Sunday, May 26, 2013

Demonstrations a-plenty!



Well, there are at least four demonstrations scheduled in Paris today, most (all?) of them objecting to homosexual marriage and adoption. For some reason, I seem to live near one of the preferred routes for demonstrations (irrespective of their purpose), and as I write these words, I can hear one of the demonstrations passing nearby.

It started with booming music in the distance. Right now, I can hear the muffled cries of the leader of the demonstration. Every demonstration in Paris seems to be led by a middle-aged, leather-lunged male extrovert endowed with preternatural enthusiasm for the cause, who exhorts the following demonstrators to maintain their movement and interest in the demonstration. Usually he repeats slogans over and over, to a tune that is uncannily similar to that used by children in nursery schools when they taunt each other. The tune is pretty much the same no matter what the cause. The slogans are usually exercises in hyperbole.

Usually the demonstrators are quiet and just move along with the crowd slowly. However, if TV crews appear, they start yelling in reply to the leader’s slogans, in order to improve the chances of the demonstration being seen on TV. Of course, on the rare occasions when a few losers start throwing a few rocks, an appearance on the nightly news is guaranteed, with the said rocks being shown over and over.

Demonstrations are a common sight in Paris, and I exhausted the novelty of watching them long ago. I think the last demonstration I actually paid any attention to was the annual May Day parade in 2012, and I only did that so that I record it on video. Demonstrations never seem to have any actual effect on anything, yet the French adore them. They prefer to demonstrate, rather than simply elect people who already have their desired goals as part of their campaign platforms. It seems like an exercise in futility to me. However, it seems to be a fun social event for many of the participants, and when they demonstrate on weekdays, it can also be a way of legitimately playing hooky from school or work.

Unfortunately, sometimes people who have no interest at all in the cause being publicized by the demonstration sneak into the crowd and cause trouble, by assaulting demonstrators, or tangling with the police, or looting businesses along the parade route. The police allocate forces to demonstrations based on their estimate of how likely a dérapage in the demonstration is likely to be. In many cases, only a few officers keep an eye on the demonstrators, but for large demonstrations on controversial subjects, buses filled with police dressed in riot gear may line the routes, just in case. Still, big trouble is quite rare, although occasionally there are a few angry young males who get arrested along the route.

Anyway, I have no place to go today, so the traffic disruption won’t make any difference to me. I have enough milk to last until tomorrow (running out of milk always motivates me to sneak out to the grocery store if possible).

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