Torn France: The stressed country

Five years after the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the November terror: France is in a deep identity crisis.

Illustration: Katja Gendikova

It is a serious and heated discussion in France: How do you dress for school? Belly-free is not possible, say stick conservatives. This clothing debate now appears even more bizarre than usual against the devastating background of a second corona wave with high case numbers and strict regional restrictions, which are protested by those responsible there because they are not allowed to participate in decision-making. The new bans severely weaken the “France Relance” plan recently announced by President Macron and the government under the new Prime Minister Castex to revive the corona-plagued economy. But they are not yet comparable to the repressive nationwide lockdown in spring. The state currently wants to avoid it at all costs and therefore appeals to the citizens: internal reason, please (and properly dressed) not to overdo it with the beloved savoir vivre.

The unfortunate clothes debate, it appears like a lost piece of a French society puzzle. It is a jigsaw puzzle in which a nation that has been stressed on various levels has come to a standstill. So how torn can jeans be in the classroom? Education Minister Blanquer from the ruling LREM party is seriously calling for a “tenue républicaine”, whatever it may be – perhaps a floor-length tricolor for Elev: inside in the national colors, one would not seriously throw in. Under the hashtag # lundi14septembre, students recently campaigned vehemently not to allow short skirts and co. To be banned anywhere.

Instead of calling out solidarity and laissez-faire in unison in a community that claims freedom on paper, there are contradicting signals from society and politics. Here people, mostly men, who cling to traditional conventions, ultimately work on a figure of thought that never existed in reality, even before 1968: good old France, France, in which women and girls, depending on each other They knew how to behave in a flirtatious to “decent” situation, men were still “real”, seductive men, and the many immigrants, mostly from the former French colonies, were obediently ghettoized.

Of course, France has not only been harboring social explosives since the appearance of the yellow vests at the end of 2018. That phenomenon, like the uprisings in ailing French suburbs as early as 2005, shows, however, as if in a burning glass, resource and distribution struggles. And: excessive violence by protesters and the often racist state power. This complicated social situation has nothing to do with the republican pathos that President Emmanuel Macron avidly serves in everyday life. It is characterized by frustration and feelings of inferiority on the one hand and elitism on the other.

New breaks in society

The former editor-in-chief of the German edition of Charlie Hebdo, Romy Strassenburg, recently said succinctly in a taz interview (when the trial of the Islamist-motivated attack on the satirical newspaper began) that the French dose horribilis In 2015, with its big questions about identity, religion and terror, it was replaced to some extent by new questions that revealed new breaks within society. The public focus is now less on the detached, radicalized young Muslims, but more on a frustrated white lower class in peripheral urban areas who do not shy away from violence. France, according to Strassenburg, “is probably even further away from social unity or pacification than in 2015”. Now on Friday two journalists were caught in a knife attack near the former office of Charlie Hebdo injured. Identify anti-terrorist units; it remains uneasy – also on the subject of Islamism.

After the Islamist attack in front of the former seat of the satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris, the main suspect confessed to the crime. The man arrested after the attack was taking “responsibility for his act,” it said on Saturday, September 26th. from investigative circles. As a motive he named the republication of controversial Mohammed caricatures by “Charlie Hebdo”, which he “could not stand”. (afp)

In early September Macron gave a speech at the Panthéon in Paris, where many French celebrities are buried. The tenor of the speech: The values ​​of the French Republic such as freedom, equality, fraternity and secularism are “indivisible”. And in a discourse in mid-June after the second major Parisian anti-racism demo, Macron actually said: “This fight is unacceptable if it is captured by separatists.” You have to act against racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination, but please don’t . How then? The country clearly has problems with the acceptance of its state organs – and people who think critically about it are pilloried.

France is drifting apart at critical points. And the monetary gap between the poor and the rich is growing steadily. Social housing, for example, has become noticeably less under Macron. A so-called tax on the rich never came. Whether there is good education and good support often depends on the “right” address – and the qualification at an elite institution – in the centrally managed hexagon, which is strongly geared towards the president. Those who apply for jobs, for example, often fall through the grid due to their non-French sounding name and origin from suburbs that are considered desolate.

