It’s the rentrée in France. Tomorrow (September 2), some 12 million pupils go back to school, with two strikes expected to cause disruption next week. Secondary school teachers plan a walk-out on September 6 and September 7 is a national day of protest against the government’s plans to raise the legal retirement age to 62.
And as the politicians return to work after the summer break, there is widespread outrage at President Sarkozy’s policy of expelling Roma (gypsies), and dissent within his own party.
On a different scale, but terrifying for those whose land and houses went on fire; large swathes of the Languedoc and the Bouches-du-Rhône were ravaged this week by end-of-summer blazes. July and August had up until then been comparatively calm for fire-fighters in the south of France, who were, as ever, on constant alert for wildfires.
I can see nothing positive to say about thousands of acres of land being destroyed by fire (and often these fires are caused deliberately) and the treatment of Roma in France, and their deportation, send a shiver down my spine.
The strikes are inevitable in a country where so many people are frustrated by their working conditions and the amount of money they pay in taxes, and there is a generalised sense of inequality.
Will people have the will and energy to create genuine change, and truly support those who are being exploited and discriminated against? Are street demonstrations the answer? It is certainly a time when people need to stand up and speak their truth, and to resist propaganda and censorship. But what is the best way to halt the tide of racism that has been gaining strength in Europe for a long time? Many French people hate the Roms as they hate the Arabs; Sarkozy may not be so popular now, but there are many that would back his political stance on immigration.
We all need to look within ourselves, speak out, and do all we can to understand what is happening around us. It’s not the time for superficial action, or platitudes, or excuses. These are serious times. It’s not that current events are unique; we have seen these kinds of political and industrial actions before. However, many people are now in a positive state of consciousness, are aware and clear in their thinking, and have made important personal changes that are irreversible. All this will help us find lasting solutions that will change the face of our society and our planet.