By Hezzy Benson ’26
Currently, riots in France are ongoing to protest against the President’s decision to change the retirement age from 62 to 64. French citizens feel they have the right to retire at 62 and should not have to work longer. Havoc has been caused due to these protests, and a wave of apprehension has spread across France. In Paris, trash, or “la poubelle”, lies out on the street during the day, and overnight, rats scurry onto the street and feast on the rotting food from French cafés. Madame Gaggini, a teacher here at Frederick Gunn, was interviewed on the matter.
“I don’t know everything,” notes Madame Gaggini, who is not from Paris and has lived in the US for some time. She notes, “When they change everything, they change how long you have to work…. They were changing everything.” As a matter of fact, the complete change by President Emmanuel Macron, was so sudden he implemented the 49.3, a law that, similarly to the executive order in the US, allows the president to enforce their will and pass a law without any relent. “Macron didn’t get the votes from both houses but he still passed the law… The President has the right to push it, and that’s what he did,” explains Mrs. Gaggini. “In France there are so many different parties, and that’s why you see the people on the streets.”
Madame Gaggini also is fascinated by those who no longer live in France as they once did but still think so highly of the country.“After years spent outside the country, they still think France is so great. It’s not true.”
Photo credit: Hezekiah Benson. Trash is not being cleaned up on the streets of Paris as it normally is.
Pessimism is quite common in France, but there is still a common belief by the citizens that it is a great power and the best place on Earth. Oliver Levick, Frederick Gunn student and French citizen, recently conducted an Independent Study Project on the Fragility of Democracy in France and the United States. “Originally I didn’t know much about the topic at all. I’m fluent in both languages, English and French, so I thought it would be an interesting way that I could link the two.” Oliver sent out surveys to our school and to one in France. The comparisons of French and American citizens’ viewpoints were intriguing to learn about. Oliver’s presentation was a great reminder of the power a citizen can hold in their civic engagement. On the matter of retirement, says Oliver: “They’re clearly very adamant about retirement age… I find what they’re fighting for is a little bit irresponsible- not very pressing, not something that should be causing riots or death or something so extreme.” It is yet to be seen if Macron will remain as president, or if the riots will disperse or cool down, but undoubtedly uncertainty will continue to nag the air in the heart of Paris, the site of most of the riots, while France still sits as one of the most visited and highly regarded countries on Earth.
Photo Credit: Hezekiah Benson. A Protest in France.