Originally Posted by Ã‰tienne
This comment, actually, seems very gratuitous to me. It's also quite revealing. Your facepalm was not, it turns out, really grounded on a deep analysis but rather on a general dislike of the public service. Duly noted.
This is an odd dismissal. Firstly, I work in the consular services of a foreign embassy in Paris, so not only do I not have an a priori against government, but I have a good basis for comparison of different systems. Second, as an expatriate in France, I have ample experience with the various government agencies responsible for immigration, residence cards, work permits, drivers' licences, the CAF, the PACS, and so forth. The nature of my work touches on their activities as well. The inconsistency in the application of rules, the arbitrariness of decisions, and the delays of service are astounding from any neutral point of view. Thirdly, I would be surprised if a facepalm has ever been grounded on deep analysis.
Il ne faut pas prendre ces choses tellement au sÃ©rieux.
This is probably true, but I don't consider this a bad thing automatically like you apparently do.
I consider it part and parcel of a larger statism which characterizes French culture, dating from before the French Revolution. The federal government arrogates power to itself in a highly centralized fashion (for example, the steamrolling of municipal authority as part of the Grand Paris project). Citizens then expect it to solve most, if not all, problems that affect the public well-being. This is an unrealistic expectation no matter what your position on government is, but it leads to a swollen bureaucracy that is elaborated in order to regulate and solve issues that are rarely best dealt with by the state. Many are then enticed to work there by the prestige the government has acquired for itself by being the supreme national arbiter. This is obviously a gloss on a complex situation, but I stand by the gist. Note that there is no French equivalent of the phrase 'public/civil servant
' -- you say 'fonctionnaire.' The famous French penchant for self-criticism touches everything the government does, but never its necessity to do something
. I would be lying if I said that seeing this general attitude expressed in public discourse didn't perplex me somewhat.