By Randall Erickson / Special to the OB Rag
PARIS, FRANCE. In addition to the different forms of aid to the defavorized (a popular political euphemism often used now in place of the more descriptive and simple «poor»), some people have found their own ways to survive or improve their lives. Like in the United States, they scour the garbage bins behind supermarkets and find products that have been thrown out but are perfectly edible, and even non-food products. For reasons incomprehensible to me, some supermarkets pour bleach or other liquid products over the contents of their bins.
Another resource is the open air markets that almost all arrondissements in Paris have one or more open two times a week. After about two o’clock, they go through the wooden, plastic, and cardboard boxes that are left behind when the merchants have left. Myself, in passing by, I have found fruit and vegetables in very good shape and at times have collected some. These people are called “gleaners“, and they are not necessarily the poorest. The word comes from older agricultural times when after a harvest people would go through the fields and carefully pick up the grains that had fallen and were left behind to make their bread. Shortly later, clean-up workers come and collect the boxes for recycling. They are followed by others that wash down the entire area to remove any remaining rotten produce lying on the ground.
Also, people make a tour of the private trash bins that are put out on the street everyday looking for usable or re-usable material. It is surprising what some people throw away. Some things are new–still in their packaging–or practically new. One finds good furniture as well. These could easily be given to charity organizations. If something doesn’t work, like a television for instance, They take it apart for pieces that perhaps can be used. If you have any large household equipment that you want to get rid of, you can call a city department to tell it which day you are going to put it on the sidewalk and they will come and pick it up. But there is a good chance that someone will have recuperated it before the city crew arrives. There are also those charity organizations who will pick up large things you don’t want. The objects in good condition are sold in their stores and other objects are recycled for parts.
I have found microwave ovens that I have given to friends and I even found a computer a few years ago. I thought, what the hell, and took it to my apartment, connected a monitor, and turned it on. To my surprise it worked perfectly. It had Windows installed and the previous owner didn’t even have an entry code. So I could use it without further ado. Once or twice a year, neighborhoods may also organize vide gréniers (attic emptying) which are like group yard sales or small swap meets.
Here I digress. With my found computer I added a bunch more memory, uninstalled Windows, and installed a free Linux system, Ubuntu. The computer is old but works fine and is faster than Windows. It uses fewer resources.
Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/) is project started by a South African millionaire to make computing systems more available to everyone and one they can understand. You can download it for free or order CD’s for a symbolic price. Regular updates of programs and the system itself are always free. Once installed, I thought, «OK, now I’m going to have to configure it to connect to internet and make stuff work in general.» But no, it connected to the net automatically and everything in the package worked without changing a thing. The first thing to do is to use its update system because things are always changing.
The French and other European governments have been migrating from Windows to open source operating systems for a few years now. «The popular Linux distribution Ubuntu is making gains in some pretty important places, namely the French military police force National Gendarmerie. The government-run organization is planing to migrate all of its desktop PCs to Ubuntu by 2014, leaving the world of Microsoft behind it. The French National Assembly already switched all its PCs to Ubuntu in 2007, but its 1,200 desktops pales in comparison to the scope of the Gendarmerie’s conversion of 70,000 machines.»
The next link is in French, but the graph that is presented speaks for itself.
So, if you don’t want to continue making Microsoft richer with its overpriced products, you might do well to change to Ubuntu.
The Gleaners by Millet