While America is busy trying to sort out health care reform, you may be wondering what a country like France is up to, now that their health care debate has long been settled. Here’s a look at what has been making news in France in the past week:
France Telecom suicides: Twenty-four employees of France Telecom (a previously government owned enterprise) have committed suicide in the past 19 months. But the rate appears to have picked up in recent weeks – with the latest one plunging rather publicly to his death a week ago.
When I appeared on French national TV recently, the debate focused on what the company was doing wrong, how it could prevent further suicides, and whether the number of suicides is higher than the national French average (in fact, it’s lower). Some Socialist Party politicians have called for the head of France Telecom’s CEO, who has since had to report to the government over the issue.
My response was that suicide is a highly personal decision. How exactly can you hold anyone else responsible – let alone an employer? Some people run out to buy a new product when they see an ad on TV, or when they see that all their friends have something they don’t. Others see colleagues they don’t even personally know offing themselves, and feel some bizarre compulsion to do the same. Even if you hate your job, you don’t have to follow suit and kill yourself over the situation – you can tell your boss to shove it, and move on. Besides, it’s France – the largest social safety net in the world will catch you, unless it’s off an actual bridge.
Crackdown on soccer game violence: France’s new Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux, is going after soccer hooligans, saying that stadiums are no longer places families can bring kids because of the violence. Hortefeux is fresh off a stint as France’s Immigration Minister, cracking down on all the cultural non-assimilators. He has since segued nicely into picking on the ultimate vision of leftist multicultural utopia. If you squint hard and ignore the violence, it’s really beautiful – all the different cultures coming together to practice nationalism and tribalism around the common cause of watching a ball being kicked down a field. According to leftist theory, all the Minister should have to do is tell them to hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
Since the start of the current season, some of the latest multicultural festivities at French soccer matches have included an agricultural bomb, a bus of supporters riddled with bullets, “commando-style” attacks, and the usual “meet me in the parking lot” style punch-ups now organized on via the Internet.
Perhaps such a beautiful model of cultural integration should be left alone to serve as a shining beacon of what is possible if France keeps heading in the same direction?
Roman Polanski arrest: He may be a fugitive accused of pedophilia, but he also makes movies. This creates a serious moral dilemma for France’s political elite, some of whom responded with outrage and a letter to Hillary Clinton. The Culture Minister (Frederic Mitterrand, nephew of former French President Francois Mitterrand and a leftist appointment to Sarkozy’s government in his misguided attempt to be everything to everyone across the entire ideological spectrum) called America’s pursuit of justice in the case “frightening”. Mitterrand and others equally adept in acrobatic rationalization subsequently realized that the French public isn’t quite as understanding towards alleged pedophilia as the out of touch socialist elites and have since moved on to butchering common sense on less morally straightforward matters.
Accumulation of mandates: There are at least six levels of elected political office available to politicians in France, and they’re allowed to hold more than one simultaneously. They can also be concurrently employed as a lobbyist for a private enterprise, enabling them to directly lobby themselves and their friends in their various elected roles – sometimes over the lunch hour break during their legislative sessions. About 70% of the French National Assembly (equivalent of the American Congress) has such a private sector gig. Some in France have identified this as a problem, and it’s a constant topic of debate here. But why fight it too hard when you could one day benefit from it yourself? “Accumulation of mandates”, it’s called. You know who else has a problem with “accumulation of mandates”? Fidel Castro. Hugo Chavez. Guys like that. In America, it might be more aptly referred to as “petty dictatorship”, or even “corruption”. Here it’s not really a problem so much as a perpetual opportunity to appear concerned and pro-democratic – all while maximizing one’s income.