Tuesday, November 25, 2008

not in Kansas

25 November

So I'm walking down the rue de Seine in the gallery district when I run smack into a demonstration: sound truck and chants, flags and banderoles, a regular labor action. But I missed the front of the cortège where the leafleters and signs were, so I couldn't tell what it was about. So I asked a guy on the corner, who told me matter-of-factly, "It's the archaeologists."  And that's just who it was: several hundred archaeologists marching down the street, shouting and chanting, demanding that the government withdraw plans to disperse the headquarters of its national archaeological service from Paris.

"Toto," I said to myself, "we're not in Kansas any more."



At November 26, 2008 at 7:30 AM , Blogger Michelle said...

Wow. That is one group I'd never have picked as radicals.

At November 26, 2008 at 8:24 AM , Blogger Leo said...

they are no more radical than:
-ambulance drivers
-private school parents
-public school parents
-sheep breeders
...and most others who have demonstrated in the streets of Paris.

Not Kansas in deed

who have demonstrated in the streets of Paris.

Welcome to our different world!

At November 26, 2008 at 7:39 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

I admire the passion, (but being a laid back Aussie, would need to be REALLY upset to leave the suburbs and rally.) I cannot help wondering if the protests are even really noticed when there are demonstrations, so it seems to an outsider, on every street corner.

Do the protesters become like beggars, where people close their ears and minds and pretend they don't exist?

Hm- I cannot help wondering what private school parents could possibly have to protest about.

At November 27, 2008 at 11:48 AM , Blogger brent whelan said...

I can't tell you how a real Parisian responds,Michelle, but as a short-term resident I feel the presence of workers in the street--whether it's 80,000 teachers or 200 archaeologists--says a lot more to me than a street beggar. All this labor activity tells me that social relations here are understood as a constant push-and-pull between conflicting parties (Labor and Management, roughly speaking), and workers broadly agree that you have to get in the game if you want to win.
I would add that while I don't know precisely what private school parents might be protesting in France, as a private school teacher in America I can assure you that parents who pay tuition protest a LOT. But where I come from they do so with a phone call to the Headmaster rather than a street demonstration. I'd be curious to hear more about that too (if you're still listening, Leo).

At November 29, 2008 at 9:16 AM , Blogger Leo said...

as a long time resident of Paris (more than 60 years...) I can testify that most street demonstrations are just viewed as an annoyance, an evil necessary to bolster our rights to free speech. Most are unnoticed excpt by those who happen to be there at the wrong time.

On private schools, I need to fill you in on a scracely understood (outside of France) feature of the school system.

If private schools agree to run the public school curriculum (Close to 100% do), they are subsidised by the state which pays all the teachers salaries. Parents are left with minimal payments that cover maintenance, religious teaching (if any) and ancillary expenses. So yes, in the country of "laicité" (secularist religion), Catholic schools are subsidised by the state.

In 1983/4, Mitterand's Socialist government wanted to abolish the system. This triggered mass demonstrations, more than 1 Million in the streets of Paris alone. The Government backed down.

My point was only to show that here, street protests are not just the actions of radicals.

At December 16, 2008 at 12:02 PM , Blogger John Mullen said...

Reminds me of last year when I put the radio news on my walkman, but they were playing opera music because the radio journalists were on strike. I then arrived at the starting point of the demo, in the place de la bastille, and the opera had a huge banner on it "opera on strike". I love living here.


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