Holidays in Heck

Free Holidays in Heck by P. J. O’Rourke

Book: Holidays in Heck by P. J. O’Rourke Read Free Book Online
Authors: P. J. O’Rourke
York. Some gang graffiti are visible but only in easily reached places where paint can be sprayed without ruining school clothes. Guadeloupe seems like a swell place to be poor—if poor is what you like to be.
    Perhaps the benign and comfortable atmosphere is a result of French culture and values, such as those the French imparted to Haiti. More likely it’s the result of the large subsidies evident in the excellent road system that extends to every place on the island including places no one goes. And Guadeloupe has more impressive government buildings than an overseas
département
with a population of 450,000 could need, enough for a minor European country (which France, now that it’s rejected the EU Constitution, has arguably become).
    As beach reading that constitution fulfills one criterion—it’s 485 pages long. And Danielle Steele could not worsen the prose style: “The institutions of the Union shall apply the principle of subsidiarity as laid down in the Protocolon the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.” Every aspect of European life is considered in exquisite detail; vide Annex I, pages 403 and 404, clarifying agricultural trade regulations for “edible meat offal” and “lard and other rendered pig fat.”
    I slathered myself, instead, in Bain de Soleil and spread my towel between pumice and discarded Gauloises packs. Timing ten pages of attentive reading, I calculated that it would take seventeen hours and three minutes to peruse the full document, by which time I should be quite tan.
    According to its constitution, the EU is (or was) to have five branches of government: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, and the Court of Justice of the European Union; plus two advisory bodies: the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee; and four additional independent institutions: the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Ombudsman. Here we have a system of bounced checks and vaudeville balancing acts.
    Part II of the constitution, “The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union,” gives us an idea of what “rights” are supposed to mean in Europe: “Everyone has the right to life.” This, on a continent where there’s more respect for Dick Cheney than for a fetus. The charter prohibits “making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain.” No more French actresses showing their tits on the movie screen, and Botox injections will be available only through National Health. There is a “right” to “an annual period of paid leave.” (I was having mine.) And a declaration that “The use of property may be regulated by law insofar as is necessary for the general interest.” Lenin couldn’t have putit better. What there was in this constitution that a subtle, sophisticated European could object to eluded me, as did reading the rest of it.
    I was getting bored. I could go hiking in the mountains, except it was ninety-five degrees. I could take a refreshing dip, except the ocean was ninety-five degrees. Guadeloupe’s painters and artisans are almost bad enough to get into the Venice Biennale. There was nothing in the stores but European stuff at European prices, and, anyway, the stores were, in European fashion, closed most of the time. I began to get American thoughts about Jet Skis, water park slides, and vast air-conditioned malls. Guadeloupe is lovely. But there isn’t much to do except eat. Every third building seems to be a restaurant. I chose one of the most prepossessing establishments. The Big Mac was delicious.
    For some reason (and judging by the EU Constitution, it was an elaborate one) the referendum in Guadeloupe was held a day before the referendum in mainland France. I went to a polling place at a reinforced

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