Monday, September 27, 2010

Experiencing the Infamous Strikes

This is Jonathan, Sarah's husband, she brought me in to be a guest blogger this time to recount my unique experience in French Politics.

Whether we like it or not, I believe the idea of the American Dream is cemented in most American's lives. I really think that most conservative Americans believe that if they work hard enough they have the opportunity to attain the material things they want and need. We're independent people. We can do it if the government would just stay out of our way! If admit that those are my own personal political leanings. So you can imagine how shocked I was to attend the French left-wing protest against retirement reform. A good portion of the French working body went on strike this past Saturday to protest the government's actions to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. Since they were not at work, they gathered at the place where the Bastille used to stand and held a massive march through Paris. I decided to attend.

Most of the metro system was either stopped or severely slowed so I rode my bike the 4.5 miles to the Bastille. I got there a bit early and people were already setting up signs along the projected route of the march.

Translation: Enough is enough. Together we can stop them!

Then I saw these people. Their sign says, "Go Left-Wing! Let's get rid of the Euro." I was thinking to myself, "Maybe someone should tell them that is not what we're striking about today." They must have thought, "You know, while we are at it, there's something else we don't like!"

As I arrived to the place where they were all meeting, there was a massive amount of people gathering around specific camps (political parties and labor unions)

Here's a shot of the Socialist Party's gathering point. Their flags have a big "PS"

And the Communists. There emblem is "PCF"

Each gathering point had music blaring and so many people handing out their party's literature that I began to wonder if they were concerned about how many trees had to die to support there propaganda!

The road I was on was the one they were going to walk down from the Bastille. I was walking toward the Bastille and was very much swimming upstream. It got harder as the parade started. The different unions and groups began to march. There was always a car or a bus with music and some person shouting through a loudspeaker the group's chants and political demands. It was loud. Especially because one union was handing out free whistles!

It kind of felt like a county fair because there were food stands everywhere and it smelt great!

Translation for the picture below: "There is no more money for retirement they say. Redistribution of Wealth!"

This was a common theme. The government wants to raise the retirement age because they are running out money. Increased life expectancy is the reason. They say if we are living longer we need to work longer. Yet, the left wing parties in France say that the problem can be solved by redistributing the wealth of the upper class.

This looks familiar. You probably don't need me to translate it!

Translation: "The people do not have to pay for the crisis of capitalism."

I didn't get a picture of it, but I saw a lady wearing a t-shirt that said, "work less, share more." It was slogans like these that made me seem like a fish out of water. Never, had a been so closely confronted with such different economic and political ideas. Protests and strikes like this are not that rare in France. People look to the government for practically everything so when the government disappoints it becomes a matter of grave importance. My wish, desire, and prayer is that the people keep this same fervor of reliance and transfer it to Someone far more sure than fragile, governmental policy.

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