(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

politics ... culture ... ignorance.

I've returned to my French class ... the topics of conversation seem to wander here and there. I like the materials used in the course because, as I've mentioned before, they incorporate topical issues into the class discussions. We've covered things like PACSing, worldwide news, etc.

This week we reviewed a variety of small job postings and candidate descriptions and were asked to try and match candidates to job openings. Well, themes like these wander around to discussions of all sorts of things.

Our 'professeur' (Laurence) asked us to describe employment application processes in our native countries (there are Scots, Irish, English and American in my group).

Interesting comments ensued. These conversations are meant to remain in French (naturally), and I had to ask one gal to repeat her remark a couple of times because I wasn't sure I was hearing it right.

But first, let me tell you that preceding this exchange...we had a bit of insight shared from Laurence concerning one of the 'petits boulots' ... she was telling us about changes underway in France to help reduce discrimination in job hunting. She pointed out that one of the ads mentioned the candidate was bilingual in Portuguese. She mentioned this could be a deterrent because many French, out in the countryside, only want French workers and might assume this candidate was not 'French'.

The conversations continued and a woman in class, after my asking for a repeat, commented that in England ... all one had to do was mention they were with the Taliban and they would be provided a job, council housing, free food and healthcare and all sorts of other things. Whereas the English would be left wanting.

Laurence got visibly nervous ... anticipating, I believe, a sharp retort from me. Frankly, the remark was so bereft of reason I passed. This same person insisted that the English were discriminated against in France because all of the non-EU 'etrangers' qualified for integration assistance but she (and her compatriots, I imagine) did not.

When I was discussing this with JY, he nodded and said that some French felt the same way or more strongly. And many French supported Sarkozy in his stricter immigration policies.

I mentioned in my class that I had met many folks, French included, who felt Sarkozy was racist. My comment was not met favorably, because apparently many of the folks in my class support stricter immigration policies as well! Has anyone read the text of Sarkozy's speech at Senegal's Cheikh Anta Diop University that to many smacked of not-so-long-ago colonialism?

I think in a future discussion it will be interesting to broach the topic further ... and inquire if they have pondered why our wealthier countries are more appealing to these foreign citizens ... and how would they feel, what would they do or want if the tables were turned?

JY also commented that he felt the homeland governments of immigrants were to blame as well. We discussed (or decried) why governments, rich and poor, didn't work more effectively together to reduce poverty and despair within their own borders so fewer of their citizens would be driven to immigrate for some basic standard of living.

I just find it very revealing of human nature that people want to lock down borders, preserve wealth only for 'natural' citizens and the hell with the rest of the world.


Randal Graves said...

You should see how much they get if they mention they're with Al-Qaeda.

Wanna know why terrorist organizations exist, why death and mayhem seems so easily grasped by the young?


When you have nothing to look forward to, you're going to resort to extreme measures. Shit, if I was born in Gaza, it's quite conceivable I'd be going "I love Hamas, give me a fucking gun."

Of course, wingnuts will point out shit like the Supreme Ayatollah in Iran condemning the male vs. female soccer match the other day as proof that we need to bomb someone into the stone age. Look, fundies of any religion are fucking insane, but that's where all this comes in. Everything is tied together. Improved economics and opportunity, not resorting to blowing the hell out of something at the first dirty look, dropping the colonial pretensions and overt war crimes. It goes for everyone, East, West.

Problem is, those with the power, the presidents and prime ministers and clerics and kings and all that shit don't care.

I had a coherent point in there somewhere.

softinthehead said...

Er ...did it not occur to anyone else that most attendees I assume are "immigrants"? Or am I missing something?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

randal ~ exactemente!

softinthehead ~ mais oui, bien sur! and yet, they huff and puff about others. It is also human nature, in my opinion, to have the need/desire to find another class of humans to look down upon thusly elevating themselves (in their own irrational minds) ...

Riana Lagarde said...

oh, french class! what a great place to people watch. i had one in paris where there was a young mother from Lebanon and an older man from Iran and a transvestite from columbia, lots of fun ensued as you can imagine. we learned french as well.

I would have trouble keeping my mouth shut in your class as that kind of stuff ruffles my feathers. i find i have to bite my tongue often in france because i am not fluent enough to make my case and end up sounding like a raving three year old.

god, i miss french classes.

randal- well said. brilliant. see if i could just say that in french.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

a english friends "father" was here in France last week and we were having lunch and he said (are you sitting down) "he didn't know why we would vote for Obama because people of his ilk haven't done a very good job running africia". SERIOUSLY. I just bit my tongue.

We also have another British (can't really call him a friend) man that said basically the same thing about the middle easterns in England, telling us they get everything and don't speak the language and don't try but are taken care of by the government. Just not fair he said.

There was a film done about 4 years ago called (i think) a day without or someting like that...it basically showed how our state would shut down, come to a complete stop if we didn't have our Hispanic workers, the ones who take the jobs that pay minimum wage (they usually have 2 jobs). How silly we are to think that we are better or wish they wouldn't be in our country or state.


Anna said...

It always makes me laugh when I hear the English citing "too many immigrants" as the reason they're moving to Spain or France!

Mrs C said...

I have to admit that I'm not crazy about certain 2nd generation "immigrants" (in this I mean the children of the immigrants who have come from Northern Africa or any other non-"occidental" country) who moan about how awful their life [in France] is, how nobody respects them as being "French" and then masses of them go and boo the National Anthem! Or burn cars. Or synegogues or.... or...

Basically, cut the legs out from under themselves.

Nationalism is a sticky business. Fer sur.

Betty C. said...

I've found Obama's election has made some of the French stop and think about their own racism. They seemed to love to point at the US as an example of a racist society, as if all social progress in the US had stopped the day of the March on Washington.

Nationalism is kind of another issue, I know...