Welcome to my blog; inspired by Hemmingway's A Moveable Feast, a desire to record the more succulent and misshapen nuggets of my Parisian adventure in nibble-size lobes for your light-entertainment and my anticipated future memory failure, and to get some things off my chest and onto yours.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Les Grèves = Less Grief? No.

I get tearful when I see (usually in a film) a large number of people doing the same thing at once.  Usually it's marching or protesting (often at the same time) or somehow uniting for a common cause.  The extent to which these causes chime personally with my own beliefs is usually irrelevant.  It could be that 40,000 people really want to bring back the detatchable ring-pull, or to abolish the button-fly (I would consider marching for that- 20 seconds versus 1.5 seconds.  Do the Math-s.)  Or perhaps even a rally against the overuse of brackets in self-indulgent blogs- it doesn't matter what.

I'm reminded of the weepy moment in 'Forrest Gump' which took place at the Washington Reflection Pond 

There's something about lots of people being upset to the point of standing up, both figuratively and literally, to demonstrate their feelings against something, which makes me sad and happy (sappy) at the same time.

Although I have not found myself in amongst the marches on the Champs Elysées over the previous two weeks, I feel this latest round of strikes would not have moved me in the same way.  It's not that I have more respect for ring-pulls than the French elderly, but that's just it, 62 just isn't that old, it's not 'elderly' if it ever was, that's for sure.

In the UK, the official age for retirement has been set at 65 since 2006, and contrary to the situation over 'La Manche' [the English Channel], where rather amusingly, there have been protests at the fact that companies have been allowed to get rid of 65 year-olds even when they want to stay on and keep working!  This may have something to do with the less generous retirement package that the average British citizen receives at retirement compared to their French counterpart, but feeling here on the other side of 'The Sleeve' [the English Channel, translated from the French], is certainly not mutual.  And the age limit in the UK is set to rise to 66 soon.

Personally, I'm with the French.  I'd rather only be expected to work til 60 than 66, or even 62 which the new law, and the cause of all the striking, will implement.  But it's no secret we're living longer.  Probably more than two years longer than in 1945, when the age of retirement was set as 60 in France.  In these days of International Financial Crisis where International Finance is, let's face it, in a bit of a Crisis, something has to be done somehow.  And to work two extra years in your life isn't the worst thing that can happen to a human.

Obviously the banks and all the bankers that work in them should bare the brunt of the crisis in a just society, but apparently ours isn't one of those.  In summary, there has been a hell of a lot of mess for the failure of one weak cause.  If these strikes were against an illegal war (although those don't have the same personal implications as an increase in retirement age), it may be worthwhile, but as annoying and questionable in as many ways as he is, Sarkozy has stated that this is (slightly bizarrely) a policy he wants to be remembered for, and he is clearly not going to budge on it as a result.  Mostly, because this time, he's actually being quite reasonable.

The results of this extended bout of socialist anger has, despite costing France between €2-300,000 per day, mostly just affected and pissed off the French public.

Through lost hours in cold train and metro stations waiting for delays, to lost business- not just for big business but individuals- in journeys too much hassle to bother with, to spoilt holidays and afternoons wasted in petrol queues; in France right now everyone is a loser.  Everyone is suffering.  And yes the right to strike is fair, but the fact is that the victim is not the new policy but the very public that the protest is supposed to be protecting.

It reminds me of when, as a burgeoning activist and radical at school, (I wore my prefect badge on my sleeve rather than my chest), I used to sellotape vitriolic signs on the metal fences for the workmen in the school grounds to see when they were covering the small, lifeless pond in cement to build new classrooms.  Signs which espoused truths about how they should stop and consider the harm they were doing to the wildlife before they continued their evil work.

It reminds me of that because it's a bit naïve.  Change is inevitable and is often planned for rational and considered reasons of which the average person in society is not aware.  Rebellion seems to have been jumped upon for reason in itself here too, by vandals who just want to fuck things up for fun.. Lycée, [middle school] students and hoodies have been striking from school and smashing bus shelters and setting cars alight in the name of the national strikes.

But are 14 year olds really that upset about retirement age, or do they just like an excuse to skip school for two weeks before half-term comes along, and in some cases have an excuse to burn things in the name of politics?

Some French people act like spoilt children; despite having some of the best social care and rights in the world, they make the some of the world's most vehement complainers.

Good cheese though.