BY SHAYNE NELSON
A LITTLE PREAMBLE
Many Americans are disgusted with the situation in the US under Bush, and I entirely sympathize with those who think the solution is simply to leave the US, something I did about fifty years ago, but that solution doesn’t work any more.
Here in France, “Sarko” (Nicholas Sarkozy, the recently elected neocon president and admirer of the “American economic model”) is imitating Bush right down to the smallest details… his first move in office was a bill giving tax breaks to the rich. Sound familiar?
His second move was getting rid of the French Secret Service and replacing them with handchosen cops. Paranoia in high places is ubiquitous.
Third move: he announced that the the 500-room Elysees Palace (French White House) was too small for his family, and took over the guest palace across the street that was built to hold visiting
Notice any similarity of egos here?
Chemtrails abound over Paris… pollution levels measured in the RER underground trains are now three times legal limits.
A demonstration in the Latin Quarter by a few dozen rightist hoodlums right after the elections was countered by over two thousand armed and armored cops being sent into the neighborhood.
They clogged every street in the Quarter with buses full of heavily-armed goons… I counted over two hundred weapons on hips of cops outside the buses alone… all to handle 20 demonstrators? Nope, to scare the shit out of all the voters. And guess what. It works.
It’s global, my friends. Stay where you are and fight it there. It’s not going to go away until we all do.
Is the election of an unrepentant conservative a harbinger of worse things to come? Five days ago, four hundred Parisians were stranded overnight on an outdoor train platform just five miles beyond the city limit. Newpapers headlined it, ‘A Night in Hell’, and no doubt it was, for it was a cold, windy, rainy night.
In a previous post I largely blamed this stranding on France’s 35 hour work week law, which makes it almost impossible for people to work overtime, and thus probably kept the transport system from bringing in some emergency buses to get people back to town.
However, since writing that, I’ve discovered another aspect of French life which contributed to this hell on earth: apartheid.
There’s a system of night buses which runs in Paris, from the center of the city out to many of the suburbs surrounding the city and back. These only run once an hour, and there’s no way you could jam even one hundred people onto one of the night buses, but at least some of the abandoned passengers at Stade de France might have escaped their night in hell this way. The problem is, there are no night buses to or from St. Denis, the town where the stadium stands and where those train passengers got stranded.
Why not? Simple. The suburb of St. Denis is what the French police call a ‘hot zone’. It’s a place with a lot of what outsiders, and many French people, would call without hesitation “delinquents,” in fact with thousands of them. The youth of the town are the national champions in that French sport of the underprivileged, setting fires to parked cars. (On an average night, about 110 cars are torched in France, mostly in the ‘hot zones’ around Paris and Lyon.)
Sarkozy, new president of France, earlier this year referred to young people of that type as ‘racaille’, loosely translated as ‘scum’, a comment which earned him some criticism but which didn’t stop him from getting elected. Apparently the transport system agrees with him, and thereby has closed down all night buses into the ‘scum zone.’ They don’t want those young hoodlums coming into Paris and staying too late in the evening. The bus drivers are afraid of them, and with good reason. French train conductors and bus drivers more than occasionally get knifed or beaten up by such ‘racaille’, and sometimes murdered.
In South Africa, during Apartheid, the blacks in big cities were required by law to leave town by 7 or 8 PM, and go fifty miles or so out into the countryside to their ‘settlements’ to sleep. Those days are over now, down in Africa, but France today has a slightly more subtle approach to the same problem… just discontinue late night buses to the hot towns, and that way at least you get the ‘scum’ out of the city on the last subway train.
Of course, the hundreds of thousands of well-behaved, law-abiding “non-scum” people living in the ‘zone’ are just out of luck, at least as far as night transport is concerned.
Shayne Nelson, expatriate artist and writer, is Cyrano’s Paris correspondent.