It’s Not Just A French Thing
Leanne Elliott takes a look at a global problem that is affecting so many.
In late 2018 growing discontent over increases to an environmentally motivated hydrocarbon tax, which would result in higher fuel prices triggered mass protests. However, the Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protests quickly gained momentum due to an overall dissatisfaction with French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies and growing frustration with government.
In simple terms, protesters were motivated by growing economic inequality. Declining living standards, the increasing cost of living, and economic policies which tend to only look after the high end of town is deepening the financial burden felt by low- and middle-class citizens, and they have had enough.
While the French protests have been mostly peaceful, there have been several violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in armed riot police, TNT stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas and armoured vehicles being employed to stem the protests.
Many French protesters and politicians denounce any protester violence, labelling those involved as “extremists” and “thugs”. However, it appears the violence has not been one-sided, with a growing number of allegations. Videos of police violence and many injured protesters have raised questions over Macron’s response to the protests.
As protesting firefighters set themselves ablaze in the streets, Macron’s 2020 budget attempts to appease the protestors, however, to sway public opinion in favour of Macron, if it can be done at all, will take a public relations miracle and timely political and economic change.
But, the boiling pot in France represents a larger, global problem.
In 2019 we witnessed similar protests driven by the sense of despondency felt by a growing number of citizens who are genuinely disadvantaged and struggling. This frustration has been demonstrated by mass civil unrest in places such as the UK, Russia, Iran, Spain, Bolivia Ecuador, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Chile, Hong Kong, Egypt and Lebanon.
Stepping back to see the forest for the trees, Stewart Patrick from the Council on Foreign Relations makes a notable comparison between unrest experienced during the “roaring 20’s” and what we are experiencing today.
In his recent World Politics Review article, Patrick encapsulates the origins of unrest, stating “the forces of chaos and division include populist nationalism, authoritarian politics, nativist intolerance, political extremism, technological disruption, economic inequality, geopolitical competition and American solipsism.”
As much of the 2019 chaos continues, including the Gilet Jaunes protests, going into 2020 the capricious state we find ourselves in suggests it is set to be another tumultuous year.
Unfortunately, for those already living on struggle street, it seems life will not become any easier as long as the high end of town continues to hoard the wealth and global leaders continue the political spectacle.
Feature Image: Aloïs Mouba via pexels.com, no changes made