When I was a teenager in the late 1950s I remember seeing General de Gaulle interviewed not long after he had become France’s saviour by returning as President of the Fifth Republic.
De Gaulle had been the leader of the Free French in World War II, and with France in chaos, he had been recalled to save France once again.
The interviewer asked de Gaulle why the French had surrendered to the Germans in 1940 instead of fighting on.
With that look that many confused with arrogance, he replied that the French people perhaps “didn’t care enough”.
That may not be de Gaulle’s exact quote because I am reporting from memory. However, during life we know that doing the right thing requires effort and sometimes sacrifice.
Do we care enough? The French are pondering such a moment right now.
The “Legion of Honour” has just been awarded to the heroes who foiled the May terrorist attack on a high speed train carrying 554 passengers.
French President Francois Hollande noted that the heroes were three Americans, one Briton and belatedly a Frenchman.
When an Islamic terrorist with an AK47 and hundreds of rounds of ammunition rose to begin his reign of terror, in a split second the Americans leapt from their seats to the cry of, “Let’s go!” The Brit joined in and just one Frenchman offered any sign of bravery.
A major catastrophe was averted, but the French are now asking why it was Americans, not French citizens, who jumped into action.
Newspapers are reminding the French that it was the Americans who were there to free France from the Germans. (They aren’t mentioning the British on D-Day, even though there was a British hero in this story, too.)
France is suffering from deteriorating economic circumstances. Unemployment has reached 10.5 per cent, and while France is not as badly off as Spain or Italy, there are those who note that France does not now have enough industry to use all of its electricity, and worse, the surplus is sold to Germany to support jobs there.
Lax work practices are undermining French production. Not surprisingly, vox pops turned up comments suggesting that “Let’s go!” could be a new French rallying cry. Hollande at the investiture called on the French not to look away in a crisis.
“The onus is on public authorities to take all measures,” he said, but added, “there is always what finally depends on the individual responsibility of a man or a woman who is capable of doing the right thing.”
I am sure that in a real crisis, particularly one where you were likely to die anyway, you would do what had to be done, if you could.
A man holding a machine gun is a very clear example of your action being needed, but so often the decision is not quite so clear cut.
Not acting when something is not right is what is creating the problems we are facing in Australia today.
Not reporting corruption or suspicious behaviour is nearly as obvious as a machine gun, but how many of us would do something? “I’d rather not become involved,” is a common reply.
While a lot of people are saying that they don’t like the erosion of Australian values, what are we doing about it?
Or like the French in 1940, perhaps we don’t care enough?
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