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...