Liberal frogs have their panties all up in a bunch over the site of their President going out every morning for a jog. According to Professor Alain Finkelkraut, a supposed French “philosopher” and liberal activist, Sarkozy is indulging in an “undignified” exercise, by wanting to be in proper shape. On the primary state television channel, France 2, the noted French intellectual, demanded that Sarkozy give up his morning routine.
Not only did he imply that exposing the boss’s naked knees is something that never would have occurred in the time of Mitterrand, much less Louis XIV, Finkielkraut claimed strolling is the proper activity of the thinking person, from Socrates to the poet Arthur Rimbaud.
The British media is having fun with this story, here’s what Boris Johnson, a British pundit, had to say:
But as you would expect of French philosophers, they make a deeper point. Jogging, they say, waving their Gitanes angrily at the camera, is a Right-wing activity. It is all about the management of the body; it is about performance, and individualism, and the triumph of the will.
It is no wonder, they say, that physical jerks have generally been associated with fascist regimes; and above all they believe that by staggering around in his NYPD T-shirt, the French President is making a tragic act of obeisance to America.
François Mitterrand did not jog, they say. Even when he played golf, he never allowed himself to be pictured on the course. Jacques Chirac is a man of hyperkinetic energy, but he would never have taken his trousers off in public, run up and down, and asked the French people to take him seriously.
As for Charles de Gaulle, he moved with the stately undulation of a giraffe, and never broke into so much as a trot.
The Sarkozy jog, say his critics, is a sad imitation of the habits of American presidents, and a capitulation to the défi Américain as bad as the influx of Hollywood movies, and if you doubt the seriousness of their attack, you should have a look at the Left-wing newspaper Libération, and the French political blogs; and that is why it is now time for all jogging politicians to come to Sarkozy’s aid.
I speak as one who rises every morning and makes the pavement echo to the slap of my tread, and I have no doubt that, on purely aesthetic grounds, I would face the strictures of Prof Finkelkraut. It was not long ago that one of my friends and colleagues told me that he was quite put off his breakfast by the sight of me going round the local park at the speed, he claimed, of an elderly hippopotamus.
But I am not deterred by such jibes, nor by the accusation that jogging is Right-wing. Of course it is Right-wing, in the sense that the facts of life are generally Right-wing. The very act of forcing yourself to go for a run, every morning, is a highly conservative business.
There is the mental effort needed to overcome your laziness. There is the pain in the calves and the ache in the lungs, and the keen sense that everyone is looking at you and sniggering.
And then slowly the endorphins start to flood into your brain, and the effort gives way to reward, and the deferred pleasure arrives, and you come back home feeling you could bite a tiger – and, above all, that nothing else you do that day can be quite as painful and exhausting.
Related: Viva la France!