French issues (#2)

See on page Issues (#1)

 Ethical issues   Some typically French ethical issues
 The French do not fight about the same issues as Americans. On some of them there is, globally, a consensus and the French rarely quarrel or demonstrate about them. For others (typically French), the country is split and it is important to observe that the division is always along a political line (right vs. left) and never along a religious line (read about religion in France). See a very interesting comparative poll France/US.  

Issues for the French (and not so much for Americans, for whom they are not important issues)

  • Secularism is an important issue in France and when people have the feeling that it is at stake (for instance when President Sarkozy declared in December 2007 in Rome that " people need religion ") a majority of the French protested (including churches) : see more about secularism

 Issues for Americans (and NOT so much for the French, who globally agree about them) :

  • Abortion has been legal in France since 1976 (loi Veil) and no significant political or religious movement is campaigning for a return to the previous situation ; see facts about IVG (abortion).

  • The death penalty in France was abolished in 1982 and only a handful of extreme-right-wing politicians campaign for re-establishing it.

  • Arms control is not an issue in France : it is prohibited to detain arms and nobody challenges that. Period.

  • Teaching creationism in schools as a scientific theory is just unthinkable in France : read more about religion.

  • Marriage : today, more than 50% of children were born from un-married parents (and France has the hightest rate of natality in Europe!). More about marriage.

  • More to come...

  • Assisted reproduction is legal only for (heterosexual) couples and sperm-banks are state-run entities ; using a surrogate mother is against the law since 1994

  • " New social rights " : an example is the " droit opposable au logement " (opposable right to a home) ; according to a law passed in 2006, any French citizen is entitled to a home, and if he/she cannot find or afford one and is not proposed social housing, he/she can invoke this law and demand a home ; the left thinks this is a normal right in a democracy, the right thinks it is crazy and not applicable

  • The market economy is morally questionable for a large minority of the French and so is private money in any cultural or educational organization : you can have thousands of artists, students or professors demonstrating in the streets and shouting "Non à l'argent privé" (no to private money) or "Culture (or education) is not for sale", etc..... Read more about money.

  • More to come .....

 Common issues : not much difference between France and America about :

  • Euthanasia and Stem cells : same situation and debates as in the USA

  • Homosexuality is now much better accepted due to several important anti-discrimination laws (and the HALDE : see below) ; first the PACS (a purely contractual form of quasi-marriage) was largely used by homosexal couples, then (2013) a "real" one, which is now possible ; adoption by homosexual couples is legal.

  • More to come....

A few examples of French controversies about philosophical and ethical issues :

  • there is a very strong movement against Genetically Modified Organisms and GMO corn is banned by the French legislation (againts the European legislation) ; environmental actistivist Jose Bové spent several months in jail for organizing massive destruction of GMO fields

  • most students demonstrating AGAINST the autonomy of universities : see why

  • thousands of artists, writers, academics demonstrating AGAINST the Louvre museum opening a branch in Abu-Dhabi (and receiving a lot of money for that)

  • a very large support for the idea that all illegal immigrants should be granted working papers

  • More to come...
 Cultural issues   The controversy about "French Identity"

Is the French culture dead or dying? This recurrent question is a classical theme in the American press : " France no longer has world-famous thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre" or "singers such as Edith Piaf "; "contrary to the "Nouvelle Vague" French movies are now mediocre and self-centered", "French novelists are not translated and are unknown outside France", "the French State puts too much money to help too mediocre artists", etc....

DID YOU KNOW THAT...... ? The HALDE (" Haute Autorité de Lutte contre les Discriminations et pour l'Egalité " for "high authority against discriminations and for equality", now called "Defenseur des Droits") was established in 2004 as an independent regulator to help citizens fight against racism, homophobia, sexism and generally any form of discrimination (age, sex, race, health, mental condition, religion, etc), particularly in the job and housing markets. Its mission statement includes helping victims to take their case to court, setting up "testings" to establish a discrimination, proposing new regulations and valorizing best practices. Any citizen can write to HALDE about his/her case for help or advice.

What is it to be French ? Which values do we share ? This is an on-going controversy, complicated (as is usual in France) by a strong political bias. Read about politics in France.

  • Many things which look very natural to Americans are very controversial for the French : for instance, saying "I'm proud of my country" or "We french share the same values" or "My compatriots" or putting the French flag at your window, etc... It sounds, at best, very naive. Why ? Because in the history of France, on several occasions, the country was deeply divided about some of the major issues that contribute to form a nation : the flag, the form of government, the religion, ...

  • It is a fact that the French, who are negative about everything, love to be negative about their own country and their own people : what they say about themselves would horrify any American. See the French mood.

  • The Left political wing is very uncomfortable about the question "What is it to be French?" because it considers that the simple fact of asking the question expresses a Right wing view like chauvinism, racism, colonialism, nationalism, etc... (you name it) : all bad word in French.

  • It is true that, as many Righ wingers may fear, asking the question could be a way to imply that immigrants (particularly from Africa or Muslims) are not welcome in France.

  • In 2009, President Sarkozy created major trouble within the Opposition by raising the issue of "French Identity" and appointing one of his ministers (Eric Besson), who was a former leader of the Left Wing, to discuss the issue with all political parties. For the Left wing he was using a traitor to pretend he was discussing real issues when in fact all he wanted was to toughen immigration laws.

  • More than 100,000 immigrants get French citizenship every year : see how to get French citizenship and figures about naturalization.

  • More to come....

To related pages : more issues (#1), events as reported by the French media, French society, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books:

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)

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