Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
The question is: Are you with or are you against him? Are you in or are you out? Is Gerard Depardieu a big asshole, somebody ungrateful and “pathetic”, as French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has put it recently? Or is he right and you agree saying simply: too much is too much?
Photo: © AFP, Philippe Huguen, French actor Gerard Depardieu posing with the local butcher and her employees
Since French actor Gerard Depardieu not only has decided to leave France and take domicile just behind the French border in the not so famous jerkwater town Nechin, but, worth, is ready to turn his passport and French citizenship and ask for the Belgian one, everybody in France has to choose sides.
You can hear people say: Gosh, I’ve never liked the fat walrus, he’s too excessive anyhow. Couldn’t see his films anymore. Or people who feel “scandalized” like French Culture Minister Aurelie Filipetti who said: “French citizenship is an honour”.
The debate is somehow showing a lot about the French dilemma: they can’t stand the rich, the privileged. It’s that simply than this. And this was true even in times when the word “economic crisis” sounded like a borrowed word from a world far away. Worth: they once killed their king to get rid of the privileged and since them the privileges are thriving and flourishing – but you better don’t talk about it.
Come on, put yourself in the position of Gerard Depardieu for a moment: Would you accept to pay – as Depardieu pretends to do – 85% of your income in taxes? Imagine you had earned let’s say 173 Million Euros in your whole life. Are you ready to pay, as Depardieu still pretends to have done during his 45 years of career, 145 Millions to the government?
Most of the French would argue that at this point it doesn’t make a big difference. As if, when it comes to millions, it’s all the same: you are rich. You better don’t show it, and you better don’t talk about it. And in a way they are right. Some millions more or less, does they really turn a rich guy in somebody not so really rich? For us it looks pretty the same. The thing is: not for the rich.
The French just don’t understand him. They don’t get that he’s ready to quit France because he’s sick of paying a demagogic tax. They don’t get that he feels offended by the words of Primeminister Ayrault calling him “pathetic”. They just don’t see the point. And the point is: paying more taxes then half of the money you earn feels inevitably like dispossession – no matter how few or much it is.
They’re taking about solidarity here. Right. I also like very much solidarity. It’s important. It’s a value that makes stick together our societies. But I simply consider that there are limits.
It hurts everybody to give a way half of one’s income to the tax office. Now the regular French guy argues: it hurts more those of the middle class; those who can’t buy their son a car, can’t afford a ski vacation for the whole family. And it definitely hurts less Mister Depardieu who has vineyards, owns Chateaux, restaurants, fishmonger’s, you name it.
But the thing is: the rich are free and they have the funds to move. Nobody can hold them. It’s not like the middle class who will and cannot quit. Look at Bernard Arnault, the man billed as France’s richest: He quit France and is seeking Belgian citizenship. And then look at all the others the media are not talking about: the numerous rich who are now seeking tax-exile in Belgium, Switzerland and elsewhere.
I’m grateful to Depardieu. He set off a debate about how to reform France. France still believes in its grandeur. And grandeur means: you stay, no matter how much it costs. But it’s over now. It’s time to think out of the box. It’s the time to cut there, where it really hurts. But this is another story.