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Welcome to the Empire

by geezer in Paris Sat Sep 1st, 2007 at 06:15:04 AM EST

Part One: Twenty years ago, the Vanguard of the Empire wore a mouse suit, or a stupid hat and apron-suit, and slapped burgers under the Golden Arches. It was an assault of great power, for all the lack of big bangs. The Big Mac was a tremendous weapon, and the mouse?--- What was the phrase? "A cultural Chernobyl ".

Well, the mouse has outlasted two French heads of state, and probably gets more votes in a week than they did in the elections. You can see those arched ballots on any French street, in the small towns and large cities--everywhere.

Conquest can come in many ways- among them, bombs, ballots or ---burgers.

So, now it's too late. The EMPIRE is here. And you, my French friends, are a part of it. Oh, so you think my cheap chapeau is lined with foil, --eh? A burger is just a quick way to get fed before going back to work--right?

So you think I am just another dingbat with messianic leanings? OK- perhaps. But read my links, consider my arguments before you slam the door in your mind.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

I first came to France 20 years ago as a tourist with a background in sociology. Having lived in ten countries
in the preceding twenty five years, I was no stranger to new cultures, and being an expatriate helps the perspective sometimes. If you are an expatriate because of anger or hatred, it all gets colored by that emotional paintbrush, and you may have no useful insights at all. But there is another possibility.

Left my happy homeland, to see what I could find out

Left my folk and friends, with the aim to clear my mind out.

If you, like Cat Stevens, can clear your mind out, you can sometimes see interesting things.  Like,

Egad! Europe wasn't so old and cold after all.

The schools are dynamite!

Teacher training in storytelling? For History? What a great idea.

One third the US per capita consumption of energy? How do they do that?

In 1995, at the height of The Great Strike over the Juppe' Plan, a cabdriver, after two hours locked in traffic, trots into the pub for a quick beer. I ask him what he thinks of the strike now, expecting a vitriolic earful. He says, "It might ruin me. And pauses. "But -next time it might be me, I guess." Walks out, with beer aboard.

Interesting note: Try googling or Wiki for info on this strike.
I tried:
La grande greve de transport parisienne,
The great strike,
La greve parisienne de 1995,
And a lot of others. Nothing. I finally found it in English only, Wiki, under strikes in France 1995. Did I mangle the French? (paranoid tendrils wavering up under the foil)

I go to the pharmacy to buy a prescription for my child--a $60 purchase in the US, and pay the equivalent of $8. Same stuff.

At the doctor's office, there is no line, no nurse, no staff. Just a doctor. She takes a history herself, does the exam herself, prescribes, ---30 minutes. Cost? The equivalent of $22.

I quickly became infected with the hope that some of the lessons taught by the victories -and failures- of Western Europe might be transferable to the United States. In effect, I hoped that we could learn from our parents.
I am perhaps a slow learner, but it took me the better part of a decade of writing and speaking, of talk and travel to realize that it wasn't going to happen. In the process, I fell in love. Like any lover who see a bus coming, it quickly became my deepest desire to get the loved one awake, and out of the street. Same problem. Slow learner. It took me a while to realize that you French have no more desire to let go of your favorite self-deceptions than us Americans. A frightening number of my friends here seem to be blind to the trashing of their culture and trivialization of their values, and their replacement with a vast array of junk food and consumer goods- stuff- as a life objective.

Thirteen years ago, my son wore labeled goods and shirts with cute mottos on them occasionally. He liked them, we hated them, but bought them anyway. Then, almost no one here wore clothes with trademarks and logos prominently featured. I asked a friend why this was, and I heard, "Why would you want to make of yourself a billboard? Let them pay for their own ads." Ah, music to my ears.
Today, everyone here understands the fashionable nature of being identified with good brands. The playground at Luxembourg could be a catalogue ad.

Thirteen years ago, almost the only joggers you saw in my neighborhood in Paris were the firemen doing their obligatory physical training. Today there is a veritable armada of joggers cluttering the bikepaths, spandex clad figures trying to work off their burger bellies.

Think Sarko in an NYPD shirt.


