31 January 2009

(G)rève générale

If there's one thing the French are known for (besides baguettes, cheese, wine and berets, you know), it's going on strike. I remember being completely shocked while studying in Aix-en-Provence when I asked my host mother, who worked in the public school system, why there was a strike and she said, "Oh, it's the back to school strike."

"But what are you unhappy about?" I asked.

"Lots of things," was all the response I got.

Ok, so she wasn't very political, but there is a sense in France that a good strike every now and then is how you keep the government in check, remind them by whom they've been elected, in case they've forgotten that any moment the French people might rise up again and start chopping heads. You never know. This Thursday during the general strike, one that regroups a huge number of unions, I marched with the actors and artists (who have an official employment status in France that they are afraid of losing under Sarkozy). When in Rome... (or in this case, Paris...)

Like at any important cultural event, food was an important player. After all, people had to stay warm during the hours and hours of protesting in the winter cold. All along the route of the protest, there were stands of merguez, a spicy sausace served with grilled onions and sauces of your choice. There were even some stands on wheels following the protesters.

Drinks were available too. For those who hadn't brought their own stock of cheap beer to keep warm, vendors were selling exotic punches.

When I left, frozen, after 3 hours of marching and a merguez sandwich, it was still going strong, but I was ready for a cup of tea!


Cicero Sings said...

Unions really did help those of us who couldn't fight for ourselves! Things were pretty unfair before their institution ... wage AND working conditions. Still, in all things one needs balance.

Ivy said...

If only the Greeks could protest like this, I'd be there to support them. Here whenever there is a protest, it's chaos and usually followed by riots!!!!!

Psychgrad said...

Wow...with all of that great food, I'd want to find reasons to strike too!

Actually, there have been a lot of strikes and protests here lately and most people are pretty tired of them. Unfortunately, our strikes seems to only result in bad traffic. No food in sight.

David said...

Leave it to the French to eat better even during their social and political protests! An American demonstration would have featured warm beer, overcooked hamburgers and doughnuts.

Hopie said...

Cicero - Indeed. I have nothing against the unions here. On the contrary. It's good to have some way to express one's needs and displeasure!

Ivy - Yes, I was impressed by the good spirit of the protest. There were at least 100,000 people there and no one was hurt or injured or got in fights. Just good old-fashioned protesting fun ;-)

Psychgrad - Leave it to the French to add food to any occasion! If it makes you feel any better, the traffic is bad too ;-)

Dad - Indeed. There were some people drinking cheap beer (although not warm considering the freezing temperature outside) :-)