Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The French brand

Many years ago I was picked up and tossed into a French prison for the night along with thousands of native students. It was a time of riots and running street battles with the "CRS" – which is a kind of national militia used to bloody youngsters whenever the need arises.

And today? Riots, running street battles with the CRS... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Yes the French love revolution but hate change. Yesterday the issue was... um... something about the French curriculum? Boring lectures? I was there... I heard the harangues... I chanted the chants ("SS CRS, SS CRS" – that was to shame the riot police. "On veut faire pee-pee" – that was for when you were behind bars)... but I've forgotten the issue.
Today, the issue is retirement age. Not 60 any more but 62, or so the government proposes and the rioters oppose. Is that really the issue? Teenagers don't take to the streets over retirement issues. Sorry, they don't. But they do run riot to piss off authority, vent their rage at repressive society... and to show that thy crave ch... uh... or rather that they oppose change.

Perhaps French kids believe like everyone else that the French are snotty and repressed. What is the French brand? Rioting against retiring at 62. In other words, French-ness is being defined by angry kids who scream and cry because decades from now they might have to work an extra two years before they receive their free croissants and fraisse.

Tell this to the world of working people – to the families of, for example, Chilean miners. Grandfathers risking their lives in the mines. Viva Chile! There's a brand in ascendancy.

And the French? Well-off children running in the streets while the hired sons of working people crack their skulls. Plus ca change...



Justin said...

Good point about Chile. No doubt after the miners received so much media coverage regarding their plight ... Chileans are now perceived as loyal, tough, resourceful, committed.

I've now set you up to create a tagline for Chile. (smile)

Anonymous said...

Didn't the French also riot within the past couple of years because a new law went into effect stating that an employer can fire a worker if that worker isn't performing well enough...or something to that effect? I wasn't even aware that they had guarenteed jobs up until that point, and now they are rioting because they have to work for 2 extra years before they retire?

I've been told that France is a beautiful country, but then God populated it with the French to even things out...


brandsinger said...

A tagline for Chile? (You mean more sophisticated than "Warm today, Chile tomorrow.") Okay, Justin, I'll take up that challenge:

Chile – Go deep. Go strong. Go Chile.

brandsinger said...

And anonymous one - a thanks to you, too. Yes, France is known for restrictive labor practices meant to restrain capitalist exploitation of labor and to create a cushy welfare state on the way to socialism. The problem is that employers are fearful of hiring, economic growth is stifled, and new jobs are scarce.

I'm a Francophile from way back. Have several minutes of French poetry in my head and a soft spot for French cinema of the 1930s - 1970s. (And a soft spot in my head.) One of my favorite movies is Renoir's La Grande Illusion. But darn it, those idiot French are disgracing themselves in the eyes of the world by rioting over the extension of retirement age to 62. Vive le travail, I say.

Justin said...

Both Chile taglines were great. One humorous. One honestly inspiring.