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21 Oct, 2010 21:11

American protests lack French passion

Europeans take to the streets demanding government action to fix the struggling economy. Americans casually wait and watch as the recession continues.

In France thousands continue to strike, block airports, turn to violence and interrupt businesses calling on the government to stop making cuts and solve a number of economic issues. Their American counterparts are much more passive.

“It’s sort of a tradition. It’s like wine and cheese, and now we can say that strikes define France,” said Philip de Leon, President, Trade Connections International, LLC. “In the end I’m not sure all the French are in favor of this, because it’s very disrupting, it doesn’t give a good image of the country.”

He explained that the protests have intensified because the government has gotten closer to passing cuts.

The contrast between the US and France are quite large.

The French have a sense of entitlement and a strong belief in the welfare state,” said Leon. “In the US you are on your own; you swim or you drown, so it’s a very different approach. The French really believe in the system that it’s there to protect them.”

Also unlike the US, unions in France are far stronger. French unions are able to quickly disrupt the system and mobilize members, especially the transit unions.

Leon explained that it is much easier to get arrested at demonstrations in the US. French police offer more leniency and tolerance to avoid further outbreaks.

What the French are doing is excessive and unreasonable,” said Leon. “The pension reform has to pass. Everybody knows that, it’s just the implementation that is very difficult. So what can we learn? I think there is nothing we can learn or we can watch and think, this is crazy, and we should try to avoid getting to this point.”