Monday, January 02, 2006

New Morning

Penning the first long post in the New Year is a delicate task.

Should one go back through the events of the preceding year, placing them into some sort of hierarchy ? Among the cataclysms and the godsends, the films and the books, the stock markets and mergers, the world's ecstatic winners and abysmal losers, there is always room for debate, discussion and discourse. Which disaster was in fact the worst ? Which Hollywood blockbuster was the most memorable ? Which personality - in politics, media, crime, sports - deserves to be singled out, for praise or for blame ? Such rankings are all in the eye of the beholder, after all.

Should one set down on paper one's predictions for the upcoming twelve months ? This is risky and fraught with peril, since foretelling in black and white what is supposedly to come can quite easily be checked for accuracy - one has only to wait twelve months. Every year astrologers, psychics, crystalball gazers, readers of tea leaves and other pundits attempt prophecies and forecasts: a certain politician elected, a stock market index surpassed, a cinema award won, a catastrophe undergone. They never, ever give up, in spite of lamentable track records and an apparent absence of a humble willingness to learn from their mistakes.

Should one meticulously enumerate one's resolutions for the New Year ? Such a list, drawn up in what must be presumed to be good faith, of course, reveals quite a bit about the writer, especially perceived weaknesses. What can be inferred when one reads "being nicer to everyone", "losing weight", "working out more", "spending more time outdoors", and "quitting smoking" in one individual's program for the year ? If not that the writer is a cranky, obese, couch potato wreathed in blue smoke, what else ?

Finally, should one make public one's wish(es) for the New Year ? Is that not presumptuous ? Will it not call down the wrath of the wishing gods ?

So, on y va ! Amerloque will herewith rank one event in France, make one prediction about France, share one resolution and make one wish - all to kick off the New Year !

Amerloque feels that, although the past year in France saw its share of noteworthy happenings (including, in no particular order, a change of government, a partial privatization of EDF, spectacular civil unrest in slum neighborhoods, the purchase outright by the His Grace the Duke of Westminster of two major upscale flea markets at the Porte de Clignancourt, the splintering of the Socialist Party, substantial rollbacks in social protection, the closing of the Samaritaine department store in Paris, the bicentennial of the 1905 Law concerning the separation of church and state, and the unofficial kickoff to the presidential elections two years hence), the most important event was the people's rejection of the European Constitution in the May referendum.

Portrayed as a "surprise", a "shock", and even a "disaster" by most mainstream politicians and the media - all of whom, apparently, are living on the same cloud in lalaland - the 55% to 45% vote (a 10% difference !) was, as the French say, sans appel ("incontrovertible" will do nicely). The runup to the election was wonderful: the French rose admirably to the occasion and demonstrated by their committed conversations and cerebral conferences why the country is Cartesian. Less than admirable, however, have been the subsequent media/political blackouts over the reasons for the French rejection. The "pollsters" and the media reported that the French voted non on the constitutional treaty because they were "frightened", "fed up with President Chirac", "worried about the future" and "upset about the economy, especially unemployment".

Well … while reasons such as these definitely contributed to the defeat of the Constitution, Amerloque's experience – for what it's worth - is that quite a few French people voted non because they are fed up with "Europe". In spite of the political and media obfuscation, deformation, falsification, misinformation, exaggeration, and prevarication, the link between Europe and the rapidly declining French standard of living overall became clear to many French people - and they voted non on the Constitution. They've had enough of "Europe". Well-intentioned pro-Europe arguments - such as "the single market with millions of consumers", "a world power to compete with the USA and China", and "the only answer to rampant globalization" - took a back seat to what French men and women see around them and are faced with every day: an increasingly underperforming health and retirement system, rising violence in the society, a seemingly dumbed-down public educational system, fewer and fewer trains in what used to be an excellent railway network for all, more and more unemployment for young people and subsequent emigration ... among other issues. The loss of national sovereignty to Europe over the past twenty-five years, which would enable France to deal promptly and forthrightly with some, if not all, of the problems, was yet another reason for the non, by the way, as was the adoption of the euro, the European common currency, which was presented as part of the solution but is viewed by many as part of the problem.

