As many of you may already know, a curfew has been imposed here in France. Starting tonight, residents are required to be at home from 9pm to 6am. Exceptions for municipal and hospitality workers will be made (paperwork required), but for the average Parisian, it means finishing off the last glass of wine at 8:45pm and cutting a deliberate if not hasty path home.
The measures, announced by President Macron on Thursday, are the equivalent of walking a public policy tightrope: infection rates are skyrocketing (30,000 in a single day recently) but the economy (already on life support from the first wave of the pandemic) can’t really afford another lockdown.
The announcement rolled over the country like a heavy, wet rug. Like everywhere else in the world, the French are fatigued with the restrictions but still concerned for their health. Some, of course, complain about their ‘rights’: to party with their friends, to stay out all night, and to basically put themselves and everyone else in the city, in danger.
A news presenter brought this issue up with President Macron during his television interview in which he announced the new restrictions. He was much more gracious and diplomatic in his response than I would have been. He said the he was certain that the French people would do the right thing during this challenging time, and acknowledged how difficult the pandemic had been on young people.
Watching the exchange live on my laptop, I simply spat profanities at the news presenter who raised the issue. I can think of nothing more stupid than complaining about your social life when real lives are in peril. I have no patience for it, especially from people on television who should know better. My ever-patient wife simply patted me on the leg and reminded me that the people on television couldn’t hear me. Probably for the best.
So our lives remain very much unchanged here in Paris. We will carry on much the same as we have this entire year: working a lot of the time, isolating much of the time, and wearing a mask all of the time.
But to be fair, as infuriating as the French can sometimes be, they are also incredibly generous and kind. As an example, I’ve included a couple of links to news stories about the Charitable Brotherhood of Saint Eloi (pictured above) who continue their work even in the age of COVID-19.
I think you’ll find the BBC video and the France 24 article about this 800 year old order fascinating and inspirational.
In closing, I was delighted to read the comments we received on home schooling and chateau life. Thank you all very much for those. As I’ve said before, your participation on this blog really makes it what it is.
Be safe and well.
20 thoughts on “The Second Wave in Paris”
Thank you for sending this out, Byron. As it happens, I was just eating my lunch of part of a baguette and some Brillat Savarin while checking email, and found your latest post. A happy coincidence. Looking forward to watching the videos you sent. I’m in MN, and expecting a lockdown soon here, too. Wishing you and all your readers safe times.
As an OMG, one must remember to be grateful for those things in life we have reason to be truly thankful for.
You will both survive Covid in France and all Paris remains at your doorstep. Both you and your wife could be back living in America, where things are much worse, and with an anger and hostility that my OMG Canadian family cannot understand nor relate to.
We live on a small island (British Columbia) where we can walk to the village and raise a pint in our local. It is a rare day that one sees a maskless human whilst walking. We all do the social distance bit. Today we are grateful for the most excellent fish, chips and mushy peas we just finished at our local chippery.
So chins up. Things could be much worse.
But what about my right to party? What about my right to do whatever I want? What about my right to be selfish and immature? My right to be a narcissistic, solipsistic thoughtless spreader of death and disease? My right to be short sighted, reckless and irresponsible at everyone else’s expense? Give me liberty or give me death by Covid-19!
To my mind, there is one thing that this crisis has clearly illustrated:
“ When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge “.
Real OMGs+Gs will be having no problem doing ‘The Right Thing‘ as opposed to most others ‘doing what they think is right’. OMGs will understand the difference because it is rooted in their self-discipline and behaviour.
At times like these it is worth keeping in mind the best quote ever made on this blog:
Old Money: In Their Own Words
Posted on April 29, 2020
It takes a crisis to expose a possibly bigger issue: the difficulty societies face to bridge disagreement.
Is the best way to find common ground and move on together achieved by emphasising one’s opinion? What’s “Right” anyway? Anyone who thinks seriously about these matters may conclude that, unfortunately, there’s no such thing. Except from a specific perspective, related to specific values, not necessarily shared by others.
Ergo, no matter how urgent and necessary the health measures are, one needs to understand that they aren’t carved in stone. Indeed they can be imposed, but the grounds on which this is done may not be acceptable to all. Even serious scientists can’t reach consensus.
