Intersection of Daily Life and Politics in France
Hi everyone! For this blog, I gathered a few photos and a video that I took while in France that show a little bit of my life in Paris. I hope you can get a sense of the intersection between daily life in France and politics from these photos.
This photo was taken during an annual holiday in France in September in which members of the public can visit different ministries, learn about what they do, and talk to the ministers and the people who work there. I went around with my friend, visiting several of these buildings that house the government, and thought it was so cool how the French are able to go in and meet the people who work in the government so easily. There were lots of exhibits tailored to the function of the ministries; for example, the Ministry of National Education and Youth (pictured above) had a children’s choir that performed, and some games for kids to play as their parents walked around and learned about the setup of different classrooms, and the different types of schooling in France.
One element of all these government buildings that I found interesting was that they all had a portrait of President Macron hanging in a very visible area. I imagine this must be the manifestation of some rule that states that he has to be in every governmental area, but I found it a little disconcerting.
Ultimately, I really liked that this holiday exists, but recognize that it is not possible in the United States. France is much more centralized than the US, and all of the open buildings were essentially in walking distance from each other. In addition, about 20% of France’s population lives in Paris, while less than 1% of the US population lives in Washington, DC.
This plaque is in the Charonne metro station, which was the metro station closest to my homestay and the one I took every day to get to my classes. In English, it says “Here, February 8, 1962, during a protest by the people of Paris for peace in Algeria, nine workers, communists, militants, with the youngest being 16 years old, were killed as victims of repression.”, and proceeds to list names.
I took this video in October while I was walking down the street during a climate strike. Strikes in Paris are incredibly common, but this one was particularly big: metro stations were closed down, and I had to walk far from the central street of the strike before I could find an open station to take me back to my homestay. The strike didn’t feel unsafe, and one thing that struck me was that city workers were following the strikers and cleaning up after them so streets could be reopened. It was very efficient, and really helped me realize just how common these strikes are. Part of me wonders how effective they can be, because if they happen all the time they lose some of their shock value. But they are definitely most effective when essential workers strike: for example, there was one strike where the public transportation workers refused to work, and their demands were met quickly so they would get back to work.
Perhaps what I also found surprising was how accustomed to and unimpressed by the strikes the typical Parisien citizen seemed to be. In the US, because strikes are rare and there isn’t a lot of labor unionizing, strikes like the WGA strike happening now get a lot of coverage. In contrast, in Paris, it is just part of a typical week.