The expression être frappé de plein fouet means, a bit more politely, to have the crap beaten out of you, and that’s pretty much how the French are feeling these days. Sometimes, for some people, it’s all negative. In addition to the couples that have split up since we were last here, we’ve been to several parties lately where someone was in a deep depression, either medicated beyond speech, complaining sans cesse, endlessly,
or even bursting into tears in the middle of a meal. When we left France in 2012, they were talking about la crise, a global description of national debt, unemployment, deep cuts in social programs, and all the misery that entails. but we really weren’t seeing it much, down here in the rural south.
But a lot of things have changed since then, and now we see the effects of la crise everywhere we look. People are stressé, and there’s a lot of anger at the government, which, to cut it a bit of slack, has the quasi-implacable force of the European Union to answer to for its every action, most of which involve imposing additional hardships on the French people in order to reduce the national debt in accordance with EU norms.
People are feeling it deeply, terrified about being affected by the widespread layoffs that are still sweeping France, groaning under the weight of ever-increasing taxes and ever-reducing social services, awash in waves of illegal immigrants with nowhere safe to go, afraid that they won’t be able to afford to retire, afraid their kids won’t be able to find a job, here where 25% of people under the age of 25 are unemployed.
Also, it’s been raining, pouring, hailing, thundering, and of course that doesn’t help either, although good weather is not going to change the fundamental facts. Each message that we receive from friends at home contains some variant of “hope you’re having a wonderful time in France.” Well, we are, and we aren’t. It’s hard to see our friends suffer, and to see a country we love so weighed down by la crise. When it hit the U.S., when the housing bubble burst and all the disaster that accompanied it, we avoided it because were here, where life was still very sweet, even though our French life is in one of the poorest regions of France. But now it’s all around us, beating the crap out of pretty much everyone we know.
In one way we feel privileged to be able to understand enough of what’s going on around us to really grasp what the French are going through. In another way, naturally, we’d like to have our fairy tale life back. I wish I knew how to beat la crise de plein fouet myself, but alas, I don’t have a better solution than anyone else, and besides, we’re leaving in two weeks. For the first time ever, we’re kind of looking forward to that. It’s so sad.