Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One day the French will rule the world, but not tomorrow...there's a strike!

I'm pretty sure the Paris metro has been on strike since I got here. It seems like every night when I watch the news with my host family, they say that the strike will continue the next day. Now, for the past two weeks (not that I'm counting or anything), it seems like the RER B has been striking. It's very annoying, because it's not entirely shut down. Nothing ENTIRELY shuts down when they're on strike. Instead, they just have two out of every three trains stop running. The fact that they aren't running as often makes using the RER B useless to me. I don't want to wait for it. I'm from the internet age - I need immediate action! The RER B is incredibly useful to me. It traverses Paris north-south but with very few stops. Which means, even though you have to wait a little bit longer for it than a subway, it is so much faster once you're actually on! But, with the strike, it just isn't worth it anymore, so I've been taking more direct, but less efficient routes to classes.

Now, what I really want to know is what is the purpose of this strike? Why are they doing it? What does it prove? That it's inconvenient when only two thirds of the trains are running? Point made - can you bring the other third back, please? Not that I'm suggesting this, but wouldn't it be much more effective if they shut down all the metros? But the point is, I just don't get the point. I was reading another Paris study abroad blog that had a whole post devoted to how wonderful it is that Parisians aren't afraid to stand up for what they believe in, whether it be a metro strike or a protest in the street. Well, I just don't understand the point. To me, it seems like the day after the strike is over, the metro goes back to the way it was and everyone forgets about it until the next strike. It's a constant cycle of strikes - and it's annoying and perpetual. Why wouldn't they want to bring about permanent change? Same with the protests on the streets - I understand that the French tradition is to revolt. It must be in their blood, and I don't mind that. But, I don't understand the point or why it's something to be proud of. When I read Les Miserables and listen to the end of the musical (the English version), it sure seems to me like Victor Hugo is trying to say that the rebellion had no point and that the people need to leave the barricade and live their lives. In the French version, however, the lyrics change from: "Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?" to "For each barricade that falls a hundred others will rise tomorrow."

My problem might be that I'm focusing too much on the rebellion and not enough on the outcomes, but if the outcome isn't obvious or publicized, shouldn't everyone react like I do? I've been watching the news every night - they announce when the strikes start and finish, but don't say what the point is. In the educational system here, it seems like everything has a reason behind it. Their dissertation format comes from the Cartesian spirit of the revolution and is designed to be the backbone of a perfectly formatted and persuasive essay; the oral exposes are the byproduct of centuries of classical education; the bac is founded on the principles of the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum. So, ultimately, it seems like a waste to strike for no reason. At least there's a reasoning behind protests in the street, and the Revolution of 1789 certainly had its merits, but a constant line of petty strikes that does nothing but annoy the masses who have no say in whatever it is the strikers are fighting for? That's just a waste.

First speech bubble: Thursday, there won't be any more school, public services, civil servants, or hospitals!
Second: It's not a strike, it's our plan!

That was my blog entry that had nothing at all to do with my day. My day today was pretty boring - newspaper meeting and history class. I had salmon and rice for dinner with Mme. M. De La Taille was feeling tired, so he's in the country for a few days. It must be nice to be Parisian! They have such a great mindset. I mean, they all read literature (not sure about all, but I've already written here that I think more people read here) all the time, philosophize, work 35 hour weeks, have the most relaxing vacations ever where no one works, have most of their stores closed on Sunday's and some even on Monday's (Berthillon, par contre, is closed on Monday and Tuesday), and barely give work for their courses (because to give students too much work would be treating them like high schoolers. They need to read on their own, which is a philosophy I can appreciate, but don't think is working at Paris 8). Yet, with this seemingly lazy lifestyle, they have produced some of the most incredible academic things (just look at Victor Hugo's books or any French author's for that matter, or all the French mathematicians, or the philosophers, or the artists, or the sculptors). Maybe they're on to something...

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