The cry of Job—why am I being so tested?
Some years ago, while helping out in a rural Haitian clinic, PdV found herself wondering, along with most Haitians, how on earth one beautiful small country came to be singled out by fate or the Almighty for such extraordinary treatment. After the grand, once in history debut of self-liberation from slavery came Napoleon’s treacherous bleeding of the island’s wealth. A series of dictators culminated in the monster duo of Papa and Baby Doc; the World Bank deforested and destroyed local agriculture; a legitimate President was forced out by the CIA to make way for a series of incompetents. Add cholera, inconceivable poverty—income per capita is around $500 a year—and an apocalyptic earthquake, and shake well.
France is not so small, enjoys a per capita GDP of about $35,700, and despite some ups and downs has had a thrilling run as far as national destinies go. But this week something is coming to a head. It feels as though for a long time now, France hasn’t been able to catch a break, or even her breath.
Today, Saturday, the Louvre is unexpectedly closed, as are the museums D’Orsay and Monde Arabe. Emergency crews scrambled to move their stored treasures to safer high ground. A fifty-year flood has literally submerged many towns in the Loire region. Tens of thousands of people who’ve lost everything are camping out in school gyms and paying for bottled water. The Seine has risen seven meters above normal levels. The flanking boulevards, normally filled with fast-moving traffic, lie deep under swirling rich brown water. Two major commuter train lines are suspended.
This flood merely added to Paris’s impossible gridlock. Before the deluge, there were months of increasingly brutal strikes aimed at torpedoing the government’s already watered-down (no pun intended) legislation for desperately needed labor law reform. (Wonkish footnote: France’s per capita income has actually declined over the last two measured years, while those of the US and Germany rose.) A handful of career militants, under the direction of the CGT, the hard-left trade union organization with close ties to the French Communist Party, have embargoed gas distribution, cut electricity to thousands of households, lamed public transportation, threatened and slashed the tires of dissenters. Despite the flood emergency, they proudly announce their intent to go on hamstringing the country—the newest bright idea is a lock-out on Paris’s garbage depots—while shouting ‘Solidarity’ until the government caves in.
In most countries, acts of sabotage entail serious legal consequences. Apparently in France, so long as you say you are ‘on the worker’s side’ (no matter that you are keeping her from getting to work or even from getting a job) you enjoy impunity.
Anyway, speaking of solidarity, what’s really on most people’s minds is the upcoming European championship soccer match! As I write there is a fabulous parade of mostly South American dancers and musicians (I hear the drums outside) winding through town. Celebrating… well, just about everything, soccer included. An hour ago, squeezed in with other onlookers and exchanging grins with the dancers, PdV suddenly thought: Hell. happy crowds, men and women in gorgeous scanty costumes, intoxicating music—what a target for Daesch! And then there was a small explosion. Smoke rose, and a shower of gold confetti fell over our heads.
Les jeux de football start June tenth. Alas, because of terrorist bloodbaths and What a target!, the beautiful achievement of the Schengen agreement- open frontiers, sister- and brotherhood from Amsterdam to Athens- lies in shreds. Unannounced, intra-EU passport control is back in full force. CDG airport backed up in long corridors of confusion, personnel trying their best but good luck with that. (Go ask America’s TSA. No, honestly, the French manage better.)
Hard to see how Haiti could have seeded its own misfortunes. And France is simply victim of a fifty-year flood. But in some part she is responsible for today’s home-grown terrorism, and is in large part complicit in letting reactionary so-called leftists hold the country hostage.
Let the games begin.