System of inequality

Only recently, the powerless, conservative human rights representative of the government, Jacques Toubon, recalled that the “system of France” as a whole must be called into question: “a system that creates and maintains inequalities”. For people who do not look French and / or are not materially well off, “the republic does not keep its promises”.

This condition existed before Macron, but contrary to his promises, almost nothing has happened under him in terms of social and appreciative opportunities for advancement. That Macron is meant, who in his 2017 election campaign with the movement La République en Marche (LREM) like Kai aus der Kiste successfully advocated a France “beyond right and left and on the move”, the man who supported the socialists and the conservatives largely cannibalized to this day. That Macron, who in his election campaign was emphatically social democratic and multicultural. And now, in view of the likely final electoral duel in 2022 between him and Marine Le Pen, the head of the Rassemblement National, strategically moves ever further to the right in his domestic political agenda. Garnished with wishy-washy slogans like “Look ahead and don’t leave anyone behind”.

This mix now drives quite a few in the party into dismal perplexity; the mood is bad and trench warfare at LREM. Several MPs have left the National Assembly and Pierre Person, LREM Deputy Chair, has recently resigned. Aurore Bergé, a more conservative MP, recently warned in The world: “Our movement is in a real malaise. We no longer know who we are and what we stand for. ”What the self-absorbed“ Roi Macron ”probably doesn’t care about – for him, technocratic and vertical governance is more important. He sees movement as a vehicle for power.

Socialists as good as dead

The opposition parties, which are heavily revolving around themselves, and the first visible successes on the Franco-German EU axis after a long time are not (yet) making things really uncomfortable for Macron. The Parti Socialiste (PS) is as good as dead and is only discussing the question of whether it would not be smart to gather behind the Greens (EELV), which were very successful in the last European and local elections. But EELV is clumsy at the national level. Does the party even want to gain power, does it want its own presidential candidate?

The Greens are neither trying to clarify their relationship to liberalism, nor are they clear about whether they are striving for a radical, more emotional course or a more rational, moderate one in the future. And two influential figures at EELV, the Grenoble mayor Éric Piolle and the EU parliamentarian Yannick Jadot, are not green in the truest sense of the word. Cooperation with the conservative Republican Party (LR), also divided and divided, is, unlike black-green options in this country, zero issue for both sides. And then there is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the left-wing movement La France insoumise, who is perfect in populist rhetoric. But since neither the Greens nor the Socialists will agree on him as a presidential candidate, the left will probably remain disparate for the time being, unless a left-wing party with a majority for a change is founded.

In contrast to Germany, where due to the electoral system and the federalist principle, a new party cannot march through from a standing start, in France it is much easier to bundle moods and sensitivities in one movement at the national level, see LREM. If Macron, as the most powerful in the state and the current government, does not slowly succeed in defusing the social explosives with rationality and foresight, the mood, which is doubly stressed by Corona, can brusquely tip. The country would then experience a violent reprint of the yellow vests or similar social, thoroughly heterogeneous movements. As a precaution, the national anthem, the bloodthirsty Marseillaise from the days of the revolution, is sung at demos of all stripes.

The republic – it is currently stressing the people in France. She doesn’t let go of her.


“La Topette”, newcomer among local investigative journals

Write long articles on local life without falling for sensationalism or advertising for elected officials and businesses. It is the ambition of The Topette since the beginning of September. Every three months, in each issue (sold for three euros), three professional journalists will publish their investigations and reports.

Two weeks after its launch, this small medium from Maine-et-Loire (815,000 inhabitants) already exceeds the expectations of its founders. The first 2,000 copies have almost all been sold. ” I was very surprised. I did not expect more than 500 sales … », Says one of the creators of this quarterly, Julien Collinet.

A verified info close to the readership

Freelance journalist accustomed to collaborating with national media, he joined forces with two colleagues to launch The Topette in the department where he lives. The idea came to them from an observation: ” The national media are abandoning the countryside. However, with the yellow vests, we have seen that many people are interested in the news. They need media that speak to them », He analyzes. While deploring the lack of surveys and in-depth articles on local politics in regional dailies.

