A dark sense of gloom has spread over France. The ongoing protests against proposed changes in the retirement system seemed to have morphed into something much bigger, potentially unmanageable. Transport is disrupted, long lines are forming at service stations amidst concerns about what might happen if oil and gas refineries stay shuttered, truckers have engaged in work slowdowns, and high school students have taken to the streets. There have been a few isolated reports of violence raising the specter of the type of unrest that raged in the banlieue of Paris back in 2005.
The response from the Elysee has been stalwart, guarded. Not much is being said only that the final vote on retirement reforms has been postponed until Thursday at the earliest. But my question is this: even if the retirement reforms are blocked, will people go home satisfied? Or has something much deeper -- widespread anxiety about the future --taken hold of hearts and minds? And what's the answer to the mathematical problem plaguing the retirement system -- too few current workers chasing too many retirees -- other than more taxes on the rich?
Add to that the vaguely worded warnings about an imminent terrorist attack, and no wonder everyone's feeling on edge and out of sorts. And the big black storm clouds that have been lingering in Parisian skies for days certainly haven't helped.
To those from home who've inquired how we're holding up and queried just what to think of all this, all I can say is we're doing fine and just as confused about the politics as you are. Does the right to strike trump all? Will public opinion shift if services are still at a standstill when the school holidays begin Saturday? Your guess is as good as mine.