Paris - As France heads into the 2022 presidential election, the fabric of a country that has at times been the envy of Europe is looking tattered. The sands of society are shifting on an almost daily basis, the ‘traditional’ French way of life appears to be on the way out. Things that used to define France appear to have gone: the welfare state is losing steam, industry and agriculture are both suffering.
The far-right claims that the country isn’t French enough and has become too multicultural - and that even debating the place of Islam has become a dangerous no-go zone. France, it seems, is going through “a crise d’identité”.
Crossroads France explores five different regions of France and five areas of French life to find out more about the country in the 21st century.
Episode 1/5 : The Forgotten
One of the abiding images of France around the world is the strength of its public services, but the reality is somewhat different as reforms since the 2000s have driven the welfare state to the brink.
This sense of abandonment is strong in the “Empty Diagonal”, a section of small-town rural France which feels neglected by the state.
It is the France of the yellow vests and the "forgotten" where hospitals, post offices and other public services are closing down, to the detriment of the people who live there.
We travel to the Ardennes in the north-east, to a concert by the singer Gauvain Sers who sings ‘Les Oublies’ which became an anthem for the Yellow Vest marches. We dive into the “Empty Diagonal”, where there is a sense of injustice among the people, a feeling they have been cut adrift by the elite.