Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gauche caviar

My French is truly execrable but I like to add to my small stock of phrases when I can. From a piece by Mick Hartley quoting Richard Wolin on revolutionary tourism I learn that the French for “champagne socialist” is “gauche caviar”. (In fact the French is the original and the English is a derivation, as is the American “limousine liberal”. Pleasingly, there is a bar in East Beirut called Gauche Caviar.) Among the revolutionary tourists cited are – quelle surprise – Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva visiting Mao’s China. Sample:
Barthes observed that, since communism had cured “alienation,” psychoanalysis had been rendered superfluous in China... In Les Chinoises (Chinese Women), Kristeva went so far as to justify the traditional Chinese practice of foot-binding as merely a harmless, female variant of male circumcision. In any event, remarked Kristeva, Chinese habitudes and mores could not be judged by Western standards, since the latter were pervaded by petty bourgeois biases and prejudices.    
I wonder what the French for “useful idiots” is. Hartley says of Kristeva:
It’s a reminder that making excuses for the most extreme manifestations of misogyny, as long as they’re practiced by non-Western societies, is a form of blindness that has a long and discreditable history among sections of the feminist left.

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