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Last updated on August 9th, 2017 at 02:19 pm
The BBC’s Caroline Wyatt reports from a doomed nation:
“To the barricades!” is the cry heard again on the streets of France, as they ring to the sound of student chants.
Too bad they’re drowned out by the sound of smashing windscreens.
The crisp early springtime air on the Left Bank is filled once more with the heady scent of revolution, black coffee and Gauloises.
If only the French were stereotyped as an, er, aromatic people. Then I’d be able to make an easy joke here.
A delicious sense of people power has gripped the French and most of all, the students I mingled with a few days ago as they marched arm in arm through the boulevards of Paris, shouting their anger with the government.
Yay for people power!
To the barricades, they went, these revolutionaries, to fight for their rights – to pensions, mortgages and a steady job.
Such odd revolutionaries. No heartfelt cry to change the world, but a plea for everything to stay the same.
For France to remain in its glorious past: a time of full employment and jobs for life – a paternalistic state to take care of them from cradle to grave.
Modern leftoid movements the world over adore their fundamental and cherished institutions.
In an echoing stone courtyard at Paris University, Marion and other students are making banners to carry on their march.
“Mr Villepin, you are not the king”, they read, a reminder of what happened to France’s aristocracy after people power won out in times gone by.
Seeing as he isn’t the king, Villepin presumably has little to worry about.
“I haven’t studied hard to get nothing at the end of it,” says Marion, with indignation. “I’ve earned the right to a secure job.”
And you’ve got one: making banners!
A recent survey suggested that for most of the young in France, the real dream is to become a civil servant – a fonctionnaire. To work in government offices with regular hours, long holidays, and a 35 hour working week.
So now we know why the socialist revolution never happened; revolutionaries are lazy.
“The government must create jobs,” Victor, an economics student tells me as he prepares to march again.
I’m guessing he’s a first-year economics student.
France today does feel like a tinder box, a nation dancing on a volcano – just as it did in the troubled suburbs last year.
As the students march, the “casseurs” or hooligans are gathering again, but this time in the heart of the city.
Last week they indulged in an orgy of violence near the Sorbonne on the Left Bank, the intellectual heart of Paris.
Students: innocent. Hooligans (any background on these guys?): guilty. Interesting.
And yet, Paris still feels like the Paris of old … just faintly comes the echo of May 1968 and a reminder that in France, even revolution for a mortgage and a pension has its own mysterious allure.
Only if you’re a sucker for an accent. Otherwise it’s just idiots setting fire to cars.
Last Saturday morning, needing help to move several heavy cartons of books from my apartment in central Paris to a storage room, I hired two movers and a van from the want ads. Students were in the streets protesting the Contrat de Premier Embauche (CPE)—a law proposed to combat unemployment by giving employers more flexibility to fire young employees—and the barricades and traffic diversions made our four-block drive into a half-hour ordeal. As we turned down one obstructed street after another, the movers—both Arab immigrants—became more and more incensed. “They’re idiots,” said the driver, gesturing toward the ecstatic protesters. “Puppets for the socialists and the communists.” He pantomimed pulling the strings of a marionette.
UPDATE III. Racism? In France?
UPDATE IV. The Hatchback of Notre Dame! Mark Steyn: “In France a business owner doesn’t have the right to fire but the disaffected youth do.”