Beginning thirteen years ago my son went to school in the 9th arrondisement for four years. He broke his glasses many times, he tore his pants wrestling in the school yard, but in those four years, he never saw a child strike another child with a closed fist. The school directrice was not surprised- she said that there were limits of behavior, and that a closed fist was beyond them. A barbaric act, was her description, and she and her staff were successful in keeping behavior within a civilized range, even though Adrian's class was about 50% non-native French, and represented four continents. A great triumph.
Today, I fear to go to the children's park with my two small girls because of the level of violence that is now a typical part of the park's cultural environment.

We sit at a deuce at the apex of the lovely glass corner in Le Palmier" in Place Blanche, 9th. Two guys are at the bar- regulars whom we have seen many times. They come in, they drink, they argue, then they argue bitterly---right to the point where in the US they would duke it out in the parking lot. Then they walk out arm in arm, friends still. We finally ask the barman about this. He laughs. "You Americans. Your're like the Brits. You don't get it." " Get what?" "You talk, you make friends with people you agree with, --n'est pas?" "Well, -usually, I guess." "Where's the fun in that? What do you learn?"
Walks away, polishing a glass.
Boy, has this changed.

Same bar, same table. We watch the tourists disembark from their vast tour bus over at the Moulin Rouge, and play our game. Where are they from?

Pale, unhealthy-looking ones, often fat, tendency to wear earth tones and baggy stuff- UK

People festooned with electronic gizmos, seemingly with a rope tied from one to the other, moving and stopping in almost perfect synchronization- Japan.

Too colorful and mostly fat, with trademarks and logos everywhere, lots of toys-Americans.

Tried this the other day. Does not work anymore. The Japanese are still easily identified by their excess of toys, even by the standards of today, but the rest are, for the most part, just fat, as I am, and covered with signs.

Welcome to the Empire.

Fear not, my friend. Just as with all other empires, decadence is the harbinger of the end. The global empire is tottering and in the next decade the sound you hear will be its collapse. China & the US are actually in competition to see who can use peak oil and global warming to commit suicide first. My money's on china to die in the next 5 years, I think the US can limp on for a few more after that.

But by 2020 the future state of the world will be more clearly seen.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 04:04:41 PM EST
If you could just write this in quatrains, I think I can get you a book deal. As long as you title it: 'Take it on home, Jeromw.' (subtitle) 'Here comes the breakdown - The cat & clysmic predictions of Nostre Dame'.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 05:25:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pomes ? eek !!!

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 05:29:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the better to march to.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 05:50:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After my last couple diaries, I made a promise to myself that I would post something cheery, something positive--that I would break away from the whole political cesspool, and do a diary on something sappy and sweet.
Ah, well. Maybe next week.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 01:54:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is important to sing also

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But not the blues all the time :-)

Your piece in praise of taxes and the Finnhish medical system was a very welcome bit of happy "singing" - even clap-along stuff :-)  

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 03:58:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't been to the clap clinic in decades. The last time in the Eighties my doctor was Russian and called McGregor. His grandfather was imported to Tsarist Russia to attend to the private ailments of the aristocracy.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 04:06:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"I haven't been to the clap clinic in decades."

Then you've either been very lucky or much less of the roistering rebel than the image you project would suggest :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sat Sep 1st, 2007 at 04:29:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it is since I plucked up the courage to go into the chemist. ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Sep 1st, 2007 at 04:43:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That and of course enough baby oil and the bugs can't get a grip. ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Sep 1st, 2007 at 04:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your humor is quite bizarre; but very funny.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sat Sep 1st, 2007 at 06:53:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminded of Spike Milligan's story about getting crabs and going to the chemist..

At that time the only cure was a noxious substance called 'Blue Unction'.

He went to the counter at Boots' in Piccadilly, asked discreetly for some of the aforesaid.

The assistant in a very loud voice said "You want some BLUE UNCTION?"

and in a voice even louder, Spike shouted:

'Yes! BLUE UNCTION! I've got f***g CRABS!!!!!!!!!!!'

