed with politics than usual. I fear if I take my eye off it for one second then something yet more hideous will manifest, dressed as a killer clown in UKIP purple. And it’s little wonder it’s getting to me. I spend my days fretting about Brexit while my nightmares are infested by that boogieman Donald Trump (or trompe in French, meaning to deceive). And now my mornings more often than not feature that dead-eyed guignol Nicolas Sarkozy, smarming up to the Republicans (formerly the UMP) as he seeks the party nomination.

It had seemed like a fine idea to self improve. I would take myself to the gym and make myself watch the French news for half an hour daily as I ran on the treadmill or pedalled on an exercise bike. But of course it just means I’m getting full daily political discourse on three fronts now, which is surely enough for any one brain to take.

Sarko is attempting to become leader of his party ahead of the 2017 elections as he sets out to “resurrect” France. He’s been positioning himself as the anti-establishment candidate against THE MAN Alain Juppé, despite being rich and very much a member of the establishment. Sound familiar? The similarities with Trump don’t end there. The three times married demagogue is running an anti-Muslim campaign, threatening to ban headscarves if elected, and he wants to throw people like me – who can’t speak French properly – out of the country. He’s anti-EU, a climate change denier, and he wants to put forward referenda within days of being elected asking voters if they want to a) suspend the right for non-EU nationals to join family in France and b) throw suspected radicalised Islamists in jail without having to go through the courts. He also plans to speak up for the silent majority (the unrepresented working classes rather than the dead, one presumes). He makes Marine Le Pen look like a tree-hugging bleeding-heart liberal in other words.

Fortunately he probably won’t win. Juppé, the self-styled “prophet of happiness”, has been running a campaign focusing on hope rather than Sarkozy’s fear, and it appears to be paying off. This has given me a sense of hope that might be fallacious, as firstly Sarkozy is dogged by dodgy finances and his party probably don’t have such short memories that they’ve forgotten the electorate hates his guts, and secondly, when I actually think about it, I remember that Juppé is also a right winger, even if Sarko makes him look like a wet. But still, with Francois Hollande a dead president walking, Juppé might be the best hope we have against the unconscionable – a Front National government (it’s unlikely but not unthinkable).

The centre ground has suddenly shifted so far to the right everywhere, that we end up feeling grateful for the smallest of mercies; Theresa May becoming Prime Minister instead of Andrea Leadsom in the UK; Hillary hopefully wiping the floor with Trump in the US in November. Have things become so bleak in such a worryingly short period of time that we’re all suddenly settling for damage limitation? Also, voters now favour such a weird hotchpotch of ideas (pro-nationalisation of the railways while being anti-immigration for instance) that the old spectrum of left to right doesn’t even really work anymore. It’s all very confusing and worrying. I don’t think it’s an aberration either. I can’t see a way back for the left, and I can’t see the tectonic plates shifting to where they were any time soon. Meanwhile Brexit has unleashed dark forces and the racist genie isn’t about to go back into its bottle. I just pray the French and the Americans aren’t as stupid as the British, but when you no longer trust the reality you find yourself in then it’s impossible to repress the feeling that anything could happen, and it just might as well…

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