Even with the myriad problems on this side of the pond, it remains easy to make fun of France, a nation with a rich cultural past but problematic present, and a population that seems . . . well, spoiled rotten.
How else to explain the endless cycle of strikes affecting everything from trains and planes to postal deliveries, six alone since early September, while the current shutdowns are over the Sarkozy government's attempt to raise the legal minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 in an effort to reform the country's wildly generous pension system. Yes, 62.
But the current round of shutdowns is a lulu, shuttering all of France's oil refineries. As if on cue, truck drivers and school students also went out on strike. The latter a group that will not have to grapple with retirement issues until the year 2050, at the earliest, but strikes fear into the heart of French officials everywhere who recall how these precious young dears rioted in 1968, bringing the country to a standstill.
The French have slowly but surely lost their competitive edge in the ferocious world economic battlefield (sound familiar?) in large part because of a citizenry accustomed to living on Easy Street.
Don't expect that to change anytime soon.
Photograph by The Associated Press