Probably no concept during the debates preceding the referendum symbolized the apparent stake as much as "the Polish plumber". This mythical character symbolized all that was "wrong" - in reality or by hyperbole - with the European Constitution, and, by extension, the Europe of today: "social dumping". Workers from the newly-admitted Eastern countries would be able to work throughout Western Europe ... but only be paid salaries at the same level as those their "home" countries, thus undercutting local (French) artisans and workers and throwing them onto the unemployment rolls.

Ever alert to its image in Western Europe, and especially in France, with which it has historic ties dating back many centuries, Poland caught the ball on the bounce after the non vote and turned "the Polish plumber" into a clever marketing ploy to attract tourists.




The brilliant travel poster ("I'm staying in Poland ! Come on, everyone !") is a fitting symbol of Amerloque's choice as the most important event in France in 2005.




Now, as to Amerloque's one prediction for 2006 ... since the end of the riots in November, the media - especially the TV - and political parties have been urging the young people in the projects to register to vote. Certainly, December 31st is the cutoff every year: registration by that date guarantees that one's name will appear on the voters' lists on the following March 1st, during the annual revision/update. However, for over a month, the French at large have been repeatedly and stridently informed that if the "project youths" (les jeunes des cités) really want change, they should register to vote, right now, quickly. From what Amerloque has been able to gather, the calls have been heeded: voter registration is up something like 30% over the preceding year in some "project" towns around Paris.

Wait a minute ... um ... er ... there are no elections scheduled in 2006 ! So what's the rush ? What's going on ? The next elections are scheduled for … 2007. There are national elections (presidential, legislative and senatorial) and local (municipal and cantonal) elections. The Prime Minister, M de Villepin, has proposed moving the two local elections to 2008, so as to reserve 2007 for national elections and … to avoid all-too-possible voter fatigue. This is currently being decided in the Conseil d'Etat, apparently.

Amerloque is familiar with that old French maxim il n'y a pas de fumée sans feu ("There's no smoke without fire") … so here's his out-on-a-limb, free of charge prediction: there will be a national election in 2006, either a "presidential" or a "legislative". No crystal ball, no tea leaves or coffee grounds, no necromancy, no Ouija board, no Tarot cards, no astrology, no statistics, no nothing - just a strong feeling - a hunch, if you will. Given the past, one would be ill-advised indeed to count M Chirac down and out too soon …so perhaps a snap election is in the cards, if the circumstances are right. It's the only prediction for the coming year that Amerloque is willing to share … in black and white, at least.

Amerloque's one 2006 resolution is … "to do better". The resolution is the same, year after year, so Amerloque is breaking no new ground here. (smile)

To close, Amerloque's one wish is that when un américain or une américaine decides to blog about Paris, he or she will avoid posting mindless adolescent drivel about doggy-doo on the Paris sidewalks. We know already. C'est fatiguant, à la longue, et assez réducteur, vous ne trouvez pas ?


L'Amerloque


©Text Copyright 2006 by L'Amerloque

19 Comments:

Blogger jean said...

Aw, come on, Amerloque. You refuse to give the world a roadmap of your flaws by making New Year's resolutions? After I just came out to the blogosphere as a frozen TV dinner eatin', La-Z-Boy loungin' slouch? ;-)

Maybe it's all your years in France that have made you so "discret."

Thanks for the overview of the year, and your analysis.

8:28 AM  
Blogger blabla said...

About the European Constitution, it’s a tricky thing. In my view French are not really “fed up” with Europe because it’s just not really part of their life. They know very little about it and first of all they wanted to express their frustration when they had the opportunity to do so. I don’t want to be long so I won’t explain why, but it’s a sad fact. Europe has been done historically without direct consultation (which was the thing to do at the beginning in fact). French elect their representative at the European Parliament since 1979, and a lot of them don’t vote… They’ve voted for Maastricht but here again the abstention was important, 26 millions have voted and the “oui” won with 1 million more votes. The way Europe has been presented (nearly never explained) to French was usually negative (a good way for government to solve their problem giving the responsibility to “Bruxelles”) or naively enthusiastic: Europe would solve all the problems on earth. French don’t even know their representatives at the Parliament, and these one used to be elected on a national list whom heads were the only one known by the electors before they resign after being elected...
So, when French people, in a difficult social and political context, had to express themselves about something they don’t understand (a complex text talking about institution) they say no because they were scared, and angry, and want to show it no matter the consequences are for Europe (especially if some say they won’ be any negative one). This is typical of a political crisis which is not just European. Arguments against representative democracy become frequent. I read sometimes even young men saying that peace Europe bring is not enough!

