-  Sunday 08 December 2019
     

    Shaking France, a revolt both angry and mellow

    TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2006
    AVIGNON, France Adrien Reynaud is a revolutionary - but only part- time.
     
    The 20-year-old history major at the University of Avignon in the south of France had been waging a round-the- clock protest against the new youth labor law, camping out with fellow protesters in two dozen tents pitched across the campus lawn.
     
    But by Friday afternoon, Reynaud had a birthday to celebrate and laundry to be done. So he was going home to his parents.
     
    "I've been staked out here for 16 days," he said. "I need a weekend off."
     
    That mellow mood reflects the peculiar nature of the nationwide protest against a law that would allow employers to fire workers under the age of 26 without cause within two years.
     
    With Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin determined to put the law into practice, France is bracing for what is being called "black Tuesday" - a day of strikes and demonstrations throughout the nation that could bring two million people out on the streets and paralyze much of the country.
     
    If the protests drag on and the violence and vandalism get worse, it could further erode confidence in the government and even force Villepin to resign.
     
    Only half of the subway trains in Paris are expected to be operating. Regional rail services are likely be out of service. Many planes and trains will be canceled. Countless schools, businesses and post offices will be closed.
     
    On the University of Avignon campus, banners predict nothing less than the fall of France's center-right government and the inevitable triumph of collective progress over individualism.
     
    But there are also guitar-playing, football-tossing and sun-tanning to be done here. In the spirit of compromise, the university has been shut only intermittently, to allow some students to take their final exams. One hand-written banner reads, "Don't send us police. Nurture us instead."
     
    "I want students to gaze upward, to hope and dream for things that are more important," said Emmanuel Ethis, vice president of the university and a professor of sociology. "This is a rebellion - by the petite bourgeoisie."
     
    Behind the current political crisis seems nothing less than the essential question confronting Europe today: whether the soft safety net can survive in a more competitive world.
     
    But on another level, France is not seized by ambitious dreams or a desire to sacrifice. So this is a protest that uses the revolutionary methods of the streets - which proved so potent in riots last autumn in the disadvantaged city suburbs - in defense of thoroughly conservative principles.
     
    It has become a cross-generational revolt. Baby-boomers embraced by the generous French social welfare system want to protect treasured benefits long into retirement. Their children do not believe they should pay to keep the system in place - unless they too benefit from it.
     
    "It is a collective failure of the French system," said Louis Chauvel, a sociologist who studies generational change. "You earn more doing nothing in retirement at the age of 60 to 65 than working full-time at the age of 35. And we have organized society so there is no room for new entrants."
     
    According to every poll, the French consider globalization as a threat rather than an opportunity.
     
    A sweeping survey of people in 22 countries made public in January found that France was alone in disagreeing with the premise that the best economic model is "the free enterprise system and free market economy." The poll, conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, concluded that only 36 percent of French respondents replied yes, compared with 59 percent in Italy, 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain, 71 percent in the United States and 74 percent in China.
     
    Similarly, last autumn, when the French polling institute Ipsos asked 500 people between the ages of 20 and 25 the question: "What does globalization mean to you?" 48 percent answered "fear." Only 27 percent said "hope."
     
    Disdain for what is called the "Anglo- Saxon model" sometimes becomes confused with residual criticism of America's projection of power around the world.
     
    "I respect the world of Shakespeare and of Hemingway," said Bernard Reynes, the 52-year-old mayor of the once-flourishing farming town of Chateaurenard outside Avignon. "I respect less the culture of Coca-Cola. Three years after the war in Iraq the Americans are now admitting their mistakes there. The American way of life that judges the rest of the world severely is not the only way of life."
     
    The current crisis of fear follows the overwhelming rejection by French voters last May of the European Constitution, a reflection of widespread worry that the country would lose jobs and benefits to the new members of the European Union.
     
    It also coincides with a wave of economic nationalism.
     
    "What is needed in France is some leadership, some enthusiasm and confidence which is able to spread," said Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the French head of the European business lobby Unice, in an interview. "In the business world we are not pessimistic about the future. And in the past, we have seen the ability of a person with charisma to promote a plan that is able to transform – a de Gaulle, a Margaret Thatcher."
     
