Thursday, December 11, 2008

A House Divided Against Itself

Yes, these are momentous times. Particularly for certain members of the UMP and Nouveau Centre, who see a threat to the very cornerstone of civilization. I speak, of course, of le repos dominical (and not of that other cornerstone of civilization, commercial-free public television). We are, they say in a philosophical rumination published in the national press, creatures meant to rest on the seventh day in emulation of our Creator in order to preserve eternal French values from the depredations of "Anglo-Saxon neo-liberalism."

The president of the Republic does not share this view. Our great consolation for toil in this vale of tears, he argues, is the right to shop on Sunday. As well as the right to work on Sunday and thus earn more, the better to shop during one's comp time.

And so the great issue of our time was joined in a memorable confrontation at the Elysée, where the dissident deputies of the majority were urged to brave their president's wrath and sit still for his rebukes: "The way you express yourselves is not very proper. It serves our adversaries, not our ideas."

The tenacity with which the dissidents defend Sunday rest might suggest an almost fundamentalist literalism ("... and on the seventh day He rested") were it not for the cynical observation that the same small merchants who pushed the Royer, Raffarin, and Galland laws see yet another threat to their viability if the dread grandes surfaces, hard discounts, et hypermarchés are allowed to desecrate the Sabbath, which the Good Lord of course intended for football, boules, and le pot au feu. I do hope the issue is resolved soon, so deputies can get back to thinking about bailouts for the auto industry and advertising boons for M. Bouygues.


Boz said...

With all the noise you'd almost think something important was at stake. Some people are drinking way too much Kool-Aid.

kirkmc said...

I seriously wonder just how much clandestine religious feeling is guiding the reactions to this issue. French politicians rarely talk about religion, but I think here there are some religious politicians behind this refusal.

Anonymous said...

I'm for anything that can help me get out of going to the in-laws for the dreaded Sunday afternoon at the dining table. This couldn't come any sooner.

Chris P.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of quick points from someone who lives in France and would love to be able to buy dog food on Sunday (I always seem to run out on Saturday night): (1) The main ethical/social argument against Sunday opening is that it means there will be no time when everybody is available for family and other social gatherings; (2)in addition, there is the knee-jerk fear that if people can work on Sundays, everyone will soon have to; (3) small stores seem not to have realized, or refused to take advantage of, the enormous opportunity presented by the fact that in most of France you can't buy a six-pack or dog food, for that matter, after 7 p.m. or on Monday or on any other holiday that is always sneaking up on you; (4) the people most affected by the ban on Sunday opening are workers who are--surprise--working when stores are actually open. All of which shows, once again, that the issues that really push people's buttons, including mine, are essentially trivial.

Unknown said...

Some small stores do have realized and exploit the opportunity to sell at every day of hour and night (known as the "arabes", see "M. Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran" for instance.

In fact, the movement against working on sundays is led by MoP who are known to be close to the roman Catholic Church.

While most french politicians avoid any subject linked to the religion, some of them (right winged) openly claim their religious beliefs, and support most of the official positions of the Church.