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Sep 1st, 2007 at 08:18:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US has a lot more oil than Europe does, with France and Germany, two of the world's biggest economies, producing none. That makes Sarkozy's recent remarks on Iran that much more shocking, although as far as I've seen, no government views energy policy as anything more than a political game. If the middle east descends into total chaos, reducing export capacity to near zero, the EU will probably suffer a complete derailment when the UK and Norway refuse to share some of what they have left.

Or, in other words, there are plenty of dark scenarios for all of us, and we're all likely to go off the cliff at about the same time.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 08:25:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed I found no specific article on the 1995 strike in the french wikipedia (many references though).


by Laurent GUERBY on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 04:08:12 PM EST
Rumour at MoA is that Sarko endorsed the US warmongering against Iran?

confirm or deny, anyone?  how many US puppets are now heads of state in the rest of Whiteyland?  Howard, Harper, Blair (on his way out), Sarko...?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 05:07:05 PM EST
Don't think so.

He just said bluntly what everyone has been thinking - that if diplomacy fails we will see either an Iran with the bomb or a bombed Iran.

Even though that's like saying that after dawn we will see the sun - barring cloud coverage, it seems a lot of people were excited by it.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:40:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From Tuesday's ET Salon:
French Leader Raises Possibility of Force in Iran  |  NY Times
In his first major foreign policy speech as president, Nicolas Sarkozy of France said Monday that Iran could be attacked militarily if it did not live up to its international obligations to curb its nuclear program.

Addressing France's ambassadorial corps, Mr. Sarkozy stressed that such an outcome would be a disaster. He did not say France would ever participate in military action against Iran or even tacitly support such an approach.

But the mere fact that he raised the specter of the use of force is likely to be perceived both by Iran as a warning of the consequences if it continues its course of action, and by the Bush administration as acceptance of its line that no option, including the use of force, can be excluded.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:45:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't start on the wake up path until the opportunity of an expatriot assignment presented itself.  Viewing one's own culture and history is highly incomplete unless one has the experience of viewing life from another perspective.  Since then I have delved more into the spiritual side of life and I think it's far more valuable to have people who love you rather than the wealth of the world.
by Lasthorseman on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 06:08:48 PM EST
Welcome to reality :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 07:15:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What you say is true - but maybe now you are too aware of changes in Paris - been back to US recently? I think you might notice considerable differences - still.

I met an American woman who has a nice job in fashion with an American company, but living in Paris, and she said - this year - how happy she was to get back to Paris from NY and obviously felt there was a considerable difference (and I think that she's been here for some years, but I accept that things have changed for the worst - to some extent).

Also I think that - as most French people would say - Paris is not France, and there remain considerable differences especiallly outside of Paris.

As a Brit, I'm so happy to escape the cheap drinks-fuelled violence of UK cities, and I am still pleasantly surprised by the way you are greeted in shops - even in very touristy Nice.

Yes the changes are regrettable, but some important differences remain - e.g. the dicussion about the return to school in local papers, and the discussion of the philosophy BAC questions even in the popular press! - unimaginable in the UK. Fortunately some French people are aware of the value of what they have and the dangers of US "culture" and even Sarkozy has to pay attention to that.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 07:30:37 PM EST
I do notice changes in the US- nasty ones, by and large. Who could not? And you will notice that I am still here in France. I do not intend to go back for a day longer than necessary. Still, the rate of change here is astounding, and I believe the rate of change is difficult to see from the inside. When I am afraid to take my girls to the park (and I am),it is getting bad.

Jerome's recent post about Sarko as Bush's poodle was deeply revealing to me--and yet, not surprising, really. Just an extension of trends that I also see.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 01:48:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why were you looking for "grève parisienne" ? The 1995 general strike was not specifically parisian at all.

"Mouvement Social 1995" yields many results on google...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 07:40:32 PM EST
See? I said I probably blew the search term. But notice that others could find no direct piece in the French Wiki. That's a relief.
If there is a real opposition to Sarko, it will come from what is left of thew Unions, and a knowlege, historical in nature, that we are not powerless.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 01:33:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lafayette, we are here - again.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 12:23:01 PM EST

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