Sunday, October 21, 2007

French work-week being "reformed"

A few of you are probably asking, "why am I posting about those cheese-eating surrender monkeys in France?" Yeah, France is a world away and I don't keep track of their politics. But I feel that this particular story ties us together.

The new finance minister of France, who has spent a long time in the U.S. and speaks English flawlessly, is trying to break down the 35-hour work week of the French people. She's abetted by the columnist who wrote this piece, Roger Cohen, who's a right-wing nincompoop. He calls the French lazy, because they like spending time with their families and doing fun things, rather than working 'till they drop, like so many of us do here in the States.

Christine Lagarde, the finance minister, says of her old job at a U.S. corporation, "The more hours you worked, the more hours you billed, the more profit you could generate for yourself and your firm. That was the mantra." That's really all well and good, but not everyone shares that philosophy. There are concepts far more important than money, at least to me anyway. And as repeated eras of downsizing should have shown us here, making profit for the firms or companies that you work for doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the long run, at least not for you.

Lagarde also says that once the 35-hour work week was passed, it met with "disastrous effects". What kind of "disastrous effects"? "People didn't talk about their work, but about their long weekends." Man, she's right, that's a travesty, we can't have people talking about activities other than work.

But this is the keeper:

French workers are expected to take to the streets today in what will likely be one of many big strikes against the Sarkozy-Lagarde reforms. Former governments have caved as Bastille-storming specters rose.

Not this time, insists Lagarde. “We certainly have the resolve to see reforms through,” she says.

It looks like the French are taking a page out of our book and saying "fuck the people", even when they take to the streets and clearly say they're against something. And French activism is much more of a force there than ours is here.

This reminds me of these Noam Chomsky books I read years ago, in which he said that corporations want a society in which people "live to work" and that they aren't entitled to luxuries. I think that what ends up happening in France could be a deciding factor in whether this becomes a reality.

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