The elites are making life choices for us peons again, and people are pushing back. Yellow-vested protesters' nationwide campaign of road blockades, coupled with the looting and vandalism seen during weekend protests in Paris and other cities, has dealt a heavy blow to French President Macon’s plans to combat climate change by mandating fuel austerity.
Now Macron is facing a "moment of truth," the Parisien newspaper said in its leading headline Monday, warning that if he fails to appease the anger, "France will enter a dangerous period of political instability."
I opined on elitism versus the unwashed masses in previous columns, but this bear highlighting. Too many news outlets aren’t honestly covering the why of these anti-government protests and putting them in worldwide context. That’s my goal here.
These government-forced restrictions are certainly more serious but in the same spirit as President Barack Obama’s outlawing incandescent light bulbs and mandating vehicle fuel economy. Government mandates on large sodas and soda straws have followed.
Whereas Marie Antoinette responded with “let them eat cake,” when told the masses demanded bread, Obama responded with a trite comment on tire pressure, and French President Macron told workers who complained that his new gas tax meant they couldn't afford to get to work to carpool.
In effect, Macron is placing the burden of addressing climate change (however fitfully) on the backs of France’s rural population. French elites do not share the burden.
"It is clear that we underestimated people's need to make themselves heard," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Europe 1 radio on Sunday.
Macron thinks he’s got the world’s best interests at heart, but he’s forgetting about the best interests of the people he represents.
As one of the protestors pithily put it, "we are overtaxed. But at the Elysee, that’s the president’s residence, they spend 10,000 Euros a month on the hairdresser."
What's going on in France is part of a worldwide populist uprising.
In the UK, in Germany, in Italy, in Eastern Europe, in Brazil and, of course, here in America with Donald Trump's election -- and support for Bernie Sanders. Let's remember, working people are saying they've had enough of decades of elitist policies -- like uncontrolled immigration -- that help those at the top but hurt everyone else.
Well, here's the takeaway from the chaos in France. If the elitist governing class thinks that Trump, Brexit, and all these other populist movements are some kind of aberration and they can soon get back to business as usual, forget it.
You can’t treat working people with contempt and expect no consequences.
Recently, Macron took a shot at Trump, claiming absurdly that, “nationalism is the exact opposite of patriotism.” Well, the yellow vest protestors are definitely nationalists. They are placing their economic interests above the world’s interest in reducing carbon emissions (or gestures in that direction).
There is a serious disconnect, in France as it is here, between not only the governing elites and the masses but also between urban and small town-rural dwellers, and the coasts and the fly-over country in between. A good place to observe this is the electoral map by county, say from the 2000 or 2016 Presidential elections.
I’m going to resist being told what to do and how to live by the government. This is still a free country and if I want to be a conspicuous consumer or just drive an SUV and buy reasonably priced light bulbs than I will, nanny-state be damned.