Skip to comments.Would you hire this man? (rioting French layabouts)
Posted on 04/03/2006 7:39:33 AM PDT by Neville72
Let's see if we have this right: French kids are rioting because they can't have jobs for life?
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.
Has everyone forgotten what La France is all about? A couple of years back a book appeared on France's bestseller lists called Bonjour Paresse: De l'art et la nécessité d'en faire le moins possible en entreprise (Hello Laziness: The Art and Importance of Doing the Least Possible in the Workplace).
"Finally," ran a review in The New York Times, "instead of dissembling behind ambiguous notions of Gallic joie de vivre, someone in this leisurely land has declared outright that the French should eschew the Anglo-Saxon work ethic and openly embrace sloth."
Author Corinne Maier "worked" for years at the state-owned Electricité de France. Here are some excerpts from her manifesto:
"What you do is pointless. You can be replaced from one day to the next by any cretin sitting next to you. So work as little as possible and spend time (not too much, if you can help it) cultivating your personal network so that you're untouchable when the next restructuring comes around."
"You're not judged on merit, but on whether you look and sound the part. Speak lots of leaden jargon: People will suspect you have an inside track."
"Make a beeline for the most useless positions (research, strategy and business development), where it is impossible to assess your `contribution to the wealth of the firm.' Avoid `on the ground' operational roles like the plague."
"Tell yourself that the absurd ideology underpinning this corporate bullshit cannot last forever. It will go the same way as the dialectical materialism of the communist system."
France's latest "revolution" is its most embarrassing yet. Not even a strike by stilt-walking prostitutes could rival this effort. Expect to read about it next week.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dominic Hilton is a British freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He has just completed his first book, This Is The World.
« Personne ne peut plus croire que nos institutions fonctionnent bien (...) Notre régime politique apparaît tantôt cadenassé, tantôt instable » (No one can believe anymore that our institutions function well (...) Our political regime sometimes appears deadlocked, sometimes unstable)
The French companies that are doing well are doing well because of their activities OUTSIDE of France, others are subsisting merely because of protectionism. The best and brightest are leaving by droves, many to England, some to China, and myriad other countries because of the stifling regulatory burden on initiative. In your expat nostalgia, you are seeing the country as you want to believe it is, not as it truly is.
But I will agree with you that the CPE was an utterly wrong way to tackle it. Sweeping reform across all ages is necessary. And there are many people willing to hire employees that won't hire under a CDI and prefer to turn away contracts, rather than have an employee they can't get rid of. If you believe everything is really fine inside of French commerce, you really are willfully blind.
" it is well known within the country among most politicians and chefs d'entreprise that the country is reaching an untenable position. If you don't believe me, perhaps M. Balladur's words will provoke your interest:"
Why, yes, it certainly IS well known, to the French business right, that they want things organized their way, which would be along a much more American line, with far greater power of command for capital, and far less recourse for labor.
And certainly the French business right and politicians will argue, therefore, that the economic system is collapsing, etc., etc., and that everything will fall apart if they are not given the discretionary authority and power of command they want, ASAP.
But they are wrong. It is not true. It is their desire, but the rest of France isn't buying it. And yet, the French economy continues to grow, and 90.3% of the population continues to be employed.
This viewpoint: that France must "liberalize" in a distinctly Anglo-Saxon direction, by attacking job security of workers, particularly, and not other things (such as business corruption, for instance), is at Waterloo right now, with Villepin leading the charge.
Mme Royal will have other ideas, and implement them.