10:13 AM  
Blogger benoit said...

great post, as usual !!! Just add "rude waiters and administration" to the dog craps stories I would like never to read again into an expat's blogs !!! ;)

Add that there was not xenophobic assault against polish people during the constitution debates, it was mainly a journalistic concept...Since a lot of people are of polish descent in France (comme votre serviteur ) :)

11:57 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Oh no - don't shoot me!!! :-) I went against your one lone wish for the year and made a post (really, a small mention in a post) today mentioning dogs and you-know-what!!! I promise - it will be my one and only mention of the subject. :-) btw - it had been my only mention of this subject in the 2-1/2 years that I have been blogging.

And I agree with Benoit - I hate all the same expat "complaints" about waiters, administration, rudeness, and doggy doo!!!

1:55 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Jean !

Maybe it's all your years in France that have made you so "discret."

Along with a strong desire to preserve anonymity ! (wide wide grin)

Thanks for the overview of the year, and your analysis.

Thank you for being a faithful reader !

Best,
L'Amerloque


(PS: Over on Le Vrai Parisien there are some nice pix of Rouen in the snow.)

1:22 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi blabla !

Thanks for sharing your views !

... The way Europe has been presented...

You're spot on here. Far too much of what is portrayed as "good" is laid at Europe's door … as is far too much of what is "bad", perhaps ? (smile)

… I read sometimes even young men saying that peace Europe bring is not enough!

Yes … remember this one ? (sigh)

"L’Europe est née à Pristina" - La guerre contre la Serbie a constitué le "premier acte politique majeur d’une nouvelle Europe" …

Best,
L'Amerloque

1:34 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Benoit !

Just add "rude waiters and administration" to the dog crap stories …

Yes. Oh, yes. (smile)

(Polish plumber) … it was mainly a journalistic concept …

Which originatred with that EU commissioner in the north of France, who apparently was looking for a plumber one day … (smile)

Best,
L'Amerloque

1:42 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Pat !

Oh no - don't shoot me!!! :-) I went against your one lone wish for the year …

Actually, Amerloque saw it only after his own post ! (wide smile)

And I agree with Benoit - I hate all the same expat "complaints" about waiters, administration, rudeness, and doggy doo!!!

Yes, ... one would think that there is something else to blog about, tout de même ! (wider smile)

Best,
L'Amerloque

1:44 AM  
Blogger François said...

Dear Amerloque,

A discreet but faithful French reader of yours, I am "de-lurking" to wish you a happy new year and thank you for all your thoughful and balanced posts, which, to me, seem to come from both a "long- term American expatriate in France" and a French "vieux sage".

I do find anglophone expatriate blogs on France fascinating (so are Europe travel forums like www.fodors.com or www.frommers.com in their own ways), for the outsider's look on my country of course, but above all in terms of "cultural anthropology" as, to me, the real objects of those blogs or forums are the poster's home countries and cultures.

Of course, I also like my daily New York walk with www.salebete.com or www.dailyblague.com, which you may know about.

For a little dose of "euro-gaullism", and daily updates of modern "virtualism", I also check out www.dedefensa.org, basically a review of the English-speaking press, with many bias in its comments of course, from a site which is not "anti-american" but denounces "americanism".

I am fascinated by the way our worldviews are framed. A project of mine for 2006, depending on my available time and English-writing ability, would be to create a French-bashing site ("French-bashing made easy".)

Based the postulate that we all prefer the comfort of our prejudices, it would feature entry statements to check, like "they hate us because...", followed by multiple-choice answers, along the lines of "1.They envy our freedoms 2. They resent our power 3. They are jealous of our wealth 4. They are not relevant any more, etc". There would then be links to in-depth articles and comments. Alternatively I am thinking of an useful on-line "Francophobe's Paris Guide", with coverage ranging from "surly waiters" to "doggy poo".

