Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images
A man holds a Solidaires Union flag during a demonstration against the French government's pensions reform on October 19, 2010 in Paris.
It seems as if the French are always striking about something. But the latest protests have grown especially nasty, with masked youths clashing with police and fires burning in cities across France. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled, train service has been cut in half in some regions, and more than a thousand gas stations have been shuttered. Still, French President Nicolas Sarkozy says it's his duty to pass pension reform—his plan is to raise the country’s retirement age from 60 to 62. He has also pledged to crack down on the protesters who he calls “troublemakers.” Are the French people being unreasonable and inflexible? Or would the proposed austerity measures take too large a chunk out of benefits the French people feel they have fought hard for and won fairly?
Dominic Thomas, Chair of UCLA's Department of French and Francophone Studies