To continue from my previous post, in this post I will finally get to discuss about some serious impressions I have of Paris.
I am not a frequent flyer, but I do travel a little more recently due to work. In recent years I visited Hong Kong, Phnom Penh, Tokyo, Sydney, Hanoi, Taipei, Seoul, Vientiane and Perth. I myself live in Singapore. These are the cities and places I have been to and experienced, and these are the cities I inevitably end up comparing Paris against.
There are two versions of Paris seen by the world. The first, more popular version sees Paris as a city of romance, quaint cafes, fine dining, French desserts, charming historic architecture, and a city of dreams. The second version sees Paris as it is based on reality: A city in stagnation. The capital of a country where no body believes that any of the presidential candidates will actually do anything good for the nation. A city with a rat infestation problem. A city rife with pickpockets. A city where criminals lurk in the metro, and locals sincerely advise travelers to avoid the metro because “at least on the surface you can be seen by everyone”. A city cursed by liberalism gone insane, where prison guards can be abused by prisoners and criminals employ little broods of child-thieves because there are no criminal laws to effectively deal with under-aged offenders. A city where even police had to go on protest due to being under-staffed and lack of resources. I watch the Parisians walking pass, and their walking gait and stance tells me a grim reality: “resignation and disappointment – we are just trying to make a living here. How did this country come to this?”
The image above was captured unintentionally. But somehow it illustrates what Paris is today. Behind we have relics of the past – glorious, interesting, quite breath-taking to comprehend. But right before us we have the present. There is an air of… unhappiness and dissatisfaction around the young gentlemen. The same subtle feeling hangs around everywhere. This summarises the problem with Paris. Everything wonderful about Paris comes from its past. However for the present and future, I feel an absence of hope.
Indeed how spellbinding is that past! Wandering among the preserved buildings and palaces that now serve as museums and travel attractions, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the art and the grandeur. The past of Paris is truly the most valuable thing the city has today. What a pity that her inhabitants – due to a multitude of social and political reasons – struggle to create new wonders in art, architecture or inventions to rival the achievements of their forbears.
Was I too harsh? Perhaps I mistook historical preservation for a lack of innovation and complacency? I examined myself on this and came to the conclusion that I made no mistake. In my experience, Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney demonstrated well how historical preservation and sustained modernization can go well together. Even in less developed cities such as Hanoi and Phnom Penh, I was able to feel the energizing vibe of progress and change – and I could not feel anything remotely similar in Paris! I am not mistaken. Paris is truly in stagnation.
Unfortunately, everyone I spoke to about French politics is disappointed. No one likes the current candidates. No one believes any of them will do anything good for France. Perhaps this is the reason why people are throwing support behind Marine Le Pen. “None of the usual candidates is going to do anything good for us. Since we already have everything to lose, why not just take a gamble on the unusual candidate who have all these ideas that we have not tried?”
I look forward to see how the French elections turn out.
For the photography geeks, this series of images were produced by a Nikon D610, a Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G and a Nikon 60mm f/2.8G Micro. – WY