Should I be worried that I hear several loud noises like gunshots and my first reaction is to keep walking straight in that direction? Did curiosity really kill the cat?
Well, I claim neither bravery nor stupidity (in this case), as I was pretty sure I knew the source of these strange sounds.
Yesterday thousands of tractors rolled down the streets of Paris. As someone who loves the meeting of incongruous elements, I got a kick out of seeing large farm machinery clogging traffic in the City of Light. John Deere isn’t a name I typically associate with Paris, but behold, a whole fleet took over the boulevards.
As much fun as it is whining about the perpetual state of strikes, spectacles, (or what the French like to term “social movements”) in France, sometimes there really is a reason. I’ll let the political bloggers give a full analysis (or see here for more background), but the farmers have a point. Their costs are rising, prices falling, and EU deregulation is no help at all.
You know how people love quaint French markets? We conjure a romantic picture of a family farm where such good food is grown? Well, that’s hardly the working reality anymore. Agriculture is in crisis and small-time farmers are fading fast.
Part of me wanted to hop up on one of the tractors and get a personal opinion on the matter; everyone has a story. But fear stopped me (have you seen the size of these things?)
I did see a young woman do just that, though, and the older man driving the tractor seemed delighted to suddenly find himself in her company.
Most protests in Paris take place at Bastille or Place de la Republique. The tractors hit these two hots spots, but they also made their way to Nation, not too far from where I live.
So at least I had one take-away from the day: If you wait long enough, moving farm equipment will find its way to you.