As for the rentrée scolaire, within a week of the start of the new school year four separate incidents occurred where a teacher was physically attacked by a student or by a parent of a student, reminiscent of similar incidents last year that sometimes resulted in serious injuries. School sanctions no longer seem to work and a government response was necessary. Vincent Peillon, Minister of Education, has now announced the formation of a Commission for the Study of Violence in Schools. This is expected to lead to better prevention, but leaves many school directors weary of just another report and another set of statistics instead of action. According to Philippe Tournier, Secretary-General of the public-school directors union in France (Syndicat National des Personnels de Direction de l'Education Nationale - SNPDEN), for the past 20 years there have been many different directives varying from toughened measures to preventive dialogue, but the government has never wanted to see the underlying cause of the problem, which is the growing communautarisme (segmentation along ethnic or religious lines) in public schools. Ever since 2004 when the wearing of visible religious signs in school was outlawed, there has been an increase in communautarisme, says Tournier, and the slightest thing can lead to furious debate or fist fights, such as a Christmas tree, which is not even a religious symbol! The Minister of Education has proposed the introduction of Lay Ethics in the school curriculum, which may not help but cannot hurt.
DROWNING IN PILLS
|Drs. Even and Debré|
Last week French billionaire Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury conglomerate LVMH, announced that he was seeking Belgian citizenship in response to President Hollande's decision to levy a 75% tax on personal income over 1 million euros. This would not apply to income from investments and is intended to last only two years while the country tries to bring down its deficit from 4.5 to 3 percent of PIB as per the European directives of the Maastricht Treaty.
Twelve million people were reported to have visited nationwide, which makes these Journées one of the most popular events in France.
|The Elysée Palace|
[Camus, who was born in the then-French colony of Algeria, left Algiers for Paris in 1938 where he became a journalist, philosopher and writer, and won the Nobel prize for literature in 1957, three years before he died in a car accident in 1960.]
What would Albert Camus have thought of all this? When on the 50th anniversary of the writer's death in November 2010 President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to the son and daughter of Camus an honorary reburial of their father in the Panthéon in Paris among such greats as Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Rousseau, they responded that Camus hated pomp, "Paris" and political power, and that his simple grave in the little village of Lourmarin in Provence where he lived at the time of his death was more in character with the man. Honors declined.
Jose Tomás (37) fought six bulls in a single afternoon in the Roman arena of Nîmes in southern France. His performance was of such perfection that he was awarded 11 ears and one tail before an ecstatic crowd of fans who wept and critics who hailed him as a god. "It was extraordinary", said Nobel winner Mario Vargas-Llosa who was among the spectators, "I have never seen people so overwhelmed." The next day, major Spanish newspapers El Pais and El Mundo ran photos of a triumphant Tomás on their front pages, and critics wrote that this performance has earned Tomás a place in the pantheon of matadors with Juan Belmonte and Manolete.
Usually, a six-bull corrida is shared by three matadors who each take on two bulls. But even more extraordinary is that in 2010 José Tomás was badly gored in Mexico where a bull ripped a major artery and several veins in his groin and brought him to death's door. He has fought fewer corridas since then but seems to be back in top form.
The excitement generated by Tomás's historic performance has re-opened the debate about the ancient ritual of bullfighting, seen as art by some, as slaughter by others. Last year, under pressure of animal-protection groups (as well as dwindling finances), the Spanish province of Catalunia outlawed bullfighting and closed the arena in Barcelona. French fans of tauromachy fear contagion and have held demonstrations in Arles and Nîmes for the preservation of bullfighting which has flourished here for ages. The packed arenas and enthusiastic crowds in Nîmes last weekend seem to indicate that bullfighting is not yet a thing of the past in these parts.