JL, every reputable epidemiologist and infectious disease expert has said that social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing would reduce the number of Covid-19 deaths by at least half and would rapidly bring the spread of the virus under control. There is room around the margins for debate about what the precise numbers would be, but the basic facts are not in dispute.
Amy, thank you for your comment. I don’t claim to own the truth in any field, but I do believe in looking at both sides of an argument.
Indeed, they all claim that mask wearing and hand washing would reduce virus deaths. But some believe the cons (economy, mental health,…) outweigh the pros. To mention just one: A former professor and rector of a Western European university — who graduated in immunology and virology in America — would opt for controlled circulation of the virus, with protection for vulnerable groups. He also thinks that the misleading use of infection statistics is causing panic unnecessarily, referring to signals from psychiatrists.
Please note that I was using a mask and distancing before they became compulsory, but without judging those who mocked me for doing so. I don’t know whether it’s, objectively, the right thing to do. That would be a massive statement. Personally, on ethical grounds, I guess it is, but I can’t possibly expect anyone to agree.
Addendum: cons related to compulsory closing of businesses and similar measures.
JL, I understand what you’re saying, but it seems pretty clear that the best way to help the economy is to keep as many people as possible healthy and alive. On a deeper level, the problem with saying “there is no right or wrong” is that it seems to me it would leave us helpless and passive in the face of chaos. We need leadership. Someone has to make a decision and that decision should be based on the best available evidence.
Accurate information in the hands of knowledgeable and experienced people should lead to a better result than simply saying “there is no right or wrong”. There are objective facts; we do know how this virus spreads. Not to act on that information feels like a form of surrender, or at least apathy.
Sorry if that came across as harsh. I know everybody is entitled to their opinion, but now more than ever we need to be tough and rational in battling this deadly disease. You and I are entitled to our opinions but the coronavirus doesn’t care about that.
I grew up in a country where at one time terror was an any-day possibility. What I learned was this: the person planting the bomb only has to be ‘lucky‘ once. We had to be vigilant (all) of the time.
I am treating this current virus crisis the same way and with the same vigilance. This virus doesn’t care about my sentiments. Neither does it care to give me a day ‘off-guard’. It’s lying in wait for me to drop my guard.
As has been pointed out, the best experts in their fields have given us (what are currently) the best instructions: Face, Hands, Space.
Is this really so burdensome ? Is this really an infringement on ‘my’ rights and liberties ?
This is not a time for “me, me, me”.
And no, I am not apologising either.
Well said, David. We have become a bit self-absorbed when it comes to personal liberties. I doubt the framers of various democratically-based constitutions had in mind what far too many claim and take for granted in the 21st century. Godspeed to us all.
Heinz-Ulrich, I always enjoy your incisive and intelligent comments!
You’ve raised an issue that has been puzzling me for a few months. I live in Cape Town, South Africa and we went into ruthless lockdown in March. Since then we’ve eased up, little by little and are in a relatively light lockdown now, while quaking in our boots that people will let their guard down and we will be hit with a second wave. Overall, we’ve been relatively lucky, though obviously the economy is wiped out, with all the nightmares that this brings, which are really, really scary.
We’re weathering the storm as best we can. But here’s the thing: I’ve been watching the international news and every day I see more and more cities rebelling against the lockdown, mass demonstrations, refusal to wear masks and general rage, chaos and mayhem. This has simply not happened here. At all. Virtually everyone wears a mask, (you won’t be allowed in a shop without one), keeps their distance and there are hand sanitisers everywhere. Lots of places have temperature readings and they take your contact details, just in case. There is no mass revolt.
South Africa has a history of pulling together for the greater good in a crisis (we had a terrifying drought a few years ago and Cape Town very nearly ran out of water, but the entire population, across all social and racial spheres radically cut their water use and worked together to save water and find a solution. Gardens were barren, swimming pools empty and cars filthy, but everyone just bit the bullet and got on with it. Thankfully, we made it through and miraculously our dams are now over 100% full.
But does this adequately explain why we’ve had nothing like the furious reaction there has been in some parts of the world? I don’t think it does. I have family and friends in Paris, England, all over Europe and in Australia, and what’s going on there is shocking. I simply don’t understand it.
i haven’t commented for quite a long time but that doesn’t mean I don’t read your posts; I do and I thoroughly enjoy them – the voice of sanity and reason on the internet! Best of luck to you, and everyone reading this. I have a feeling we’re all going to need it.
