French issues (#2)

See on page Issues (#1)


 Ethical issues   Some typically French ethical issues
 The French do not fight about the same issues as Americans. On some of them there is, globally, a consensus and the French rarely quarrel or demonstrate about them. For others (typically French), the country is split and it is important to observe that the division is always along a political line (right vs. left) and never along a religious line (read about religion in France). See a very interesting comparative poll France/US.  

Issues for the French (and not so much for Americans, for whom they are not important issues)

  • Secularism is an important issue in France and when people have the feeling that it is at stake (for instance when President Sarkozy declared in December 2007 in Rome that " people need religion ") a majority of the French protested (including churches) : see more about secularism

 Issues for Americans (and NOT so much for the French, who globally agree about them) :

  • Abortion has been legal in France since 1976 (loi Veil) and no significant political or religious movement is campaigning for a return to the previous situation ; see facts about IVG (abortion)
  • The death penalty in France was abolished in 1982 and only a handful of extreme-right-wing politicians campaign for re-establishing it
  • Arms control is not an issue in France : it is prohibited to detain arms and nobody challenges it
  • Teaching creationism in schools as a scientific theory is just unthinkable in France : read more about religion.
  • Marriage : today, more than 50% of children were born from un-married parents (and France has the hightest rate of natality in Europe!). More about marriage.
  • More to come...
  • Assisted reproduction is legal only for (heterosexual) couples and sperm-banks are state-run entities
  • " New social rights " : an example is the " droit opposable au logement " (opposable right to a home) ; according to a law passed in 2006, any French citizen is entitled to a home, and if he/she cannot find or afford one and is not proposed social housing, he/she can invoke this law and demand a home ; the left thinks this is a normal right in a democracy, the right thinks it is crazy and not applicable
  • The market economy is morally questionable for a large minority of the French and so is private money in any cultural or educational organization : you can have thousands of artists, students or professors demonstrating in the streets and shouting "Non à l'argent privé" (no to private money) or "Culture (or education) is not for sale", etc..... Read more about money.
  • More to come .....

 Common issues : not much difference between France and America about :

  • Euthanasia and Stem cells : same situation and debates as in the USA
  • Homosexuality is now much better accepted due to several important anti-discrimination laws (and the HALDE : see below) ; the PACS (a purely contractual form of quasi-marriage) is largely used by homosexal couples but many still want a "real" one, which is not (yet) possible ; adoption by homosexual couples is not legal
  • More to come....

A few examples of French controversies about philosophical and ethical issues :

  • there is a very strong movement against Genetically Modified Organisms and GMO corn is banned by the French legislation (againts the European legislation) ; environmental actistivist Jose Bové spent bseveral months in jail for organizing massive destruction of GMO fields
  • most students demonstrating AGAINST the autonomy of universities : see why
  • thousands of artists, writers, academics demonstrating AGAINST the Louvre museum opening a branch in Abu-Dhabi (and receiving a lot of money for that)
 Cultural issues  
  • a very large support for the idea that all illegal immigrants should be granted working papers
  • More to come...

Is the French culture dead or dying? This recurrent question is a classical theme in the American press (such as "The Death of French Culture" in Time Magazine Dec. 2007) The comments are always the same : France no longer has world-famous thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre or singers such as Edith Piaf ; contrary to the "Nouvelle Vague" French movies are now mediocre and self-centered, French novelists are not translated and are unknown outside France, the French State puts too much money to help too mediocre artists, etc.... My comments :

  • There is a language issue : French culture is of course in French (!) and is not known if not translated : what do you know about Japanese novels if they're not translated ? 
  • For books and movies, the role of US publishers and distributors is very important and often they are not interested if it is not "typically French" (see an interesting example, of a good movie which did not look "French enough")
  • Culture has many aspects and in some of them, the French do very well all over the world : architecture (Nouvel, Portzamparc,  etc.), dance, techno music, etc...
  • The French culture is not dead (as US magazines like to write : see an example) and the "new France" is not only represented by suburban riots. Thanks to ethnic diversity, there is an incredibly rich new generation of young singers, movie-makers and writers.
  • Says Jerome Clément, President of Arte, the (excellent) Franco-German TV Channel : " Culture is not a beauty contest. You must not evaluate the cultural level of a country by counting the number of writers Mr.Average on the other end of the planet can name or the Top 50 of the best world sales . If Arte exists and contributes to the influence of French culture worldwide, it is thanks to the action of the State. " (Le Monde 16/12/2008)
  • When you say "it was better fourty years ago", it's often what people used to say fourty years ago...
  • The French Magazine Figaro published a list of 35 "French personnalisties of the Year 2008" who all got international prizes and awards. How many of these names have you seen in the US press ? And Le Monde writes that "2008 was a great year for French culture!" : read more.
  • More about "l'exception culturelle française".
  • More to come

DID YOU KNOW THAT...... ? The HALDE (" Haute Autorité de Lutte contre les Discriminations et pour l'Egalité " for "high authority against discriminations and for equality") was established in 2004 as an independent regulator to help citizens fight against racism, homophobia, sexism and generally any form of discrimination (age, sex, race, health, mental condition, religion, etc), particularly in the job and housing markets. Its mission statement includes helping victims to take their case to court, setting up "testings" to establish a discrimination, proposing new regulations and valorizing best practices. Any citizen can write to HALDE about his/her case for help or advice.

To related pages : more issues (#1), events, as reported by the French media, French society, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books:

  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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