My intention would not be to make fun of any nationality, but to try to tell serious things in an hopefully humorous form, give insights on France and convey, under the guise of sarcasm, a message about understanding cultures. Writing partners welcome! I'll let you know about my progress if this is of any interest to you!

François, Paris

5:41 AM  
Blogger Flocon said...

"The runup to the election was wonderful: the French rose admirably to the occasion and demonstrated by their committed conversations and cerebral conferences why the country is Cartesian.
As a matter of fact this is something I was very pleased with at the times, to see the permanence and enduring french vice of discussing, arguing, exchanging heated pros and cons about something as nononsense as this project for an European Constitution. For better or for worse, granted. But at least the public was aware there was something to take arms to (il y avait de quoi monter au créneau). And so many, many books and leaflets were printed, articles by the thousands in the newspapers, talkshows on radio, tv; The "intellectuals" posting papers by the hundreds in Libé, Le Monde, Le Figaro, Le Nouvel Obs. etc... Now, what a debate, what a riot! And just compare what happened in the other European countries about the same topic: simply nothing...
See l'Amerloque, tout n'est pas perdu...
No later than this morning, in a supermarket (Monoprix...) at the cheese counter, there were two girls about 17 each and one of them told her friend: "I love the Roquefort!" ("j'adore le Roquefort!"). Quand une petite Française de 17 ans avoue son appétit pour un fromage dont la particularité est d'être orné de moisissures on a confiance en l'avenir...

2:34 PM  
Blogger tcheni said...

Bonne année l'Amerloque !

(I had to create a blogger blog just to post this comment!)

I am amazed nobody seems to have noticed your incredible (and highly risky) prediction for year 2006!
A national election will occured?
I suppose you will agree Chirac can't disolve (is that it? dissoudre ?) the parliament another time. The first "dissolution" will be forever reminded as a major political mistake (though the dissolution can be considered as a major factor of chirac's reelection, but only incidentally).
So, I guess your guess (lot of guesses) is Chirac will either die (kind of don't hope it, even if I'm not found of the guy, and I supposed you don't neither) or be dismissed (by who?), or resign, and among the three possibilities, I suppose you root for the third. and then I asked: are you really sure he will resigne in 2006, a year before the end of his "legislature", when he didn't after the referendum let him totally discredited?
Believe me, the man will hang on till the end.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Pumpkin Pie said...

Sorry I have posts on my blog about doggy doo! And, they are staying. You have to understand my children have fallen or ran in it I don't know how many times at the park near where we live. I don't even take them anymore because it is so bad!

I can remember when in America we had the same problem with dog doo in yards (mind you it was not the yards of the dog's owner hence the problem) and on sidewalks. Today it is less of a problem. I think it is because people complained. My mother told me she just yelled at a woman the other day for letting her dog go in my mom's front yard and walk away. My mother ran outside and told her to clean it up that she should not expect my mother to clean up after her dog! No doo in my mother's yard since.

I think everyone is sick of the dog doo in France, including the French. So, why not complain and actually try to get it cleaned up? I know it would make my life in France with three small children much easier! Besides, how many expat blogs by French living in America complain about American food or culture (or lack there of)? I have read I don't know how many!

We know the dog doo is there but I am sorry it is not one of my favorite site's to be seen. If I lived in America and blogged and dog doo was everywhere...I'd complain about it just the same as I do on my blog living in France.

I think that is what is happening on the expat blogs. People are angry about it. It is just nasty. I think everyone in France should complain more about it! It is not a problem just in Paris but all over France. It needs to change! People who own dogs are responsible to clean up after their dogs...period!

But, anyways. I would like to wish you and yours a Happy New Year full of health and happiness. I finally, am finding the time to read through your blog and am looking forward to it.

BTW, aren't ours blogs where we vent? If we are expat's living in France and are not happy about something in France we should be able to blog about it. Maybe, how I handle or learn to deal with my problems with French administration, etc. will help someone else. Believe me I complain about America and Americans on my blog as well!

9:36 AM  
Blogger Vilay said...

Se plaindre à propos de l'administration française, la merde sur les trottoirs, les vendeurs qui font la gueule, bref se plaindre en France est un sport national. Il n'est pas seulement le fait d'expat, mais s'il le font, c'est bien qu'il sont en train d'intégrer notre culture gauloise.

