Okay so you don't know so here goes. France is a founding member of the European Community.
I come from Ireland one of the countries that has benefited most from the EU.
France has an awkward history which it still refuses to deal with in relation to two key areas. The first being the WW2 and the second it's colonial past. Let me just say now, of course I have to generalise how else do you explain the reaction of a nation of over 50 million people. Both of these histories have left indelible marks on the French psyche. In particular in relation to the type of politics practised and of course identity.
The election last week was the first round of a two part race. Two people are elected to the second round and then 2 weeks later it is a straight run off.
There were 4 principal candidates in the first round. Jean-Marie Le Pen who is the Leader of the National Front ( so far Politically right it's unbalanced in my view). Francois Bayrou and politically ex right wing and now centrist leader. Segolene Royale from the Socialists and Nicolas Sarkozy from the center right UMP.
Sarkozy and Royale won the first round. It was expected Bayrou, who came third with 18% or 7 million people, would tell his followers to vote one way or another because of the result. Bayerou has instead challenged the finalists to a debate and refused to say how he will vote in the next round as they are both bad for France.
Royale immediately said ' Yes next Friday in front of the press' and Sarko has just said on TV basically 'What is the point?'
His view is, he in the final, and the third placed team can go home.( this is a mix of his word and my phrasing). What is the point of debating with someone who has lost?
The problems the French are facing are enormous.
Unemployment is extremely high. Immigration from former colonies is very high and many people are here illegally. The paradox is they come to work. The truth is they get it as they will do jobs the white French don't dare.
Youth unemployment in France is among the worst in western Europe, at around 20 per cent but hovering around 40 per cent on some housing projects. These are the people Sarkozy referred to as scum as they burned their neighbourhoods and their neighbours property in protest early last year. Not I might add, Rabble, no indeed the word used was Scum.
Social welfare is among the highest in Europe. Since I have been here paying taxes I have had my teeth done, and have had various visits to the doctor and got new spectacles. I am estimating I paid about 30% of the overall cost.
There are a huge number of civil servants and as to what they do I don't know. I have often been asked by those dealing with me if Ireland was a member of the EU. I even had one sympathise with me as I was a refugee from the war...............? (that's another story).
I have seen people here go sick from work for strange maladies. They are depressed, go to the doctor get free happy pills and can't work anymore. They stay on full salary until such time as the company decide to fire them. This can take years. If they get fired they get full salary for nearly a year and sometimes the cost of firing them can be prohibitive.
There are more pharmacies in Nice than Bars in Dublin but their produce unlike the bars of Dublin is heavily subsidised. It is in my opinion a hypochrondriac society.
I have seen many people in the work place who do the bare minimum, and then gripe about the boss. Ingenuity and spontaneity are not welcomed rather they are frowned on as they correct piece of paper has not been circulated. Some people spend the first half hour of they day logging what they had done the previous day. that's a half a day a week, writing up what you did for the week rather than actually doing it.
The French are ingenious no doubt, but get them together and they get bogged down in the rules and regulations and these become far more important than anything else.
When Sarkozy talks I see a man who is extremely polite yet opinionated. Intelligent and power hungry. It's not a good mix for me. He has come out with some bushisms if you will but of a very serious nature. Google him and read more than one view if you want. Basically he believes in genetic determinism and that is a thought that in my mind should be left back in WW2.
Royale wants to increase the minimum wage. It costs an American company about 3 times as much to employ a French person as it is does an American if I remember my figures from an article about Wall Mart in Newsweek or some such magazine. The problem is the French employee earns about half of what the U.S employee earns.
Are you following me yet. Sarkozy is a Blairite/Thatcherite who will impose an FFI minister. French Identity and Immigration. To teach the immigrants who and what the French are and how France works? Is this fascist or just sensible?
This is the man many will say can get the job done, can pull the number 5 World Power out of it's decades of malaise and basically give it the kick up the backside it needs.
Both of these candidates have talked about National Identity. One talks about working for France leading France and how great France is. The other talks about putting France to work, the people,the unemployed.
I see the logic of giving up all the social stuff, France cannot pay the pensions of the people in it's care. In 20 years time there may well be a geriatric revolution with zimmer frames. But in Truth this Son of an Immigrant Sarkozy scares me while the rest of France frustrates me.
I am afraid my politics is more left than right. More social than capitalist but I damn well understand commerce, and the fact that the world we live in eats, breaths, pisses, and shits profit and loss. That is the reality.
As I have already mentioned Madame Royale may be formidable politically, face to face with someone, but in front of a crowd or camera or a microphone she dissappears into a stilting stone face stepford wife. Sarkozy is like Rumplestillskin in the corner rubbing his hands. He knows only two well she cannot spin all that straw into gold. While he will most likely sell the straw, kill the farm animals, knock down the house and build a supermarket, if you allow the analogy to go so far.
What will the future bring?
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