Sick and Tired of the Yellow Vests !

Last SaLet me say it loud and clear so there’s no ambiguity:  I am sick and tired of the Yellow Vests.

Saturday, January 5, was the EIGHTH time the Yellow Vests, a populist movement named for the bright yellow jackets French drivers must have in their car in case of an accident, filled the streets of Paris and other major cities to demonstrate.  About what?  Initially, it was about the carbon tax which would make gas more expensive. President Macron delayed the measure. It was also about the cost of living, and President Macron responded by making some moves (among them, 100 euros additional income each month) to try to ameliorate their situation.

So what is all this about now?

That’s what I’m asking myself.

As time goes on, the number of demonstrators dwindles, for sure.  But the violence is, if anything greater, more unpredictable, lightning quick, astonishing and frightening.  A few examples from yesterday’s demonstration: one Yellow Vest, a professional boxer, repeatedly punched a policeman who managed to protect himself from the vicious blows with his shield;  in another  mind-boggling attack, some of the protestors got ahold of a construction engine and bashed in the door of the Ministry of Relations with the Parliament while the Minister, who was there, was evacuated by security guards.  And we’re not even talking about the cars set on fire, the broken windows, the looting and pillaging (one fellow was caught by police after he tried to sell online three expensive Givenchy bags he had stolen during a recent demonstration).

Now here’s the kicker: the reaction to these totally reprehensible, totally illegal acts of sedition was, in general, a big ho hum.   French journalists and French politicians and the majority of ordinary French people  continue to sing the same old song:   we mustn’t  mix things up.  The violence is not the fault of the  innocent peace-loving  Yellow Jackets but outside infiltrators. Some even say that the violence of the acts is a response to the violence of the government. Uh, that one’s lost on me.

Today on TV, I finally heard a member of Macron’s party deliver the message I have been longing to hear ever since this tomfoolery started:   “This violence is insurrectional and must stop. Now.”

Too bad it’s not the majority message. Most of the pundits shrink from going this far.

To try to understand the woes of the Yellow Jackets, the government has called for a national consultation starting on January 15.  It will  try to involve simple citizens in determining what is wrong, where and grievances can be remedied. This is all good and well – but personally I think that these people, who have no leaders, very different demands and are being manipulated mostly by the extreme right plus the extreme left and revolutionary movements, will never have enough. Because their ultimate project is to overthrow the government.

Of course there are decent, hard-working people and people down on their luck and people who don’t have enough money to make ends meet. They deserve respect, they deserve help.

But their movement has been hijacked.

And there is no excuse for the violence that we have seen the past eight Saturdays and will see much more of as time goes on.

If I were the French Head of State, which I’m not, I would refuse to enter into any kind of negotiations until the Yellow Vests get off the streets and give them back to law-abiding citizens.   Personally, I, and many people I know,  have not gone out for eight Saturdays because although the Yellow Jackets say they will be demonstrating in one place, they quickly move to another (which, by the way, is illegal).  My husband loves to go to the Stamp Market at the bottom of the Champs-Elysées on Saturdays. He can no longer go because the entire area is barricaded either because they have said they would demonstrate there-  or because they might turn up .

Tourism is down, shops and restaurants and hotels are losing money, the damage to streets and stores and cars and monuments can be counted in billions of euros.  And don’t you think it is absolutely terrifying that the demonstrators have actually approached and entered the center of power by forcing their way inside a Ministry? I do!

But never forget: in France, the right to strike is sacrosanct  even when those strikers penalise all the other millions of people who are just going about their business.

Something wrong with this picture?  You bet.


10 thoughts on “Sick and Tired of the Yellow Vests !”

  1. “But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.”
    ~ The Beatles, 1968 – “Revolution”

  2. I agree wholeheartedly, Harriet. I’ve been in the US these past two weeks (Florida with my son and his family) and we’ve been asked what this yellow jacket movement is about. I don’t know what to answer anymore.

    1. It is hard – even here – to keep up with what’s going on. The movement is becoming stronger and at the same time more chaotic. The government is not providing a firm response as it tries to satisfy the Yellow Vests but at the same time reign in the violence. I hate to be pessimistic but unless the government speaks as one voice and takes clear measures things can only get worse.

  3. Dear Harriet, I usually hesitate to comment on “Frenchy” stuff because, as a foreigner, I realize that I lack insight and understanding. However, in our usually quaint neighborhoods in the rural Saintonge, the yellow jacket movement has caused considerable damage. The blockades at essential city entry points have left small business owners without or with severally reduced income during the all-important Christmas season. and our area isn’t exactly affluent under the best of circumstances. Personally, as an elderly female in an electric car, I had to reroute and add an additional hour of travel time for doctors and hospital visits. Not major, granted, but I am frightened by the violence and by the possibility of running out of battery power in traffic bouchons. I certainly feel that the Macron government should show some backbone and get the vandals and domestic terrorists off our [I do pay taxes!] public roads.

    1. Thank you, Claudia. I appreciate your ponderation and your comments. You live in one of the rural areas where this movement started for the reasons we know (frustration with having to drive everywhere, cost of gas, low salaries, lack of solidarity. But, as I said, the thugs and extremists have hijacked what were and are legitimate concerns. The proof of the pudding will come when the national consultation begins. We will know then just what these people want and how realistic their demands are. Speaking of “demands”, I think it is too bad that in France people talk a lot about what the government should give to them but hardly ever, to my knowledge, about what they should give to the government.

  4. Right on, Harriet. You got to the essential as the excellent reporter that you are.
    I’ll share this with friends in the States who are quite confused with what’s going on.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. It is indeed complex and especially hard for nonFrench to figure out. It’s also hard for the French, I see!

  5. Dear Harriet

    First, much sympathy. Civil unrest, like (civil) war, is frightening and destructive. Here in the UK reactions have been mainly (1) mindless authoritarianism from the rightwing press, coupled with ha ha look at them! silly old frenchies. Those attitudes make me ashamed to be British, as does bre xit; (ii) thoughtful attempts to be dispassionate, mentioning the ever widening gapbetween rich and poor, Macron’s apparent assumption that his victory gave him a mandate to act as he has done, the shifting balance of world power from the west to China and the subcontinent etc. All these foretell the eventual demise of welfare, as here in GB, and retaliation and populism have been the predictable response. (iii) the ‘loony left’ view that only a total breakdown will permit a new order to emerge, as in the former USSR. If I may say so, the USAhas legitimated irresponsible authoritarian government and partial collapse of rule of law, as has also happened on the continent and in UK. Les gilets jaunes are symptoms, not causes, though of course they are causing much unnecessary personal misery, which could have been avoided by a more experienced politician.
    Lastly, as a (doubtless forlorn) hope from the bottom of the bag: could Kropotkin’s proposals in Mutual Aid suggest a way forward? Sadly one fears not, too much power and money is at stake.

    1. Thank you for your message. All of this is very complex. It will be interesting to see how it is – if it is – resolved.

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