The last time I saw Paris

Afraid to say anything negative about anyone or anything, even if it's the truth, because you just don't feel like giving that undynamic duo of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton another reason for publicity?  Well here's a group you can dislike with impunity because, not only do they dislike themselves, they don't even care if anyone else likes them or not.

I am speaking about the French.  Of course.  Mais oui. 

The survey of six nations, carried out for the International Herald Tribune daily and France 24 TV station, said 44 percent of French people thought badly of themselves against 38 percent of U.S. respondents who had a negative view of the French. 

Thursday's poll said 74 percent of Americans said whoever wins the second round of France's presidential election on May 6 should try to improve relations with the United States.

Some 41 percent of French agreed, but 20 percent believed Paris should be even more distant with Washington.

Oh well, we'll always have London.  Or Montreal.  Or Tel Aviv. New York maybe.  Even south Florida.   Because many of the French, especially the young, especially the Jews, are fleeing  the country, settling in these locations among others and doing well.

The simple fact is that, in the past few years, young people have been leaving France in unprecedented numbers. More worrying still is that although depopulation was a worry in the French countryside in the Sixties, it now has become a specifically urban phenomenon. Nor is it confined to Paris: Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux and Marseille can all report an exodus of young people towards les pays Anglo-Saxons (the United States and the UK). This fact was acknowledged by politician Nicolas Sarkozy when he made his flying visit to London last month to visit the French community there - at 400,000 people this is (as the newspaper Le Parisien helpfully pointed out) equivalent to one of the largest French cities.

France's rigid economy, the burdensome employment laws, the acknowledged racism, the paternalism, the lack of opportunity, combined with the natural restlessness of youth, have all converged in a seemingly mass exodus of its citizens. 

Interestingly, 'la fuite des jeunes' ('the flight of young people') has also become a burning issue in the French press, including Le Monde and, most notably, the daily Le Parisien, which for months has regaled its readers with the tales of young Parisians finding the good life at the other end of the Eurostar. Indeed, the real issue in this election - at least for young voters - is not la securite (crime and delinquency), but unemployment.

The politicians who are arguing that they will clean up the streets are still fighting the last election; meanwhile, young people in France look at the latest statistics - one in eight unemployed in some parts of Paris - and begin to despair of ever making a living in France.

So eat those freedom fries, enjoy Les Mis.  And maybe say hello to your new French neighbor as you all enjoy the benefits of a free economy with the opportunities it provides as you perfect your Francophobia. Vive le Etats Unis!