French Student Riots: We also have balls

I am working on an “honor-shame” explanation for the behavior of French students in Paris these last weeks, which got an indirect confirmation from an encounter with a Frenchwoman the other night at a University function. My theory runs as follows: what has the French students going from demonstration to smashing store windows, burning cars, breaking into University buildings and burning books, is related to what went on in the suburbs last fall.

Of course French students have been known to behave like this. In “Mai ’68” they tore up the cobblestones and threw them at the cops. In the spring of 1971, the “normaliens” (they do not consider themselves students) did the same. When I got to the school in the fall of 1971, they told their war stories with evident pride. One of the graffiti, still on the wall in my building read: Les gauchistes sont les seuls ici avec des couilles!” signed by the directors wife. [The leftists are the only ones with balls around here.] That graffito came back to mind as I listened to interviews with the students protesting. Are they trashing Paris to show that they can be as tough and manly as the “yout” from the suburbs?

I recently had an exchange with a young Frenchwoman, BCBG (bon chic bon genre… classy).

“So what’s going on in France right now?” [This after the photos of the kids from the suburbs beating up the Gaulois had appeared in the news the world over.]
“They’re demonstrating.”
“Demonstrating? Trashing stores, burning cars and books?”
“That’s how we demonstrate in France!” she responded proudly.

So let me get this straight. French students, mimicking the behavior of the “dispossessed” from the suburbs, open the door to those “dispossessed” to come in and mark their terrain in Paris, leading to breakdown of public order at a particularly difficult time in France’s . And rather than say, “we got a problem,” this Frenchwoman, who could easily have been a target of the “racaille” from the suburbs, acts like it’s all not just under control, but a source of pride?

On another note, one email posted at The Brussels Journal strikes at the heart of the problem of these French student protestors. It shows the other side of the puffed-up phoney posturing:

“The new serfs have sold their freedom and futures for a guaranteed bowl of porridge from the State. This is how far these young intellectuals can see – to the end of their spoons and no farther. They will take their paychecks by force, even if their economy dies.”

2 Responses to French Student Riots: We also have balls

  1. anonymous says:

    Theoretically, one might think that the French employment situation will deterioriate until there are more unemployed voters than employed voters. At that point it ought to be politically feasable to fix the problem.

    However given the youth protests against the new laws aimed at helping them get jobs, one might conclude that even unemployed French would not want to fix the problem even if they understood that laws preventing companies from firing workers are the cause of unemployment.

  2. RL says:

    yes. one would think that behind this is a desire not to work. but that’s not necessarily true, certainly not across the boards. the french actually scored very high in work efficiency — higher than the US — in a survey i ran across last year (but can’t find right now). and it’s true. people who have jobs in france do work hard. at some level, as i say in my essay, their concerns are real — french bosses can be horribly arbitrary and explolitative. and that’s something cultural that cannot easily be solved by legislation (without it backfiring and shutting down the economy).

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