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The French on strike: art imitating life imitating art

Volunteers handed out flyers this weekend at an open-air market to publicize a much-anticipated general strike and the rallying call to action stated, “It’s only in blocking the economy that we will make ourselves heard.” One local newspaper is already calling it “Black Thursday” and reporting that people are preparing contingency plans days in advance. The strike this week, which is expected to disrupt schools, transport, and administrative services, is meant to call attention to a mixed bag of problems plaguing the country, from job security and high unemployment to low salaries and the government’s perceived failures in handling the economic crisis. At least eight unions are calling on everyone in the private and public sectors, students and retirees, teachers and postal workers, to take to the streets.

Recently, a much-criticized hoax installation by the Czech artist, David Cerny, which depicted European Union member countries in less than favorable light, portrayed France as being on strike. Ironically, the depiction came during a period of high tension between transit officials and the government that escalated into a strike that shut down an entire train station, leaving angry commuters stranded and frustrated. Apparently, that day’s headaches could be viewed in retrospect as a minor irritation compared to what’s reportedly in store with this latest action.