Saturday, April 28, 2007

French French Bashing no surprise to me

Does this article surprise me one iota? No, it doesn't. Since I've been living in Paris, the one thing which is abundantly clear is the sense of insecurity that pervades the national identity, particularly here in the capital. On everything from economy to national identity, the French seem ill at ease with themselves.

France has faced long-term consistent unemployment at around 10%, which is much higher among the young and ethnic minorities. France also has a massive welfare system, which has to be sustained by high taxation. Protectionism is restricting business. London continues to outstrip Paris on development, even though in my opinion, Paris is probably a much better city for international business - transport, for one, is second to none here. The government's spending is unsustainable. The law makes it almost impossible for businesses to hire people, because of the taxes they'll have to pay and because it is near impossible to fire someone once they are employed. But people don't want the law to change, as demonstrated by student riots last year.

And then there's the question of national identity. Nearly a quarter of the French population belong to ethnic minorities, although most of these are European and the descendants have long been assimilated into the general population. However, there are massive immigrant populations from the Maghreb, and from French overseas colonies. But with the French unitairianisme, these immigrant groups must become French or face exclusion. This is a country where only last year did the television see its first non-white prime time news presenter on state television. The immigrant groups are often face discrimination, and are forced into ghettos in the banlieues, particularly around Paris. Paris is a city under seige, with riots and car burning in the surrounding banlieues always grabbing headlines.

The people of France want change, and that is why there was such a high turn out to last week's first round to the elections. The problem is, most of the population don't really know who's going to deliver such a change.

(Another interesting article here)

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