Eyes wide shut to corruption in France

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The trial of the former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac for tax fraud and money laundering opened in Paris on Monday, the same day that it was revealed that French prosecutors want former president Nicolas Sarkozy to stand trial for “illegal financing” of his 2012 election campaign. Mediapart investigative reporter Fabrice Arfi says that such high-profile cases give us an insight into the ethics of public life in France. He argues that rather than simply looking the other way, the country needs to own up to the shameful nature of the situation.

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There is a famous anecdote about boiling a frog. It states that if you plunge the frog straight into scalding water it will leap right out. But if you put the frog in cool water that is slowly heated the frog is numbed and ends up accepting the hot water even though it is a threat to its own life. This approach may be dubious scientifically, but the tale nonetheless provides a powerful lesson. Faced with corruption in France, we are all in the process of becoming frogs.