By Francois Burgat
- The writer is a researcher at the Institute for Research and Study on the Arab and Muslim World, located in Aix-en-Provence, France.
ANKARA (AA) - We have known for a long time that hardships are indicative of strengths and weaknesses, the greatness and the baseness of individuals or societies who face them.
The COVID-19 outbreak unsurprisingly also revealed in France, among the elites as well as in the depths of society, in the presence of bright heroes and noble inclinations ... but also, inevitably, that of some less beautiful realities of all kinds.
Perhaps the most questionable of what the French government has done is to have chosen to deny the shortage of protective means in the country, such as masks which logically resulted from the weakened public hospital sector.
But they hide behind this and give false justifications such as one officially expressed by the government spokesperson that fellow French citizens do not know how to use them correctly.
More fundamentally, the global dimension of the crisis has reminded political elites of the universality of the viral challenge and, therefore, of the methods capable of responding to it.
Paris, which at first mocked with a very orientalist condescension the methods implemented by China -- ironic about their incompatibility with a democratic society -- had to quickly admit its fault.
This is, perhaps, the first great lesson of this exceptional episode: confession of fragility from the West, which teaches lessons to the planet.
Unsurprisingly, French society has also shown its two sides. In the supply chains, too many citizens piled up food products that were out of proportion to their needs, we thus witnessed scenes of rare incivility.
Among some unscrupulous traders, the sale of masks gave rise to an ugly black market.
Thanks to an explosion of initiatives, especially digital, French society has also shown an astounding inventiveness in restoring the social bond that has been undermined by distancing.
And France was able to demonstrate her gratitude towards the caregivers.
Not surprisingly, the crisis has, above all, revealed and exacerbated the social and political disparities which dangerously affect the living together of the French people: between the middle classes that can confine themselves to working from home and those who have to be physically present on the field that exposes them to high risks of contamination; and between the owners of vacation homes who spend hours in the countryside with the scent of vacation and those who, in narrow and overcrowded apartments, face infinitely more anxiety-provoking confinement and the increased risk of sanctions of all kinds.
It has thus worsened the situation in the suburbs, districts with dense habitat which has limited cultural and health facilities that France reserved for the African migrants.
In the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis where a large proportion of the descendants of migrants from North Africa or sub-Saharan Africa, of Muslim culture reside, pay more than 10% of the national amount of fines for breaches of the rules of containment.
Far-right supporters forget that if the hospitals of the suburbs are overloaded, that is due to the glaring insufficiency of their number, not because of the religion or the behavior of its inhabitants.
Finally, just like Trump's voters and many others, the French society has closed in even more on its serious but very relative problems to the detriment of all consideration for the infinitely more painful hardships of others.
France, the birthplace of human rights, fortunately, stood up against an evil capable of killing between 2% and 3% of its citizens.
But the country continued to let Russian and Syrian regimes' bombs raining on the people of Syria's northwestern Idlib province, bombs that kill 100% women and children as they hit blindly.
* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.