I know I haven’t been very active around here lately, blame it on me being out of the country a little, me being quite busy with other things, and also some lack of motivation I admit. Back in the days, idiotic questions amused me, now they bore me. And I won’t mention the dozens of “I met this French man, what does he think?” questions. Those are unfortunately the vast majority of questions I get and they’re way past boring. Note to people that sent one of those and are eagerly waiting for my answer: I trash those e-mails as soon as the phrase “met a Frenchman” appears, I don’t read any further, too bad if your question was actually interesting (but if it’s about the guy’s behavior it’s only interesting for you), you should have read the Read First section first (this is what “read first” means in English).
And yes, I know, still, there are a few interesting questions waiting to be answered in my mailbox, I’ll try to do so before 2013.
However, last night, I got a question that infuriated me to the point it’ll skip the line of questions and will have the privilege to be answered right away.
Here it is:
“Do you think Sarkozy is a good leader because he didn’t blink on his pension reform plans despite the massive protests which shut down France a couple of weeks ago?”
(asked by the Filipino)
Mmmm… Does this make Sarkozy a good leader? Well, I guess in a dictatorship it would. But last time I checked, when you’re the President of a democracy (but it’s true that France is less and less a democracy) and when your government passes an extremely unjust law; one that favors the rich and powerful over the poor and the weak (and this is how the vast majority of the laws that have been passed by this government are) and when the people are very angry about it, ignoring them in such an insulting manner (but insulting the people is your specialty anyway, even in the literal meaning of the term) shows nothing like being a good leader.
Actually, quite the opposite: ignoring, disrespecting, insulting the people when you’re the President is not and has never been a sign of good leadership. And when your approval rate is as abysmal as it has been lately (worst approval rate for a President in the 5th Republic, and the others too I’d assume), that behavior is a sign of being desperate and being ready to do anything to grasp to power and that feeling of being charge.
In other terms, Sarkozy’s behavior is not a sign of leadership, good or bad, is a sign of being pathetic.
Thanks for asking
That is indeed infuriating! The large number of abstentions already put doubt on the legitimacy of the Sarkozy administration—to pass a reform completely contrary to public will ends all doubt.
And then there's this weird "remaniement" of the government yesterday (a bit over my head) that changed practically nothing. I'm not sure what to make of it.
Whoopee! Here we go. What I've read (in the North American press) makes the issue out to be: French people now retire at 60 and are upset because they'll have to work until 62…ha, ha, aren't they spoiled brats compared to us or the Germans. A little more reading reveals that most French people do not actually retire at 60; this is the reduced rate pension. He's pushing the regular retirement age to 67, which is actually later than ours. You would never know it from our media. I haven't yet heard an analysis of how the bill is structured and whether some groups will benefit more than others…although that's just me being lazy; I should just read some French newspapers online. Ok though, given that, isn't it still true that some kind of reform is necessary given the fact that the system is expected to go bankrupt within a few years? Reducing payouts would be another fairly obvious way….I wonder if the reaction would have been the same if they had done that instead? I can't help wondering if in this case (please don't mistake me for a Sarkosyste…) maybe what's running through his head is something like, "They're going to hate this but it's for their own good…some day they'll see I was right…"
We Canadians all had a great time laughing at the way Kerry was called a "flip-flopper" - not just that he was called that, but that it was taken seriously - and the way Americans seem to prefer their leaders to be bullheaded and wrong rather than changing their minds. We are not big on the "strong leader" approach….but some things I've read - for example one of the books on your Amazon list, David, 60 Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong - suggest that the French also seem to also prefer that their leader act a bit like a king, self-entitled and sure of his own superiority. It doesn't seem to be the case for Sarkozy though…maybe his lack of superiority is just a bit too obvious for people to stomach.
I've just discovered your blog, and it's really awesome. I'm French and thanks to you I finally find the correct words and arguments to answer those questions that everyone ask to a French person leaving in another country (about stereotypes, culture comparison, etc).
I like when you give your personal opinion and experience about things, it is very interesting.
Unfortunately in some cases like religion and politics your opinions are very strong and I think it is a pity that you are sharing them with such a commitment to the world. Indeed, by writing this blog, you kind of represent all French people, and I think it would be more responsible from you: firstly to insist on the fact that it is your own opinion and that it may differ from other French's opinion, and secondly to share your opinion with a bit more courtesy and diplomacy.
Believe me, as a French myself I know that we are the kind of having opinions about everything, and that we love to share them passionately! Moreover, the funny thing is that I agree to most of your ideas, especially political and religious ones! I'm just saying that this blog would be much funnier to read if you were a bit less angry in the responses you give to some questions you receive (except for people asking you to be their shrink, it must be really annoying…).
