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April 14 2006 9:03 PM

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A commercial about real estate touches a nerve.

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A local radio talk show host opined earlier this week that the recent unrest in France offers a view into the future of this country as the populace becomes more and more entitlement-minded. I have to admit I was astonished that over a million people in France took to the streets in violent protest of a law that, effectively, simply would enact employment-at-will in France.



Is our situation so different? After watching Katrina-evacuees settle into their new homes, voicing loud demands about where "their" furniture was (the City of Houston spent over $20 million buying furniture for displaced Katrina evacuees) and inquiring about who was going to "take care of them" are we really that far from where France finds itself today?



Further, we have heard a great deal from anti-immigration-reform protestors stemming from another component of a similar "entitlement" mentality. Nearly 1000 students have staged walk-outs and marches on City Hall here in Houston since Monday demanding to be heard. When they are heard, they speak out about... they don't really seem to know. They complain that the proposed laws disrespect their heritage. They accuse the U.S. government of trying to "take away their education" (and yet they walk out of school). Even the more articulate ones (and that's a stretch) seem to suggest that Mexican citizens (and citizens of other nations South of the U.S. Border) somehow have a right to enter this country illegally.

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delli considers the French protests a refreshing alternative to American apathy:

What's wrong with excercising your civil rights? Considering that corporations in the US have a tight grip on the workforce and can pay - pardon me, lobby - the government to accomodate them in any imagineable way, I find it very refreshing that real people in other countries have rights and a voice in their economy & take to the streets to make their point. Granted, their unemployment rate is very high right now and they will need to find ways to deal with that. However, compared to the lethargic attitude of the american youth, they are passionate enough about the issues to demonstrate. When was the last time we saw something like that in the US? MTV spring break specials not included.

Whereas protests usually signal a political desire for change, steelbucket notes this paradox: "the demands, with the exception of 1792, always seem to be to stop change and to keep the status quo":

The French have been taking to the streets in protest for centuries. And us anglo saxons have been looking on in a mixture of envy and horror ever since 1792. Partly disgusted by the lack of social restraint and partly admiring the willingness to set up burning baracades and defy the government for very little reason…

 

It doesn't really matter if its French farmers holding the country to ransome to stop legal imports of foreign lamb or middle class students demanding that their unemployment figures remain above 23%.The French like a good riot and will take to the streets for the slightest reason.



The other thing you can be sure about is that the French government will huff & puff, order the CRS to crack a few heads and will then cave in to all demands as usual.

It is time that the French government, and a few others in the EU, realised that the job of the government is to make unpleasent short term choices that will lead to long term improvements.



Instead the French seem to prefer to inhabit their own reality bubble that is anchored in a time back when the EU consisted of just a handful of countries arranged arround the pairing of France and Germany.

Ele_ offers a broader "anatomy of street protests," with this link to an image bolstering Eaves's observation that the demographics of this latest social unrest are skewed toward white middle-class French girls.  AC 7:25pm

Adam Christian is co-editor of the Fray.

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