The main news in France during the month of March was of course the demonstrations against the pension reform. These overshadowed a fairly large number of surreal news items, each of which would deserve a thorough analysis, as they are so symptomatic of the flaws in the French society.
Demonstrations continue but gradually decrease, notably because of the violence of the extreme left which attacks the forces of order, journalists, public and private property. In the face of this, there are many cases of irritated residents throwing glass bottles at the rioters, for example. Or right-wing students confronting left-wing students who want to prevent classes from taking place. Sometimes the violence shifted to other issues, such as the demonstration by environmentalists against a "mega-pool" in the countryside of Sainte Soline, where clashes between demonstrators and police were particularly violent. The former accused the latter of having started to attack them, without any justification, and waited 30 minutes before allowing seriously injured people to be evacuated. The public authorities, for their part, were indignant that the demonstrators had "come to wage war". According to them, the gendarmerie doctor who came to help was pelted with stones by the demonstrators. The chaos and anarchy were so intense that a special zone had to be set up right next to the demonstration, so that the paramedics could treat the wounded in full safety. As with the Yellow Vests movement, this violence is leading to a decrease in the participation of ordinary citizens in demonstrations and reinforcing Emmanuel Macron as the guarantor of order (as I explained in my article "France at the end of its tether").
These outbursts of violence rightly monopolise the news. They have not allowed us to focus on the Catholic nuns who had to leave the city centre of Nantes because of the insecurity. As Sister Marie-Anne explained: "There comes a time when you have to recognise your limits. We are not the Franciscans of the Bronx, we need a slightly stronger background to be in this place. We are nuns, we are women, and we sometimes feel a little vulnerable in face of what is happening in this neighbourhood. All this is in line with what I explained in my January report on the dramatic insecurity and de-Christianisation of France (Country Report: France, January 2023).
Meanwhile, in Paris, where one can only deplore the particularly degrading and gloomy morals of many politicians, especially on the right (see my February report, Country Report: France, February 2023), Nicolas Jeanneté, 57, director of the "Nouveau Centre" political party, vice-president of the "LR and related" group on the Paris City Council, has been arrested. He has been charged with drug trafficking and possessing child pornography images. His adopted son, a 25-year-old Malian, was also arrested. Mr Jeanneté is suspected of having possessed and resold synthetic drugs to his partners during "Chemsex" parties (Chemsex implies the use of drugs in the service of sexual activities planned to last from several hours to several days). On social networks, this elected official was a drug basher, while stressing that the "all-out crackdown" on drugs had been a failure. More generally, drugs are perhaps a problem that we no longer take seriously enough. It has become omnipresent in Western societies; in addition to serious public health problems, it poses the danger of corruption, but also of disconnection from reality, among our consumer elites.
Finally, and still in Paris, rats continue to cause controversy. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is particularly unhappy that a very popular French singer-songwriter, Pierre Perret, 88, has come out of retirement to write and sing "Paris saccagé". This very funny song set to typical French music, criticising the results of Ms Hidalgo's policies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPXnb0PhHvg&ab_channel=PierrePerret) has been a big hit on YouTube with over 1.5 million views. The lyrics are worth listening to:
In Paris, disgusting Paris
Only the rats are happy
They know that here the vegans are not stupid
They only feed them organic food
To cross the trenches, the works
It's worse than the Roncesvalles pass
The faeces that decorate the pavements
Decorate this great dumping ground
Poor Paris, ugly Paris
What a state they've put you in
They promised Nirvana
And it's the Berezina
Where are you Paris, lights of the cities
Who was France's shepherdess
When some blind fools
Made a mess of you
Poor Paris, ugly Paris
You who were the paradise
Here you are, dressed up as Waterloo
By our nice ecologists
In Paris in winter as in summer
We don't touch the dirt
The old TVs, the tons of rubbish
Pile up happily in the streets
Poor Paris has become so dirty
We know who did this to you
It's the skulls of greedy birds
Who eat seeds at the town hall
In Paris, Paris patched up
It is the ugliness that has passed
The public benches and the Wallace fountains
It wasn't so disgusting
It's in Barbès, la Chapelle, Stalingrad
I'm not sure what to do about it, I'm not sure what to do about it
And in the squares where no child plays
There's only syringes and no nannies
In Paris, disgusting Paris
Yes, only the rats are happy
And the Paris of the Great Charles outraged
It's a ransacked Paris
If you ask a French person if they are going to demonstrate - a commonplace act in any democracy - it is not uncommon for them to reply that they prefer not to take any risks, so virulent has the policing of demonstrations become.
Throughout February, France has been gripped by the "Pierre Palmade" affair, named after a famous comedian and showbiz star known to all French people. On 10 February, his car violently collided with another car whose passengers were a six-year-old boy, his father and his sister-in-law, a young pregnant woman.