Watching the French police meander about the metros, the monuments and Jewish heritage sites helped me reflect on the role of police in society. Living in Washington D.C., I feel a little too close to all the hubbub to see clearly.
Additionally, spending time in France learning more about the events of the 1940s -- the ways the French police rounded up deportees, took their money and belongings and crammed them into trains --has given me a different vantage point from which to consider the recent police incidents in the United States.
The French metro has this image posted in some of the statins. It's about life-sized making it look like you're in the poster.
The text says, "I protect the populations- the soldier's code" At the bottom it says, "for me, for the others."
This advertisement implies that the Gendarmes (French military police) are there to serve and protect ALL people.
Sticking with this simple precept might really help people keep their heads on straight even in times of confusion. If you know that your job is to protect even the ones you do not like or trust might be enough to recalibrate the compasses of police services.
Doctors take their Hippocratic-- do no harm oath-- in order to keep them focused. Judges know the accused are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty and police are supposed to "serve and protect" all people.
It seems to me if the French police had had ingrained in their ethos that their job was to serve and protect ALL people then it might have been much harder for the Nazis to convince them to terrorize so many people.
If the United States law enforcement officers today had to incant and embody a commitment to protecting all people-- even the ones running away with hands filled with cocaine-- we might find ourselves in a very different place.
You must protect even the person you are putting in handcuffs...
Police can play such an important, and I hope new role in societies around the world. If they could become the protectors of human dignity they could play a role far more powerful and important than any role they have played until now. I look forward to this renaissance of law enforcement.
Strikes are meant to teach us a lesson. Those striking -- by refusing the work send the message--"See, we are valuable! You need us. Treat us better!" France, especially Paris, is famous for such an approach. Striking Parisians has become almost a tired cliché.
These days, however, striking may not be as fruitful as it once was. Today-- the day I'm off to the airport-- the Parisian taxi strike began at 5am. Instead of striking against a heartless employer or a cruel government, they are striking against disruptive economies.
Companies like Uber and Blablacar (a shared ride site) have worsened an already sluggish taxi business. These services are becoming cheaper and more convenient and taxis cannot keep up. Uber can pick people up anywhere whereas as taxis must wait at taxi stands unless telephoned. Blablacar provides a way for people to meet up and share rides places. Though, Blablacar seems to be more of a threat to the French railroad (SNCF) who lost and estimated 1 million ticket sales last year because people are now sharing rides to Normandy instead of taking the train.
Last weekend, for example, I paid 15 Euros for a shared ride from Tours to Paris. The train would have cost 65 Euros.
New Rides are Friendlier
Paris taxi drivers also have a terrible reputation for being rather sour. Not all, of course, my driver Laurent is a grand exception. He pulled the car over and bought me a strawberry tart when we moved me back to the States.
A number of drivers, by contrast, treat people--especially tourists--like your entry into their car is an invasion of their house.
The protests yesterday, including overturned cars and stoning did not improve anyone's reputation.
See, Blablacar and Uber put an end to that because now people rate the service and the driver develops an electronic record. Though Uber has some real political troubles in France. A French lawyer told me over a cafe at the Sarah Bernhardt cafe in Paris that Uber drivers can face up to 15 months in jail, receive a 15k Euro fine and have their cars confiscated.
He said he understood that Uber upset the cab business, at the same time he knows people that became Uber drivers simply because their pension incomes were too low. Uber was keeping them afloat.
So it seems everyone has a valid point.
Taxi Strike Backfires
The idea of the taxi strike is to make people realize how valuable taxis are and to force the government to slowdown the "invasion" of these new cheaper and -- often better-- services.
We will see what happens. Those who dared take Uber to the airport found the roads blocked. I took the RERB- a regional train that goes directly to the airport. For 10 Euros, I had a nice seat by the window in an albiet unairconditioned, but otherwise comfortable ride.
Other folks may have taken the bus, Blablacar, or --like the guy next to me on the plane-- simply driven themselves. Those who relied on taxis uniquely will now be forced to discover the new options.
Taxis now not only are more expensive, they strike on you when you need them. And they may overturn your car if you take an alternative.
Striking was hard enough when it was the Steel workers against Frick and Carnegie--formidable U.S. labor foes in the late 19th Century.
This fine Thursday June 25, 2015, however, the taxis are actually striking against the new economy perhaps a far less greedy foe, but one far more nebulous and difficult to change.
To try to stop Uber and Blalbarcar is tantamount to China trying to stop twitter and facebook. To do so will make the French government appear a state as controlled as the ones it criticizes.
