Thursday, October 28, 2010

Increasing the retirement age + french people = no class for Rachel

The title pretty much says it all: let me just be perfectly clear and say that this semester school is a complete joke. I have had about 50% of my scheduled classes, and classes anyway don't require half as much work as school in the U.S. For the first time since middle school I am able to blow off school work and still be completely on top of my responsibilities, and I gotta say, it's awesome. I'm not really here to get a really stressful academic experience -- I went to prep school and a private college for that. I'm here to eat pastries with every meal and go to clubs that play euro pop and have a life in a foreign country in a foreign language. I'm also knitting myself some very nice mittens and continuing to cook a lot.

Okay, so my mother has been asking about the strikes. Like I said in my title, they are causing a lot of cancelled classes. Dauphine has been totally on schedule, but Nanterre is a hot mess, having had to cancel most classes for the last two weeks. There was also a loud but very orderly parade of strikers for a few hours right outside my apartment. Other than that, public transportation is a little slower than usual and therefore more crowded. But I'm used to BART, which comes every 15 minutes, so having the Metro come every four minutes instead of every two minutes just doesn't really piss me off that much. OK WAIT QUICK PAUSE IN HOW I WAS SAYING THE STRIKES DON'T BOTHER ME. I just received -- as in, this second -- a text from my program, and the ballet they were going to take us to see tonight is cancelled! Because of the strikes!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Screw you, Sarkozy, just give these people what they want!

Let me explain as much as I know about the strikes, and why upping the retirement age two little years is a big deal. Honestly, I don't really understand it that well myself, but I'll try. It's important to understand that since France is a social democracy, the state employs many times more workers than in the U.S. Since their public sector economy is so much bigger, it makes sense that there are more angry people when the government wants to manipulate that economy. Think about it this way: in the U.S., how many people are going to strike if Toyota changes their health benefits? Only the people who work for Toyota. In France, how many people are going to strike if France changes its retirement policy? Everyone who works for France, and that's a huge number of people since all transportation, health, school, university, police/defense, postal, and some bank workers are employed by the state (I definitely missed a few industries in that list, sorry). The governement wants to make the minimum (for government employees) retirement age 62 instead of 60, and the age to collect a full pension 67 instead of 65. People are not striking just because they will have to wait two more years to collect. It also has to do with the fact that unemployment is a problem in France. From what I have understood, it is not easy to find a job in France. High school and college students have joined the strikes because if the retirement age is raised, there will be fewer job openings every year. Youth unemployment in general has been a chronic problem for France, even before the economic crash. This problem has been ongoing, and making the job market even more competitive obviously will obviously only augment it.

I'm still trying to give myself an intellectual experience. I get bored with nothing to think about (which makes me awesome, not a nerd), so I'm writing an article for the Mills newspaper, sort of reading a book edited by Homi Bhabha (essays on post-colonialism), translating from French into English a screenplay written by a friend's host father, meeting once a week with a French student for bilingual conversation, volunteering in an elementary school English classroom, and, like I already said, knitting mittens. I'm also still cooking a lot with my friends and host mother. And I may start running again because I practically fainted the last time I walked up the seven flights of stairs to my apartment.

No comments:

Post a Comment