Napoleon died in exile in St Helena in 1821. In his will he asked to be buried in Paris but at the time of his death the British refused a French request to return his remains. In 1840 King Louis-Philippe’s popularity was waning and he thought it would be a good PR stunt to bring Napoleon’s remains and organise a grand funeral.
So that’s what he did. Perhaps the French people weren’t thinking of Napoleon before his second funeral. A new generation born after he died had grown to adulthood. But the events around the retour des cendresreignited the legend in people’s minds. Newspapers wrote about the wily general, the wise legislator, the glorious emperor, the handsome figurehead. And, inevitably, they contrasted him with the pear-shaped, literally, and idiomatically, reign of Louis-Philippe.
Eight years later Louis-Philippe abdicated, and a republic was founded. The first president elected in that republic was another hyphenated Louis: Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor’s nephew.
I know you come here for the angry invective, but a little bit of historical comparatives can be fun sometimes. At least I think they’re fun.
Amid all the power-cuts and, quite likely, third world load shedding, Robert Abela visited Lufthansa Technik to congratulate them on their 20 years of business in Malta. The prime minister hoped the visit would give him a photo op that would distract from the public’s maddened frustration with the heat, unmitigated by ventilators or air conditioners.
A visit to Lufthansa Technik by the prime minister is also a reminder of a time when economic growth and job creation was a business you could touch and feel. LT created jobs for young Maltese people. They were taken through specially designed certification programs in local educational institutions. And they were placed on a career path in jobs where they did something. Planes come in. The people at LT repair them, maintain them, test them, and certify them. Planes fly out. It’s a thing and value to the economy is added because of what LT does to that thing.
A job at LT does not promise anyone they would become instant millionaires. It’s no more than a decent living. It doesn’t give you a monthly salary for doing nothing, like renting out your garage to an invisible millionaire. It doesn’t multiply your net-worth 10 times over by turning your humble house into a tower of small apartments. It may be not as exciting as the best of times promised by Joseph Muscat.
But a job at LT is real. It lasts. It’s what real economies are made of.
Unlike Napoleon’s second funeral, Robert Abela’s visit to LT is not exactly the talk of the town right now. His party has been very effective in instilling the notion that the years before 2013 were the dark ages. True enough, LT was founded in the antediluvian times when you couldn’t get an Indian man to deliver you a McToast at 8am for a surcharge of €2.28. And yet, when the power’s out in a heatwave for the fourth day in a row, you think of the essentials. The murmurs are getting louder.
Our own Louis-Philippe’s retirement will come before we expect it, and far sooner than he hopes.