(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


the season has officially ended. the mairie has decreed the emptying of the flowerpots. now we have dirt on display. I think maybe there will be some grasses placed here for winter, but the lush showy display of riotous blooms is ended.

with this comes the cold. it arrived with a force. one day we were still in shorts ... guests revelling in their luck for such glorious weather ... and the next, gusts of cold wind descending. Before the masses arrived, I had rushed about with the help of JY filling cracks and holes with expandable foam. Curtains were hung to further block drafts. A new radiator installed in the kitchen / dining room.

but unless I want to devour tanks full of heating oil, I still keep it somewhat chilly, donning sweater and UGG boots.

Meanwhile, heard about town and beyond, are the varying reports on our grêve (strike).

It may turn out to be quite something ... I'm told this is no ordinary strike but a general strike and, as such, any and all can participate and the length is unlimited. each day, 'les syndicats' (semi-equivalent to unions) vote as to whether to strike again. now, it goes beyond metro, train, plane. the refineries. the truck drivers. the teachers. all joining in. The last serious general strike such as this was in the late 90s. Lasted over a month. brought the country to its knees. No transport. oil shortages. no postal services. rolling electricity outages, daily. and more!

it is a sight to behold ... a populace wielding their power. it is also interesting to hear and read the moaning that is rampant, mostly from the non-french ... tut-tutting regarding the imposition created. regarding how lazy are the french. what is the big deal of 2 more years until retirement. goodness, don't all the other countries have at least that age? the snipes at the french at every turn, particularly by the english ... really something. I've read that most decent people WANT to work. why on earth would they want to retire so young, what on earth will they do for 15 years or more - rest on the dole?

I could go on but I'm sure you've likely read the same, either on news or your FB groups or ... maybe even added a few of your own retorts.

my take is ... surely I must be french. now more than ever it is confirmed I am anti-capitalist. I wonder if these comments are truly opinions ... or ignorance ... or jealousy? I will say if they are heartfelt, I'm at a loss as to why these expat commenters remain in France given their opinion of the french is so poor.

Could it be that working until one is in their 60s or beyond is not the most appealing option? or, for that matter, leading a life that centers around profit, productivity, output, long hours and shortened periods of vacation is folly?

what if one could retire at an age where years remained, possibly with some semblance of youth and good health. what if one could enjoy a work-week that had fewer hours and longer breaks, more time for family, friends and pursuits beyond the daily quotidien. perhaps the work year could be interspersed with 3 or 4 vacation breaks ... or one long and luscious period of repose, as one chose. possibly the price might be fewer new cars, clothes, appliances and new, fresh off the chinese production line, furniture? why vilify a country and people who embrace the values of their constitution ... who willingly accept the responsibility of reminding those who govern who put them there and who can take them out? because a country chooses another option ... one that supports its citizenry and uses the tax and other resources its PEOPLE give them in the manner the citizens dictate ... that makes them lazy? stupid? unproductive?

I have heard and read so much from individuals who lap up the propagandized pap presented them regarding their country's budget, financials, and status it is ridiculous. here in France, just as in America, billions were passed on to banks and corporations to bail them out. those billions didn't just magically materialize, it is the money of the citizens that funds the government. if now, citizens are demanding their fair share, the right to guard the social structure as they see fit ... good for them.

I read from afar the woes of the U.S. Masses of foreclosures, unemployed, small businesses going under, no movement on health care, poverty gap widening. The budget allocation for military, for waste is enormous. Yet what are the citizens really doing about it?

In Britain, the social net springs more holes daily. The health care system provides less and less care. Students will soon be ante-ing up for their schooling. The same housing and credit woes emerge, with the corporations lining their pockets as deeply as those in America.

And yet the expatriate sheep bleat on, 'damn lazy frogs, don't want to work' ' look at'em disrupting the work week, making it difficult for me to fill my tank ' ...

I fail to understand why, at least in America, my countrymen do not have the courage or resolve to take back their government. to take to the streets and not for an event ... but for a sustained campaign that helps right the ship a little.

vive la France! there's many who should consider stealing a page from their playbook. hopefully, someday 'our' playbook


the fly in the web said...

