What follows is not an anthropometric description of France, but neither does it reflect the fancy of the author: It is what one can see of France from a certain distance, which blurs the finer details but allows the main features to stand out.  When looking at the Great Wall of China from a certain altitude, one fails to make out the cracks in the mortar, but clearly grasps the rationale of its apparently aimless meandering.

Where to start is not difficult to ascertain.  The French Revolution constitutes the great divide in the history of the country: Before, there was a France that was a kingdom—one that had taken 40 kings of the same blood ten centuries to forge—and after, maturing slowly, a new France arising on top of the ruins of the preceding one.  For the Revolution did not cease with Napoleon: Its spirit kept creeping under the mantle of seemingly adverse events, until it gave birth to contemporary France.

Before the Revolution, France had somehow a triple identity, which taken together made for a carnal entity, an actual person.

She had a physical identity that was the land the successive kings had managed to bring under their domain.  Though nominally belonging to the king, each parcel of that land was owned by an individual whose bond to it was vital.  This was true of the lowly plowman (whom his lord had no right to expel at will from his field, nor to deprive his son of inheriting it from his father); of the nobleman, who couldn’t be one unless he owned some land (from which he derived his title of nobility); and even of the burghers, who were men of one town.  Frenchmen were French because they were all somehow tied to the soil of France, while the king, as the overlord of the kingdom, served as the federating or uniting principle.

“Man is a creature of habit,” wrote Edmund Burke.  And, indeed, habits composed the second identity of France.  From families to villages to provinces, each of these smaller societies had its private traditions, local customs, specific histories, sometimes even particular rights and languages.  (Only in the mid-16th century was French declared the official language.)  Individuals were knitted together by habits they did not despise, but respected as part of their inner selves.  But France became a nation, without forfeiting her diversified past carefully nurtured by a diversity of Frenchmen, because a common loyalty to the king instilled in each individual the feeling that to be French was to be at the same time members of smaller communities and of one nation—the lesson of Joan of Arc: One could be both a Norman and a Frenchman, so that being French was nothing artificial but rather a sentiment rooted in the individual’s daily existence.

And lastly France had a spiritual identity.  Even though the passions of men tend to tear them apart, eventually a common religion, Christianity, dampened Frenchmen’s egoisms and drew them together, while giving them the feeling that it was their duty to be loyal to the country God had given them.  (For though the Roman creed teaches the faithful that they all belong to the community of the sons of God, it also reminds them such a kingdom is not of this world.)  France’s religious unity was repeatedly damaged by heresies, but in the long run the Roman religion prevailed, and France came to justify her nickname “the eldest daughter of the Church” (an allusion to the baptism of Clovis), and the king his title of “most Catholic Majesty”; delinquent though many priests may have been, nevertheless the love and fear of God lived in most hearts alongside the love of France.  “Catholic and French forever” was the rallying motto of traditional Frenchmen.

These were the three pillars on which the nation rested—and, I would like to add: as is natural.  Indeed, can there exist a nation not rooted in the soil?  Remember the Jews who spent centuries nurturing their hope of returning to the Promised Land.  Or can there exist a nation without a soul of its own, made of customs and traditions, local and common histories?  And can there exist a nation without a religion, a belief that binds (religare) the citizens together through mysterious and sacred ties, independent of their individual convenience?

Now, the yearning for unfettered freedom lies deep in the hearts of men, and this yearning eventually managed to erode the fortunate shackles forged by the wisdom of centuries.  Come 1789, this suddenly triumphant passion wasted not a day in disrupting the fabric of France, beheading the landed aristocracy, chopping the old provinces into soulless geometric shapes (the départements), uprooting local traditions, and finally attacking the ancestral religion—turning a living being into a mechanical puppet fit to be governed by wire-pulling masters.  It was too ambitious a task to complete at one fell swoop, even by the revolutionaries’ savage enthusiasm, but they had nevertheless set up a program for their untamed disciples to implement over the two centuries to come.  Indeed, what they intended, as they boldly declared, was to “create a new people,” made up of uprooted individuals who were supposed to comprehend their rootlessness as the very sign of their individual sovereignty, and to be assembled only by their own will upon the territory that used to be France with the single purpose of reshaping the rest of mankind to their utter likeness—meaning the basic right of each man to be his one and only master (free and equal to others—fraternity being an afterthought added in 1848 by people mindful of the not-so-fraternal guillotine).

