French weekly magazines review 29 October 2017


Le Figaro Magazine paints a picture of France in the year 2050, complete with flawless blue skies, palm trees and pink flamingos, the bright side of climate change.

But the impact on agriculture, housing, energy and the animal world will be far from positive. Or, at least, far from simple.

French vineyards may have to shift from grapes to citrus fruits, we’ll spend more on air-conditioning than on heating, many coastal towns will start to resemble Venice, and we’ll have to learn to share our lives with bugs and beasts whose current comfort zone is south of the Sahara.

The social and other costs are difficult to imagine, but they are certain to be enormous.

The car is dead! Long live the car!

On roughly the same subject, an article in M, Le Monde‘s magazine, looks at the promise recently made by Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, that the French capital will be a car-free city by the year 2030, at least as far as the current petrol-engined individual banger is concerned.

The writer says that all serious studies and the huge investments made by the motor companies suggest that, in fact, the future of the car in the city is assured. It will simply be a different beast from the fume-belching petrol-guzzler with which we are familiar.

Tomorrow’s urban runabout will be electric, borrowed rather than owned and it will take care of the driving while you get on with your life. It will appear at the click of a smartphone. Our current vehicles will end up like the horses they replaced about a century ago.

The traditional car manufacturers have already taken the psychological leap, no longer describing themselves as carmakers but as “mobility service providers”.

Getting French labour law to work

The main story in Le Monde‘s weekly is a history of the French at work, a subject which might cause ribaldry among the neighbours, given the national stereotype based on the short working week, the long holidays, the frequency of five-day weekends and a certain propensity to go on strike.

In fact, the real subject of the article is French labour law, a 3,000-page monstrosity that is intended to protect workers and employers, criticised as out-dated, overly complex and contradictory. Worse, some critics say that the world of work is going to change even more than the climate or the safety of Paris streets in the next few decades. Which suggests that a series of laws designed to cover the realities of the industrial era is going to struggle with the bizarre creations of the digital age.

The real problems caused by virtual reality

Speaking of which, L’Express notes that the French have become addicts of the video game, an activity now practised by two in every three of the descendents of Voltaire, Vercingétorix and Victor Hugo. It’s not all bad news, since these games represent a huge global market and French designers are well-placed to profit.

As for the parents worried that their kids are spending more time in the virtual world than in school, L’Express says gaming networks are creating new forms of socialisation, changing the rules of friendship and family interaction.

The secret is not to pull the plug and insist on a return to the real world. Parents are advised to be patient, to set reasonable limits and have the courage to stick to them, to negotiate with their offspring.

Adolescents can actually become addicted to video games. There’s a hospital service here in Paris currently treating a half dozen youngsters whose relationship with virtual worlds led to their becoming antisocial school dropouts. They are considered as just as vulnerable as their peers who are recovering drug addicts or alcoholics.

Zut! Leave our language alone

Finally, Le Point wonders who is out to get the French language.

There have been recent attempts to modernise spelling, to include the feminine in a structure that is predominantly male, to stop the flood of borrowings from other tongues, especially English. Not all of these efforts have had the desired effect.

There is a real danger that the language of Voltaire, Vercingétorix and Victor Hugo could become a museum piece, spoken by a few oldsters who don’t even play video games, according to Le Point. And the rest of us will be left mouthing a sort of international babble, based on English, with a shared vocabulary to cover the growing reality of globalisation.

International trade and the internet may ultimately achieve what the builders of the Tower of Babel failed to do.

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