This New York Times article by Steven Erlanger is the best, and perhaps most depressing, precis of what is happening in France right now.
In 30 years of shuttling between France and the US, I have never observed a more morose population. And that is among my friends who have good jobs. I agree with Erlanger’s position:
In May 1968, students at the University of Paris in Nanterre began what they thought was a revolution. French students in neckties and bobby socks threw cobblestones at the police and demanded that the sclerotic postwar system must change.
Today, at Nanterre, students worried about finding jobs and losing state benefits are demanding that nothing change at all.
It’s understandable that the French are afraid of change, even though they know it is ultimately necessary. They watch as nations around them strip security from the middle class. They are aware that the gap between rich and poor is lower in France than in many other Western nations.
I’m curious as to your thoughts on how France can reverse this decline. One example: A friend worked as a clerk at Picard, the frozen-food store. All of his colleagues has master’s degrees but could not find work that used their skills and knowledge. Another: A French native of Montpellier left his family business to work in the US because government regulations and taxes rendered it impossible to earn a living from it. Though I know people in the US who have taken advantage of unemployment benefits, I have never seen abuse as widespread as I see in France.
And so on. Yet France has so much in its reserves to offer the rest of the world. What’s your take?