Theodore Dalrymple (h/t David Thompson) has written an interesting account of an incident in Paris which the police did not attend, and an incident in which they did. Those who have been following the somewhat selective approach of the British police in assigning importance to incidents would recognise the behaviour therein described at once:
The contrast between the authorities’ alacrity on one hand in preventing innocent filming for a matter of a few minutes (the policeman said authorization was necessary because it might cause a disturbance, and, being kind, I refrained from laughing), and on the other their slow response to a nasty incident that might have ended in murder, was emblematic of the modern state’s capacity to get everything exactly the wrong way around, to ascribe importance to trivia and to ignore the important. There are, of course, many more employment opportunities in trivia, since there is much more that is trivial in the world than is important.
It often seems, then, as if modern state authorities live in a looking-glass world: What normal people regard as important is for them of no importance, while what they regard as of supreme importance normal people regard as of no importance. For them the respectable are suspect and the suspect respectable. A tweed jacket is a sign of menace, while a broken bottle is a sign of harmless intent.
One must not exaggerate the degree to which official idiocy impinges on our lives. The exaggeration of misery is one of the royal roads to political disaster. Still, I have seen the future, and it is idiocy.
All good points well made, and as he points out, France is far from unique in this regard.
But that’s not actually the point of my post. I merely use the above as pretext to tell you of an incident that occurred in Charles de Gaulle airport last month when a Russian friend of mine was waiting to check in.
The terminal was busy, and there were the usual patrols of armed police everywhere. Suddenly, a great commotion ensued, the armed police started shouting at people, and then they fled the scene as fast as they could, leaving everyone else behind. Announcements were made, all in French, but nothing in English. Anyone who could understand French learned there was a bomb threat in the terminal and they should leave immediately. Anyone who couldn’t understand French was left to figure it out by themselves, and wonder where the armed police had got to.
I am reminded of this post.