ANN TULLOH. Terrorism in France and a sense of hopelessness by many young people.

I was brought up on the ABC news coming from the sitting room loud enough to cover the house as Dad got himself going every morning. This was in the 50s and any terrible overseas news was so far away that I didn’t feel concerned. (I much preferred a programme around 8am when songs were played at our request and Charles Trenet’s “La Mer” was sometimes heard. A nearby town, Salon, has a cultural centre named after him. A coincidence or part of a master plan?!)

Now that I’m living right among the terrible news’ spots I can’t help feeling concerned. I stopped watching TV news after September 11. I don’t need images as I get enough descriptions from the national radio.

I live in a village, pop 7000, strategically situated between Avignon and Marseilles, Aix and Arles. Nothing touristy. 1.5% are farmers. Most other people work elsewhere. I don’t know how many come from North Africa; in France we’re not allowed to have anything racial in our statistics, nor in anything said or written. (Same thing for anything anti-Semitic.)  The North Africans are not Arabs even if people call them that, or worse words. Some have been here for décades, going back to their countries and their families every year. Their dead do the same. They live in cheap flats, often rundown, in the village centre. Families do likewise; the children have nowhere to play so they stay inside. The teenagers are out and visible. So are the men who spend hours sitting outside bars. The families dream of having their own place in the social housing outside of the centre and this seems to be working out well.

I wrote to our future mayor asking him to provide a prayer room for the Moslems, a question of good common sense. I haven’t seen it. He’d done a good campaign though!

Here it’s market garden country. Some North Africans have a full time job earning the basic wage entitled to all that the govt provides (health care, pensions, etc.) They’re the Lucky ones. Others are seasonal and have a written contract stating the date to begin. If the fruit isn’t ripe they wait around without pay until it is. I know of two farmers who kept a certain amount of pay “as the harvest wasn’t all that good”. One year the workers complained, won and were not invited back.

I don’t think that the North Africans are preventing the “real” French from working. I think that the farmers consider the North Africans more docile. Who wants to gather melons where there’s no shade?

The North Africans are visible. The men outside the bars, the women wearing traditional clothes shopping and taking their kids to and from school, the young women suddenly veiled.

And we heavily vote National Front. Last year we elected a new mayor; there were four lists each having about 18 people on it. The National Frontists didn’t come out of their cupboards to show themselves. But in the previous (state) élections they composed over 30% meaning that one of three people that I see in the village thinks that way. That’s grim.

Marine Le Pen cleaned up somewhat the party that her father got going, but he’s still visible. Supposedly he was among those who tortured Algerians in that war – and nothing is said. He has made the most appalling déclarations, has been condemned but is still there, a deputy in the European parliament. It amazes me that condemned politicians are still being elected. French consider them all rotten. As there’s no limit (except for the présidents) about how many times they can be elected. They stay, strengthening their bases.

The majority of French politicians come from rich or middle-class backgrounds and have made little attempts to improve North African lives as they’re too busy keeping their electors happy. There are associations to teach the women to read and write, or just to get them to blend in, like cooking together. Mohammed, coming from a bad suburb has little hope of getting a job. No job = no possibility of having his own flat = no marriage = no hope and much frustration.

I live comfortably and my identity card is not being controlled several times a day in the Metro. Not am I being stopped when driving  I’m as foreign despite my fair skin as the North Africans.

The Nice terrorist appeared to have had quite a good life with a steady job, wife and kids. It seems that frustration wasn’t his problem but was just a nasty violent bad egg. When I first heard on the morning radio about what happened in Nice I thought of the dead and their family and friends before thinking of the bastard’s kids. What future for them?

Lack of good common sense was part of Nice’s problems by letting a truck illegally being driven on a public Holiday. I think that France desperately needs plenty of common sense but I’m not hearing it.  Just opposing politicians shouting at each other.

Will the French start talking to officialdom when they think that there’s a problem on its way? It’s not their style. Will they be heard?

Personally I’m more frightened by the youth of any origin behind the Wheel. No future = no hope= no fear.

Ann Tulloh was born and raised in Adelaide, is a retired nurse, who has spent more than half her life living in France.

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