Sunday, 19 October 2003

Something is Rotten in the State of France

There is an ancient and honourable pastime in much of the Anglophone world. It's called "Frog-Bashing", and consists of poking good-natured and not-so-good-natured fun at France and all things French. The French, bless their little hearts, do much the same thing against "Perfidious Albion" and "le Rosbifs".

From an outsider's viewpoint, France and the UK have so much in common - compared to, say, the Thais and the Chinese - that it's no wonder that the similarities lead to "sibling rivalry". In Germany, for example, English is classified along with other "Latin" languages such as French and Spanish. In France, no doubt, English is looked upon as a Teutonic language, such as German or Danish.

I've been known to engage in this pastime myself. It's racist, but as long as the French give as good as they get (and they do), and no-one takes it too seriously, it's relatively harmless.

But this post is not "Frog-Bashing". It's rather more serious.

Firstly, we have Jacques Chirac (currently evading criminal charges) pronouncing that any criticism of the Malaysian PM's recent Judnehass has "no place in the EU". He has a point - but if so, then the recent pronunciamentos by the German Foreign Minister, and Chirac himself, also have no place. No, this is the same attitude that led to the collaboration with the Nazis in annihilating French Jewry, from the same people that brought you l'Affaire Dreyfuss. It's no surprise that the unspeakable Le Pen and his blackshirts - sorry, his Front National came second in the last presidential elections.

Secondly, we have this little gem, quoted from The Australian :
Two people were injured as protesters disrupted a live prime time French television show, forcing the popular talent contest show off the air.

The injured people were hospitalised and three protesters arrested, a police spokesman said today.

A hundred protesting arts technicians and performers, angered by planned welfare cutbacks in their industry, invaded the stage during the live transmission of the "Star Academy" show in which pop-star hopefuls perform.

Three of the protesters were arrested for violence and public order offences by police in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of eastern Paris.

During the protest "there were skirmishes. Two people had to be hospitalised".
No minor scuffle, this.
A hostess of the TF1 channel had her arm broken while the other casualty was one of the protesters. Several others ended up with cuts and bruises, the police said.
Here we have a country that prides itself on its Culture. And the guardians of the culture, the "bleeding Hearts and the Artists" take their stand by publically beating up women and breaking bones. And why?
The actors and technicians have been protesting for months over controversial welfare reforms for the arts industry. Their action forced the cancellation of the summer season's two most prestigious cultural festivals.

An agreement reached by employers and three moderate unions in June was intended to safeguard a unique system, under which performers and technicians in the arts have social protection during long periods without work.

The regime is used by around 100,000 people but it runs at an annual deficit of around $A1.4 billion, and under the changes workers would have to contribute for longer and for less benefit.

Two hardline unions CGT and FO have led a campaign of strikes and demonstrations against the accord.
Such an "income equalisation" policy seems perfectly rational - Australia does much the same with Farmers, taking more money when times are good, and doling it out in times of drought. (It's actually done by allowing farmers to pay tax on their "average" income) But it's revenue-neutral. Over the long term, you can only get out what you put in.

The problem with the French "panem et circenses" is that they have not been adequately funded, because not enough money has been raised from those who dine at the public trough. This privileged elite naturally wish to remain in their aristocratic position, subsidised by the peasants. And they are willing to commit any form of mayhem in order to get their own way.

Students of French history in the late 30's will recognise the situation. The malaise is recurring.

They used to call it "The English Disease."

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