rolade's blog

Presidential Elections, National Issues and Global Concerns

In 2008, I received a letter from the Australian Government telling me to pay AUD$20 for not voting in the 2007 Federal election. I avoided paying it by responding in writing that I now reside in France. Australia is one of about 20 countries (including Belgium, Switzerland, Uruguay and Singapore) where voting is compulsory. The penalty for failing to vote ranges from fine to difficulty in obtaining a public service appointment.

Unlike Down Under, voting in France is voluntary, which is a real draw card in this year's presidential election. The primary election is on April 22 but many French citizens are still undecided to vote and who to vote. There are 10 candidates from political parties that vary from conservatism ('Droite' - Right), socialism ('Gauche' - Left) to communism and issue-based groups, such as environmentalists and anti-capitalists. It's certainly not the lack of diversity in policies and programmes that causes indecisiveness.

The major subjects of political debates are economy, employment, taxes, social welfare, homeland security, immigration, environment and education. There are significant, as well as only slight, differences in what each party promises to do if elected. For instance:

The Socialist Party (PS) of Mr. Hollande would like to employ 12,000 jobs per year in the education sector for 5 years; Impose penalty for companies that retrench workers but give dividends to shareholders; Create public bank of investments; Give right to vote to non-citizens who have been living in France for at least 5 years; Reduce nuclear power plants; Allow homosexual couples to adopt children.

Parenting, Family Entertainment and Children's Development

I’m afraid my article on French politics will be for next fortnight because something disconcerting caught my attention last week. March 17-19 was Spring Film Festival and a cinema ticket was only 3.50 Euros all over France (instead of E6.80 for under 12yo and E10.45 adults, respectively), which was a real bargain and an opportunity for families to go out and have fun.

Since I had already seen all OSCARised films, such as The Artist and Iron Lady, I opted for the French film ‘Les Infideles’ (The Players) that stars Jean Dujardin (2011 Best Actor). My film finished at 7:20pm (this was Tuesday) and I was amazed by the number of people, from preschoolers to seniors, queuing. Since rooms of good films got filled up quickly, late comers watched whatever they could because they didn’t want to miss out on this annual promotion.

While waiting to exit, a family of 5 got in and stood beside me discussing what movie to watch. The mother said, “On va regarder ‘Les Infideles’.” My heartbeat doubled and brain cells moved in different direction looking astonishingly at this family. I couldn’t help myself from telling them that it wasn’t for children. The mother asked me why and I had difficulty explaining, in the presence of 12yo and 10yo boys & 9 yo girl, that this film has explicit and highly detailed pictorial depiction of sex and marriage and ‘offensive’ reference to sexual behaviours. Adults may find the scenes of fooling around and sexual jokes amusing, especially the fornication and buttocks of JD, but it should be off-limits for minors. The family, most probably, didn’t watch the film because either they were dissuaded by my comments or refused entry.

Communication patterns and behaviours of French and English speakers

Last Saturday, I was finishing an article on French politics when I realized that we didn’t have enough food for the weekend, and because shops are closed on Sunday, I rushed to our local supermarket. I was thrilled because I filled the trolley in less than an hour, but at the checkout my excitement turned into an unpleasant experience. My first bankcard didn’t work and the second one flashed with “code faux”. After trying twice, the cashier informed me in a high-pitched voice that I keyed in the wrong numbers and I couldn’t use it anymore. Slightly embarrassed, I scraped all the cash I had including the Euros hidden in the secret compartment of my wallet intended for emergency use only. She remarked twice that I made a mistake and when I was exiting the premises she uttered in a loud voice, “Regardez, la carte de Monsieur fonctionne”. There was no need for her to let everyone know that unlike mine, the bankcard of the man behind me worked.