For the drafting of The Topette, creating your own independent media in the form of an association is a way of offering verified information that is close to the expectations of its readership. Without targeting a particular audience in its style, tone or line, The Topette aims broad and is spreading in small towns.

In some villages, the newspaper is sold in tobacco bars or bakeries to get around the lack of press outlets. And, to avoid additional expenses, about fifteen volunteers transport the newspapers themselves from the printing house to the shops.

From local inquiry to social criticism

Without an employee and without an intermediary, the association newspaper is inexpensive. The funds necessary for the first copy, less than a thousand euros, were raised by the base of the association, which falls within its costs ten days after its launch. The system, simple in its implementation, is based on the voluntarism of those who make it live and allows initiatives of this type to flourish throughout France.

Leafluck of Chained duck of Lot-et-Garonne created in 1976, The brick in Lille, The Postilion in Grenoble, The Sans-culotte in Vendée… These pages, often produced voluntarily, often take the “ social critic “. Surveys challenge the policies of local elected officials and often assume a left line.

Other non-associative media and run by journalists also claim to be local investigators and have flourished in recent years. Mediation covers four metropolises since 2016, Octopus Normandy for a year, The DOC the Montpellier agglomeration since 2017, Marsactu Marseille for 10 years … The principle is the same: a paying site and in-depth surveys written by professionals. Without advertising, this press claims a certain independence as opposed to its counterparts in the regional daily press.

Written by journalists, not-for-profit and available in print only, The Topette should be at the crossroads of associative and entrepreneurial models. This would allow him a certain stability, provided that his team of volunteers remains mobilized.


Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern, the Don Quixotes of cinema

« They are the same being in two bodies », Said Isabelle Adjani who played for them in Mammuth. To see them, no doubt. They are as dissimilar physically as in temperament. One (Delépine), 62, is talkative and takes the lead in the conversation, the other (Kervern), 58, is thrifty of his word but always aims right. To hear them finish the other’s sentence and bounce back on an idea like ping-pong, no doubt either about the complicity that unites these two since they met in the corridors of Canal + and the Grolandaise adventure in the early 1990s. ” Humanly, we are quite alike, we were both born at the end of August “, Tries by way of explanation Benoît Delépine.

→ CRITICAL. “Clear history”, in the midst of a digital nightmare

They even lived together, “roommates” a few months before giving up for the sake of their “ physical and mental integrity They laugh. They share this little grain of madness and a taste for the margins that could sometimes lead them into dangerous areas. ” Fortunately, we have each built a family balance that protects us from ourselves », They admit. If they have become intimate, their relationship is above all professional. Benoît Delépine lives in the suburbs of Angoulême, Gustave Kervern in Paris. When they call each other, it’s mostly “ to talk about work or current affairs “. But they have in common the essential: the fights – ” we can say that we are on the left Gustave Kervern understands, a certain vision of life with an attraction for human nature, singularity and absurdity.

The empirical method, their trademark

It is this particular alchemy that gave them ” the nerve, even the unconsciousness »To embark on the adventure of cinema about fifteen years ago by directing Aaltra. « At no time would I have dared to dream of becoming a director. There are undoubtedly people for whom it is an obsession, not for us », Confides Delépine. Since then, they have never considered working without each other. ” If I made a movie on my own, who would I talk to? »He continues. Above all, they built together, by groping, a totally empirical method that has now become their trademark. ” We only do still shots and never backfires, summarizes Kervern. We created our own little Dogma like Lars Von Trier. Suddenly, we do not plan anything ». « Except the essential, complete Delépine. The right actors and the right places ».

Their method does not always facilitate filming and editing, but it “ encourages creativity “They recognize:” We are very demanding, so we think about it all the time, and on a set, we are a real internal combustion engine, always looking for the right idea. “. Because, behind their schoolboy jokes and their casual air, hide hard workers. ” We’re crossed out, but both pretty organized, that’s why it works », Notes Delépine.