    In a poll made public this weekend in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 83 percent of the respondents said they want President Jacques Chirac to intervene in resolving the crisis over the new labor law.
     
    Instead, France seems headless, with Chirac largely absent from the political scene and Villepin, the head of government who is largely responsible for domestic matters, has seen his popularity plummet in the polls over the issue.
     
    Meanwhile, the defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, is worried about the effect that the protests are having on France's image abroad, pinning the blame on the English-language press.
     
    "We have to get out of this situation," she said in an interview with French journalists on Sunday. "This is bad for France, its economy. People who don't like us, particularly the Anglo-Saxon newspapers, are using this to denigrate our image."
     
    As some protests have turned violent, and more than 1,400 arrests have been made, tour operators are already reporting a cancellation of trips to France by American and Japanese tourists.
     
    The government and tour operators hope to avoid a repetition of late last year, when travel to France declined 20 percent following the riots in the suburbs.
     
    Foreign Minister Philippe Douste- Blazy has scheduled a breakfast with foreign journalists on Wednesday to "give his own vision" of the situation, according to the Foreign Ministry.
     
    Villepin, meanwhile, hopes to be the first prime minister to successfully enact labor reform in decades and has vowed that under no circumstances will he back down.
     
    But avoiding a prolonged, all-out confrontation is the priority of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is responsible for maintaining law and order and who, like Villepin, harbors presidential ambitions.
     
    "Being able to find a compromise is about being brave and serving France," said Sarkozy, who is also the leader of the governing UMP party, at a rally on Saturday.
     
    Paradoxically, Sarkozy is the most un-French of politicians, a firm believer in globalization, hard work, raw ambition, the man-on the-street and the American dream.
     
    When he speaks about France's future, he does not look to the country's grand past, but across the ocean to the United States.
     
    "The dream of French families is to have their young people go to American universities to study," he told an audience at Columbia University in October 2004. "When we go to the movies, it is to see American films. When we turn on our radios, it is to listen to American music. We love the United States!"
     
    At the Columbia forum, he revealed a simple formula for lowering France's chronic 10 percent unemployment rate.
     
    "There is only one way to reduce unemployment in France," he said. "You have to explain to the French people that they have to work harder."
     
     AVIGNON, France Adrien Reynaud is a revolutionary - but only part- time.
     
    The 20-year-old history major at the University of Avignon in the south of France had been waging a round-the- clock protest against the new youth labor law, camping out with fellow protesters in two dozen tents pitched across the campus lawn.
     
    But by Friday afternoon, Reynaud had a birthday to celebrate and laundry to be done. So he was going home to his parents.
     
    "I've been staked out here for 16 days," he said. "I need a weekend off."
     
    That mellow mood reflects the peculiar nature of the nationwide protest against a law that would allow employers to fire workers under the age of 26 without cause within two years.
     
    With Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin determined to put the law into practice, France is bracing for what is being called "black Tuesday" - a day of strikes and demonstrations throughout the nation that could bring two million people out on the streets and paralyze much of the country.
     
    If the protests drag on and the violence and vandalism get worse, it could further erode confidence in the government and even force Villepin to resign.
     
    Only half of the subway trains in Paris are expected to be operating. Regional rail services are likely be out of service. Many planes and trains will be canceled. Countless schools, businesses and post offices will be closed.
     
    On the University of Avignon campus, banners predict nothing less than the fall of France's center-right government and the inevitable triumph of collective progress over individualism.
     
    But there are also guitar-playing, football-tossing and sun-tanning to be done here. In the spirit of compromise, the university has been shut only intermittently, to allow some students to take their final exams. One hand-written banner reads, "Don't send us police. Nurture us instead."
     
    "I want students to gaze upward, to hope and dream for things that are more important," said Emmanuel Ethis, vice president of the university and a professor of sociology. "This is a rebellion - by the petite bourgeoisie."
     
    Behind the current political crisis seems nothing less than the essential question confronting Europe today: whether the soft safety net can survive in a more competitive world.
     
