Strike for Your Rights

13 Oct

Being in France has given me the opportunity of seeing how different governments handle social discontentment. It’s been an interesting experience and I’ll explain the situation in a somewhat shortened, simplified version.

Now before I explain why people are upset, I must state a few statistics. France has one of the highest life expectancies: for men, the average age is 75.7; for women, the average age is 82.9. These numbers are second only to Japan; that’s something pretty incredible, I must say. The numbers vary within the French regions (like states in the US) of course as lifestyles are different. In the South, the lifestyle is somewhat slower and more relaxed. This explains why they rank higher in life expectancy that the Parisian regions. All this life expectancy extension is due to research done over the last 50 years. The development of antibiotics and other medications have given us ways to live longer and to appreciate our lives more. We can also get more comfort in our lives. Overall, we are a healthier, more knowledgeable people.

Now, onto the political situation here! The main issue at hand is retirement. The French government is finding itself with a deficit in its budget; it is unable to pay the retirement of the future older generation. Because of this, we see higher taxes and increases in prices in order to raise more money to support that generation’s retirement. This is very similar to the situation in the US concerning retirement. Therefore, the government is attempting to find solutions to this issue; it’s easier said than done.

The people currently in the work field find themselves suffering from this issue; their salaries are not large enough and they don’t want to be responsible for paying the retirement of the generation above them. In addition, the work market is somewhat precarious and many people are having difficulties finding jobs. This is leading to many more people studying longer ( no other option) and higher rates of unemployment. If the government doesn’t have the funds and the people refuse to provide funds, we find ourselves with a problem. This leads to political demonstrations such as strikes and it’s very common to see a strike in France. Since my arrival to Strasbourg, there have been 4 already of various sizes.

The strikes cause problems in many parts of our daily lives. The strike today has completely shut down two tram lines; one of the other lines only has a tram about every 10 minutes instead of every 3. It has also affected at least 5 or 6 bus lines and made transportation impossible. Traffic is impossible with so many people out in the streets and therefore, it’s quite a mess as you can imagine. People find themselves having to either walk or find another way to wherever they need to go. Even  trains going to other areas of France like Marseille are completely shut down. For example, the number of TVG’s headed there has been changed from 5 to 1. The people who choose to strike are from various professions including professors. It’s no surprise if classes are cancelled; this exact thing happened to me only about an hour ago. My professor kindly informed me that there would be no class today. While this is great every once in a while, cancelled classes eventually take a toll on schoolwork and don’t allow us to get through everything needed for the final exam. Overall, it can hurt us seriously at the end of the semester.

Depending on the strike, it can last up to a month or more. I spoke with a French student who was at a University in the northern region of France. She told me that her university was closed for a month. The doors were locked (actual padlocks) and she had no classes for a month. This was an extreme strike; they aren’t all like this. The first few in Strasbourg were mostly tame.

This definitely makes me appreciate the American government and its open lines of communication. If someone is unhappy with an aspect of life, they can go speak to senators, representatives and more. They can call, write letters , send out petitions; the list goes on and on. The United States has far more of a people’s voice. No government is perfect; however, each has its benefits. This would be one of them. I hope this can show you how fantastic it is to have the right to speak and to be heard by your government.

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One Response to “Strike for Your Rights”

  1. Mike Wildnauer October 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    Hey, that’s a great way of putting things in perspective… You see, we never hear about all of THAT kind of thing going on in foreign countries. It would be nice to see that kind of thing on the news, maybe make our citizens feel a bit better about what we have.

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