Thank you, Mary-Ann, for sharing your thoughts and concerns. You’ve made an astute observation. The only explanation I can offer is this: social media platforms like Facebook are used by ‘bad actors’, usually foreign governments, to influence opinions and drive actions. This influence is either targeted at 1. changing opinions about a particular candidate or 2. changing opinions about a particular issue. The first seeks to put a candidate in office who will best serve the bad actor’s political agenda. The purpose of the second is to simply sow internal discord in the country and weaken its institutions.
This technology is ‘weapons grade’ technology, and is used as such. (This is a term I learned from a tech person who worked for political candidates and causes.) South Africa does have a history of unifying in times of crisis. It is also not a player on the world stage. European countries, including the UK, are much more pivotal. Australia is a key ally as we attempt to thwart China’s aggressive moves in that part of the world. So there’s a method in this apparent madness.
When there is no obvious logic or benefit in the political position of an individual or group, that group is either being paid (a hidden benefit) to take that position or they have been brainwashed by propaganda. It’s that simple. No human instinctively does things that they know are harmful to them. It’s contrary to our survival instincts. So when people are protesting about their right not to wear a mask and to expose themselves and their loved ones to serious illness and death, you have to look at them as having been brainwashed or paid.
In closing, it is very difficult to get people to admit they have been brainwashed, that they are not seeing things accurately and objectively. (Ask any recovering Scientologist.) It is also dangerous to start regulating free speech. The functional well-being of our society hangs in the balance, though. So we have to figure something out quickly.
Thanks again. – BGT
Thanks so much for your comments, Mary-Anne. We in America seem to have lost the sense of sacrifice for the common good–though I’m not sure how much of a sacrifice wearing a mask is. We’re paying the price.
Thanks Byron, I take your point, but I’m still struggling to get my head around it. I don’t use social media at all, because I think it’s ghastly and brings out the worst in people. But social media is as prevalent in South Africa as in the rest of the world and I don’t understand why its influence in terms of refusing to abide by the current Covid 19 laws hasn’t gained traction here. Everyone knows what’s happening in other parts of the world and it’s all over social media but it hasn’t inspired people here to do the same. The propaganda might not be aimed at South Africa, but it still reaches us.
And Katie, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right, of course. Can you imagine if this attitude had prevailed in the past? The allies would have lost both World Wars.
As a fellow Cape Tonian I’ll tell you why.
South Africans simply get on with it: we have a long, three hundred years-plus history of Dutch influence, irrespective of our own individual heritages, races and creeds. This history has created a disciplined and resilient population.
In the Afrikaans language they say:
“ jy maak wat ek se “ which means “ you do what I tell you “. This starts in childhood and results in people who do what they’re told. I mean this in a positive sense and not in, for example, a North Korean dictator-sense. When I was growing up I didn’t ‘negotiate’ with my parents nor my school masters. I did what I was told and paid the consequences if I didn’t.
No surprises then that South Africans are often popular recruits in the overseas job markets. Besides qualifications, they bring with them discipline and respect.
I hope this throws some light on the topic.
Lots of South Africans in Canada. They are great people and a wonderful addition to our Canadian mosaic. Many are doctors, but other are drawn here for the mining of gold and Canadian diamonds.
Smithers, British Columbia, which is in the interior, is a popular destination.
Thanks David, you’ve got a point. A friend suggested that it’s possible that some countries have had it easier than others over the past decades (this is not a criticism) and are now facing restrictions for the first time in their lives, and have not been able to handle it. So that idea together with yours and Byron’s made me think that perhaps it’s not one reason, but rather a collection of factors, all of which came together in a “perfect storm”. I was probably being a bit simplistic, looking for a single reason.
Another piece one might add to this jigsaw is that many people confuse democracy and liberalism in the worst possible way.
In other words, to them democracy means ‘ I am free and have the right to act in the manner (I) choose. For example, (I) have the right to eat what I want. It is (my) business if (I) incur consequences with the potential of a so-called co-morbidity. And by the way, (I) also have the right to first class medical treatment should (I) become ill. [ If my sister were writing this she would add that ‘ people have too many bloody rights ‘.]
This is a complex situation but I am personally doing my part by quietly batting for the team on a foundation of self-discipline, even if the wicket is a bit sticky at present.