And so it is as if History had in mind to implement this program in its habitual slow, persistent, but discontinuous way.  Indeed, emperors appeared, kings returned, and the country for various reasons resisted the revolutionary trend: As late as 1875 France came within a hair’s breadth of becoming a monarchy again.  But, rain or shine, the spirit of the Revolution continued to worm its way through the fabric of France.

With acute awareness of what was most important, the Revolution’s fanatical flag-bearers targeted first and foremost France’s religion.  From 1789 onward they fought a relentless war against anything clerical throughout the country, and though they did not thoroughly succeed (there are still some Christians in France), they won a key victory in 1905, when they transferred all Church property to the public domain and rendered illegal any interference of the priesthood in the political or social life of the country.  (This was called the separation of Church and state.)  Thenceforth, France was officially a godless country, and officially proud to be so.  (No “so help me God” here.)  What with faith becoming an entirely private matter, and its perpetuation having ceased to be a matter of standard policy, on one hand the most solid bond between the citizens, one that was not supposed to depend on their whims, had been broken; on the other Frenchmen had lost their ultimate reason for maintaining the walk of life Providence had decreed to be theirs (i.e., being French).

Nevertheless, the second pillar was still holding firm as late as 1939, when about 80 percent of the French workforce was still rural: France remained bonded to her soil, and for the majority of her citizens she was far from having simply become a place where one happened to have been born, with no other purpose than to live as one pleased.  Though with less enthusiasm than in 1914, Frenchmen went to war again to defend her soil, a short but bloody war.  In 1945 the Allied Forces were victorious, but France was in ruins, and with the necessity of reconstructing the country a new mentality slowly came to prevail.  The war had shown that worldwide significance required industrialization, and during what is now called the “Glorious Thirty Years” France strove to become a good pupil.  However one may judge the process, one cannot deny that it quickly resulted in the massive transplantation of the French workforce from the countryside to urban areas, the mechanization of agriculture to compensate for the loss of labor (there remains only a handful of farmers in France today), and a widespread change of public spirit, consecutive to the general uprooting of the vast majority of the population.  It doesn’t matter that industrial jobs were later lost to bureaucratic, or service ones by outsourcing: The land had lost its former prestige, and nothing could beat making money—i.e., for the greater part of the citizens, earning a good salary, a certain amount of money allowing its recipient to satisfy his whims, mostly material.  French citizens turned into dedicated consumers, eager for more and more goods, and cheaper ones such as the Asian variety favored by supermarkets, while constantly striking for higher wages, longer vacations, more benefits.  In a word, Frenchmen became engulfed in a kind of plebeian hedonism encouraged by daily TV programs bent above all on entertainment.  A new Frenchman was born, one who certainly cared about his day-to-day well-being, but for whom patriotism was more and more a moot term.

And then a certain lobby started undermining the third pillar of the nation, the respect for her particular traditions, and her past in general.  Indeed, in the eyes of this lobby the years between 1933 and 1945 had supposedly demonstrated that there was something sinister lying in the very notion of nation, although the notion had been manufactured as the catchword of the French Revolution.  Day after day, after a brief spell of Gaullist nationalism, the schools and the media, surreptitiously at first, then openly, hammered into French minds that within the phrase National Socialism was embedded the word nation, so that to defend one’s nation was soon simply to be considered a Nazi, Nazism being not only evil—something everyone agreed upon—but the Evil of all evils man had ever managed to inflict upon his fellow men.  This having become the basic mantra, it followed that whatever the nation of France had done in her past was unforgivably evil: Frenchmen had to learn to hate their history and feel guilty.  As an example, the present minister of national education, a young Moroccan woman, has undertaken to erase from all young French minds all knowledge of their common past: What was taught under the heading “French history” has become a medley, devoid of chronological order, of half-baked notions dealing with the past—notably, of Arab and African civilizations, which the French white man, a dedicated slave owner, is supposed to have despised and trampled.  Meanwhile, the former minister of justice, a native of French Guyana, was hailed for her intention to free from the French prisons as many as possible of their inmates, declared to be victims of an unabashedly white France, etc.

