Tuesday, October 26, 2010

strike - paris - kafka

All are furious at the Senate's decision to approve new pension legislation which will see the retirement age rise from 60 to 62.

I'm landing in Paris in a few hours and hope to give accounts of what I see and hear on the street in these tumultuous times. A lot of what's in the press doesn't mention about how these reforms affect women, specifically working mothers like my friend, Anne. She's a single mother, with two young children, where I'll stay in Montmartre. The pension reforms will discount all the time she's taken for maternity leave, in other words, the time she's taken off for pregnancy due to bedrest, the generous leave from her firm, six months, all that's discounted against her retirement.
That shocked me. France is renowned for social benefits especially to mothers, maternity leave and support of local creche's, the infant centers all over Paris. But the time she's spent having two children, staying with them probably a year in total will work against her when she retires. The time she'll most need benefits when her girls are older. Zut!

One of the most surprising items in the news is that fifteen year old students have been striking at their schools to protest 'change'. In the US usually the protests are to promote change, bring new programs and reforms but again, this is France, still traditional and these kids are looking way down the rue. Can't think when I was fifteen I'd have had the presence of mind to do that. I've heard a lot of the unrest is due to Sarkozy whose popularity is at an all time low. He's also unpopular due to the widespread criticism of his part in the ongoing Liliane Bettencourt scandal, the l'Oreal heiress, and France's richest woman, who's accused of providing cash payments to politicians in return for assistance in avoiding tax on a her multi-million Euro fortune.

But the protests might die down this week as it's school holidays and if people can get gas they're on the road or taking the trains that are running. Wednesday promises to be another day of a big strike, so I'll just get on my walking shoes and hit the cobbles. And a few café's en route to my friend Elise's near the Bastille. And if we're adventurous head to the Basquiat exhibit across the Seine and have adventures along the way...

This in a city where Franz Kafka's on walls as grafitti

Cara - Tuesday who should be hitting the Charles de Gaulle runway just about now!


  1. If only our graffiti was as literary...

    When I first heard of the pension reforms I thought, 'Of course!' I mean, in the U.S., our retirement/oension age is 65. People live longer. Why not push the age back to save money? And surely they'd make it affective 2-5 years from now so those retiring this year aren't adversely affected.

    But I didn't know the details and I didn't know how the maternity leave impacted the plan. What a mess.

    You're right about teenagers in the U.S.--they don't get the bigger issues, nor do they think longterm. This is a truly tough problem for a country to have--both apathetic youth and the pension/economic issue.


  2. I think that the teenagers in France are likely influenced by older individuals with an agenda the kids are unaware of.

    I have spent almost my entire life dealing with teenagers. I was out of my teen's by three years when I started teaching them. The ability to grasp and focus on something beyond the next few days is something that comes with the development of the brain. Ask any parent who has fought the college applications battle with an eighteen year-old. Deadlines are for other people, those other people being the parents and guidance counselors who have to explain, over and over, that transcripts, teacher recommendations, etc. have to be completed before school breaks for Christmas. The deadline might be January 1 but the school is closes on December 23.

    Kids have great empathy on the grand scale; they are always ready to commit to fund raisers, clothing and food drives. They are incapable of seeing themselves as senior citizens so they don't see the needs of members of their own families. They think everyone who retires is rich because they must be rich to stop working. They are masters of circular thinking. They are not so good at linear thinking.

    What changes are the students protesting?