The Editorial page of the Webmaster: France and the French (1)

WARNING : On this website, I am trying to give balanced points of view. BUT : as a Frenchman, I have my own strong personal opinions. I don't know if they are representative but they are mine. If you hate my comments read about "Americans and criticism". See also my resume.

Philippe ROCHEFORT

Read Rochefort's "Diary of an old student"

On French anti-semitism : reinforcing stereotypes : the same day, on Jan.19, 2007, several events took place : Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate, said (once more) something stupid, a French chef in New York was taken to court by some of his employees and the President of France organized a huge ceremony in the Pantheon in the honour of the French "Righteous among the nations". The U.S. Press (I.H.T. and most likely NY.Times) commented at length the first two and did not mention the third one (which was on the first page of all French newspapers). Therefore, for the U.S. press, it will still be very convenient in the next twenty years to keep talking about the shameful Vichy regime, the anti-semitic French people, the cowardly quasi-nazi French, etc.. ; U.S. readers will never know that France is the country with the largest number of "Righteous" designated by the Yad Vaschem Memorial in Israel and who saved thousands of lives. But it is so comfortable to reproduce, once and for all, the stereotype on anti-semitic France.... The American press lies by omission.

Read the whole story. Back to top of the page.

 

 Socialized medicine? Give me a break! Sometimes the US political debate looks totally unreal to an European. When I hear Rudy Giuliani saying " The American people do not want socialized medicine " followed by Hillary Clinton saying " We don't want bureaucrats to make decisions for our health ", I can't believe it. Here in France, I can choose my doctor (I am free). He gives me whatever treatment seems appropriate (he is free). The Social Security system reimburses 60 to 70% of the cost and my private insurance covers the sum above that according to the choice I made (and the premium I paid). The key-point : if the illness is serious or chronic, the SS reimbursement is 100% (it's free!). An example ? Every six months I go to one of the best hospitals in France for a cardiology check-up. I am followed by the Head of Department himself. Last time, the cashier apologized : they had been forced to raise the price they charge and I now had to pay Euros 7,80 ($11)! Except for fraud, the SS system NEVER refuses to cover an expense. Everything is computerized : no paperwork, no mean bureaucrat in the way, no letter to claim a reimbursement, no lawyer, etc... It is against the law NOT to be covered. However the system is efficient and globally, the cost for health care in France is 30 to 40 % BELOW what it is in the USA (and we live longer!). Where is the mean communist state in all this? (For once) which country is the most reasonable and creates better life conditions for its citizens : the USA or France?

More on health in France and a personal view about it. (Winter 2008) Back to top of the page.

History : leave it to historians. A controversy in France (Nov. 2005) about the "positive aspects of colonization" illustrates, in my view, a succession of mistakes from all political sides.

  • First mistake : apologies for crimes of the past : in 2001 the Left Government, willing to apologize for slave trade (abolished in 1848...) issued a law (Loi Taubira, May 21, 2001) which stipulated that " ...slave trade was a crime against mankind... " and "...school programs and research programs will give to trade and slavery the significant importance they deserve..." (Art.2)
  • Second mistake : political correctness : referring to colonization, French textbooks systematically emphasize the unforgivable aspects ("statut de l'indigène", forced labor,... ) and hardly ever mention any progress in education, health and infrastructure
  • Third mistake : a stupid law (February 23, 2005) : under the pressure of "pieds noirs" associations, the parliament passed a law that stipulated "...school programs must acknowledge the positive role of France overseas, particularly in Northern Africa, and devote the place they deserve to the history and the sacrifice of the soldiers born in these territories..."
  • Fourth mistake : a typically French controversy : after the riots in suburbs, the Parliament refused to cancel the above (stupid) law, an Association of French Blacks was founded, the "Pieds Noirs" said they are being exiled a second time, etc...
I totally disagree with everything above
  • There is no doubt that colonialism was an unacceptable domination of European nations, including France, on other people. See my page on colonialism.
  • Evaluating pros and cons of an historical event does not belong to the domain of the law : it is the job of historians. The role of the law is to fix the rules of social life and establish what is forbidden (for instance, of course, negationism or racism).
  • As far as I am concerned, I am ready to apologize, if appropriate, only for events which took place after 1962, the first year I could vote and do something about them. I do not ask the Italian Prime Minister to apologize for what the Romans did to the Gauls twenty centuries ago, whether good or bad (after all, Julius Caesar made maybe one million slaves, some of them being probably my ancestors...).

(2006) Back to top of the page.

 

 

Rankings.... : In " Doing Business ", the World Bank ranks countries according to their compliance with U.S. business culture. The World Economic Forum ranks countries according to their competitiveness. Every year, the University of Shanghaï ranks universities according to their publications in English. These rankings are biased and over-estimate American criteria. Here is an example of what could be my (very biased!!) ranking of "The Cultural Level of Countries". Let's say that my criteria would be Universities, cheeses, French and wine. The respective ratings are :
 Score : 0 to 5

 USA

 France
 Quality of universities

 5

 3
 Understanding of cheeses

 1

 4
 Level of French spoken

 1

 4
 Consumption of wine

 1

 5


Average : USA = 2, France = 4. France wins !
Do you think that my criteria do not adequately cover what is commonly understood as "cultural level" and that I elaborated my ranking only to prove that France is superior ? Really ? I am a very serious person, I have a doctoral degree in econometry and a PhD in History. You should trust me as much as you trust the World Bank, shouldn't you ?
The next time you see the ranking of countries on anything, look carefully at the choice of criteria !

(2006) Back to top of the page. 

