I was always amazed that the French managed to have a Revolution. One of the first things you notice in France is how incredibly disciplined everyone is. Compared to the English, that is.
The children, from a very young age, require only a stern look from a parent, to instantly stop doing ‘whatever’. There are no threats, no entreaties, no promises of dreadful things that might happen – just a look. I used to wonder whether they had been battered into submission at just a few months old.
As teenagers, they dress uniformly and demurely; they appoint ‘designated drivers’ to take a group to a nightclub and return them home, still sober, at ?’o clock. They shepherd their younger brothers and sisters to local events, and turn up for family lunches where they engage in adult conversation.
As adults, they turn into irritating jobsworths, with identical handwriting drummed into them at school, and proceed to follow to the letter their contract of employment. Even if they are called out on strike by their union – they do it efficiently, thoroughly and precisely as asked.
There is a lot of fodder here if you were minded to be disparaging about the French – or to illustrate how preferable the English are with their independently minded teenagers with their variety of clothing, their experiments with alcohol and drugs, their determination to rebel and ‘be different’.
These are wild generalisations of course – there will always be exceptions, but they are in the main true.
Which is why I was amused to hear English media descriptions of the CRS, the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, arrival to carry out the requirement that the ‘Jungle Drums’ be dismantled and the occupants moved to more salubrious surroundings.
Note that I say ‘carry out the requirement’ – not ‘try to move’. The CRS don’t ‘try to’ anything. They ‘do’. They have no other function in life than to quell insurrection. Everybody brought up in France knows that. They don’t investigate crime, nor shepherd football fans to safety; they don’t see old ladies across the road, or console you when your best friend calls you a slag on Facebook.
They crack your head open when you disobey – and because they are French, and brought up in France, they think that you should stand still and obey when they turn up and fix you with that same stare your Mother used. The French do stand still and obey when they turn up – they know that it is no use appealing to obscure committees that they should be excused misbehaviour because their cat was sick or their Mother was unmarried, or that they can throw another half dozen stones at the nice policeman for good measure before melting away into the crowd….
Periodically, even the French can be undisciplined, after a football match for instance, and scuffles break out – just watch as the first CRS van turns up. It’s like magic – they don’t actually have to do anything to restore order, just arrive.
The English media commentators are ‘unsure’ of who started the current violence in Calais – I’m not. It will be the first person who assumed that the CRS are like the border guards at Macedonia who backed off when their fences were broken down; or the Italian police who gave in when the migrants refused their trains to Germany and walked off towards Calais – or the English who say they can’t come in to England, but who relent for an alarming number of ‘special reasons’.
Who started it? The first person who failed to stand to attention and say ‘Yes, Sir’.
The English media really, really don’t understand the CRS. I have heard it said this morning that they employ ‘mindless violence’. There is nothing ‘mindless’ about it. It is highly disciplined, focussed, trained for endlessly, and mightily efficient; it is the equivalent of a human nuclear weapon.
The migrants will end up in their new home. The Jungle ‘drums’ will be cleared. There will be broken bones. The English media will be appalled.
— Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) February 29, 2016
Yep, whatever it takes.
Then the CRS will get back in their fleet of vans and return to their barracks. The French will give a sigh of relief – they get nervous if the CRS so much as poke their front bumper out of those forbidding high walled barracks.
Apparently the migrants don’t want to move house for fear they might be forced to claim asylum in France…