France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

April 3, 2008

Lord of the Flies or, Le 401me Coup

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 7:49 am

My first few months here in the country — that being Les Eyzies, the capitol of pre-history in the Dordogne department of southwest France — the 300-year-old stone house I inhabit seemed besieged by insect and rodent problems, to the resolution of which I applied that patented American ingenuity which rarely works in conflictual situations. The large spiders — no doubt magnified by the shadows they cast on the stone walls — which typically appeared in the middle of the night I squashed, which arachnicide no doubt afflicted me with some very bad karma which played a part in the sieges that followed, particularly the mice and above all the flies. (Later, too late, I would deal with the spider problem more successfully by sleeping with the lights on and a blindfold over my eyes; the spiders typically emerged in the dark.) In about October, battalions of little yellow-butted flies descended around the three windows of the upstairs from noon ’til 6, finding ways to infiltrate even if I closed all the windows. Once it was explained to me that they were drawn by the heat emanating from the stones, the most creative way I tried to solve the problem was by taking the giant fabric Sun parasol and lodging it in the roof of the trellise just below the front window, a project which left the plastic picnic table on which I’d climbed to facilitate the task in pieces. But the least efficient (française: efficace) method was to hang outside the window an anti-mosquito keychain I’d found in a drawer which worked on the principle of emitting a high-pitched sound audible only by mosquitoes and which repelled them. Natch, it didn’t work for flies.

Now French adults are going to try it on French children.

The first few years I lived in Paris, one of the troubles on the rue de Paradis (where I lived) was that teens from the logement social (English: Projects) across the street would, well, cross the street to congregate more or less next to the entrance of my building, bavarding (talking loud) until 3 or 4 in the morning. As I explained to the neighbors committee that was formed expressly to deal with this problem, I had lived on one of the noisiest streets (W. 8th, a.k.a. the shoe street) in one of the noisiest cities in the world (New York) and this was worse. The logement was eventually closed, the kids and their familes re-located, the noise problem moved from night to day for 18 months when they fixed up the logement, and now I presume the kids and their familes and the noise problems are de retour et voici le solution:

Starting today, France has authorized the importation and sale of a device that sounds remarkably like the one I tried to use to chase the flies, only in this case, its apparent intent is to chase the kids — the ones who evidently congregate in front of buildings perhaps drinking, perhaps smoking cannibas, or perhaps simply bavarding. Though it’s news to my 46-year-old ears, which cringed when the sound was demonstrated on the news last night, this high-pitched noise can only be heard by the ears of those 25 and under, in whom it instantly produces headaches which supposedly go ‘way when they do.

Il faut constat – one must note — that unlike the United States, France actually spends more on education — €60 billion (milliard) — than defense, indeed, Education is the number one line item in the budget. (In the US, it’s Defense, and Education lags FAR behind.) So France cares about its children. And yet, 50 years after Truffaut’s “Les 400 coups,” it still doesn’t know how to deal with them.

PS: Those here who oppose aural assault as a means to regle the problem of youths congregating and drinking, smoking, or just bavarding have rightly pointed out that a better approach is to address the causes of the problem — why don’t these kids have anything better to do, for example? So you’d think that with this topic being in the news, and even the subject of one of the commentaries, the France Culture morning team might have taken advantage of education minister Xavier Darcos being the special guest for more than an hour today to breach the topic but alas, ce n’etait pas le cas.

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