Arts and Culture

French youth riot for justice while American youth watch Glee

Leave it to the youth of France to riot over something that has little or nothing to do with them. At least not for another 45 years, and chances are by that point the issue will be moot. After France's proposed raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62, the youth of France have taken to the streets this week, turning over cars and basically being the rebellious bad-asses that France has been known for since the French Revolution.

Yes, the French youth are at it again, and can you blame them? Isn't there sometimes a tiny part of you that wants to help tip over a car in the name of justice? Oh wait, Glee girls are half naked in GQ? Forget justice, show me those pics.

According to the French news service, France 24, riots broke out in Lyon and Paris this week after President Nicolas Sarkozy said his party would pass a pension reform bill raising the retirement age. The French are known for rioting pretty much at the drop of a hat, but protests against the reform had consisted of peaceful union boycotts that seemed to be having an impact, until recently when the kids got involved and started wrecking shop.

I don't claim to know everything about economics, but for a socialist country whose people greatly rely on the government to support them, a two-year delay in the retirement age is a big deal. Can you imagine being 60 years old in France right now? You'd be pissed. Imagine counting on your retirement for the last five years. The only thing getting you up for work in the morning is the reassurance that it will all be over, and you can relax, finally. Then months from the deadline, you become positively giddy over the prospect of retirement, and when you come out of the liquor store with a bottle of scotch for the party you see the paper and realize you have to toil for a whole two more years.

As a respectable Frenchman, you would protest peacefully--maybe block off some petrol stations--but as a man who has to work another two years before retiring, you'd want to stick a rag in that bottle of scotch, light it up and send it back through the liquor-store window. You would refrain though, because silly grandpa, rioting is for kids.

As a kid, didn't you always wanted to tip over a car and get away with it? Maybe you still do. Hence, what rioting is all about: Doing crazy, destructive shit--that everyone wants to do on occasion, but doesn't do because of the fear of punishment--and taking no responsibility for your actions in the name of some cause. The excuse for rioting doesn't have to be legitimate. What matters from a rioter's perspective is that there are enough people on board so that no one individual can be implicated in the mayhem.

What if this happened in America? Based on the French model, we've got riot-worthy things going down in the US all the time, yet riots rarely happen here. Where are the riots for the gay teen suicides? Is it because we are more level-headed than our radical friends across the ocean? Is it because they have nothing to lose? Or is it because we've grown so complacent with our comfort in this country that we are just too lazy to be bothered?

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Ben Dayton
Contact: Ben Dayton