Thursday, July 14, 2005

Happy Bastille Day!

Maybe France is at last waking up from its long, socialist slumber.

The Guardian reports:

Many believe France has another crisis coming. For 30 years the country ignored warnings that its system needed an overhaul, that it could not sustain its massive public expenditure, enormous bureaucracy, expensive public services, high taxes and crippling social charges. Paradoxically, French people often say they want changes, and then bring the streets to a standstill when their politicians try to introduce them. Instead of pressing ahead with difficult reforms, ministers have all too often taken the soft option of retreating.

"The French do not change things by consensus, they change things by conflict," said Pascal Perrineau, a professor at the Paris Institute for Political Science.

"The French model is no longer accepted as universal because it doesn't work. The French are at a crossroads. They know they must change and adapt to a more liberal, global world, but they are hesitating and it may well be that they need a push. From time to time a man of history, like Bonaparte and de Gaulle, comes to force us to accept change, but we have a revolutionary history which makes this period particularly risky."

But what exactly is wrong? Why is the home of a 35-hour working week, long holidays, generous benefits, fine gastronomy and TGVs riddled with self-doubt?

The whole article is worth reading.

All things considered, today I'll remember the good things France has done for the US -- it's help in our own revolution, the Statue of Liberty, the roots of Cajun cuisine.

I'd also like to remember a Frenchman, Marc Bloch, a history professor who taught us how to write history with The Historian's Craft, a French patriot who served in both world wars and then fought the Nazis as a member of the Resistance, and who was executed by them after his capture.

And I'll celebrate a Frenchwoman who is fighting for change, Sabine Herold. A French university student, she is the editor and spokeswoman for Liberté j'écris ton nom (Liberty, I Write Your Name), a think tank and activist organization in France. (Be sure to read the linked article.)

Finally, let me point out the French representative to my blog bagel, ¡No Pasarán! Definitely worth the read.

I wish them the best for this new revolution, that it does not turn violent (as the article suggests it might), and that it leads them into a better life and better relationships with the US and UK.

Viva la France!

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