About Executive Life : it is a shocking racket, a perfect example of racist and greedy anti-French strategy, due largely to the political ambitions of a handful of Californian attorneys, all that made possible by the American judicial system, which proved very biased and highly subject to political pressure. It is interesting to observe that, although the deal involved many American executives, American lawyers and American companies, not ONE American citizen was prosecuted. Only Frenchmen were. Very strange, isn't it ? (2003) Back to top of the page.

 Gauls : In the US press, whenever you encounter the word "Gallic" in an article, change it into "Jewish" or "Black" and read the sentence again. If it looks OK, keep reading. If it looks horrible, you are reading the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal : trash it immediately. "Gallic" is a typical stereotypical way of refering to the French, seen as arrogant among many other defects. Now, if you want to see what the Romans wrote about the Gauls, click here : you could write it about the French!

(2004) Back to top of the page.

About Algeria : to have an idea of what Algeria means to France, read the followingf (factual) story, and then read a fable, transposed in the American context : In 1830 France decided to conquer Algeria to create new land to develop for her farmers, open local population to progress and civilization and put an end to the attacks of the pirates which made trade dangerous. After a few years of resistance and ambushes, the Algerians were conquered and Algeria became constitutionnally part of France. Thousands of French immigrants developed the country very successfully : farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, Local language, culture and religion were maintained and protected but the French influence was of course dominant. After 130 years, a war for independence broke out. It was a very ugly war on both sides. France won from a military standpoint but lost politically, due to the support that Algerian insurgents obtained from many countries, including the USA, and France had to accept to give independence to Algeria. 100% of people of French origin, almost a million, most of them having been in Algeria for 3 generations or more and having never been to France, had to leave, often with only one bag of personal belongings and they moved to France where they settled. As part of the peace treaty, between one and two million Algerian Arabs were allowed to emigrate to France to find jobs. Discovered by French companies, the petrol was nationalized by the new Algerian government. In the fable, just change France for USA, Algeria for Arizona and imagine... In the 1830s the USA purchased Arizona to create new land to develop for farmers, open local population to progress and civilization and put an end to the attacks of the tribes which made trade dangerous. After a few years of resistance and ambushes, the Navajos were conquered and Arizona became constitutionnally part of the USA. Millions of American immigrants developed the country very successfully : farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, Local language, culture and religion were maintained and protected but the American influence was of course dominant. After 130 years, a war for independence broke out. It was a very ugly war on both sides. The USA won from a military standpoint but lost politically, due to the support that Navajo insurgents obtained from many countries, including France, and the USA had to accept to give independence to Arizona. 100% of people of American origin, almost five million, most of them having been in Arizona for 3 generations or more and having never been to other parts of the USA, had to leave, often with only one bag of personal belongings and they moved to other parts of the USA where they settled. As part of the peace treaty, one million Navajos were allowed to emigrate to the USA to find jobs. Discovered by American companies, the petrol was nationalized by the new Navajo government. It looks pretty stange, doesn't it ?

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About Islam : it took France several centuries to get rid of the Catholic church in everybody's life and I consider the 1905 law separating the church from the state as a major step toward peace and democracy in a secular society : I am ready to fight for it against anybody, including Islamic fanatics. I respect all religions and I refuse to let them interfere in the life of our society. When some Americans say that the French are anti-religious, I'd like to ask them the following question : in the USA, what would be the socially acceptable answers if a minority (for instance: African-American, Poles or Japanese) demanded:
1- sick women to be treated only by women doctors ;
2- the right to polygamy and the official status of polygamous families with regard to public benefits granted to families ;
3- the right for a husband to accompany a woman student to an exam, sit at the same table and be with her when she is being interrogated by the professor ;
4- in high school, no sports and no biology for girls, the possibility to refuse the program in history for all ;
5- the right for girls to wear an islamic veil in schools ;
6- idem for public servants, including teachers in public schools and cops;
7- the right to submit girls to excision and infibulation ;
8- special hours of admission, only for women, in public swimming pools; etc....

Please, just answer "I'd accept" or "I wouldn't accept" to these 8 questions. To know more : see recent provocative behaviors in the name of "religious freedom" and see the mini-bio of Tariq Ramadan.

(2005) Back to top of the page.

About the 35-hour week : it illustrates several VERY French aspects. In 1997, the Socialist party won the majority, quite unexpectedly : they decided to do something spectacular to reduce unemployment.

  • They believed that if you share the work between more people, you create jobs (first mistake : labor is not a cake to share ; wrong understanding of economy) ;
  • they thought that people would be happy to enjoy more leisure (second mistake : the working class lost paid overtime which was made very costly to employers and therefore did not forgive the Socialists for that ; wrong understanding of the working class)
  • they expected big companies to implement the law and create jobs accordingly (third mistake : they implemented the law and increased productivity, with very few new jobs ; wrong understanding of big business)
  • they expected small companies to create jobs too (fourth mistake : they closed their shops earlier every day making customers unhappy ; wrong understanding of math : you cannot hire one tenth of a new salesperson in a shop)
  • they believed that the world would admire the unique model of a very human, social and efficient society (fifth mistake : the world thinks that we are crazy ; wrong understanding of the whole world)
    Globally speaking, this reform did not create jobs and made everybody unhappy (even the civil servants, because many of them already worked less than 35 hours a week...). And the Socialists lost in the next elections in 2002 ! (2003)
  • In 2008, Right-Wing president Sarkozy passed a new law which, practically speaking, puts an end to this 35-hour week but without killing it formerly.

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  • If you disagree with my opinions and the way I express them, please email me ! If you enjoyed them, read Harriet Welty Rochefort's books on the French : at the end of each chapter, she interviews me on each subject (French attitudes, education, food, money, etc...)
To related pages : other editorial pages USA and Americans, Franco-American relations, Europe and the rest of the world and France and the French(2), to speeches by Philippe Rochefort, Paris Diary, about the webmaster, my family website and its genealogy pages

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For more on intercultural differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)

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