Remember the Paris riots at the Sorbonne in 1968? Freedom of expression, Vietnam, and political change were the topics then. I was in my last year of Junior High, (what we Boomers used to call “middle school”) and I remember the idealistic protests and the visions of a new generation. But fast forward to the riots in France today, and you’ll find something dramatically different.
It’s almost as if the French young people of today couldn’t be more different than those in 1968. James Graff, writing in the March 27th edition of Time, sees something dark in the recent Paris riots: “A deep fear of change.”
He quotes Dominique Moisi, deputy director of the French Institute on International Relations who says, “French Youth of 2006 are the exact opposites of those behind May ’68. Today’s demonstrators are in a very real manner reactionaries, rejecting any prospect of more risk.”
The big beef? France wants to make it easier to fire employees, because the current labor laws make it so difficult to dismiss badly performing employees, companies aren’t hiring. They’re not interested in putting up with the difficulty of trying to get rid of bad employees. But with soaring unemployment, France is trying to make the workplace more competitive. And French workers, used to having a job for life, aren’t interested.
Somehow the ideals of freedom and change, have been lost in the desire for a cushy life.