Sunday, September 1, 2013

True Nelson Visits France (Part 4)

I didn’t actually experience a crime while visiting France, but I do have some comments.

Regarding guns, undoubtedly a hot item in the U.S., French citizens (for the most part) do not own guns.  We were informed that some people living in very rural areas have guns, as well as some who are involved in various shooting competitions.

Nonetheless, private gun ownership is considered rare.  However, and it’s a big ‘however,’ I witnessed something that I considered practically unthinkable by American standards.  At the major tourist attractions, public transportation venues, and other places where large numbers of people gather, you will customarily see French military personnel carrying automatic weapons.

I would have liked to talk to one of these military guys; but my prying questions would have probably landed me in a French jail.

Questions:  What kind of security issue do you plan to resolve with military grade automatic weapons?  What are your orders?  Do you always operate in pairs?  What if someone takes your weapon away from you?  Do you have bullets for your guns or is your presence simply for show?

Sorry folks, but this is what goes through the mind of a security consultant.  All I see here is the possibility of chaos, many casualties, and lots of liability.  I try to imagine what type of incident these military types were directed to prevent, and how they would do that with wall to wall tourists.  I’m sure the French military has given this a considerable amount of thought – at least I hope so.  My guess is that these soldiers were more for show.  And, I would opine that they do not, in fact, have any ammunition on their person.

New subject:  Our various tour guides constantly reminded us of the many ‘pick-pockets’ that operate in the various French cities.  As described, these guys and gals are very professional, and can relieve you of valuables without the typical American tourist noticing anything.  During the two weeks we spent in France, I bet we were warned of the pick-pocket plague more than a dozen times.

New subject:  You rarely see beggars in France.  That is in contrast to Portland, Oregon where they are on almost every corner.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  It might be the culture.  It might be that they have better ways of treating and caring for the mentally ill, less drug problems, more enforcement (tourism is a major contributor to the French economy and they want your experience there to be a good one), and / or better social services which makes begging unnecessary.  Personally, I think it is just a cultural characteristic of French people.  Five or ten years from now, the French may decide to copy the American system, wherein begging on street corners is considered a form of employment and no disgrace to the individual or to society.

To be continued…  What impressed me the most?  What would I have avoided if I’d known better?  What was my impression of French wine?  And, I know you all will want to know the answer to this – but, what was the most unusual insect?

True Nelson
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