They only recognize one weakness, the leadership of actors. So they only appeal to people they admire, for whom they write and who are able to find the psychology of their character on their own. ” They are intelligent, you just need to make them feel confident. It’s a form of experimental cinema “. Moreover, they compose their films like an “exquisite corpse”, each writing their own in the manner of the Dadaists, and then bring it all together, trying to make a story out of it.

A cinema in peripheral France

The duo readily portray themselves as contemporary artists, a bit like a Michel Houellebecq. ” We are talking about people in the majority in France but nevertheless in the minority on the screen. Our films are a panel of the places that represent them: housing estates, shopping centers, rurality “. A peripheral France brutally embodied in the revolt of the yellow vests that they had anticipated in the first version of the scenario ofClear history before changing their minds and tackling the digital giants.

« Our theme is always the same: it’s Don Quixote against the windmills of capitalism and globalization. The problem is that the mills are more and more distant and inaccessible “. From where a tone with each film more black. ” The most desperate are the most beautiful songs, retorts Gustave Kerven, quoting Alfred de Musset. We describe a reality that is not very cheerful but the truth is that no one today has the solution to go back “. So they chose to resist in their own way, and because they have faith in humans, decided to oppose this world ” fantasy and friendship ».


Their inspiration. Daily life

“The driving force behind everything we write together is in everyday life. That does not prevent us from cultivating each on our own, going to museums, to the cinema, to read. But if we take all our films, and we still made 10 together, each job, each character, each place, each situation fully reflects our lives, our own misadventures. These are bricks of autobiographies with which we make film buildings but everything is there, inspired by certain injustices that we have observed, but also by certain shortcomings, I would even say sometimes of handicap that we could feel vis-à-vis -to a society that goes beyond us. “


Police violence in France – it’s not far from Minneapolis to the Banlieue – politics

Adama Traoré died in French police custody in 2016. Since then, his sister Assa has been fighting for justice. After George Floyd’s death in the United States, many French people took to the streets for her and against police violence.

For four years, Assa Traoré has been fighting for the police to take responsibility for the death of her brother Adama. She has never had as much support as Tuesday evening: According to the authorities, 20,000 people came to a rally demanding “Justice for Adama”. “If you fight for George Floyd today, you fight for Adama,” Assa Traoré called to the protesters. The Traoré family and their supporters have been in contact with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, which is protesting against racist police violence against blacks.

Adama Traoré died in police custody in the summer of 2016, a few hours after his arrest in a suburb of Paris. Three police officers had kneeled on his back, and Traoré had tried several times to escape. The record of the arrest says that Traore said he was out of breath. The police called an ambulance when the 24-year-old Traoré was no longer alive. The exact cause of death is controversial. On Friday, a court released an autopsy analysis, which relieves the police. Traoré died of “cardiogenic edema”, that is, of a previous illness. On Tuesday, on the other hand, an appraisal commissioned by Traoré’s family concluded that Traoré had been choked by external violence.

It was mainly young people who gathered in front of the new Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, the city’s main court. Most of them wore respirators, the demonstration was peaceful for a good two hours. However, it was not allowed – because of the corona pandemic, gatherings of people are still prohibited. It was only when it got dark that there was violence on the edge. Barricades were set on fire, the police used tear gas. The posters linked to the protests in the USA, from there one of the battle cries was taken over: “I can’t breathe”, I can’t breathe. The name George Floyd was also on T-shirts and banderoles. Floyd was killed by a white cop in the United States last week. His death triggered a huge wave of protests.

Residents of the suburbs complain of arbitrariness and violence during police checks

The great response received by Assa Traoré’s protest appeal is not only due to the inspiration from the United States. There was a strict curfew throughout France for eight weeks until mid-May to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Residents of the impoverished suburbs around Paris or Marseille, in which the majority of immigrants and their children live, repeatedly reported arbitrariness and violence during police checks during these weeks. The relationship between suburban residents and law enforcement has been tense for decades. The former accuse the police of not questioning racist structures within the authorities and of unnecessarily brutalizing young men with African roots. The latter complain of high crime and drug trafficking in the suburbs.

