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Navel gazing under a bank of klieg lights

Only in France, I think, would a government website called debatidentitenationale.fr be set up.  Or with a bit of spacing and a few accents, 'Grand débat sur l'identité nationale'.  I would imagine that even those with no French at all can work out what that means.

It goes on to ask, 'For you, what is it to be French today?'  And then gives the most awesome laundry list of possibilities for the elements that make it up.  For example:

Like this:

Quelles sont les valeurs de l’identité nationale ?
- Les droits de l’Homme ?
- La démocratie ?
- La République ?
- La liberté ?
- L’égalité ?
- La fraternité ?
- La laïcité ?
- L’égalité homme-femme ?
- La solidarité nationale ?
- Les services publics ?
- L’entreprise ?
- Etc ? 

The site look like this, and doubtless the questionnaire is open to being pranked by Belgians, Quebecois, Swiss or anyone else with some facility with the French language.

It puts me in mind of a Private Eye cover from 1967:

We had out own outbreak of navel gazing a few years back with the 'Icons of Englishness' insanity, which I took to task thus in April 2006 (Crikey, how time flies):

"This just embarrassing. It is the kind of nonsense you might expect to see cooked up in a completely artificial state. Like Belgium. I have always been led to believe that we who have won first prize in life's lottery do not need to have our identity explained to us, still less do we need crib sheets. Meanwhile, shame on whoever cooked this up, and still more odium for those who contributed to it".

Where the French have a head start, if they have to engage in this tomfoolery, is that Frenchness is an idea of potentially universal application to all of its citizens, in much the same way that American-ness is. 

Anway, whisper it low, this is all down to the realisation that nowadays there are rather a lot of people in France who could not refer to 'our ancestors the Gauls' with straight faces.

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