The French are again leading the resistance to globalization. For this, they deserve our applause, not derision.

They’ve been down this road before. Back in 1995, when another rightwing president, Jacques Chirac, tried to convince them of the inevitability of suffering as part of the free-market process, they put their foot down.

“After a quarter of a century of an ideological swing to the right, here was a movement mocking the blackmail: there is no alternative,” Daniel Singer, longtime Europe correspondent for The Nation, commented. “Its message, frightening for the preachers of the establishment, was plain: if this is the future you are offering to us and to our children, then the hell with your future!”

They’re back at it, fighting the same battle again, this time pitted against another arrogant conservative leader, Nicolas Sarkozy. In response to his proposal to up the retirement age, French unions brought Paris to a halt on Tuesday.

In doing so, they have followed the lead of their counterparts in other countries such as Greece, where massive demonstrations have greeted austerity measures in response to the economic crisis. l

Some in the U.S. media have been scorning the Europeans. Both NPR and the New York Times have spotlighted the relatively low retirement age in France, and the inconvenience caused due to the strike.

But the global crisis that has brought all of us to this stage has been caused by oversmart whiz kids in the financial sector, not the average worker pining for a decent retirement. The wrong people are being made to suffer.

The derision of the American media for “spoiled” Europeans has a long history. In his enlightening defense of the continental model, “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way Is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age,” Steven Hill has a number of such examples.

“The truth is, just as the American media misreported Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, the housing bubble, and an imminent economic meltdown, the crystal ball gazers in the U.S. media have a terrible track record when it comes to Europe,” he writes. “As a result of this substitution of national myth for reality, news traveling across the Atlantic has failed to keep up with actual conditions on the ground.”

And the same fate as Europe is possibly upon us. President Obama has appointed a “bipartisan” commission to examine possible cuts in Social Security and Medicare. The fact that one of the co-chairs is former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, a known scoffer of the social safety net, is no comfort. Plus, the Republicans have been busy scapegoating public employees for their supposedly generous retirement packages. Again, the wrong segment of the population is under attack.

“The reason that millions of people are suffering is a combination of Wall Street greed and incredible economic mismanagement,” writes economist Dean Baker. “If people want to be angry at someone, the multi-million dollar bonuses going to hotshot traders at Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan might be a better target than a retired school teacher’s $3,000-a-month pension.”

We all need to recognize who’s actually at fault for our misfortune.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Tony Blair Is All Unctuous About Iraq."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter



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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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