|Tuesday, June 1, 2004
20:39 - The life of a frog—that's the life for me
Also via JMH—Jesús J. Chao, writing for La Nueva Cuba (a primarily hispanohablante site for the exiled Cuban interest, and therefore apparently translated less-than-perfectly from Spanish), dissects the French with at least one searing zinger per paragraph.
There was an historical moment in which the character and moral fiber of the French people was defined. After the defeat of the Germans and their retreat from France the American and British had the courtesy to allow General De Gaulle along with his meager troops to enter Paris at the head the triumphal Victory parade.
Nevertheless, very soon afterwards De Gaulle decided to extricate France from the military Pact of the North Atlantic Pact between Western Europe and the United States that secured the peace and freedom in that part of Europe, saving them from falling under the Soviet boot as it happened to the East Europeans countries.
De Gaulle, in a bout typical of French arrogance, or perhaps to appease the Soviet Union and the very powerful French communists in control of much the bureaucracy, demanded the immediate shut down of the American bases in France and the return of the troops to United States.
Eisenhower, with great dignity, responded: " General, it is going to take some time to exhume all our dead soldiers from the soil of France."
We should have got started then. I guess it's not too late, either.
¿What is your opinion on France's scientific research crisis?
H.R.H. Caroline responded: "It is deplorable. There is veritable scarcity. We are witnessing an intelligence flight. That is impoverishing the scientific and intellectual life. Sometimes it is necessary for a scientist to wait three months in order to have access to a microscope in a research laboratory. Those instruments frequently cost near 450,000 euros; so, there is only one per university, or one for almost 1,000 researchers, who are forced to wait in order to proceed with their experiments."
This is the legacy of socialism. This is the famous European socialized medicine. This is France, a country that allowed their old citizens to die without family or government assistance during a heat wave last summer. It was vacation time and the old folks were left behind in their city apartments under searing heat, and their children, doctors and nurses went on vacation to enjoy and relax.
That sacred time could not be interrupted, not even to save the lives of their own parents or to claim the corpses of those who died and were placed in funeral homes and food storage buildings waiting for weeks to be claimed and buried.
A French couple might spend 200 euros for a dinner in a not very luxurious restaurant; but they will not spend 300 euros in an air conditioning unit for making their parents' life more comfortable.
I spend Tuesdays lately eating lunch with a group of co-workers, one of whom is from France. I can't yet divine much of his opinions one way or the other; but when he regales the rest of us with tales of the glorious 35-hour workweek, the month of August that apparently all of Europe takes off, the automatic 28 days per year of nationally-mandated vacation time for all French workers, and the myriad three-day weekends that fall at least twice per month (the first thing he said today, grinning, was "So when is our next three-day weekend?" To which I could only answer, "Hell if I know"), there are those who give him an all too appreciative audience. "Geez, we've got a long way to go in this country!" one co-worker fawningly told him. "That sounds like such a great place to live."
In the interest of not turning a pleasant lunch hour sour, I didn't say, "Sure, as long as you're not an old person, or a traveller in De Gaulle Airport."
I know it can't be nuance that's restraining my tongue. Surely not. I'm sure I'm the simplistic one, after all. And the guy simpering over the joys of a nation that considers leisure and sleep more noble than that vulgar, "Anglo-Saxon" concept of working hard for an honest living—I'm sure he's the one who's got it all figured out.