Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The deep anger behind the French strikes

The media in France and abroad talk of the present protests and strikes in the country as being directed against a perfectly reasonable sounding requirement for an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 years. It would be unlikely for the french oil refinery workers to have shut down all 12 of the nation's refineries and put their hands round the jugular of the nation's oil product distribution if such were the case. On TV interviews the reality of 41.5/42 years full contributions are stated as unfair by students facing a working life only beginning at 24 or 25 years of age. Unskilled workers, some of whom claim to have started a life of hard manual labour as young as 15, complain they will now be expected to continue their drudgery until they reach 62. Contrast this with the vast army of paper pushing fonctionaires many of whom after a life of pen-pushing will still expect to draw their own privileged pensions at the age of 55. High among the list of other grudges is the annual withdrawal of more and more routine medications once paid for by the state. Yesterday an example of this health cost factor arrived in the mail, it advised that a tax of 50 centimes would be imposed on every sheet of paper churned out by the hugely bureaucratic health administration, this came from a mutuelle (health insurer) offering to insure against this extra cost. English speakers may best imagine the effect of such a move by considering their tax authorities slapping a 50 pence or 75 cents charge for each page of paperwork they issue then accompanying their tax forms, in future required monthly, with a 500 increasing to 2000 pages completion explanation all charged and taxed to the unfortunate recipient. It smacks of the kind of scheme dreamt up by Brown or Darling for the entire benefit of their Scots constituents at the sole expense of the English taxpayer! In the background, however, and always just beneath the surface in most conversations here along the Atlantic seaboard and from there, well inland into the heart of France, is the corruption of the Government, clearly involving the very minister chosen to push the reforms through and the treachery of both main poltical parties over the EU whose own budget appears about to be increased, an event which will surely be the final straw in many other parts of the EU now watching as France quite literally runs down! The voters of France clearly rejected, by referendum, any further EU Constitutional Treaty, yet such was signed and enacted as the Lisbon Treaty. At the subsequent Presidential election, neither candidate, neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor Ségolène Royale, offered a platform respecting the clearly stated 'NO MORE EU' views of the electorate. How entrenched is the EU in france? Pretty much totally, to illustrate this fact let me point out something that few english speaking people seem to know, the replacement for Ségolène Royale, as First Secretary of the French Socialists, is none other than the daughter of Jacques Delors, known under her married name of Martine Aubry, by such means are the EU familydynasties planned to be formed! Thus if Sarkozy goes what we get is Jacques Delors Mark II! Sarkozy appeared alongside Angela Merkel on French TV last evening and his body language shouted defeat, pleading to the French to accept his reforms as the Germans had already enacted the same rules hardly seemed the soundest argument. Asserting that democracy should not permit the kind of demonstrations France will witness again today, as Sarkozy jerkily attempted last evening, is similarly unconvincing in a situation where he and his EU Council colleagues and his own Presidential forerunners have thrown all of Europe's democracy to the wolves, thus hardly seems likely to cut much ice either! Amusingly the Belgian sausage dachsund Van Rompuy chose the same moment to announce for his mysterious comptrollers that a solution for the economic governance of the EU in the future had been found, such were the words that scrolled along the TV screen. What is meant of course, as always in the EU, is that a form of words had been found to which all the corrupt attendees at the meeting could agree in time to depart for some grand and expensive tax payer funded dinner - the chance of it ever achieving any kind of solution being as distant as any chance of ever re-floating the Titanic.

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