Today marked the end of the strike, the subway runs pretty much as usual, nobody is complaining anymore. It's as if nothing happened. During the last 10 days, the TV news kept on showing us how unhappy people were that they couldn't go to work and how angry they were that a minority would go on strike to keep their privileges, namely an early retirement.
Contrary to common beliefs, a long strike like this one is pretty unusual in France. The last one of a similar importance was in december 1995, 12 years ago. It lasted 3 weeks and ended just in time for the Christmas shopping. Because if there's something that French people love to do more than to go to work is to go shopping. I was last Saturday at the Galeries Lafayette gourmet, full as ever, at the heart of strike period and somewhat people managed to come all the way down there, with all the nearby subway and train lines down, and there were no TV cameras to show that the strike was after all not so constraining for the French economy.
I can understand the arguments of the train workers, they're right - why would they want to keep doing after 50 such a tedious job? And also, I can understand that in the configuration of our economy maintaining early retirements is not really possible anymore. So why not using this opportunity to question the relationship to work itself? With the current president "work more to earn more" Sarkozy, the notion of work as the ultimate modern value is statufied. But the real revolution is to be able to choose a job that makes you happy or at least that you wouldn't want to leave "early" in your career or that maybe is not getting you at the end of the day to burn your life with alcohol, and anti-depressants and cocaine. The leaders of the economy are exploiting the need for people to get a job that will at least sustain basic expenses - all they care for is to make sure they are profitable, and that in a nice convenient loop, they can spend the small money they earn in a desperate gesture cynically called "pouvoir d'achat" (consuming power) which is the only power they will ever feel in their life: because when you've been spending your day feeling "you're nothing" at work, all you can do is buy and buy more at your turn to feel "you're something".
This actually puts the act of consumption at the heart of the next revolution, between ecological, political and economical awareness: what you buy, how you buy it, where you buy it, why, etc... More and more, I'm interested in alternative theories like "décroissance" or "degrowth". It's fascinating because it puts the problem upside down and for that only, I like it.
And finally, as it was the case in 1995, this strike was very valuable if only for one thing: rediscovering the relationship to the city, to the ways you move in it, to the ways you get from one point to another, and to time (for instance, instead of making sure I want the shortest time spent between the place where I am and where I should be, I have to think of what I'm going to do in the time that I wait - mainly walk - and through what part of the cities).