    But on another level, France is not seized by ambitious dreams or a desire to sacrifice. So this is a protest that uses the revolutionary methods of the streets - which proved so potent in riots last autumn in the disadvantaged city suburbs - in defense of thoroughly conservative principles.
     
    It has become a cross-generational revolt. Baby-boomers embraced by the generous French social welfare system want to protect treasured benefits long into retirement. Their children do not believe they should pay to keep the system in place - unless they too benefit from it.
     
    "It is a collective failure of the French system," said Louis Chauvel, a sociologist who studies generational change. "You earn more doing nothing in retirement at the age of 60 to 65 than working full-time at the age of 35. And we have organized society so there is no room for new entrants."
     
    According to every poll, the French consider globalization as a threat rather than an opportunity.
     
    A sweeping survey of people in 22 countries made public in January found that France was alone in disagreeing with the premise that the best economic model is "the free enterprise system and free market economy." The poll, conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, concluded that only 36 percent of French respondents replied yes, compared with 59 percent in Italy, 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain, 71 percent in the United States and 74 percent in China.
     
    Similarly, last autumn, when the French polling institute Ipsos asked 500 people between the ages of 20 and 25 the question: "What does globalization mean to you?" 48 percent answered "fear." Only 27 percent said "hope."
     
    Disdain for what is called the "Anglo- Saxon model" sometimes becomes confused with residual criticism of America's projection of power around the world.
     
    "I respect the world of Shakespeare and of Hemingway," said Bernard Reynes, the 52-year-old mayor of the once-flourishing farming town of Chateaurenard outside Avignon. "I respect less the culture of Coca-Cola. Three years after the war in Iraq the Americans are now admitting their mistakes there. The American way of life that judges the rest of the world severely is not the only way of life."
     
    The current crisis of fear follows the overwhelming rejection by French voters last May of the European Constitution, a reflection of widespread worry that the country would lose jobs and benefits to the new members of the European Union.
     
    It also coincides with a wave of economic nationalism.
     
    "What is needed in France is some leadership, some enthusiasm and confidence which is able to spread," said Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the French head of the European business lobby Unice, in an interview. "In the business world we are not pessimistic about the future. And in the past, we have seen the ability of a person with charisma to promote a plan that is able to transform – a de Gaulle, a Margaret Thatcher."
     
    In a poll made public this weekend in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 83 percent of the respondents said they want President Jacques Chirac to intervene in resolving the crisis over the new labor law.
     
    Instead, France seems headless, with Chirac largely absent from the political scene and Villepin, the head of government who is largely responsible for domestic matters, has seen his popularity plummet in the polls over the issue.
     
    Meanwhile, the defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, is worried about the effect that the protests are having on France's image abroad, pinning the blame on the English-language press.
     
    "We have to get out of this situation," she said in an interview with French journalists on Sunday. "This is bad for France, its economy. People who don't like us, particularly the Anglo-Saxon newspapers, are using this to denigrate our image."
     
    As some protests have turned violent, and more than 1,400 arrests have been made, tour operators are already reporting a cancellation of trips to France by American and Japanese tourists.
     
    The government and tour operators hope to avoid a repetition of late last year, when travel to France declined 20 percent following the riots in the suburbs.
     
    Foreign Minister Philippe Douste- Blazy has scheduled a breakfast with foreign journalists on Wednesday to "give his own vision" of the situation, according to the Foreign Ministry.
     
    Villepin, meanwhile, hopes to be the first prime minister to successfully enact labor reform in decades and has vowed that under no circumstances will he back down.
     
    But avoiding a prolonged, all-out confrontation is the priority of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is responsible for maintaining law and order and who, like Villepin, harbors presidential ambitions.
     
    "Being able to find a compromise is about being brave and serving France," said Sarkozy, who is also the leader of the governing UMP party, at a rally on Saturday.
     
    Paradoxically, Sarkozy is the most un-French of politicians, a firm believer in globalization, hard work, raw ambition, the man-on the-street and the American dream.
     
    When he speaks about France's future, he does not look to the country's grand past, but across the ocean to the United States.
     
