The French in their jours du gloire rioted on behalf of a fraternal revolutionary future. They got the Committee of Public Safety and the guillotine instead. Today, they take to the streets to preserve the golden past. Alas, they will get the inevitable future: one in which pensioners earn more, workers less, and young people are down to nothing, until the social welfare system implodes from a lack of productive contributors.
For days now, huge demonstrations have swept France. That typically French mode of expression, the vacation in the guise of a labor strike, has disrupted the rail system, shut down oil refineries, prevented tourists from climbing the Eiffel tower.
The French people are angry – in a languid way. Regime change is in the air – or would be, if only they could think of an alternative.
The reason behind all this trouble is President Sarkozy’s desperate attempts to reform the country’s rickety retirement system, and keep it out of bankruptcy. As a rule, the French enter the workforce late in life, but they compensate by retiring early. The time in between, they mostly go on strike.
Unsustainable, n’est pas Francais.
To a foreigner like myself, Sarkozy’s reform legislation seems like pretty small potatoes: minimum retirement age will be raised from 60 to 62.
To the French, this is infamy.
Eric Floresse said his commute had been disrupted, but in a good cause.
“I think the reform is unjust, there are already lots of older people who are unemployed.
“I think there are better ways to sort out the social security deficit, it’s not the best solution,” he added.
The best solution was articulated by my first-born son, who many years ago, at the age of five, had reached the maximum level of political maturity allowed to the average French citizen. After spending a day with his grandparents, he asked why they didn’t work. “Because they are retired,” I explained. After a deep reflective silence, my son declared: “When I grow up, I want to be retired too.”
No one ever won money betting on the French government’s ability to stand up to a national temper tantrum. You heard it here first: Sarkozy will cave.