Nicolas Sarkozy proposes to raise the minimum retirement age in France from 60 to 62, and the age for a full pension from 65 to 67. Not the most dramatic move, but the French are responding as though he were condemning them to intolerable hardship. Demonstrations have erupted in several hundred cities and towns. The unions are calling for more strikes. Marseilles is particularly hit, as an armada of ships is prevented from entering the port and refuse has been piling up in the streets for weeks. In what seems a traditional festival, lorries block roads, service stations run out of fuel, flights are suspended, cars are set on fire. Les casseurs, hooligans or anarchists who love to smash things up, seem to be a small minority this time. The young, many of them schoolchildren, are taking the lead, here and there wrecking their schools. Revolutionaries of the older generation like Daniel Cohn-Bendit must find it surreal that already-privileged children are ready for violent protest about what the state is to give them in half a century’s time.
When Canada was denied a seat on the U.N.’s Security Council, most of its citizens were disappointed. Yet the rejection is actually worthy of praise, because it resulted from prime minister Stephen Harper’s principled refusal to go along with the U.N.’s horse-trading business as usual. According to The Economist, Harper’s offenses were as follows: “outspoken support of Israel’s hardline government, alienating the Muslim countries that make up a third of the U.N.’s membership”; a “feeble policy on climate change”; being “skeptical of Canada’s traditional multilateralism”; failing to expand Canada’s “commitment to U.N. peacekeeping missions”; and, worst of all, “choosing to inaugurate a doughnut-innovation centre rather than attend the U.N. General Assembly.” All of these policy decisions are admirable, to be sure — but how awesome was blowing off the Turtle Bay windbags to score some doughnuts? That may have been Canada’s finest moment since Juno Beach.