4:13 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello Francois !

A discreet but faithful French reader of yours, I am "de-lurking" to wish you a happy new year and thank you ...

Happy New Year to you, Francois, and welcome aboard ! (smile)

I am fascinated by the way our worldviews are framed. A project of mine for 2006, depending on my available time and English-writing ability, would be to create a French-bashing site ("French-bashing made easy".)

This sounds exciting ... and difficult ! (smile)

Alternatively I am thinking of an useful on-line "Francophobe's Paris Guide", with coverage ranging from "surly waiters" to "doggy poo".

(smile)

My intention would not be to make fun of any nationality, but to try to tell serious things in an hopefully humorous form, give insights on France and convey, under the guise of sarcasm, a message about understanding cultures.

Amerloque feels that humor is in the eyes (ears) of the beholder, and that careful attention will have to be paid to a) not giving the wrong idea and b) not insulting any individual or ethnic group. (smile) It will be tough going, since it's really easy to slip off track ...

I'll let you know about my progress if this is of any interest to you!

Yes, please do - Amerloque would be quite interested in knowing how it comes along !

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:38 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Flocon !

No later than this morning, in a supermarket (Monoprix...) at the cheese counter, there were two girls about 17 each and one of them told her friend: "I love the Roquefort!" ("j'adore le Roquefort!"). Quand une petite Française de 17 ans avoue son appétit pour un fromage dont la particularité est d'être orné de moisissures on a confiance en l'avenir...

Yes, it is wonderful ! A part of the future does seem assured ... Amerloque wonders if "La Semaine du Gout" every October might have something to do with it ? It seems to be spreading in the schools every year ...

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:40 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello tcheni !

Bonne année l'Amerloque !

Et Bonne Année to you, tcheni ! Glad you are able to stop by !

I am amazed nobody seems to have noticed your incredible (and highly risky) prediction for year 2006!
A national election will occured?


Well, it's a prediction ... (smile)

The first "dissolution" will be forever reminded as a major political mistake (though the dissolution can be considered as a major factor of chirac's reelection, but only incidentally).

Yes, it was at the wrong time. Someone (M Chirac ? Mle C Chirac ? M de Villepin ?) misread the signs. (smile)

Now, if the gov't is doing well, if its results (economic, employment) are on the upswing (sur le montant, perhaps Chirac will call a snap election instead of waiting. Better to have the people voting on the (perceived) upswing than on the downswing ...

Believe me, the man will hang on till the end.

Perhaps, but, then again, perhaps not. A politician likes to be remembered as going out at the "right" time. Whether this is at the end of M Chirac's tenure, or a year earlier, is his choice: he will choose the right time for him, for his political testament. L'avenir nous le dira, of course. (smile)

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:46 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Pumpkin Pie !

Sorry I have posts on my blog about doggy doo! And, they are staying.
I think that is what is happening on the expat blogs. People are angry about it. It is just nasty.

Er ... Amerloque doesn't disagree. It's no fun slipping in dog poop, obviously.

The point is/was that there are many, many other things of more importance to be criticized or praised. Focusing on doggy doo is a bit like, say, going to Scotland or the State of Washington and complaining about the rain, or going to London and complaining about the cost of living. It's reinforcing the stereotype, Amerloque feels. One expects, er, more nuanced commentary …

But, anyways. I would like to wish you and yours a Happy New Year full of health and happiness. I finally, am finding the time to read through your blog and am looking forward to it.

Happy New Year to you, Pumpkin Pie ! Welcome aboard - the more, the merrier !

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:48 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Bonjour Vilay !

… se plaindre en France est un sport national. Il n'est pas seulement le fait d'expat, mais s'il le font, c'est bien qu'il sont en train d'intégrer notre culture gauloise.

Je rale, donc je suis, en quelque sorte (sourire).

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:50 AM  
Blogger Pumpkin Pie said...

BTW, I just heard on the french t.v. the day after I wrote this comment that over 600 people must go to the hospital each year because of slipping in dog doo.

I agree there are more interesting and important things to discuss. But, I know my blog for one is just me talking about my life. It is not so grand as yours I am sorry to say. My goal is to improve on that in the coming year and make more thought provoking posts and ramble less.

3:20 AM  

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