    "The dream of French families is to have their young people go to American universities to study," he told an audience at Columbia University in October 2004. "When we go to the movies, it is to see American films. When we turn on our radios, it is to listen to American music. We love the United States!"
     
    At the Columbia forum, he revealed a simple formula for lowering France's chronic 10 percent unemployment rate.
     
    "There is only one way to reduce unemployment in France," he said. "You have to explain to the French people that they have to work harder."
     
     AVIGNON, France Adrien Reynaud is a revolutionary - but only part- time.
     
    The 20-year-old history major at the University of Avignon in the south of France had been waging a round-the- clock protest against the new youth labor law, camping out with fellow protesters in two dozen tents pitched across the campus lawn.
     
    But by Friday afternoon, Reynaud had a birthday to celebrate and laundry to be done. So he was going home to his parents.
     
    "I've been staked out here for 16 days," he said. "I need a weekend off."
     
    That mellow mood reflects the peculiar nature of the nationwide protest against a law that would allow employers to fire workers under the age of 26 without cause within two years.
     
    With Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin determined to put the law into practice, France is bracing for what is being called "black Tuesday" - a day of strikes and demonstrations throughout the nation that could bring two million people out on the streets and paralyze much of the country.
     
    If the protests drag on and the violence and vandalism get worse, it could further erode confidence in the government and even force Villepin to resign.
     
    Only half of the subway trains in Paris are expected to be operating. Regional rail services are likely be out of service. Many planes and trains will be canceled. Countless schools, businesses and post offices will be closed.
     
    On the University of Avignon campus, banners predict nothing less than the fall of France's center-right government and the inevitable triumph of collective progress over individualism.
     
    But there are also guitar-playing, football-tossing and sun-tanning to be done here. In the spirit of compromise, the university has been shut only intermittently, to allow some students to take their final exams. One hand-written banner reads, "Don't send us police. Nurture us instead."
     
    "I want students to gaze upward, to hope and dream for things that are more important," said Emmanuel Ethis, vice president of the university and a professor of sociology. "This is a rebellion - by the petite bourgeoisie."
     
    Behind the current political crisis seems nothing less than the essential question confronting Europe today: whether the soft safety net can survive in a more competitive world.
     
    But on another level, France is not seized by ambitious dreams or a desire to sacrifice. So this is a protest that uses the revolutionary methods of the streets - which proved so potent in riots last autumn in the disadvantaged city suburbs - in defense of thoroughly conservative principles.
     
    It has become a cross-generational revolt. Baby-boomers embraced by the generous French social welfare system want to protect treasured benefits long into retirement. Their children do not believe they should pay to keep the system in place - unless they too benefit from it.
     
    "It is a collective failure of the French system," said Louis Chauvel, a sociologist who studies generational change. "You earn more doing nothing in retirement at the age of 60 to 65 than working full-time at the age of 35. And we have organized society so there is no room for new entrants."
     
    According to every poll, the French consider globalization as a threat rather than an opportunity.
     
    A sweeping survey of people in 22 countries made public in January found that France was alone in disagreeing with the premise that the best economic model is "the free enterprise system and free market economy." The poll, conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, concluded that only 36 percent of French respondents replied yes, compared with 59 percent in Italy, 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain, 71 percent in the United States and 74 percent in China.
     
    Similarly, last autumn, when the French polling institute Ipsos asked 500 people between the ages of 20 and 25 the question: "What does globalization mean to you?" 48 percent answered "fear." Only 27 percent said "hope."
     
    Disdain for what is called the "Anglo- Saxon model" sometimes becomes confused with residual criticism of America's projection of power around the world.
     
    "I respect the world of Shakespeare and of Hemingway," said Bernard Reynes, the 52-year-old mayor of the once-flourishing farming town of Chateaurenard outside Avignon. "I respect less the culture of Coca-Cola. Three years after the war in Iraq the Americans are now admitting their mistakes there. The American way of life that judges the rest of the world severely is not the only way of life."
     
    The current crisis of fear follows the overwhelming rejection by French voters last May of the European Constitution, a reflection of widespread worry that the country would lose jobs and benefits to the new members of the European Union.
     
    It also coincides with a wave of economic nationalism.
     
