Monday, November 28, 2005

Chesterton on France: Further Reflections on Burning Cars in Europe’s Most Civilized Country

In a recent blog on this site that dealt ostensibly with French car burnings and also with other things, I suggested that the current unrests in France are not particularly current or particularly French. Unfortunately, I chanced across the following quotation in an essay by G.K. Chesterton (1878-1936) only after I posted that blog and it would have made a lovely conclusion to that piece. I offer it here as a kind of addendum.

Like so many things in Chesterton, it was found in the course of first looking for something else. In this case, the comment on France was found in an essay entitled, appropriately enough “On Thoughts in Canada”. With Chesterton, you can virtually be sure that his thoughts on birds will be found in an essay on banking or his thoughts on banking found in an essay on the virtues of village bakeries.

Here is what Chesterton wrote about France, a country the Earl of Mayo (who lives here now) once declared “the most civilized country in Europe”. I wonder what the Earl thinks of the current contribution by French youths to global warming. I digress. Here is GKC:


…France is still what she always was, the intellectual focus and creative crater
of Christendom; the place where the ideas are hammered out which are to build or
destroy a world. Those who do not understand what is happening in Paris
are dangerously ignorant of what will soon be happening everywhere; for all
Frenchmen are radical in the sense of going to the root of things.

All is Grist (London, Methuen, 1931) at 184.

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