This is a really funny article!! It is from a Toronto Daily.. and the writer is asking an obvious question .. that somehow seems to have missed the French students!! I somehow remember the stuff that Tom Friedman once wrote about the differences in Europe and Asia with regards to job attitudes of the youth! This is going to come back to bite the Continental Europe’s future.
Am I the only one who thinks France is nuttier than frangipane?
Here is how I understand last week’s wave of marches, riots and blockades in the land of loitering existentially in smoky cafés while making meaningful hand gestures:
Lots of over-educated youths with too much black in their wardrobes are desperate to dress up in balaclavas and bandannas and torch things because (now let me word this correctly) they are disillusioned that their government wants to help them get jobs, because when you get a job there is a big danger you might one day lose it, especially if you are crap at it.
I could have sworn that not long ago French youths were rioting because, thanks to workplace-protection laws so rigid you could dry your pantalons on them, no one under the age of 65 can break into the job market (unless their grand-père is head of the Union of Permanently Picketing Fonctionnaires, in which case there is always room for one more shop steward).
France’s youth unemployment rate is consequently a staggering 23 per cent. The government’s solution is this: In order to ease employers’ worries about hiring graduates and then being stuck with them, regardless of their competency, for life, a new law will allow them to fire anyone under the age of 26 with fewer than two years on the job.
It is this law, designed to help students find work after university, that has them aux barricades. One minute French students are rioting for jobs, the next they are rioting because they might actually get a job but be required to perform well to keep it. How swiftly indignation adapts to circumstance.
Any anthropological textbook will tell you (using longer words) that France is a strange land with weird traditions. A few years ago, French prostitutes went on strike and took to the streets against plans to limit their soliciting. This protest was followed by a full-scale walkout by France’s stilt-walkers (I’m serious!).
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that France’s students are rioting before they have even got the jobs they are rioting about. Only the French could come up with the pre-emptive riot. Call it French Exceptionalism. Where else would you see a 12-metre banner demanding Regularisation?
The networks are loving the “romance” of “the heady scent of revolution, black coffee and Gauloises.”
“French student power has an impressive record,” the BBC drooled, gushing on about “the delicious sense of people power” as McDonald’s gets trashed.
One young revolutionary was quoted as saying, “[This new fascist law the government is proposing] means that when I do get a job I will basically have to work as hard as I can to keep it!” (My emphasis, his accent).
What was that thing Francis Fukuyama said about the “Last Man,” who so cannot bear having nothing to revolt against that he revolts against his own liberty? Well, I’m no Fukuyama (I never change my mind about something and sell books about it), but I’ve got two big things to say, and here they are:
First, it’s impossible to ignore the fact (though everyone seems to be doing it but me) that it’s cool to protest, and that’s why a lot of people, especially young people, do it (about anything). Every teenager knows how “It’s not fair!” What they don’t know is that, as Derek Jeter once wrote, “The World Is Not Always Fair.” C’est la vie.
Staging sit-ins or building blockades in university canteens doesn’t have to have any more meaning than the fact kids are dyeing their hair blue and sitting cross-legged in snack shops — big deal.
As for the violence part, well, let’s face it, it’s fun to lob flaming things at people you don’t know, especially if your country refuses to go to war with anyone ever (even when it gets invaded) and, unlike, say, the United States, you rarely get the opportunity to formally lob flaming things at people you don’t know. “I had nowhere to go but the streets!”
But the thing that really irks me is how, as my friend (who edits a magazine) put it, “It’s like ’68 all over again, only this time the French students are demanding a decently paying middle-management job and mid-range Citroën for all! What gives?”
One report quoted Marion, a girl full of that ever-present “indignation,” saying, “I haven’t studied hard to get nothing at the end of it. I’ve earned the right to a secure job.”
The French are so wedded to the public sector that the Fifth Republic is, in essence, nothing more than a prenup. If the government breaks the terms of the deal, the rioters can construct a Sixth Republic and the government gets nothing. Zéro.
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