    "What is needed in France is some leadership, some enthusiasm and confidence which is able to spread," said Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the French head of the European business lobby Unice, in an interview. "In the business world we are not pessimistic about the future. And in the past, we have seen the ability of a person with charisma to promote a plan that is able to transform – a de Gaulle, a Margaret Thatcher."
     
    In a poll made public this weekend in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 83 percent of the respondents said they want President Jacques Chirac to intervene in resolving the crisis over the new labor law.
     
    Instead, France seems headless, with Chirac largely absent from the political scene and Villepin, the head of government who is largely responsible for domestic matters, has seen his popularity plummet in the polls over the issue.
     
    Meanwhile, the defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, is worried about the effect that the protests are having on France's image abroad, pinning the blame on the English-language press.
     
    "We have to get out of this situation," she said in an interview with French journalists on Sunday. "This is bad for France, its economy. People who don't like us, particularly the Anglo-Saxon newspapers, are using this to denigrate our image."
     
    As some protests have turned violent, and more than 1,400 arrests have been made, tour operators are already reporting a cancellation of trips to France by American and Japanese tourists.
     
    The government and tour operators hope to avoid a repetition of late last year, when travel to France declined 20 percent following the riots in the suburbs.
     
    Foreign Minister Philippe Douste- Blazy has scheduled a breakfast with foreign journalists on Wednesday to "give his own vision" of the situation, according to the Foreign Ministry.
     
    Villepin, meanwhile, hopes to be the first prime minister to successfully enact labor reform in decades and has vowed that under no circumstances will he back down.
     
    But avoiding a prolonged, all-out confrontation is the priority of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is responsible for maintaining law and order and who, like Villepin, harbors presidential ambitions.
     
    "Being able to find a compromise is about being brave and serving France," said Sarkozy, who is also the leader of the governing UMP party, at a rally on Saturday.
     
    Paradoxically, Sarkozy is the most un-French of politicians, a firm believer in globalization, hard work, raw ambition, the man-on the-street and the American dream.
     
    When he speaks about France's future, he does not look to the country's grand past, but across the ocean to the United States.
     
    "The dream of French families is to have their young people go to American universities to study," he told an audience at Columbia University in October 2004. "When we go to the movies, it is to see American films. When we turn on our radios, it is to listen to American music. We love the United States!"
     
    At the Columbia forum, he revealed a simple formula for lowering France's chronic 10 percent unemployment rate.
     
    "There is only one way to reduce unemployment in France," he said. "You have to explain to the French people that they have to work harder."
     
     AVIGNON, France Adrien Reynaud is a revolutionary - but only part- time.
     
    The 20-year-old history major at the University of Avignon in the south of France had been waging a round-the- clock protest against the new youth labor law, camping out with fellow protesters in two dozen tents pitched across the campus lawn.
     
    But by Friday afternoon, Reynaud had a birthday to celebrate and laundry to be done. So he was going home to his parents.
     
    "I've been staked out here for 16 days," he said. "I need a weekend off."
     
    That mellow mood reflects the peculiar nature of the nationwide protest against a law that would allow employers to fire workers under the age of 26 without cause within two years.
     
    With Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin determined to put the law into practice, France is bracing for what is being called "black Tuesday" - a day of strikes and demonstrations throughout the nation that could bring two million people out on the streets and paralyze much of the country.
     
    If the protests drag on and the violence and vandalism get worse, it could further erode confidence in the government and even force Villepin to resign.
     
    Only half of the subway trains in Paris are expected to be operating. Regional rail services are likely be out of service. Many planes and trains will be canceled. Countless schools, businesses and post offices will be closed.
     
    On the University of Avignon campus, banners predict nothing less than the fall of France's center-right government and the inevitable triumph of collective progress over individualism.
     
    But there are also guitar-playing, football-tossing and sun-tanning to be done here. In the spirit of compromise, the university has been shut only intermittently, to allow some students to take their final exams. One hand-written banner reads, "Don't send us police. Nurture us instead."
     
    "I want students to gaze upward, to hope and dream for things that are more important," said Emmanuel Ethis, vice president of the university 

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