It was late September of 2019, and the weather was beautiful here in the south of France on the Côte d’Azur. It generally is. I live about a 3-minute walk to the port. The seas were calm on that day. The seagulls were croaking very loud – they seem to be in a stir. They call them “mouettes” in French.
A bunch of us often get together just randomly most days at the local brassière at the port just to enjoy friendship, the fresh morning air, a good strong coffee, and that just-baked croissant from across that street at our local boulangerie. But on this day, it was a little different. Cathrine (not her real name), an acquaintance shall we say of ours, was literally wandering aimlessly around the street down behind the port in a daze and bawling like a cow in heat. What is going on?
Before we get into the details of this personal story, I digress a bit to put just a little context and relevancy to the story. In the upcoming 2020 presidential election, we will hear a lot of discussion of how wonderful socialism is, often using Europe as the model that America should follow. Bernie Sanders, a devoted socialist, often makes these wonderful comparisons to Europe. Well, Northern Europe not so much Southern Europe. The rationale on whether an economic system in high monocultures, with small populations, separated by difficult languages to learn – would make any good comparisons. It would be an important debate, but we will leave that one for now.
We will also leave behind, for now, the debate that socialist regimes (governments that rule over large or all parts of the economy and lives), over the long run, end badly. It ends in extreme poverty, followed by a devastating war, where government growth leads to eventual totalitarianism and mass deaths. The 20th century saw this and has racked up well over 100,000,000 deaths. Naysayers will say – but it wasn’t the right kind of socialism.
Instead, I want to focus on real-life stories that I have seen in day to day living as an ex-pat in France, for a good sum of years now. You can see how socialism creates a culture at a very personal level. It’s a culture that most Americans have no idea about because they have not actually lived it – yes, experience does account for something. So as I go through this story, ask yourself, is this what you want for America?
Back to poor Cathrine, and my personal story. The tears were flowing like rivers of sadness. Her makeup was streaking down her face, as she had been rubbing her face. The bright red lipstick she always wears was everywhere – what a mess. Cathrine is about 53, half native French and Italian – reasonably good looking. She is a bit prissy for my taste, and oh yes, likes the finer things in life. She is a woman not to be messed with – at least when she has her bearings.
So our little group finally got Cathrine to settle down, cleaned up a bit, with a coffee, croissant, and a lovely sea view, to find out what was going on. We knew she was going through a divorce, but we don’t get into the personal side of things here in France. But today was the day for Cathrine to let it all out.
Unbeknownst to us, the past year has been very challenging for Cathrine. Cathrine is a liberal. The concept of “open marriage” is quite common here in France. Traditional families are scorned upon here. She says she has been cheating on her husband because he just wasn’t fulfilling. But I think her husband was worse. Cathrine came to find out that her husband got involved with an immigrant girl of 25 – he secretly had a child with her.
The immigrant girl’s baby is 2 years old now. She since dumped the 62-year-old husband. Even for this liberal couple, that was a step too far. I can recall since I have known Cathrine, she was always ready to support the socialists – big government and to help immigrants with open border policies. As long as she could have her Louis Vitton bags and Thierry Mugler perfumes. She really didn’t care about her relationship with her husband – “nobody gonna tell me what to do.” Besides, Cathrine said that France is rich, and even if hard times come, the government would step in for the rescue.
Cathrine would say, “In France, we are not like America, where people live on the streets.” Cathrine is about to test this assumption. She doesn’t realize that homelessness in France is worse than in America. If you don’t believe me – see here. Both Cathrine and her husband had good jobs for decades, up to about 2012, when the global economy finally hit hard in France. The unemployment rate then was near 10% – today hardly better at around 9%. Both got laid off, though in France you get near 60% of your salary for two years. Socialism rocks!
But when that ended, they had to sell the apartment they had purchased a few years back. Their son was living in it for free with no job. But since they weren’t really speaking to their son who was on drugs, they dumped the problem onto the next owner of the apartment. Who know’s what the son is doing today. Cathrine is also at war with her brother and her mother, her only remaining parent. All are now wards of the state – no jobs. Socialism rocks!
The sale of the apartment that the son was living in did bridge some time, and Cathrine and her husband continued to live well for a few more years. Over those years, Cathrine did try to find a job – but my take she just lacked the motivation. Catherine assured us that she was aggressive about her search – and would take any job. I do recall that my friend Gilbert, who knew of an opening, tried to purpose her for the job. It paid a minimum salary of about 1,200 Euros a month – that is all you will find here unless you have skills – she has few – couldn’t even work a computer – but an iPhone she can.
The interview was set for Monday at 10:00 AM. She did not show up because she was not feeling well – depression, though it didn’t stop her from showing up for coffee at the port the next day. Could, not Cathrine reschedule the interview? I never really heard the reasons – just that the interview did not happen. This brings us to the crisis time.
Evidently, via free state legal assistance, the immigrant girl is making a play to get part ownership of the home where Cathrine and her husband lived. After all, she is now part of the “family” – with soon to have two children. Apparently, she has been successful in getting occupancy but not ownership. This will be tied up for years in the French courts. Cathrine and her husband had been ordered by the state to leave. But, not thrown out in the streets, rather into public housing where Cathrine is today. Her husband is off in the hinterland somewhere pending the couple’s divorce. Socialism rocks!
Now that I know where Cathrine lives, I can understand her frustration. The build where she lives is a horror. It is a drug-dealing infested nightmare where she can only go out during the day. It seems that none of the doors lock, and all the post boxes get ripped off the wall. But it’s free – Cathrine now earns about 430 Euros a month on public assistance. She says that in her apartment, nothing works, and it is only about 21m2 (69sq. ft.). Looks like Cathrine will now have to forego the Louis Vitton bags.
With this story, one can easily see why poor Cathrine cracked – we just got the tail end of it. I suppose we could critique Cathrine on her story – but let’s not kick people when they are down already. There were a lot of mistakes made here by various people. So it is presented here without comment, to give you a chance to begin to analyze what went wrong and understand what part cultural and government policies had on this story.
Is there a winner in all this? Yes! The immigrant girl and her new immigrant boyfriend. She is now living in the same apartment that Cathrine and her husband occupied for decades – one day, she may even own it. For now, the government pays the mortgage pending court proceedings. She receives about 1,000 Euros a month with 100% free medical. She is pregnant again with her second child by some other father (another immigrant who both now have French citizenship), so this will soon jump to about 1,500 Euros a month when it arrives. No need for a job.
This will help the local Mosque fill up the ranks of its believers. It is already full so not sure where they will put all these people. Perhaps they could knock down one of the many Catholic churches – nobody is hardly in them anyway. If you think this is a one-off anecdotal story, your wrong. This is what it is really like to live in the Socialist Disney Land, called France. Socialism rocks?