Tuesday, March 21, 2006

French mainstream politics' sacral treatment of the French social model: Think of France's mass demonstrations as religious processions

…coming in a place where capitalism still gets demonized in favor of worship of a romanticized revolutionary past (think of its mass demonstrations as religious processions), the Socialists' attempt by stealth to initiate change brought nothing
writes John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune as he discusses "fuzzed-over issue[s]", "the airless rooms of French politics", and the French protests against Prime Minister Villepin and his government's attempt to relax job protection.
In a largely closed French political universe, Chirac's Gaullists tried instead to co-opt as its own the left's notions of a society where no element of individual risk is acceptable. Even more, it perpetuated hatred over simple mistrust of open markets. Result: the Chirac era reinforced the French reflex to regard change as an attack on social "acquis," a word meaning nonnegotiables in a language literally without an equivalent for those brutal Anglo-Saxons' notions of give-backs.

…Somehow, Villepin missed grasping that this collides not only with the myths and lies of French mainstream politics' sacral treatment of the French social model (Nicolas Sarkozy's stance is a potential exception), and its consecrated notions of employment by decree.

…If France fights against opening up its borders to workers at competitive wages from the rest of the European Union through the so-called Bolkestein directive, if Villepin demands "economic patriotism" and national industrial champions, if the government beats off foreign takeover attempts on French enterprises, then it perhaps deserves the contradiction of explaining to students how it would let French bosses hire folks more or less the way they do in awful places like Canada, Denmark and Sweden.

To be honest, the students in the streets themselves have changed in ways that reflect the airless rooms of French politics. Their call is not 1968's appeal to re-do the world, or for a just chance to show their stuff, but for guarantees, promises of security, risk-removers.