The morning after, in the movies, starts with a smoke. Still in bed, a physically satiated couple, propped up on pillows next to each other, reads the paper, smokes a cigarette and says very little to each other. Shallow introversion follows the most intimate of intimacies …
Protests, in France, are a bit like this. Last night 600,000 to 1,000,000 people (the count varies) took to the streets in Paris. The emotional fervor among a minority of these people was high. These are the ones who threw stuff at the police who, in turn, set off gas and smoke bombs. This high drama is perfectly staged for the Twitterverse! I saw more police than I’ve ever seen in my life — 78,000 were called to the streets to maintain “order” by France’s President Emmanuel Macron.
The next morning, however, they’re smoking like nothing happened. The intimacy and emotional excitement of last night ended. They’re back at work. They’re talking in coffeeshops. It’s just another day.
Frankly, I find this unbelievable. Yet two weeks ago, the same thing happened — a million-plus people took to the streets with signs and slogans … and then went home. As I wrote as a comment elsewhere:
“Protesting in France is sport more than serious politics, a time to find friends, take selfies and try to outrun the cops. The last protest, a week ago, fizzled into nothing … two days later, no one was talking about it. I rather think this one will follow a similar trajectory. The big protest will take place in a week – 7/8+ February. This protest will NOT end, so they say, but continue until demands are met. It translates, roughly, in English as a “renewable” strike starting on the 7th of February until … who knows?“
Protests, in Paris, don’t seem to change anything. They do, however, let off steam. Social frustration builds until relieved by a night on the town. Most people just walk during protests. The crowd senses a direction and walks that way. After a mile or so, they go home. There may be leaders, but I never saw them. Just followers. Everyone follows everyone. I’d describe this as being “organically” organized, but maybe that’s the point — people don’t have a voice anymore and no one wants to follow their government.
There’s no way to influence political policy. Whatever Macron does, he does without regard for the people he’s supposed be governing. He’s governing the French bureaucracy, not the French people. Actually, his eyes are fixed in a northeastern direction toward Brussels — he doesn’t bother to scan his own country. It’s no different for those of us who live in other European countries or the Anglo world. In the West, the political class has dissociated itself from the people it’s supposed to “serve.” Rather than serve, they propagandize. They don’t give a rip about the people … us, and we know it by their lies.
In France, people are frustrated and angry. Without relief or pressure valve, they protest. I feel a tension in the air, here. I know this is silly and only intuitive, but something seems to have changed recently. People are much more anxious.
That’s the word. Anxiety. There’s an unfocused discomfort or sense that the trajectory of life has been warped, that France as a country is headed in a harmful direction. People on the streets are not just demanding affordable food and energy or a retirement age years younger than I’ll get in the United States (I’ll be 68 before I get social security). People are increasingly angry about the war in the Ukraine, though that anger is still diffuse. They’re doing a simple calculus: increased war payment to Ukraine = decreased money for France. The war is sucking away money that French people need. They’re mad that the government has so callously supported an expensive, futile war, one that Russia is going to win anyway.
It’s their money. It’s money they need. Why is the stupid government squandering their retirements, their energy subsidy … you get the drift.
But what can people do about it? More useless protests? They’re watching the money being frittered away in a way they don’t want and there’s nothing they can do about it. They’re watching their incompetent and mendacious politicians pile on each other in a vain attempt to give — in show — their hard-earned dollars to corrupt Ukrainians. As I type, the woman next door is humming. I’m glad she’s happy, but wish she had put on her yellow vest and went out into the streets. But then again, maybe I don’t wish this. Why should she bother? Nothing will change.
My neighbor has figured out that the system doesn’t respond to the people. She knows it’s futile to push back. There’s a cabal that runs the world and she’s semi-aware she’s not in it.
The propaganda war is in full swing here. The French government lies to the people without guilt or shame. It’s worse at home in the United States and almost as bad in England. As war’s realities become clearer, the propaganda blob changes shape and moves like an amoeba to obscure these truths with it’s slime. I don’t think this can last much longer, though I’m surprised it hasn’t triggered a populist uprising by now. I had hoped that people would suddenly figure out how poorly they’ve been treated by their government and how their government has, in essence, moved beyond them — perhaps they have, but they don’t know what to do about it. They’re not being governed; they’re being manipulated.
I had hoped that people would get rid of Macron AND ALL THOSE LIKE HIM, their incompetent ruling class. I had hoped that the French people would get rid of the massive, expensive bureaucracy that smothers and infantilizes France like a wet baby blanket — nothing in France is as immortal and eternal than the bureaucracy. This hasn’t happened. Perhaps it can’t.
Propaganda can only go so far. That distance has almost been reached. Sooner or later, the people will figure out the truth. Perhaps they’ll revolt.
- I don’t know how they’ll revolt.
- I don’t know when they’ll revolt.
- I don’t even know IF they’ll revolt.
But if they revolt, I hope it’s both peaceful and thorough, that they clean out their government’s stables and put down a thin layer of fresh hay.