I think it's a more complicated picture...no one wants to lose hard earned advantages but neither unions nor government seem to be able to stand back and look at the French system with fresh eyes...which I think is what is needed to arrive at a just arrangement.
The waste and duplication of systems...the inflexibility...the inertia...all need to be taken into account if France is to become vibrant again.
I've been here a long time...I've seen any number of these protests...and it is a pity that Sarkozy has made himself such an easy target of hatred and ridicule because France badly needs reform and, thanks to his initial giving way to his own party faithful, who did not want to lose their fiscal advantages he is now faced with giving way to the unions who don't want to lose the advantages they have obtained over the years.

It isn't the people who gain in these revolts..it is the people who manipulate the people who come out on top.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

of course it is more complex thab a high level nlog rant. I think the french are more than capable of deciding what reform is necessary...and what constitutes vibrancy for their land: 70 percent of the people surveyed support the strike and oppose the changes to the retraite system. Millions have showed up to make their view known. I do not agree that the people gain nothing through the strikes. not at all. capitalists and pro corporatists use the same argument when trying to scare folks off from organizing via unions.

The Pliers said...

I do agree that "the French are more than capable of deciding what reform is necessary," however, I also believe that the notion of what constitutes "The French" must be reevaluated.

The society has been exceedingly slow in acknowledging the reality of its history as it concerns past colonies and their immigrants/new citizens to/in l'Hexagone ("Indigènes" and "Hors la loi" are efforts to correct that social defect).

The current upheavals have their roots in the 30s' fights of the working class with the bourgeoise for an 8hr work day and some form of social security.

France is run like a small town, if you know the Mayor, you're in good shape, if not... Young people labor in very tough educational environments, work hard, and find themselves unemployed or underemployed, with a full view of the global economy thanks to the internet and US cultural hegemony. That has to chafe. The old Communists are dying out. The old WWII veterans are dying out. The old are dying out. When do the young get a say so in the governmental system under which they labor?

Do you realize that many French people, especially French farmers, were totally against paying taxes in the present for Social Security/Health benefits in the future? Le sécu was not a given.

As is typical in politics, I do believe that the issue of "retirement at 62" is a bit of a smoke screen and other more important rights and privileges are being lost while no one is looking and the pendulum is swinging back to power for government workers and the patronat...

But, I'm only French on paper, so what do I know?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

ola, yes it rubs me the wrong way when I see the media message summing up the current proposed changes as a change in ret'mt age from 60 to 62. not much mention is devoted to the tax increases which, at least in my french circles, is fueling the fire. As mentioned in my post, france bailed out banks and corporations just like 'merica and uk ... big difference being here the little guy expects fair is fair and is not willing to accept cut backs at the same time. France's syndicats were formed for the same reason as the US's...to protect workers (particularly children). In the US of course, now business and corporations tut-tut that such things aren't needed anymore ... workers can TRUST their employers not to abuse them and unions operate with malintent and fraud. Well of course that would be the corporate line ... and we have all observed that american business loyalty towards its employees, right?

hey, at least you can claim to be French on paper, I can only claim to be French in my soul. for now.

the fly in the web said...

Have a look at Theodore Zeldin's work on France...it gives a comprehensive background to the union...bosses...government triumvirate which rules France. It's in both French and English.

The French in general don't have an institutionalised voice....people I know would prefer dialogue over pensions, but also are pretty cynical about the union bosses who will engineer exemptions for their own federation members, and leave the rest in limbo.

When one say 'the French', one should always ask 'which French?'
The ones who were brought in to do the rough work and left to rot in the miserable suburbs with substandard schools and teachers?

Or the ones smugly within the net?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

I frankly don't have much interest in the musings of an English philosopher regarding things French. Further, the fact that he's an advisor to Sarkozy puts me completely off. There are plenty of French sources to rely upon for this topic...

France, like many euro countries has a mixed bag of inhabitants with varying degrees of wealth and status. Which country is it that hasn't attracted immigrants to do the work that some of its citizens might not be interested in? At least in France they are given some basic social services and further, after 10 years ... citizenship... but I fail to see what that has to do with the points I comment on regarding using protest to communicate with government. Seems like a red herring to me.

the fly in the web said...

Zeldin is highly regarded for his books on France across the spectrum.

The problem of immigrants is not a red herring....it is an example of how we go about describing 'the French'.....and which 'French' are represented in this protest, and which 'French' voices are heard in the media.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

thanks for the follow-up clarification ... km

Blasé said...

..it's going to get worse

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

does finis really mean finis?

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