Before You Know It

photo: garden cafe in tuileries

In the Tuileries last week - refugees from the
presidential campaign.

The Elections Will Be Over

Paris:- Tuesday, 16. April 2002:- During the last presidential elections in 1995 I wasn't paying much attention to the first, elimination round of the campaign. I assumed that for the second-round of voting the ultimate candidate for the left would be Lionel Jospin, and Jacques Chirac would be the right's choice and this was correct.

In case you are unaware of the last campaign, Jacques Chirac won, and has been France's Président for the past seven years - a position that he had been campaigning for all of his political life.

All of the other candidates back then, from the extreme right to the extreme left, with all of their different tilts of leaning in between, were optional entertainment - 'democracy in action,' as France's way of giving everybody a political soapbox.

For the current elections, I haven't been paying much more attention. I can't tell, for example, if all of the other 14 candidates - besides the leading two - are getting more attention from the papers, radio and television than they received in 1995.

But it seems as if they are. State-operated France-2 TV-news has been cutting itself short every evening in order to present the candidates in face-to-faces with the public network's leading political journalists.

Both Président Jacques Chirac and his leading competitor - and current Prime Ministerphoto: new fascade drugstore, champs elysees - Lionel Jospin, have had their chance to answer a few questions, and present themselves in their carefully rehearsed personas.

While the movie 'La Bande du Drugstore' opens this week, the actual Drugstore is closed - with this decor.

No particularly embarrassing questions have been posed. This is partly because France is the way France is. The only options for making it a more equitable place to live is to keep up the unceasing tinkering with its embedded institutions, or have a revolution.

No politicians are particularly interested in the second option, because revolutions have a way of having unpredictable results. Nobody is particularly anxious to start living with the anything new.

Globalization

No country in the world seems to be immune to the effects of the globalized economy because it is controlled by the interests of business in the pursuit of maximum profits, rather than any one country's political will.

In a way, this puts the welfare of all the world's peoples beyond the management by any single state, and France is no exception. Despite all 'do-good' efforts by international agencies, these are compromised by the overwhelming power of global business interests - which contribute heavily towards getting the political results that will allow them to maximize profits.

Thus, impoverishing lower and middle-class workers in a formerly industrialized country by outsourcing production to countries where wage and social costs are lowest, ends up being a lowest common-denominator game - worldwide.

The population of the formerly industrialized country loses the equity it has built up, often over centuries, simply to satisfy business' need for attractive quarterly earning's reports.

The dirtiest work ends up in countries with the weakest social protections. While it temporarily seems asphoto: bus 38 if this may be a benefit - former peasants becoming consumers - the long-term costs will be high, because governments are reluctant to invest for the long-term in durable infrastructures.

Don't forget Paris only online bus - the non-virtual number 38.

Meanwhile, back in the funky western world, a few of the fortunate benefit from short-term profits, stock-options and other material freebies, including advantageous rates of income tax, if they pay any at all.

What a surprise then - for France is a rich country - to learn that its general infrastructure is antique and sub-standard, or is a ticking bomb waiting for an opportunity to explode - as it literally does from time to time.

When these explosions do take place, they are 'patched-up' with bandages - usually only after long and expensive investigations have been conducted to find the culprit, which has the usual '404' result - 'not found.'

While factories close down, often in places where there is no hope for any alternative employment, governments in France generally call for 'social plans' - which usually mean some sort of minuscule compensation, spread out over a long time - but in total costing the taxpayers who remain an enormous packet.

By law, businesses often have to contribute a token sum towards these disasters for their failures of management, or their greed. Unlike hapless workers, businesses are never severely penalized for outright stupidity, mismanagement, or bad faith.

Possible resolutions of these issues are raised almost exclusively by left-wing presidential contenders, much as they have done for the last 150 years. These issues directly affect much more than half of the population, voters or otherwise, but they will invariably vote for candidates of the right or left centre in the second-round winner-take-all balloting.

To be a radical candidate for the first round of the voting, is like a theoretical exercise in democracy - a sort of a token choice is tossed out, contemplated, savored - for a few weeks every half-decade - but in the polling booth good intentions evaporate in favor of the status-quo.

Nobody wants to contemplate the direction globalization is taking, not all the way to its logical conclusion.

Environment and 'Le Bon Bouffe'

Convicted of being the leader of the 'deconstruction' of a new McDonalds unit in central France, 'peasant' leader José Bové has just refused an official offer to side-step a three-month term in jail.

In order to make this not seem to be a political manoeuvre, he is to present himself at some jail's gate - but only after the elections have been concluded.

Some farmers in France, who have to deal with pollution and poisoned food stuffs, would rather get back to doing what they do best, than follow what they think is the Peasant's Federation's increasingly radical line.

Yet, if you take into consideration France's deindustrialization as a direct result of globalization, then France's future is obviously going to be one of not much industry - in comparison with being one huge holiday destination - with good food and drink, a green and pleasant landscape - a sort of mecca for people from harder places.

For the people who live here and work in the low-paid service sector, McDonalds outlets may be necessary for their simple survival - but the real money will come from anything with high added-value, such as fine wines and cheeses served in three-star restaurants.

So the peasants have a point. They ae an essential part of the high added-value food-chain, and France would be nothing special without them.


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