Battle cry of la petite-bourgeoisie

I recall watching a television documentary a few years back about the culture and economy of modern France. The focus of this programme was the French obsession with tradition and entitlement, and it illustrated these aspects of the national culture with examples taken from industries in decline, yet which insisted on their right to continued existence, even if this meant reliance on state subsidy, and the implementation of market-crippling regulation.

In the documentary, a young winemaker, barely out of her teens let alone a mediaeval guild-run apprenticeship, waxed lyrical about the age-old methods she employed in her noble trade, and complained bitterly that no-one wanted to buy her product. Asked how she could survive in an industry now dominated by cheap and cheerful new world wines, the woeful lass demanded with a straight face that le gouvernement do something. Watching the girl, and the chip on her juvenile shoulder, my reaction was “Ah, bless!”, and I then thought no more of it. An old lefty I may be, but certainly not ostrich-like in my view of economic and cultural life. Stuff changes.

The news this week of crippling strikes and mass demonstrations against the French government’s modest plans to raise the age of retirement and full state pension entitlement has resurrected my memory of the demanding young vintner. Immaculately turned out and revolting young professionals are flooding the streets of Paris, demanding that the government  preserve a way of life which could bankrupt the country if allowed to continue, and possibly bring down the rest of Europe with it.

Greece and its basket-case economy are nothing in comparison with France.