What if you woke up one morning and none of your light-bulbs fit? And on top of that, they were all fluorescent. You would either a) be having a nightmare or b)be living in Europe in 2010.
Indeed, when I looked for light-bulbs at the supermarket in the village today to replace a couple that had gone out, both in small snug fixtures, I looked and looked where the manager had told me to and saw nothing. Then he came over and explained that those ugly oblong white things — they look kind of like miniature sky-scrapers — were light-bulbs, and I remembered that a handful of bureaucrats in Brussels had decided that what was good enough for Edison and has been good enough for the rest of us the last hundred plus years was no longer good enough for the 450 million citizens they supposedly represented, and decreed that as of October 1, the luminescent round bulbs would be replaced by ugly, white, rectangular fluorescent bulbs. And when I say replaced, I don’t mean that we would be able to choose them, I mean that all the old bulbs would be removed from the shelves and we would have no choice. The supposed reason is that they are more efficient. In energy, maybe, but in cost, no; first, where the old lighbulbs cost 1.20 Euros for two, this new thing costs 2.02 for one. Second, because they are so big — long — with a new base added on top of the screw base to boot, they won’t fit into the narrow lighting chambers of just about any spot — and spots are big here in Europe — nor under any lighting globe. So hundreds of millions of Europeans will have to spend money to replace their lighting fixtures, and more money on their light-bulbs, in a time when, thanks partly to lack of foresight by Brussels, most of us have less of it, but Brussels doesn’t care because someone had a cool idea. The rest of us, as unusual, pay the consequences. And for those of us that get headaches from fluorescent lighting? No one asked us, we don’t count. And if we complain, they call us ‘anti-European.’ No, I’m not anti-European. I just say that what the EU about is not what was promised — making it easier for its citizens — but strictly about making it easier for the big capitalists. No matter if Brussels’s decisions create complications for the rest of us — the EU bureaucrats couldn’t care less. And if we vote down a constitution they’re trying to shove down or throats that does nothing to rectify this and whose soul goal is to make it even easier for big business, no problem; they’ll re-name it a treaty and say they don’t need to have a vote. Or, if we insist on a vote on the treaty and vote it down — as Ireland did — they’ll just make us vote again after scaring us a little.
All the marine fishermen of the principal ports in the north of France want is to be able to fish for cod and sole. Apparently, there’s plenty more cod and sole to be caught. But Brussels rules the high seas, and Brussels has determined that this year’s quota for cod and sole was reached in June. So since Tuesday, the fisherman have been blocking the ports of Dunkerque, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais, taking time out only to meet with fish minister Michel Barnier yesterday. The best Barnier could come up with is a promise of 4 million Euros in aid. There’s lots more cod and sole in the Atlantic, there’s no money in the federal coffers, and yet the government can only throw money at the problem because Brussels’s will must be followed.
Speaking of blockages: When I was 13 years old — in the French equivalent of college or what we used to call junior high school — I made the choice to join my teachers on strike. They didn’t ask me to do so; I volunteered. So I’m all for student solidarity with professors. But here in France, in the ongoing blockages of universities, professors and researchers haven’t given those students who don’t want to strike the choice. It’s not enough for them to walk out; they block the entrances of the universities to prevent those who might not agree with them, or maybe who just want to pursue their education, from choosing to keep going to class. (Unlike with the fishermen — who are facing an issue of SURVIVAL — the reasons for discontent of these educators and researchers are unclear. I gather they’re upset that the government wants the universities to be independent; and about some cut-backs.) Consequently, students who expected to graduate this year are looking at incompletes because they’ve missed too much class, sometimes months. And yet, appearing on France Culture’s morning program earlier this week, one of the leaders of this movement had the nerve to say that their militancy is “not of a blind extremism.”
In most places, Democracy dictates that when a people oppose a proposition, their opinion is respected. In Brussels, at least as concerns the European Consti — er, Treaty — it means that when a country rejects having its independence fettered by Brussels, you either bypass their no vote with a ‘treaty,’ as was done in France and the Netherlands, or you make them vote again, as has just been decided for Ireland. Supposedly there are some concessions — a European commissar, non-obligation to participate in joint military actions, non-interference in banning abortions, and fiscal independence — but reportedly it’s the same duck. And the ‘fiscal independence ‘ guarantee is baffling; France has been repeatedly shackled by, among other things, limitations on running a deficit, although that has been temporarily lifted in view of the crise. But in fact, the European Union is nothing if not an arsenal of Brussels-imposed regulations which shackle national independance and thus maneuverability in all manner of spheres.