I am always leery of writing of life in France, it sets off an utterly predictable rash of knee jerk comments from fellow bloggers who seem to think that because one lives in Europe one has no right to comment on life in the UK – albeit that they frequently comment on life in Europe! My answer is always the same – I pay taxes in England, and this blog is my only representation, I have no vote.
There is a perception of the French as being arrogant and aloof, one that I shared when I arrived (in tears at the prospect of living here!) in my husband’s wake. It is true that they are as welcoming and helpful to a tourist addressing them in English as the average Englishman walking down his High Street in Epsom is when addressed in flowing Mandarin – a more widely spoken language than little old English. It will seem a strange notion to the multi-cultural ideology of the UK, but the French believe that it is for newcomers to adapt to them, not the other way round. Weird idea, but I, along with every other immigrant to this country – and there are more immigrants in France than there are in the UK – have struggled to learn the language, file our tax returns, obey the laws, and generally fit in with the culture without too much trouble. We didn’t need our gas bill translated into fourteen different languages to understand that we needed to pay it. A good dictionary helps.
Devil’s Kitchen has set me off again on the ‘Why France?’ tack – it seems Oldham council have decided that:
Drinkers in Oldham will have to queue at bars and buy no more than two beers at a time in an attempt to curb violence and binge-drinking.
Customers will be encouraged to stand behind rope barriers similar to those used in banks and post offices as they wait to be served, while drinking in the queue will also be discouraged, under new proposals.
Dear God! Another law from the nanny state?
I live in a country with licensing laws that insist that every bar closes for an entire hour every day. An hour! During that hour, you are forced to pop into the local bakers shop, or the next door cafe, or even the greengrocers, if you want a drink so badly that you can’t wait that hour out. You would be hard pushed to find anywhere that would serve you lunch and not throw in a carafe of wine – refilled if you look as though you are going to empty it. Every second farmhouse that you pass in the countryside has a sign outside offering free booze! Free! – if you would just be kind enough to stop and help yourself.
There are no laws limiting what you can drink, there are no laws limiting the age that minors can be on licensed premises. There are no laws telling you what time you can start or stop drinking. There are no restrictions telling license owners which brand of alcohol they can stock.
Not many people live within walking distance of shops, so drink-driving is a problem admittedly, and the death rate on the roads is horrendous – but drunks? You will search for a long time to find a drunk. (No cheating now, and finding an Englishman on holiday!)
Then again, most Frenchmen carry a wicked looking knife, bought freely in any village market place. What else would they cut up their saucisson and baguette with, or prise open their oysters? Supermarkets have a display of bullets and cartridges in the area by the till reserved for children’s sweets in the UK. They go with the guns that you can buy in every town, everything from a hand gun to an Uzi sub-machine gun. (I kid you not).
A Health and Safety apparatchik would have a nervous breakdown here – fairs have guns stalls where you can practice your aim, and no-one feels the need to chain the guns to the counter, or make sure you don’t point it at anyone.
I have just returned from visiting a château with visitors where a steep cobbled slope led downwards to a 200 foot sheer drop over a cliff edge – no sign considered necessary to tell you that it was against the law to go over the edge, no steel barriers to prevent you from doing so.
The French may have many faults, but they have a natural pride in themselves that makes them not want to lie comatose in the gutter. Their bureaucracy may be a nightmare, but they are natural Libertarians, they ask for as little interference in their lives as possible, and respond by ‘policing’ themselves.They don’t throw their rubbish out of the car window, they don’t play their transistors full blast on a crowded beach, they don’t binge drink and run riot through shopping centres. Not because it is against the law, but because they respect themselves and their fellow countrymen.
Libertarianism, to me, doesn’t mean being able to do and say what you want, when you want, irrespective of other people, that is pure selfishness – and the true selfishness is demanding that other people make way for you to do so. Libertarianism, to me, means that you can be responsible for your own behaviour, and take responsibility for ensuring that your behaviour doesn’t impinge on anyone else’s way of life.
Laws will not change peoples behaviour, they only punish those who transgress them – and get caught.
The Libertarian Party is desperately looking for funds to field Libertarian candidates in the next election. Please click this link and do what you can to help them, if the English can acquire a Libertarian mentality, life will be better for everyone.