Ring roads of povertyThose of us who drive along Paris’ Périphérique, or around the ring roads of any big city, only glance fleetingly at what has sadly become an everyday feature of the urban landscape : the cohort of homeless and destitute people lining the highways in their makeshift shelters, which multiply as the months pass. These people and their families have come from abroad for the most part ; it’s the end of a journey made in the hope of a better future. The reality they face is often an immense impasse, where disillusionment and poverty grow. During this period leading up to the elections, it is considered good form to talk about how sick we are of it all. But it should be the perfect time to take stock of our potential, to shine a light on our failings, and to take part fully in the democratic debate. A country can measure its greatness based on its ability to ensure that every citizen can find their place within society, and where economic and social progress are a natural part of living together. But what connection can reasonably be made between the financial markets, and these people who find themselves quite literally on the margins of our society ? They perhaps represent the two ends of the social spectrum, with one shining a light on the other. Only profound and sustainable reform of the latter could lead to a reduction in the former. Without reform, there is every reason to think that it is the poverty which will endure, but a great country like our own cannot turn a blind eye without reneging on the very republican principles on which it is founded. So social organisations like associations must not be damaged or stigmatised. They are the indispensable watchmen over the state of our society’s health. Their disappearance would cause a state of chaos it would be difficult to re-emerge from. Nobody would benefit, least of all those destitute people who gather on our ring roads, for whom associations still provide a small ray of hope for a better future.