It is but to laugh.

You knew that French intellectuals and elites were going to be unhappy with the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. It’s now clear that there is nothing that he will be able to do right. He is just too un-French for them, especially since he makes public his enjoyment of an activity that the French elites, apparently, hold in deep contempt….jogging.

“Is jogging right wing?” wondered Libération, the left-wing newspaper. Alain Finkelkraut, a celebrated philosopher, begged Mr Sarkozy on France 2, the main state television channel, to abandon his “undignified” pursuit. He should take up walking, like Socrates, Arthur Rimbaud, the poet, and other great men, said Mr Finkelkraut.

“Western civilisation, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.”

Mr Sarkozy’s habit infuriates his critics — and some supporters — because he flaunts it so hard. Le running du Président, often clad in his favourite NYPD T-shirt, has become a ritual, like King Louis XIV’s rides at Versailles. He has practised it at summits in Brussels and Germany and he is looking forward to a bonding jog with José Socrates, the Prime Minister of Portugal, which took over the European Union presidency this week.

Jogging while wearing an NYPD T-shirt – what could be more offensive? Jogging, they sniff, is trop américain.

But Mr Sarkozy has rekindled a French suspicion that the habit is for self-centred individualists such as the Americans who popularised it. “Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the Right,” Odile Baudrier, editor of V02 magazine, a sports publication, told Libération. Patrick Mignon, a sports sociologist, noted that French intellectuals had always held sport in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness.

Note the contradiction here. Jogging is about individualism and it is also a sign of totalitarianism. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Totalitarianism is all about stifling the will of the individual. These intellectuals need to get together on their criticisms.

Cross posted at Betsy’s Page

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