French Press Review 6 September 2010
In today’s press review France takes to the streets over the ruling party’s pension reforms, it’s the end of society as we know, smart-phones replace our mothers, and the Catholic Church opens the debate on teenage sex.
Almost all of the papers lead with tomorrow’s strikes against the government’s proposed pension reforms. Tomorrow is the first day the proposed changes will be discussed in parliament.
President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled his planned overhaul of Frances ’s pay-as-you-go pensions scheme in June, saying that without major changes the system would run up annual deficits of a 100-billion euros by 2050.
Controversially, the shake up could see retirement age jump from 60 to 62 and although a retirement age of 62 is lower than in many of France's neighbouring country's, it breaks a significant taboo in a country where many see retirement at 60 - introduced by the Socialist government in 1983 - as their right.
Communist l'Humanité says that tomorrow’s strike will be even bigger than 24 June’s which saw 800, 000 people take to the streets after the proposals were announced. Two million protesters are expected tomorrow.
The paper speaks to the leaders of France ’s eight main union federations and reports that all of them, without exception, consider the government’s draft proposal unjust and ineffective.
Government-friendly Le Figaro’s headline is "Pensions…a divisive week for capital reforms". But it says rather nonchalantly that Sarkozy is ready for the battle and in fact is completely unphased by it.
Centrisit daily Le Monde‘s headline lists the four issues currently at the top of the French political agenda … security, roma gypsies, nationality-stripping and retirement, and takes a look at a rising tide of anti-government sentiment via a rather interesting interview with sociologist Alain Touraine.
On Saturday various unions and the left in general took to the streets across the county to protest against what they claim is xenophobia. As we’ve heard, tomorrow people do the same, this time against pension reforms.
Touraine looks at the political climate in France from a sociological perspective and, despite our protesting, says we are moving towards the end of a "social" period of society, just as we once left a religious period of life behind and moved into a secular society. All this as a result of globalisation he says. With an out- of-control economy, society, unions, and political parties don’t carry much weight anymore.
Society is so fragmented now he says – with a “defensive and aggressive communitarianism on one side, fierce individualism and consumerism on the other” - it’s shot to pieces…propped up by a media-propelled government full of empty words and images. Echoes can be heard here of former British PM Margaret Thatcher’s policy of individualism in the 1980s and her declaration during the miners’ strike that “there is no society” and that one must look out for oneself before looking out for their neighbour.
But there’s hope - people can be mobilised to unite.
According to Touraine, the French are particularly sensitive to the bad behaviour of their government and institutions around the subject of human rights and racism and it’s these moral scandals (Sarkozy’s deportation of Roma people this summer, for example) which have ignited part of the current wave of anti-government protests. Touraine urges the French people to unite off the back of these moral scandals and fight for society.
Catholic paper La Croix reports on a document the Catholic Church has put together to help teachers tackle the thorny subject of teenage sex.
Whilst the paper certainly doesn’t advocate premarriage sex, it promotes a rather laisse- tomber attitude as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, by saying “love, and do as you wish”.
The 92-page document, which is accompanied by a documentary-style DVD, uses real life couples and singles’ testimony concerning their relationships and the emotional baggage sex brings with it. It also publishes questions from teenagers asking whether it’s true that Catholics cannot have sex except to make babies and why the Catholic Church can’t accept homosexuality.
The paper doesn’t directly answer these questions but does open up debate on controversial issues.
Its authors claim not to provide behaviour guidelines when it comes to adolescent relationships, but to offer the opportunity to talk about these things freely, which is rather progressive for the Catholic Church, I think.
Le Monde‘s psychology section looks at smart-phones and our ever-increasing dependence on them.
The i-phone, as well as having basic telephone, internet, and call functions, has a million-and-one gadgets, games and teaching apparatus and is so advanced that you can download applications that turn your handset into a video conference facility or a television remote control.
Le Monde has taken it upon itself to speak to an assortment of psychologists who say that we have become too dependent on the smart-phone and see them as a substitute for our mothers apparently!
We use them to update friends and family on our whereabouts and how our day has panned out, and to kill as much boring commuting time as we have on our hands. All valid usage they say.
But we are becoming dependent on smartphonees in the same way a child when it’s away from its mother has a doudou - a scraggy piece of blanket it carries around and sucks in place in place of its absent parent. The smart-phone it's argued has the same capacity of stopping you feeling alone.
These psychologists say we’ve begun to prefer virtual society to real society and are constantly talking to people via social networking sites that we’d never dream of talking to in real life. We wait impatiently for responses to our tweets and status updates, seeking approval from anyone who‘ll dole it out.
The difference between a child’s doudou or "blankey", and our smart-phone addiction however, is that a child will grow out of it but, they say, we are heading further and further down the road of mobile-dependence.