France: Navigation By Sight In Thick Fog

Last Thursday, March 12th, the French President informed us that we should pay attention to the progression of the Corona virus. But he also encouraged us to vote, that is, to do our duty as citizens. Problem: the two directives were in conflict. Some, like Contrib’City, went to the polls, others, the majority in the Jouy-en-Josas little town, decided to stay at home.

Yesterday, that is to say the day after the first round of the municipal elections, patatras! Combat action, machines to full stop! Women and children first: we are in a war situation! Stay home! The second round of elections is postponed indefinitely!

Yesterday, in its article titled Elections Jouy-en-Josas – Marie-Hélène Aubert élue : un vote clair (Municipal Elections In Jouy-en-Josas – Marie-Hélène Aubert: a clear vote [1] -vote-clair /, by minimizing the impact of the health crisis on the elections and based on President Emmanuel Macron’s decision, Contrib’City may have been wrong. Instinctively, CC sanctified the vote and the sovereignty of the people. But what if the voters were deeply influenced by the Elysée’s decision[2]The Elysée Palace, in Paris, is the building from where the French President governs.?

A crisis situation, which is, a priori, a short-term issue, can influence voters in the sense that in a context of deep insecurity, human beings, instinctively, will look for landmarks that have not been destroyed by the event that is catastrophic or in any case perceived as such. Voters will therefore be reluctant to change their municipal council, but rather to remain with the previous one. The vision goes from the long – six years[3]A mayor’s term longs for six years, in France. The mayor has strong local power, notably in town planning. He can give or refuse building permits for example – to the very short term, that is to say a few weeks. In the Yvelines départment[4]A French département is approximatively the same as an English County., many municipalities have chosen to extend the teams already in power.

The same psychological process also happens in finance. One flees the risk like the plague, even if it means entering into the irrational: one can nowadays buy the Air-France/KLM airline for the equivalent of two Airbuses and Renault, the French carmaker, is for sale for only one third of its market value at the begining of the year.

In short, we are sailing by sight, in a thick fog. It should also be noted that in the City of Paris, this weekend, many families had brought their children to play together in the squares. Likewise, last week, some buses in the capital, on reduced service, were crowded with passengers. Mr. Castaner, the Minister who controls the Police, therefore felt compelled to punch the table.

One point grabs CC’s attention: on one hand, the French State demands urban densification, on the other, it realizes that the latter also has drawbacks, such as that helping the spread of a global pandemic. The Parisians [5]That is to say the inhabitants of the City of Paris which is, geographically speaking, the hypercentre of the Paris Region., with a density of more than 21,000 inhabitants per km², quite suddenly remembered their provincial and/or rural roots and rushed out of the capital yesterday, or at least those who could, causing congestion in the train stations and on the roads. Hopefully, this will not help to spread Corona which, as a reminder, makes far fewer victims than the classic flu viruses.

France sails by sight, in thick fog, with Panic or Ignorance as the only governors. But Contrib’City, thanks to its “Impertinence” radar and its “Common sense” GPS, tries to see beyond in order to always better understand the relationship between the territories and their inhabitants: a vast, infinite, changing and indeed a very exciting subject!

Dear Contrib’Citizen, you are cordially invited to bring your testimonies or remarks.

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