screengrab from https://youtu.be/JCTYcoZThCE
For going on a month, France has been wracked with widespread rioting. What is notable about these riots is they don’t involve, at least in appreciable numbers, North African immigrants, but rather members of the French middle class who see themselves being forced into poverty by the elitist policies of President Emmanuel Macron.
The proximate cause of the riots was a decision by the Macron government to increase the tax on diesel by 23% in the past year. As most French workers drive to work, this tax which is billed as a means to fight “climate change,” has a disproportionate effect on rural/suburban populations who were barely making ends meet. And, if Macron is to be believed, more taxes on fuel are to come:
President Emmanuel Macron defended the tax on diesel, saying: “We have to tax fossil fuels more in order to fund our investments in renewable.”
The New York Times has more on what is driving this:
At the bare bottom of Florian Dou’s shopping cart at the discount supermarket, there was a packet of $6 sausages and not much else. It was the end of last week, and the end of last month. At that point, “my salary and my wife’s have been gone for 10 days,” he lamented.
How to survive those days between when the money runs out and when his paycheck arrives for his work as a warehouse handler has become a monthly challenge. The same is true for so many others in Guéret, a grim provincial town in south-central France. And it has made Mr. Dou angry.
So he used what money he had left and drove 250 miles to join the fiery protests on Saturday in Paris, where the police moved in with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.
“We knew they were sent in to get rid of us,” he said the day after, “and believe me, they were not into Mr. Nice Guy.” But he vows the protesters are not going anywhere.
The “Yellow Vest” protests he is a part of present an extraordinary venting of rage and resentment by ordinary working people, aimed at the mounting inequalities that have eroded their lives. The unrest began in response to rising gas taxes and has been building in intensity over the past three weeks, peaking on Saturday.
The stories of Mr. Dou’s neighbors who also joined the protests were much like his own. Inside Laetitia Depourtoux’s freezer were hunks of frozen meat, a twice-a-year gift from her farmer-father, and the six-member family’s meat ration.
On these cold nights, Joel Decoux’s oven burned the wood he chopped himself because he can’t afford gas for heating.
It is not deep poverty, but ever-present unease in the small cities, towns and villages over what is becoming known as “the other France,” away from the glitzy Parisian boulevards that were the scene of rioting this weekend.
“We live with stress,” said Fabrice Girardin, 46, a former carpet-layer who now looks after other people’s pets to get by. “Every month, at the end of the month, we say, ‘Will there be enough to eat?’ ”
This is Venezuela, in slow motion, though it is driven by noble intentions instead of rampant corruption.
It isn’t hard to understand the anger and frustration. In order to fund some fanciful program to combat a theoretical, if not entirely imaginary, threat, real people are being put in the position of going hungry. When one adds onto that a repressive administrative state that discourages independence and entrepreneurship, not only do you have deprivation you have an absence of hope. Macron’s “f***-em if they can’t take a joke” attitude sounds a lot like another famous member of the French ruling class who decided the availability of cake would offset the shortage of bread.
Though I thought it would hit Germany first, this seems like proof of Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement, “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
It is hard to see a lot of good coming out of this. Macron’s popularity is cratering. The riots are persisting. The casualty count is mounting–hundreds of thousands have taken part, hundreds have been injured, at least two persons have been killed–and Macron seems to realize that he can’t credibly back down so his government is attempting to blame the French opposition movement led by Marine le Pen as a way of painting the demonstrators as the French equivalent of the “alt-right.” The fact that affairs are desperate enough that the demographic that his historically the backbone of the French Republic has given up hope indicates the worst is yet to come.
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