Friday, April 21, 2006

Values Enshrined in our tale

Sorry to my usual readers for the lack of posting this week. It hasn't been for lack of ideas, but Orthodox Holy Week is all this week and we're busting it here at the seminary for hours a day. It's cool though. Rather exaughsting, but one begins to acclimate somewhat.

Anyhow... so I was reading about the riots in France a week and two weeks ago over the labor law. For those who are aware, the French attempted to pass a law that would allow much easier firing of young employees.

Now this might seem like a harsh idea, but in fact the government was trying to encourage employers to hire more young workers. France has difficult firing laws that put a lot of onus on employers to find big time rationales before they can legally fire someone. So, they tend to not want to take chances. The losers?

Young people with less experience and less to cushion their resume. They're untried products...

But, the young people weren't having it. The idea of entering such a capitalist ideal was unthinkable. Many signs in the riots read "We Demand a French Solution, Not American!"

Now French solutions are all well and good, but I found two things very interesting:

1. It seemed unthinkable that a French government could offer an entirely "French" solution that was, indeed, quite capitalist.

2. The ground level fact is that the value of security and convention was picked over the value of accessible employment.

Now contrary to what many would like to think, Western Europe is on the brink of a fairly real crisis - they have a mushroom population. There isn't enough young population to sustain the social benefits within budget as they're accustomed to receiving. Simply put, their parents had fewer kids to give each one more resources, but there are now not enough kids to support both themselves and their substantially larger parent generation into retirement.

It occurs to me that the problem is that non-competition and a certain cultural notion of "stability", where jobs are gotten and expected to be kept whether they are utilitarian or not, is precisely what the students say it is - The most definitive French value. It's woven into their narrative of personal identity in the same way "rags-to-riches" is woven into the self-identity of Americans.

Let me say that in English: An essential part of being "French" is the value of job stability over the value of competative (cutthroat) capitalist economics, just like part of the essence of being "American" is that, despite the deck being stacked against you, you are capable of gaining or losing a fortune if you work hard enough and are a little bit lucky.

What we see are more than simple stories, their that's not strong enough... they're dreams. They represent the highest aspirations of the people involved, and perhaps the people are right not to give them up in the face of facts.

Sure, the French will eventually have to manage their tax/benefits shortages, but can we really blame them for not capitulating until the bitter end? Might it not be more French to say that they crashed and burned trying their damndest to fulfill the ideals they were born with?

Likewise, Americans will eventually have to face (ironically) the socializations of some very primary systems, namely medicine (which is already proto-socialist in construction anyway).

And yes, since I can never leave my own nation out, Christians should be at the forefront of sensitively understanding people who stick to their guns in spite of the evidence. How can we criticize anyone for insisting on the impossible when that is exactly what we preach?

Christ tells us that, in spite of everything we see around us, true power is found in self-sacrifice and denial of our own independent life value. Can we say that lines up with the facts around us?, or are we, much like French and American secularists, insisting that any solution which is not a Christians solution is, in fact, no solution at all? Are we not insisting that wordly cares simply cannot eclipse our ideals, and that we will hold our ground to the last man, even if it utterly destroys us?

Christ is certainly no model of selling ideals short to avoid annihilation of our lives...


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