I went straight to my bank, which is just across the street, and tried the same code. It worked and there’s no explanation why it failed before. I went back to the shop and told the cashier that I was disappointed with her behaviour. She raised her voice even louder, which caught the attention of the security guard who came and inquired what was happening. As I was explaining, she insisted I entered the wrong code. I told her to calm down as it’s normal for people to press wrong buttons but it’s not acceptable to be rude at customers. She didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, so I repeated “It’s uncivilised to talk in that manner.” The security guard interrupted and said “Je ne crie pas” (I’m not screaming). It was obvious my statement wasn’t for him… The French…!

Cinema is a French invention while OSCAR is an American show

Four years ago, I visited the Lumière (‘light’ in English) Museum in Lyon, France, which is dedicated to the Lumière brothers == Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas (1862- 1954) and Louis Jean (1864 - 1948). While working for their father (Charles Antoine Lumière, 1840-1911) in his photographic business, they made some improvements to still-photography (especially the dry-plate process) that was a major step towards moving images. ‘The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat’ in 1895 was their earliest film and it’s because of them that today we enjoy movies, TV programs, documentaries and entertainment.

I remember standing vividly in front of the Lumières’ extraordinary inventions, including their first cameras, finding explanations as to why the French, though pioneering in the film industry, haven’t received international accolade (i.e. annual Academy Awards) and came out with two: language (English is more widely spoken and understood) and culture (generally, the Americans are more commercially-daring).

Therefore, in 2008 when Marion Cotillard won the Academy (popularly known as the OSCAR) Best Actress Award for her performance as Edith Piaf in ‘La Vie en Rose’ (Life in Rose) and recently Jean Dujardin for Best Actor and Michel Hazanavicius for Best Director Awards in ‘The Artist,’ I was certainly thrilled.

Madame, Mr, Firefighters and other titles

This week, the French Government has decided to stop using Mademoiselle in official documents because it's discriminatory. There's now no reference to matrimonial status and the choice is either Madame or Monsieur. In English-speaking countries, Mrs. is for married women, Ms. for single ladies or those whose civil status is unknown and Mr. for men. I must admit that when I write I've the tendency to use Ms. even when I know that she is married, so perhaps we should also bid farewell to Mrs.

Intergenerational gap — another diversity issue

My 60-year-old Aussie friend has been promising to communicate with me by email for 2 years. Her 20-year-old daughter left home after setting up her Gmail account and no one is around to help her in ‘this seemingly difficult endeavor’ (as she describes it). Last year, she managed to respond to my email twice during the weekend visit of her daughter. Whereas, another Aussie friend (who’s about ten years older than her) emails regularly and doesn’t miss an occasion to send me an electronic card (birthday, Christmas, Easter and Happy Australia Day).

Though the over 59yo men and women are quite diverse, generally, their knowledge is seemingly perceived as obsolete whilst youth is associated with progress and technological know-how. Old and young people have different interest, clothing taste and communication style at any one moment in time, which is described as intergenerational gap.

Generations are grouped by events (e.g. 9/11) and exceptional people (e.g. Steve Jobs) during each period: Baby boomers (1946 – 1964), General Xers (1965 – 1975), Generation Yers (1976 – 1980s), Millennials, Nexters and Me & I Generation (1980s – 1990s up to 2000), Generation Z (after 2000 – also known as Generation Multitasking/Skilling and WWW). The 2008 recession and current economic/financial crises have resulted to and continue to cause youth unemployment and poverty, which has significant consequences. One of these is that young people opt or are forced to live with their parents or relatives– a situation that can have positive impact on intergenerational gap.

Are young people disrespectful?

Today, at our local supermarket a youth was disappointed that his restpectfulness didn't yield a positive result. He thought the elderly didn’t sympathise with and understand him; "likewise, the latter expressed irritability that the former dared to ask to jump the queue. Was it intergenerational gap? There are differences between younger and older people due to rapid cultural and technological changes that affect values, behaviours and choice of communication style, food, music, clothes, etc.

