From our Parisian Friend
Scott recently posted about the strikes in France, citing an NPR report from a Paris correspondent who said, among other things: “This strike/protest is only using the pensions as a trigger to fight against nearly all the economic privatization and public sector cuts undertaken by French President Nicolas Sarkozy—and thereby turning the country more toward a Dutch or British market model.” I’m not sure I have a lot to add to this; however, I did spend this afternoon at a conference in which about half the folks discussing French history in our little room at the Hyatt had actually come there from France. So I asked a few of them what’s the deal with the strikes, which they said have brought life to a standstill in France. The short answer: basically what Scott said.
Paraphrasing a bit, a friend, who is fortunate enough to divide her time between Paris, Tel Aviv and upstate New York, told me:
“Look, nobody really cares when railway workers get to retire, or whatever. What they’re upset by is that Sarkozy has said several times that he wants to radically change the economic model of the country, liberalize the economy, privatize services- all that sort of thing. There are plenty of pundits who say that these are the changes that France needs to boost the economy, and there are problems with socialized services- although they have the best health care system I’ve ever used. At any rate, what you have to understand when you see these protesters or rioters on the news, and what they are not telling you here, is that they have reason to believe that their entire way of life, even if it is imperfect, is going to be changed radically- actually done away with- without their support, and they’re afraid. It’s not terribly hard to understand.”
There you have it. Basically what NPR’s Paris correspondent reported was verified by Rufus’s Paris friend. She also noted that Sarkozy’s recent ham-fisted treatment of the Roma didn’t endear him to anyone, and she suspects that some might be playing a part with some of the rioters.