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It’s been a busy week. While the youth in this country have been blocking and occupying schools and universities – or protesting against those blocking their universities – or been out in the streets demonstrating, burning paper cars or real cars, tagging, breaking a few bus shelters and windows or robbing demonstrators for their mobiles, I’ve been indoors at various prestigious Parisian venues listening to people discussing discrimination.
And my, oh my how the French excels when it comes to discussing! They’ve been criticising themselves lately, for not being able to come to agreement and solve their conflicts like they allegedly do in other European countries. “The Scandinavian model” is said to be such a good approach to compromise. “The Scandinavian model” means the Danish and Swedish economic way of mixing a strong social welfare state with entrepreneurial creativity and a flexible labour market. (I’m not sure why Norway isn’t included in this model; either – as often is the case – the non-European member is just forgotten, or the spectacular oil economy just makes it a case apart).
(However blissfully ignorant I am of all but a few political events up north there in Scandinavia at the moment, I have to say that I personally prefer the French model of vehement and violent discussion a thousand times to the Norwegian way of showing discontent(?) by silently turning towards the far right party… (which verges on being the largest party in Norway at the moment). Neither the economic liberalist and war mongering climate in Britain seems to be a good example to follow, as I see it, but I’m too tired to go into that now).
Anyway, back to the week for vivre ensemble and “fighting against discriminations”: It’s been an amazing affair with two to four panel discussions every day for five days, starting (15-30 minutes delayed - always, as always is the case here) at ten and ending at half past eight, with a long lunch break. And the listeners – or the participants, as they deserve to be called in this case – have been incredibly involved; in asking questions and in showing so much anger that I sense my utter Norwegianness from head to toe. But anger is just a part of it; to me it seems like the French engage with the surroundings more actively than I’m used to. This might seem strange, but I’ll try to explain: The French talk to strangers much more than Norwegians do. At this seminar I quickly noticed that the sideperson, whoever it was, usually sooner or later started mumbling to him- or herself. The right thing then, I found out after a short while, is of course to give some kind of sign of interaction. And people expressed themselves with engagement and intensity. As they do in the streets now.
My impression is that the political life in France is very much alive and vibrant – c’est-à-dire very different from what I’m used to. There were many other aspects of these seminars that caught my attention as well, as for instance various forms of lopsided-ness, which no one commented (despite commenting almost everything else…), for instance extreme gender bias and a tendency to theorise rather high above the people concerned instead of actually listening to what they are saying or letting them speak for themselves. (I’ll probably nuance this appreciation later)). But all together it’s been an amazing affair, to listen to more than 100 discussants and all the contributions from the audience.
(Finally it’s spring… It’s been so wonderfully hot and humid (19°C) that I’ve had the window open all day, and now there is thunder and lightening…).
In the evening, after coming home from all these mind-boggling discussions, I’ve tried to follow the debates on the demonstrators and casseurs (rioters at making trouble at demonstrations), and the students from the banlieues and the casseurs from the banlieues and who are the casseurs and so on… that are taking place in the media as well as on the discussion forums around.
In addition, I’ve tried to deal with the news that the person who should have given me back the huge deposit for a flat I rented months back, is bankrupt and depressed(!) – so he says… And I’ve become completely hooked on flickr, a very interesting site for photo sharing, indeed… So, yes, my last week has been rather busy.
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