Intergenerational gap impacts on personal, social and professional spheres: children – parents/grandparents, employee – employers/bosses, teachers/professors – students, service/good providers – clients/customers, etc. It can cause problems at home, misunderstanding at work, failure at school, etc. This gap is even wider when it involves immigrant and refugee families. For example, stereotypes of coloured-skin youth in a predominantly white neighborhood may lead to insecurity and fear among elderly, particularly when the media and entertainment subjectively condemn these young people for crime and deviance. Similarly, policing strategy that includes identifying young people at risk and their environments can have negative labelling effects. Older generation law enforcement officers may target loud young people – labelled as “nuisance” – hanging out in poor areas populated by immigrants.

Crime within the EU countries

Crime and deviance have been analysed using sociological theories and concepts, such a labelling (societal reaction creates a deviant), social control (easier to commit a crime when there’s no social control or restraint) , anomie (confusion in norms — with changes in the society, rules become less binding), culture conflict (members of one group violate the mores and values of another group) and social class (there are unsatisfied needs due to low educational attainment and income whilst satisfied needs are carelessly displayed).

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has disclosed that the rate of homicide (intentional killing of an individual – murder, manslaughter, infanticide and euthanasia) per 100,000 inhabitants was 1.2 in West and Central Europe, 1.5 in Southern Europe, and 7 in East Europe in 2010. Overall, Europe’s rate was 3.5 –which was lower than that of North America (4.7) and Africa (17.4), but slightly higher than that of Asia (3.1).

The latest Eurostat publication has revealed an estimated 29 million crimes recorded by the police within the EU in 2008. The EU prison population rose by 1.2% per year from 1998 to 2008 – about 124 prisoners per 100,000 members of the total population. The Baltic member nations (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland had the highest population of over 200 prisoners/100,000 inhabitants whereas the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland and Sweden), Slovenia and Ireland had less than 75 prisoners/100,000 inhabitants.

Preventing Crime and Deviance

I hope you had a relaxing, festive season and have started the year 2012 with optimism. I spent the whole week between Christmas and New Year ringing friends and relatives in Oceania and Europe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to speak with my ex-university classmate because her phone was busy all the time. Later, I found out that she was on holiday overseas and disconnected her phone as a burglary-prevention technique.

Crime is a costly societal problem in terms of: administration of the legal and justice system; costs associated to injuries to victims; and negative consequences on offenders (unemployment, psychiatric) and their families (distress and isolation). In Australia, those who cannot afford legal representation receive legal aid. It costs from $20,000 to $100,000 per year to imprison a person in a developed country – taxpayers’ burden! The sufferings of victims and their loved ones don’t have monetary equivalents.

The Debt Crisis and Its Impact on the Festive Season

A country’s debt includes public (also known as government or national), financial (business & investment) and household borrowings from internal (domestic) and/or external (foreign) sources. According to the European Commission’s Eurostat, the government debt/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio of 27 EU members was 80% in 2010 (Greece 142.8% at the top and Estonia 6.6% at the bottom of the list); and is forecast at 89% in 2012.

Eurostat 2008 survey found that 1 person in 20 lived in a household with arrears (consumption loans, home/car/appliance repayment and bank overdrafts) which means they spent more than their monthly disposable income. The economic crisis had just started and its impact wasn’t that evident yet during this period, so today it’s more likely to have quadrupled.

In France, 1.3% (900,000) of its population has excessive debt; and 220,000 have filed for bankruptcy. In the UK, 331 people every day become insolvent (J Davies, Creditaction, viewed 7/12/11). Based on census data, USA had a consumer debt of nearly $2.4 trillion, and 1 in every 160 people was bankrupt in 2010.

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Victims, Perpetrators and the Criminal Justice System

While collecting and analysing data for my website's ( article, I came across a story of a young man who was murdered because he's a son of a police officer. Seven of the 10 perpetrators were released because the court wasn't sure who really did it. The 3 most violent ones were kept for a while but then 2 of them got away because the other one admitted, who hadn't really received the 'appropriate' punishment. What's "appropriate" considering that a life was lost due to stabbing, punching, etc.? that such violence has caused permanent sorrow to parents, relatives and friends? that it seems the CJS has worked in favour of the criminals than the victim? Please visit

This video is in French but even if you don't understand it, you'll feel the sadness and disappointment and never see the judges and laws the same as before.