Now the dangers for France of such self-hatred have obviously been compounded by the development of a rather new phenomenon: mass immigration, which puts a new weapon in the hands of the country’s enemies.  I’m not referring so much to the executives of large corporations, whether industrial or financial, whose obvious interest is to sell and invest without the hindrance of national barriers, while availing themselves of a cheap labor force.  Rather, I am referring to so-called French elites, intellectual or political, who, obviously in fear of some mysterious (or not so mysterious) judges, appear terrified to defend anything resembling a carnal France, a France rooted in a soil and a history, and who deliberately encourage immigration while presenting the notion of closing French borders as evidence of racism and narrow-minded chauvinism.  This is a situation almost without precedent: The officers of the ship France taking command of her in order to sink her!

And so it is that the debate raging among politically correct French intellectuals these days is whether France should impose so-called republican values—“openness to the other,” laicism, and rootless individualism—upon immigrants (a thesis favored by supposed patriots such as the fashionable writer Alain Finkielkraut); or yield to Islam and organize Muslim communities living side by side with French ones (the latest invention of his lesser-known rival, Pierre Manent).  And of course government officials, contrary to a stand they were still making as late as 20 years ago, have embraced the new cause with a straight face: The official claim has become that immigration is necessary to compensate for France’s demographic deficit—forget about encouraging the French to make babies by, for instance, tax incentives, as was implemented after the war.  (It goes without saying that the recent legalization of same-sex “marriage” is hardly the best way to increase the birthrate.)  Another pertinent question: Is the French government just plain stupid or hostile to France when they present the rule of secularism—anathema to Muslims—as the best safeguard against an obviously invasive Islam, while erecting mosques so that Muslims will feel less alienated?  Or dare I mention the French tax administrations’ policy of overtaxing the French middle classes (notably ruining small businesses) in order to provide welfare benefits to immigrants who are convinced it is their right to receive them?

That much may be enough to describe what is going on: the eradication, at the instigation of French officialdom, of whatever smacks of an affirmative French identity, which they construe to be oppressive to individual freedom, pregnant with racist ideology, and definitely destructive of all human brotherhood.  The obvious goal is to turn France into a ville ouverte (an undefended city), and then dissolve her into a federative soup—first European, and then globalist.

Is there anything to stand between France and her programmed demise?  Of course there is, and it seems recently to have built up some steam: There are still people willing to stand up for France as a nation, a smattering of associations, including the ceaselessly ostracized political party Front National, and maybe more crucially, the masses of ordinary Frenchmen, such as the million and a half who demonstrated in the streets of Paris against homosexual marriage this past year.  However, all these people are simply ignored for some simple reasons.

It is indeed a fact that the basic rules of democracy largely depend on what suits the political majority, which in France comprises the two main political parties, the so-called Socialists and the so-called Republicans (does that sound familiar?), working hand in hand to maintain control over the political process—notably, through gerrymandering.  This accounts for the fact that, as of today, the aforementioned National Front, supported by roughly one third of the French electorate, has only two representatives in the entire parliament, while the Communist Party, with less than ten percent of the electorate, retains several score.  The situation is made worse by the fact that, to muster the maximum number of votes, the National Front has to avoid taking sharply defined stands, thus defeating its own purpose.  Democracy has its discreet—or never debunked—way of squelching the citizens it doesn’t like.

But—let me repeat myself—the crucial fact may be the following: There are two meanings to the concept of nation.  There is the modern one, the one used by politicians, inherited from the French Revolution, which holds the nation to be the product of a basic contract, the free consent of each free citizen to become a member of the body politic.  Such a meaning runs contrary to the traditional one, which holds the nation to be an entity forged in history, into which citizens are born without being asked whether they like it, but in whose many achievements they take pride.  Willy-nilly, the latter is the meaning that prevails among those citizens who still profess some kind of patriotism.  It becomes mere child’s play to make these people appear as enemies of democracy, and supporters of xenophobia and racism—a people to be shunned.

I think we may safely conclude that France today is exactly what the promoters of the French Revolution wanted her to be: an entity whose only reality is the typically enlightened claim that every man is a citizen of the world; an entity whose only acknowledged members are the upholders of this ideology; an entity that has no particular ties to any particular land other than by happenstance, or whose land has no other meaning than being the chance spot where the rights of man were born (“le pays des droits de l’homme”); finally, an entity with no other past besides the series of victories won by this ideology, and with no future, since it rests on the claim that a nation is like a monstrous animal preferring to lurk in the darkness of its lair, rather than to live in the open fields roamed by a migrant humanity.

Given the nature of those conclusions, I wonder: Is France the only nation in the West slouching toward suicide?