Comment ça va?

by Areski Meftali

Une Grande Nation (Issue IV/2017)

»Most of all I Fear the Attacks.«

Areski Meftali, 32, butcher, originally from Algeria, lives in Pantin, Paris.

»France has a huge problem with its suburbs. I am a Kabyle, a Berber from Algeria, and I have been living in Pantin with my family for five years, in the northeast of Paris. It’s intense, how much criminal activity there is here. But who’s to blame? I don’t understand why the young people from these areas are so angry. This country has helped me a lot – I still don’t have any official papers but I do have free health care. I don’t want to receive any unemployment benefit either. I would rather work seven days in my father’s butchery. But a lot of people would rather be dependent. Macron will be looking for a long time if he wants to find talent in the banlieues.

Most of all I fear the attacks in France. I am not that interested in politics but I expect more security. We need more police and above all, tough punishment. No idea if Macron gets that or not. Unfortunately I couldn’t vote because I don’t have French citizenship but I would have voted for him.«

»Labour Market Reform Frightens me.«

Evelyne Suchecki, 67, a pensioner living in Persac in western France, married with two children.

Since I retired I have been living with my husband in the countryside, in my mother’s house in a socially deprived region south of Poitiers. What I am most concerned about is the gap between the poor and rich in France. There are more and more people living on the street. That mostly has to do with globalisation – almost nothing is produced in France anymore. Forty years ago our industry was doing well but now? There is also too much inequality in the EU itself. For example, we urgently need a uniform policy on taxation. Instead we continuously hear about how Germany is the best pupil in the class and we should emulate them. I am sick of that! You cannot compare the two countries!«

Emmanuel Macron’s politics are going in that direction though. His labour market reforms frighten me because he simply wants to abolish social achievements that were fought for over decades. That is why this year, for the first time, I voted for the extreme left. We won’t be able to come to grips with the problem of extreme poverty any other way.

»I Trust Emmanuel Macron.«

Vincent Pavin de Lafarge, 40, financial adviser, married with two children, lives in Lyon.

»To put it simply, I work as a financial adviser which means that I advise private clients about their stock purchases. For the past 15 years I have worked at CM-CIC Gestion in Lyon, a branch of the French bank, Bank Crédit Mutuel. I find it shocking how little business culture the French have. That is all the more reason why I trust Emmanuel Macron.

He knows the private and the financial sector because he himself worked as an investment banker. Additionally he is the same age as I am and understands the world of today with its technological challenges. That’s exactly the kind of person we need to make a new start! The expectations are high but I trust him to manage the long needed structural reforms this country needs. Just as [former Chancellor Gerhard] Schröder did in Germany in 2005.

We shouldn’t be ashamed to earn money in France. It’s not normal that talented entrepreneurs would rather live outside the country because they pay less tax there. France is lagging behind in many things and I wish that we would once again become a reliable partner in Europe, and in particular for Germany.«

»The 35-Hour Week is a Joke.«

Amandine Thomann, 30, baker, married with two children, lives in Paris.

»For me, the 35-hour week is a joke. Every day we work from four in the morning until nine in the evening. That is why fewer French people actually want to do this job.

A lot of my trainees come from Algeria and that works well. We now have four shops in the 18th arrondissement, probably because we love this job. My parents are bakers and my husband is too.

Last year he had a motorcycle accident. That was tough because he got almost nothing from the state, even though as business owners almost 50 percent of our income goes to social welfare and tax payments! Obviously I think it is right that Macron wants to change this. It’s also logical that working hours be negotiated regardless of sector. But he still has not completely convinced me.

Like many people in France I didn’t vote for anyone in the first round of the presidential elections as a protest. But then when Marine Le Pen made it into the run off, the only option was Macron. The right wing extremists scare me. I hope for the sake of my two sons that the new president manages to make a new start.«

»Everyone can do it.«

Antoine Evain, 21, student at the elite Paris university, Sciences Po, lives in Paris.

»I come from modest social circumstances in Châteauroux and I worked hard to get accepted at Sciences Po. The elitist nature of the French system is often criticised but if you work hard you can make it, even if you don’t have diplomats for parents and you come from the provinces.

After I finish studying I will probably work in the private sector first because you can earn good money there. But that will only be a springboard for my career. My dream is different: I have wanted to be president since I was 10 years old. I’ve realised that might not be possible but I would really like to get involved in local politics because at that level, you can do a lot. My biggest concern would be the integration of the suburbs. I already have a concrete proposal for this, together with a few friends. There should be an obligatory swapping of places. That is, students from the suburbs go to an academic-achievement oriented school in Paris for a few years and the elite students go to the banlieue.

We need to mix more so we can understand each other better. I really believe we can solve this integration problem.«

Transcribed by Katja Petrovic

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