APL: politique injuste et non-équitable?

A cette période de l'année, nombreuses sont les familles, même avec un revenu stable, qui ont du mal à joindre les deux bouts: impôts, frais de scolarité, factures impayées (et Noël approche)...

Les revenus stagnent, le coût de la vie augmente. les familles coupent dans leurs dépenses et tentent de trouver des revenus supplémentaires. Nos étudiants économisent sur la nourriture, les vêtements et le logement, et cherchent l'aide/subvention gouvernementale.

Je ne comprends pas pourquoi, en France, les étudiants dans l'enseignement supérieur peuvent recevoir une aide pour le loyer (incluant des citoyens non-français), alors que les citoyens français qui étudient à l'étranger n'y ont pas droit. Il est injuste que tous les étudiants français dont les parents vivent et paient les impôts en France ne soient pas à égalité.

Inequities in Government assistance to tertiary students

It's this time of the year when many people, even those with stable income, have difficulty making ends meet: taxes, school fees, mortgage and unpaid bills (as well, Christmas is coming). Because of these, in addition to stagnant income and rising cost of living, families try to cut their expenses and find extra revenue. Our students economise on food, clothes and accommodation, and seek Government assistance/subsidy.

Did you know that tertiary students in France (including non-French citizens) from low-income families are eligible for rent assistance; whereas, French citizens who study abroad regardless of their financial situation cannot avail of this needed help? Don't you find it unjust that French students whose parents live and pay taxes in France don't get the same benefit as other citizens? Are all overseas students in France receiving Government/taxpayers' assistance really from poor households? (They are not all meritorious scholars from developing nations).

Connecting politics, economy and individual responsibility

I'm watching the French news right now and it has just been announced that there's going to be a debate between 2 Socialist candidates afterwards. I used to enjoy political debates but tonight I'm going to opt out because I believe there'll be nothing new. Elections are important and I actually wanted to write a blog about it but since most of what I would like to say are already included in my other article (, I decided to copy it here.

"In my work, I encounter people of many different nationalities. Some of them moved to Luxembourg because they no longer felt a part of their country's economic life, especially with politicians and bankers putting their personal needs at the forefront to the expense of middle and working classes. They couldn't stand the cuttings of government expenditures (especially in health and education that contribute to the country's deteriorating living standards), introduction of more taxes, prolongation of retirement age and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Whose faults are these? Are the culprits the same as in year 2008? Who and what else are responsible for the shrinking of the middle & working classes and bloating of the underclass?

A lot of wisdom, friendship and kindness out there

If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you believe in the power of wisdom, that friendship ceases when sharing ends or the greatest joy comes from helping others.

For quite a while I debated on whether or not to have a website; finally, I did it last weekend. Being a web debutante and not so gifted electronically, my new site is simple and basic. Nevertheless, my friends – who are already battling with their home and professional duties, promptly visited and offered me words of wisdom to make it a success.

Sachie and Raynald, amid their hectic schedule managing projects and finishing a book, perused my website with diligence and emailed me information on how to protect my folder and improve the homepage.

Friends from Down Under were so generous with their words of congratulations. One of them suggested I should limit the use of gifted because it is a confusing word. A friend, who’s a caring and devoted father and husband, dedicated teacher and talented artist, has posted a page of comment. Another friend, who has successfully made his way in the global finance operating from Singapore, emailed me his pragmatic views on intelligence, career, parenting, sports and happiness. Whereas, a French acquaintance managed to review it during her rare brief breaks from a demanding job and busy husband and 2 active daughters. She writes, “I have just read your website and I find it very interesting (I have read it in English first, then the translation, then both together, pieces to pieces)."

I’m so touched by my friends’ and acquaintances’ generosity - an act that shows we can have a more caring society and ‘global village mentality’ rather than individualism and materialism.

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