So the strikes over the retirement reform have been escalating. Protesters have blocked the gas supply, so most of the gas stations have run dry (though supposedly the police have finally broken the blockade), have been blocking the public transportation, the train stations, and even bridges and streets so that people can't get to work without taking some huge one-hour detour; everyone's debating whether high school students have the right to strike, students are blocking universities in every city, due to which I have had only 20% of my classes this week.
The literature, language and "human sciences" university in Limoges...
And of course in all of the biggest cities (Paris, Lyon, Marseilles), the special armored police have been sent in, and violence was thus provoked.
According to one of my professors, these revolts are not really about the reform. Most French people interviewed on the streets say they are willing to work longer to ensure the survival of their retirement system. This is a revolt more against Sarkozy, who promised so much during the elections, promises of increased purchasing power, more jobs, wealth, to feed into the liberal market system; and who, when the financial crisis came and unemployment got worse, turned around, denounced and blamed the liberal market for the current situation. Sarkozy who passed this new un-negotiated law (which has some wrinkles to iron out...), and whose only response to the outcry is to send more police.
I'm really glad my professor said this, because I want to understand the French, not just grow irritated with and lose respect for them. To not just think that French people don't like working... which is what a lot of foreigners are starting to think.
And this is the way it always goes, though it hasn't gone this far for almost three years, because France's unions aren't joined and are weak and ignored by the government, because France has never had any system to negotiate and discuss these things with the people, who understandably becomes outraged when laws are passed and huge decisions are made without any vote or public voice. None of which is very democratic when you think about it... I wish Americans would rise up against things like that.
In any case, it is a huge mess. And no one is handling it correctly. It seems like no one knows how. It's extra unfortunate because All Saint's week-long vacation has just started, and the train company is on strike, and everyone is running out of fuel. Bonnes vacances! If I can swing it, I will go to Paris for a few days and visit a few friends, and then next weekend go with Antoine to his parents' place.