(Sorry my French friends, you might not appreciate what I am going to share today…come to think of it, my American friends might not appreciate it either…)
A couple of weeks ago the French news commentators were speaking with great indignation and great condescension about the Newsweek article, “The Fall of France.” This was not an article by an American Newsweek journalist who has never set foot in France, although the French reporters I heard speaking about it gave the impression this is what they thought of it. No, it was written by a young lady from Britain who moved to France 10 years ago to join her French husband. She concludes by saying she hopes her children will remain in France to help make it a better place. So this is not a political, American hack job. This is a heart-felt cry from someone who lives in and loves France and is so frustrated to see how bad things are going. She should be thanked for saying things that need to be said. Here’s the link:
According to the French press it was full of errors and couldn’t be taken seriously. Today I finally had time to look it up on the Newsweek website and read it. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The journalist doth protest too much, methinks.”
One of the ‘errors’ the French brought up was that the article said there is no word in French for entrepreneur, then adding with a snicker that entrepreneur is a French word that English speakers borrowed. In fact, the exact quote from the article is, “As they say, the problem with the French is they have no word for entrepreneur.” Note the ‘as they say’ at the beginning of the phrase, the French are grasping at straws to criticize this article.
Another error I heard brought up was that the article said diapers in France are free. Diapers are not free in France as I can easily testify. But again, let’s go back to the article and see what was actually written, ” As a new mother, I was surprised at the many state benefits to be had if you filled out all the forms: Diapers were free; nannies were tax-deductible; free nurseries existed in every neighborhood.”
Note to outraged French journalists, she did not say diapers are free in France. She said that she, living in Paris, was able to get free diapers when she had filled out the necessary forms.
It’s sad to see that the French press will blindly ignore everything else to focus on supposed ‘errors’ which can only be found by taking quotes out of context. The French press is part of the problem. They don’t want to speak about what is not working in France. But they love to compare the strong points in France to the weak points in other countries. “Oh, pity those poor Americans with no proper health care system!” What’s funny is that France and most other European countries are cutting back on their health systems because they can no longer afford it. But that is not spoken about because ‘we’re still better than the US.’
The French easily compare themselves to the US and Great Britain. No matter how bad things are in France if they can find a reason to say, ‘but look, on this point we are better than them,’ they can feel better about life.
Why this rivalry between France and the US? They are historical friends with France coming to America’s rescue during the fight for independence and the US coming to France’s rescue in the two World Wars.
The real reason that it’s difficult for France and the US to understand each other and cooperate with each other is that their basic worldviews are 180° apart and they don’t take time to understand each other.
The basic French worldview is that people cannot be trusted. We need the state to control everything because people will use their wealth and power selfishly to manipulate and control the ‘people’. This attitude developed because in French history the royalty and the Catholic Church did use their wealth and power selfishly to manipulate and control the people. With the revolution, the republican state became the protection of the ‘people.’ The weak point in this outlook is that if you can’t trust people, how can you trust the people running the state? Do they magically become altruistic and worthy of trust because they are elected or named to government positions? The end of 2012 saw a political scandal when the Budget Minister, launching attacks on people hiding money from the French tax system, was found to have at least one Swiss bank account. Makes me think of ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell…
On the other hand, the basic American worldview is that government cannot be trusted but people can. That’s why the US constitution created a federal government with limited power, hard to believe when you look at it today. Give people freedom and don’t put too many limits on their freedom to create and to work and they will work hard, create wealth, create jobs and contribute to a healthy, happy society.
The American dream, anybody can be successful if he, or she, works hard and strives to get ahead! And it works…for some people. But what about those that aren’t getting ahead? Too bad for them…
The weak point of the American worldview is the possibility of a creeping, heartless individualism. ‘Hey, I’ve got mine! If you worked hard like me you’d do well too. Don’t ask me for help, just start working.’
Here’s a song by Don Frey, “I’ve Got Mine,” from his solo career when the Eagles were on an extended vacation:
I’ve Got Mine
Someone’s sleeping on the sidewalk
As the winter sun goes down
Someone’s drinking cold champagne
In another part of town
And the only thing he thinks about
As he sips his glass of wine
“It sure feels good sitting here tonight
Now that I’ve got mine”
I’ve got mine, I’ve got mine
This isn’t such a bitter world
‘Cause I’ve got mine
Someone’s wandering the streets tonight
No way to warm his hands
Someone’s turning up their fireplace
Making travel plans
His mind is on some sandy beach
Where the sun is gonna shine
He thinks, “I don’t have to hang around
Now that I’ve got mine”
You see them in their limousines
You see the way they stare
But they don’t see us looking back
Because they don’t really care
They say, “I’ve got mine, I’ve got mine
The world is as it’s meant to be
‘Cause I’ve got mine”
So I make a small donation
What more can I do?
