News Brief: A Greve* Matter, or “Vie de Merde**”

 

 

*French word for “strike”, or, when the whole country throws a temper-tantrum

**French phrase meaning “life of s**t”, the equivalent of the English phrase “f*** my life”

France is on strike yet again. The trains are slower and more crowded than ever, and absences in class have been rampant. French students here involved in the strike have skipped class to attend the manifestation, or have simply not been able to catch a train that will take them to class in time.

Let me explain: the French people have decided that because they don’t already enjoy life enough, they want the retirement age to be lowered to 60 so that they can further enjoy the fruits of their labor, or in this case, the wine. Being American, this concept is absurd to me: in the United States, there are people who work their entire lives and enjoy every minute of it, and are content with their scheduled lives, settling happily into the daily routine of life and working hard each day to earn the extra little things that allow them to veer from that routine. France, however, has a different take on this idea. At 60, they want to be able to retire away to their lives of lunch dates and strolls down the street. Although I don’t completely disagree with them, it is also such a foreign concept to me. Not wanting to work? Crazy. Simply Crazy.

To comment briefly on politics, the French greves are a testament to the need for senatorial reform in the country. Unlike the United States, where Senators are directly elected by the people and therefore accountable to their constituency, senators in France are not directly elected. The will of their public does not determine whether or not they will be re-elected, and there is little accountability. As one of my American professors pointed out, their jobs simply don’t depend on whether or not this bill is passed in le Senat (it has been pending for a while), and therefore there is little motivation for them to pass it. There is a huge gap between the Senat and the people: the lack of political transparency here makes America look like the perfect democracy. As my professor noted, the personal websites of American politicians (state representatives and Senators) hold them accountable for their political actions, and all of the information you would need on their careers is available within seconds on the internet. American politicians, especially local ones, value their constituencies, and therefore allow for the transparency that will satisfy those people and guarantee votes. I’m not arguing that American politics is perfect, that is not the case at all, but the one thing that we have got right is the direct election of senators.

 

Le Senat, which is situated inside the Luxembourg Gardens. A much lovelier picture than the US Senate.

 

The workers on strike seem to use a variety of tactics to get their point across: mainly, pissing off an entire population of travelers who depend on the efficiency of the French transport system. According to one friend, there were RATP workers wearing anti-RATP shirts, getting on the metro to attend the strike. Good job. But alas, I am in France, and strikes are a part of life. It is not too much of a problem, really. Except when I need to go somewhere, like school. It simply means that I’ll wait up to 15 minutes for a train, rather than 4, and will spend the 20 minute ride smelling the armpits of my neighbor and making awkward eye contact with those around me. Oh la.

Oh good, more fantastic news: the strike is to be extended.

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