When I lived in France, I enjoyed a simple lifestyle, spending most of my time doing the kind of work I wanted to do. I made about half what I make today in the U.S. (which is not very much), but in France I was able to save money, take vacations, and only worked a few days a week. My quality of life was great, and so was my health and my bank account. In the U.S., I have a cute three bedroom house with a nice garden and a 17 year-old car, almost no savings, and I work 10 hours a day. I haven’t taken a real vacation in many years.
What I want is a simple life. A life in which I have time to enjoy my family, my pets, my home, and doing the work I was born to do…and help make the world a better place.
If you follow the news, then you probably know that French workers are striking and demonstrating repeatedly all over France. These men and women want and need to make sure that François Hollande’s government understands that reducing workers’ rights and benefits is not beneficial to the economic health and happiness of France and its workers.
The bill was introduced this past February 17th, and the supposed purpose was to reduce France’s chronic 10% unemployment rate by giving power to employers to control workers rights and benefits, which have until now been under the protection of national law.
The reason I admire French workers is because they understand how capitalism works, and they know that if they give an inch, hard-won rights will be removed. Not only will new jobs not be created, as promised, but all new wealth will go to corporate CEOs, as in the United States. And the quality of life for which France is world famous will be compromised.
American workers have for the most part allowed almost all of their rights and benefits to be taken away over the last forty years. And after decades of being promised that reducing taxes on the wealthy and corporations that new jobs would be created, people are finally starting to wake up and realize that the wealthy never intended to reinvest in their workers, in creating new jobs, or putting their profits into their businesses. All of that wealth goes into offshore accounts and shady investments. It doesn’t seem logical to milk the people and our natural resources into despair and destitution, but this is what capitalism and free markets do. Pretending to be about freedom, these heartless systems strip people of their rights and the land of its nutrients, then move somewhere else to start the same exploitation elsewhere.
Living and working in America for the average person means working long hours, almost no vacations or sick leave. Many people work multiple jobs. The quality of life is poor, but many people don’t realize it, because they have never experienced anything different. Being a worker in America is often like being in an abusive relationship. It is painful to stay, but familiar. The unknown is frightening.
Materialism in America runs so deep that there is no sense of respect for life, and those in power feel entitled to all rights but have no responsibilities towards those who work for them and make them wealthy. We live in a country in which there is little empathy, and where the quality of life for many is very poor. America is on the brink of collapse. The levels of corruption have reached a point where the rich simply don’t care what happens next, even if it means their own annihilation. Some think that because of their extreme wealth that they will escape the coming chaos and apocalypse, buying up fresh water and farmland to ride out the coming firestorms, droughts, famines, and wars.
The only way we can save the world is through love and compassion. When employers care about their workers and want them to feel happy and fulfilled, those businesses will be successful. Profits are not an accurate measure of a successful society. The well-being of all people and the ability to sustain that well-being for many generations is the measure of true success.
And this is why the French people are smart, strong, and determined. They know what it feels like to be respected, and what it feels like to live a good life, with time for pleasures, family, good food. If the French want to reduce unemployment, then the country simply needs to examine what talents its people have, and use creativity to find ways for all of its people to contribute. All people have talents and skills waiting to be developed. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Thanks to the great work of Bernie Sanders and groups like Black Lives Matter and the Fight for 15, the American people is beginning to awaken. People are beginning to realize that they can speak up, that they can take risks, take back their voice. Many of us have little left to lose and much to gain. I am hopeful that despite the power of corporations over our government, our press, our food and health care systems, that ordinary citizens will see beyond the propaganda and create a powerful movement for change.
Materialism and the free market economy have destroyed the beauty and health of this amazing land, but we, the people, can bring our country, our food, our water, and our families back to health. Not by creating another political or economic system, but on a spiritual level, simply by caring and by knowing that we are all connected to one another.
If we hurt a plant, a tree, an animal, we hurt ourselves. Capitalism is a system which always benefits only a small group of people while hurting a great many people, animals, plants, our atmosphere, our water supply, our home: Earth. It is not a sustainable system, and it is about to disappear. The French people can give us courage to continue speaking up for true democracy, for human rights, and for dignity. Merci encore! Vous êtes formidables!