You know I didn’t make this world
I’m in it just like you
I’ve worked all my life on this house of cards
To keep it all in line
I can’t take care of everyone
Now that I’ve got mine
There’s another kind of poverty
That only rich men know
A moral malnutrition
That starves their very souls
And they can’t be saved by money
They’re all running out of time
And all the while they’re thinkin’
“It’s okay ’cause I’ve got mine”
I’ve got mine, I’ve got mine
I don’t want a thing to change
‘Cause I’ve got mine
I’ve got mine, I’ve got mine
So, both France and the US have problems. I’m sorry to burst your bubbles but neither France nor the US has a perfect system. Both of them need changes. Hmm, how to change a political system? Sounds like an interesting subject for another post…
There is a very good book that explains the French worldview and mentality for English speakers: “60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, Why We Love France But Not The French.” It was written by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, two Canadians who were sent to France to write a book on why the French are so strongly opposed to globalization. While staying in France they came to understand that the problem is much greater than simple opposition to globalization. The real problem is the basic French worldview which is so different from the US view. And they go on to explain France and French culture to help Americans, and others, better understand the French. I do recommend this book for anyone interested in France or the French!
Vive la France and God Bless America!
(Désolé mes amis français, peut-être n’apprécierez vous pas ce que je vais partager aujourd’hui…à bien y penser, peut-être que mes amis américains n’apprécierons pas non plus…)
Il y a deux semaines les commentateurs français parlaient avec beaucoup d’indignations et beaucoup de condescendance au sujet de l’article de Newsweek, “The Fall of France” (La Chute de la France). Ce n’était pas un article écrit par un journaliste américain qui n’a jamais mis les pieds en France, même si les journalistes que j’ai entendus semblaient vouloir donner cette impression. Non, c’était écrit par une jeune femme Britannique qui a déménagé en France il y a 10 ans pour y vivre avec son mari français. Elle conclu son article en disant qu’elle espère que ses enfants resteront en France pour aider le pays à progresser. Ce n’est pas une attaque politique par un américain nationaliste. C’est un cri du cœur de quelqu’un qui habite en France et aime la France mais qui est tellement frustré de voir l’état du pays aujourd’hui.
Selon la presse française c’était truffé d’erreurs et on ne pouvait pas prendre l’article au sérieux. Aujourd’hui j’ai finalement trouvé le temps de le lire sur le site web de Newsweek. Pour paraphraser Shakespeare, ‘Les journalistes font trop de protestations, il me semble.’
Une des erreurs que les français ont relevé était que l’article disait qu’il n’y avait pas de mot pour entrepreneur en français, puis il a été ajouté avec dérision que le mot entrepreneur est un mot français que les anglophones ont piqué. En fait, la citation exacte de l’article est, “”As they say, the problem with the French is they have no word for entrepreneur.” (Comme ils le disent, le problème des français est qu’ils n’ont pas de mot pour entrepreneur.) Notez bien, le ‘comme ils le disent’ au début de la phrase. Les journaliste français cherchent juste à trouver quelque chose à critiquer.
Un autre erreur qui a été pointé, était que l’article disait que les couches sont gratuites en France. Les couches en France ne sont pas gratuites, comme je peux en témoigner. Mais encore une fois, regardons l’article pour voir ce que la dame a dit, ” As a new mother, I was surprised at the many state benefits to be had if you filled out all the forms: Diapers were free; nannies were tax-deductible; free nurseries existed in every neighborhood.” (En tant qu’une nouvelle maman, j’ai été surprise des nombreux avantages disponible si on remplissait tous les formulaires: Les couches était gratuites;..ect…)
Notez bien, les journalistes scandalisés français, elle n’a pas dit que les couches étaient gratuites en France. Elle a dit qu’elle, habitant à Paris, avait la possibilité d’avoir des couches gratuites si elle remplissait les formulaires nécessaires.
C’est triste de constater que les journalistes français ignorent aveuglement tout ce que cette jeune maman dit pour se concentrer sur des ‘erreurs’ qui en fait apparaissent seulement en prenant les citations hors du contexte. La presse française est une partie du problème actuel. Elle ne veut pas parler de ce qui ne marche pas en France. Mais elle aime comparer les points forts de la France aux points faibles des autres pays. “Oh, c’est dommage pour ces misérable américains qui n’ont pas de système de santé.” Ce qui est drôle est que la France, et d’autres pays européens, sont en train de diminuer leurs systèmes de santé car ils ne peuvent plus les payer. Mais la presse ne parle pas de cela car, ‘nous sommes toujours meilleur que les US.’