Well, we can all rest easy in our beds here in France.
Hot on the heels of new legislature allowing women to wear trousers in Paris – yes it really was against the law technically though I don’t think the rule has been enforced for many many years – comes yet more life changing rule changes – it is no longer against the law to be rude to the French president!
Since 1881 it has been an offence to insult the president of France and anyone doing so could be subject to a fine. Admittedly this rule, like the ladies wearing trouser rule, has not often been applied but there has been one famous incident which has probably prompted the about turn.
Back in 2008, during a walkabout, the then President Sarkozy put out his hand to shake that of a man in the crowd. The man refused and the irritated president said “Get lost, Jerk” – in French of course. It was seen as incredibly bad manners and – it came back to bite him. A demonstrator later used the same words on a banner, holding it aloft to President Sarkozy. The demonstrator was later fined €30 for being rude to the president.
The European Court of Human Rights however has ruled that this is a violation of one’s human rights to freedom of expression and so today the legislation has been changed.
Not that you’d notice it had ever been an offence – the current incumbent, Francois Hollande has been insulted from the beginning of his pitch at presidency, the nickname “Monsieur Flanby” being one of my personal favourites – Flanby is a wobbly pudding you get in the supermarkets. Perhaps he thinks of the great French playwright Molière who said “A wise man is superior to any insults which can be put upon him, and the best reply to unseemly behavior is patience and moderation”.
Personally I can think of much better insults than “get lost, jerk” when it comes to politicians, here are just a few of my favourites:
“Don’t vote for politicians. It just encourages them.” Billy Connolly
“Since a politician never believes a word he himself says, he is always quite surprised to be taken at his word.” Charles de Gaulle
“Politicians are the same the world over – they promise to build a bridge even when there is no river.” Nikita Khrushchev
“Politicians are wedded to the truth, but like many other married couples – they sometimes live apart.” SAKI, (The Unbearable Bassington)
Last word to the incredibly (at times) astute Homer Simpson:
“Marge, the reason we have elected officials is so we don’t have to think”.