Anyway, I hope this will give you some food for thoughts!
And if you're bored about talking about Amercians, you can also mess up with the Australians!
@ Margaret: glad you dug a little bit further than the bullshit the mainstream media is always spreading.
Is some kind of reform necessary? Maybe. Although the retirement situation in France is less dire than let's say in Germany. Sure, people live longer and longer in France, just like in the rest of rich countries (minus the US?), but France is also one of the rich countries that has the highest fertility rate. Also to finance retirement there are many other ways, the first one being actually trying to fight unemployment, especially unemployment of people younger than 25 or older than 50. But the government doesn't want that, because and it leads us to the second point: to reduce poverty in any way (unemployment, retirement, etc) one simply needs to go get the money where it is, that is among the richest people in the country, those are the government friends, who even control it, and who don't care about the fact that the vast majority of the population is in a more and more difficult situation.
French people are OK with making sacrifices when needed. They're not OK when the people that are the less in trouble not only don't show the example first, but worse, don't have to make any sacrifice, and even benefit from the sacrifices made by the people.
Concerning the fact that some French people are totally over Monarchy yet, it's not my case, but it's true among many people, they like their President to be king-like (and this is what the French President is under the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, an elected king for a few years), but they also want their President to show some regal attributes, restrain, some culture, some distance too. Sarkozy has nothing of those, and he is also despicable in the fact that while all of his predecessors, good or bad, left or right understood that despite all of the power they had they also had the responsibilities that came with it, Sarkozy never cared about the responsibilities nor about the image he's giving of the country to the rest of the world.
@Axel: Thanks for the feedback and healthy criticism. I'd say that yeah, I'm opinionated, and this is a blog, not an sociological academic studies, I believe that blogs need to be subjective to be interesting (I also don't really believe in objectivity, many things that pretend to be are not). Finally, when I express my opinion, it's usually in response to questions asking for it, and I don't think I mislead people into believing it's every French person opinion.
Also, I believe that my opinions the way I express them, while not representative of every French person, are shared with a consequent number. And when I express very outlandish opinions, I make sure (or I least I try) to do so in a way that leaves little doubt about the fact that this is an outlandish opinion (for example when I talk about French women)
And then after he buy a nice plane.
Don't get me started with the plane thing…
Our life expectancy is still pretty long here (in the US). I know the avg life expectancy is lower than other developed/rich countries, but you're only talking about 1-3 years difference. Really, not all that much of a disparity. If I had to guess, I'd say obesity and the way Americans work are the two biggest negative factors.
And yet, David, lots of people voted for Sarkosy, just like in my country lots of people voted for the actual Romanian president who is doing just about everything your sarko is doing, only 10 times worse … Do they feel sorry they elected him ? That would be the real question. Is sarko's electorate sorry for making him king for a few years or is it that, although facing a major discomfort (they have been somehow creating for themselves by chosing him president) they can still "cope' with the guy …
E: the US ranks 38, dead last in the OECD. I'm sure the crap food plays a big part, but I'd say no health-care plays a bigger part.
Rosabell: I don't excuse the millions of fools that voted for him because they got manipulated into doing so since as early as 2002, but on the other hand saying "the guy got elected, so now you have the right to shut up until the next election and that's it" is not the democracy I believe in. If the elected guy doesn't represent fairly the people, the people have every right to revolt and even to take him out of power if needed, that's democracy.
Well fellow OP, I completely agree with you upon this question .
Speaking about non-democracy, it happened that Sarkosy even prevented any debate in the Senate at the end of the adventure ( not that there were any risks to see the Senate suddenly fighting for the people but even a biased debate was too much for this chihuahua Nero).
This extraordinary deny of even the appearance of democracy which is in use in the rest of the western world has come nearly unnoticed . The little doggy could do so because of the Bonapartist constitution de Gaulle established after his coup d'état . Really, France is the only western country where the executive power can short cut the legislative one so easily .
No wonder if, with such arrogant powermen and so fighting-spirited population this country has given birth to several revolutions…
just another example of why I adore you and your blog.
god could I go on and on regarding the ignorami maximi that I have been exposed to on this topic … 100% expat of course.
but how absolutely boring that would be. so I'll just say thanks and keep up the good work. whenever you get around to it. xx
I would ask whether you maintain that an elected leader should govern according to the principles and positions he advocated during his campaign for office or should change them depending on the number of people who are demonstrating on any given day or the results of daily surveys?
You seem to favor the latter notion but doesn’t the French constitution suggest the former?
Your point being?