Image via WikipediaThe media are full of the demonstrations against the proposed pension reforms in France with crowds filling the streets of every major town, but I can't get very worked up about it.
There is nothing very exciting about French mass demonstrations. They are very well organised and each band of marchers carries its identifying poster.....the name of its union and the workplace from which the marchers come. The police march at the head of the columns so that they can't be asked to count how many people have turned up and a good day out is had by all.
The chanting isn't very inspiring, either, so the only element of surprise comes in the unofficial placards carried by the less regimented among the marchers......all sorts of clever stuff about offering retirement to Sarkozy, references to the ballooning Bettencourt scandal which involves the minister currently handling pension reform and the one I liked best, which just about summed up the mood of the nation....
Demonstrations of this sort do nothing to change things. They just demonstrate that the unions are good at turning out the numbers as part of their bargaining game with government.
It certainly isn't the nation in arms. The nation is at home watching it on the television.
Just about everyone thinks that something has to be done about funding future pensions, but no one agrees on what it is, when it should happen and who should be clobbered.
Everyone agrees, however, that it shouldn't be them.
I strongly suspect that one of the major reasons for not sacking Monsieur Woerth, the minister responsible for pension reform and well filled brown envelopes, intimately acquainted with most of the actors in the Bettencourt saga and up to his neck in showing the rich how to conduct vanishing tricks with their money, is that French pension reform has become the modern equivalent of the Schleswig Holstein question, of which Lord Palmerston is reputed to have said that only three people understood what it was all about...Albert, Queen Victoria's Prince Consort, who was dead.....a German professor who had gone mad...and Palmerston himself, who had forgotten all about it.
In this case, the only person who seems to understand it is Monsieur Woerth and that knowledge is what is keeping him in a job.
What I can get worked up about is the mysterious affair of President Sarkozy's birth certificate.
Someone in the benighted town which is being ruined and despoiled by its council and leading citizens referred to here felt he had had a raw deal at the hands of a couple of powerful civil servants, a councillor, and two lawyers.
Not unusual...this is France where such people make a habit of handing out raw deals to anyone who can't hit back.
To express his displeasure, the person in question sent copies of Sarkozy's birth certificate to the objects of his animosity.
Now, why shouldn't he?
It might sound daft, and I am still puzzled as to why the receipt of Sarkozy's birth certificate should be expected to make someone blench and call for the brandy bottle, but whom does it harm?
It turns out to harm the person who sent them.
One of the lawyers complained to the police with the result that all usual activities....following a woman driver round the town for forty minutes to hand out a fine for not having both brake lights working.....walking very fast the other way when the yahoos with pitbulls emerge from the lovely old houses that have been turned into slums.....avoiding the supermarket car parks when the gyppos are in residence....were cancelled and it was all hands to the pump to unearth the perpetrator of this heinous offence.
For offence it is claimed to be.
The lawyer claims...and the local prosecutor agrees....that the person concerned has usurped the identity of those to whom the certificates were sent by representing himself as being the people to whom the certificates were sent when he applied for them online...if you see what I mean.
That'll learn him to bother his betters.
This is the face of France you don't see referred to by the 'living the dream' wallahs.
The mean minded petty spite exercised by those with power.
The outrage that they feel when their power is challenged.
The lengths the system will go to to punish affronts to their dignity.
But there is something more to this than meets the eye.
I could be wrong as, not being French, I have never had occasion to do this but I thought that when you apply for a copy of a birth certificate which is not your own, relating to a birth which took place in the last one hundred years, you needed to show some relationship between yourself and the person referred to by the certificate, as the latter is regarded as a confidential document.
Quite why a birth certificate should be regarded as in any way confidential in France where you seem to be required to produce one at the drop of a hat to prove that you exist I cannot imagine, but there it is.
So how did our gallant perpetrator manage to have copies sent to all these prominent notables whose identities he is said to have usurped?
What documents did he produce...online...to convince the appropriate authorities to send out the certificates?
I think we should be told.
But, as this is France,we won't be and the couple of civil servants, the councillor and the two lawyers can settle back in peace to watch the demonstrations on the television, as sure as anyone can be in this life that whatever happens, they won't be affected.
In France, their type never are.