Shortly before the curfew began, the “Urgence Violences Policières” association, Emergency Police Violence, launched a mobile phone app to enable French citizens to systematically film police operations. Urgence Violences Policières was founded by families whose relatives were injured in police operations. The club is supported by numerous celebrities, including the football player Franck Ribéry, the actors Adèle Haenel, Vincent Cassel and Omar Sy, the director Ladj Ly and the writer Virginie Despentes.

The French police have an unusually large arsenal of weapons by European standards. So she can use tear gas grenades and rubber bullets to control demonstrations. These weapons were originally introduced to be used in the immigrant suburbs. If there is a demonstration, the authorities usually do not classify this as a political rally, but as an uprising that must be dealt with harshly.

A fight with the police can be painful

The use of rubber bullets has been massively criticized in France since the Gilets jaunes movement. The so-called yellow vests took to the streets in November 2018 when protests were not registered, and violent confrontations with the police occurred. Now parts of the lower, white middle class have had an experience that many residents of the suburbs have known for a long time: An argument with the police can be painful. According to the newspaper Liberation In the first two months of the yellow vest protests alone, more than 90 demonstrators and journalists were injured by rubber bullets from the police, 14 people lost an eye.

Assa Traoré and other activists campaigning against both racism and police violence joined several yellow vest protests to protest together for more stringent law enforcement within the police force. Some of the former leaders of the yellow vest movement also took part in the rally on Tuesday. Within the Gilets jaunes, however, police violence was seen as a sign of a government that is against the people. Not as a phenomenon that makes racist structures visible. Paris police chief Didier Lallement wrote in a letter to his staff on Tuesday that the Paris police were “non-violent and not racist”.


why such a gap between facts and representations? ”

FIGAROVOX / TRIBUNE – It is indisputable that France is, with Denmark, world champion in public services and the welfare state. However, this massive reality remains unknown to the French, explains the former commissioner for state reform.

By J-L S

Jean-Ludovic Silicani.
Jean-Ludovic Silicani.
Illustration Fabien Clairefond

Jean-Ludovic Silicani is an honorary councilor of state.

For a few years, the dominant discourse, reinforced by the current health crisis, is that France would have succumbed to the neoliberal Anglo-Saxon model, in which public services are reduced to the bare minimum and subject to a logic of profitability. This is also the feeling of many of our fellow citizens, manifested in particular during the movement of “yellow vests”. However, the reality is very different: France has never devoted so many means to its public services, whether in terms of credits (56 percentage points of GDP, the highest level in the world) or public officials (5, 5 million, or 19% more in twenty years). So whether we congratulate ourselves or deplore it, France is today, tied with Denmark, world champion in public services and the welfare state.

How to explain, apart from political postures, this gap between facts and feelings? It seems to me largely due to ignorance,

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“Our welfare state has created unjust equality”

INTERVIEW – The essayist explains how our very generous social model managed to downgrade the so-called “average” French.

“As a social elevator, we have an endless spiral staircase,” observes Denis Olivennes. Our model promised to place the middle classes at the center of society: they had to grow and prosper. But instead of consecrating them, we massacre them. ” Jean-Christophe Marmara / JC MARMARA / LE FIGARO

“France is a paradise populated by people who believe they are in hell.” This assertion advanced by the climber Stéphanie Bodet and quoted by the writer Sylvain Tesson rang in the ears of Denis Olivennes. Amazed, like everyone, by the movement of “yellow vests”, the essayist sought to understand The Delicious French Woe , title of his brand new book (Albin Michel). This oxymoron is due to the particularity of our welfare state. Built during the Liberation, this model, renowned for its generosity, has become over the years particularly unfair to the middle classes. Author in 1994 of The French Preference for Unemployment, this representative of the elite (Normale Sup, ENA), who admits a “quasi-religious love” for France, pleads for a fairer distribution of the national wealth. An imperative that will allow, according to him, a better sharing of republican values, essential to our national cohesion.

Each of us thinks that the neighbor is treated better than him and all of us have an intense social resentment, jealousy, mistrust

LE FIGARO.- Why this book?

Denis OLIVENNES.- Are you

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