In the end, trains might be the most sensible way to travel anyway. Though I do wish the best for Laurent and his friends. No one wants to see someone lose their business. I just don't think this strike is going to work in their favor.
This blog primarily explores how language impacts our understanding and experience of the physical world--especially when it comes to violence.
Violence, says scholar Vivian Jabri, is around us all the time even if we cannot see it.
To use a little analogy -- Active violence (shooting, fighting, etc) is like lighting a match in a room filled with gas. The media blames the match, Jabri blames the gas.
For twenty years I have worked for a freelance writer for St. Martins Press. I write the instructor manual for their college-level language awareness and writing textbooks. This along and my work in narrative approaches to conflict resolution have trained my ears and eyes to pay attention to how our words perpetuate social and political discord.
Today, I'm giving the boot to "boot camps" and calling back joyous camps!
The most recent phrase that has grabbed my attention is Boot Camp. Boot camp is the perfect name for military training. My father said when he was in the reserves he remembers marching 10 miles in boots that made his feet bleed. Then they fit perfectly. He felt so proud completing this rigorous training and he left loving his boots.
Soldiers fight -- boot camps are for soldiers. War is part of the sad, if at times necessary, tool of liberty. Fine-- will we do this until we find a better solution, but must we now have Finance Boot Camps, Networking Boot Camps and even Yoga Boot Camps?
If you spend your life preparing for war, you'll likely find one. Not only does the broad use of this term support the hypermilitarization of all sectors of society it promotes a hyper-masculine way of learning. Not everything has to be done with super intensity to be absorbed or mastered. In fact it cannot always be learned this way.
LEARNING CANNOT ALWAYS BE CRAMMED
Not everything can be learned by shoving it down your throat. I have just spent 5 years doing doctoral research. During that time, interviewing over a hundred people, I realize that understanding takes time for a number of reasons. It takes time to absorb material and then see how that material works in the world. My opinions have changed many times throughout the course of my research. Had I just gone to "Dissertation Boot Camp" I would have missed all that growth.
It takes many hours and sometimes it takes starring out the window while mindlessly picking your nose to let the material sink in.
Life is short. I get that. Time is precious. I get that too. But you cannot shove it all in as a response. I mean you can, but then you live life like you're in a battle...running 10+ miles a day at breakneck speed towards what? The destination is the same for us all.
TAKING CAMP BACK
If you must go to a Relationship Boot Camp or what-have-you please at least chuckle and the use of the term. If you're organizing a workshop please consider calling it something else. We really don't need to militarize gardening, event planning, management training, yoga, or retirement preparation.
You can keep the "camp" part-- Camp is fun! Camp is about friendship, laughter, and learning through joy and silly songs. At least my camp, Fleur de Lis was and is still like that.
Consider giving the boot to "boot camp" and embracing camp, camp. You can still learn about finance, relationships, diplomacy while singing silly songs. Heck, my fellow campers and I became NRA experts on the 22- rifle and competed successfully against the boys camps. We didn't need boots-- we needed songs... "Our aim is good and we'll be fair...we'll hang you on the Weeping Willow Tree and raise the flag of Fleur de Lis!. Ra Ra!"
In between meetings this week, I had a chance to re-visit our founding documents-- the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It's so easy to take D.C. for granted and forget that we're sitting on top of the nation's roots.
Even though I have been attending George Mason University for four years, I just learned something about George Mason at the National Archives that I had not known. George Mason was one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution. The two others refused simply because they had difficult personalities. George refused to sign because the document, as drafted, did not protect individual liberty.
He went on to write the Virginia Bill of Rights which was used to draft the U.S. Bill of Rights. So thanks to George, who refused to sign on to the Constitution, our government protects 1) freedom of speech 2) freedom of religion 3) freedom of the press and 4) freedom of assembly.
Yes, I know we fall short in many ways of living up to these ideals-- I also think we take them for granted. We have come to expect freedom.
The reason I bring up "George the Troublemaker" is because conflict resolution - my field- seems to suggest that peace at all times is the point. When I say I am in conflict resolution people sometimes say, "Oh, you mean you work towards consensus."
The conflict resolution field refers to those who break the peace "spoilers." Sometimes these spoilers are simply cantankerous characters and sometimes they are about to give birth to ideas as important as the Bill of Rights.
Good ideas are often born out of conflict. What I especially like about George is that he didn't just stop the party, he created what he believed was missing. Naysayers who refuse to participate in projects simply because they have ornery souls do not impress me.
On the other hand troublemakes with creativity and follow-through can be far more important than those constantly saying "Aye!" to keep the peace.