This past weekend, people flooded the streets in France to protest for the fifth weekend. Though the numbers were halved (from an estimation of over 60,000 protesters to over 30,000 across the country) after President Macron responded to the movement and met some of the demands – most importantly, the fuel tax increase that started this whole thing. I have to say, a lot of the information I’m getting is from Facebook and Instagram accounts. Though some news channels are covering it in Europe (and French news is of course almost only focused on it), it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be to find information, especially seeing that my minimal French has about a decade of rust on it and navigating through news articles is just not going to happen. I’m not sure how much people know about it in the States, but you all should really be paying attention if you haven’t been, and if it’s even more difficult for you to find info, let me know. I’m interested to see the difference in the news flow.
But what really is incredible to me is that this movement seemed to come out of nowhere and already, Macron has listened and change is starting to happen not only for the original issue but more. Just last Monday, Macron stated that starting in January, all minimum-wage salaries will be increased by 100 Euro a month with no extra cost to employers and pensioners earning less than 2,000 Euro a month won’t have to pay an increased social security tax hike. He apologized for instating something that wasn’t feasible and admitted it was a mistake.
Those still protesting are saying it isn’t enough – because the money for these benefits has to come from somewhere (taxpayers?) but we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, the protests have spread from France to surrounding countries and some vests were spotted in the crowds of a protest in Rome over the weekend. Outside of the mainstream English-speaking news, many are saying these protests are overly peaceful and absolutely widespread and some are wondering if this is a movement that’ll keep growing – especially seeing that now there is evidence it’s working. The vests have spread to protests in Poland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy (in Rome this past weekend) and in Belgium from what I’ve heard.
Meanwhile, I look at the US and I wonder what the difference is – why I don’t see much of anything being done for much larger problems, and I have a wide range of carefully thought-out guesses, but I’m still not sure of my answer. I just love to imagine sometimes though. Imagine a month from now thousands took to the streets protesting all across the US. Imagine an overall peaceful march to ask for real change on student loan companies and the national crisis that this debt is creating. Imagine riot police stepping up to the protesters and taking off their helmets. Imagine the president getting on TV and admitting that this debt was too much for most people and that it was a terrible system and it needs to be fixed. Imagine if they said it’d be fixed by January – and it actually happened, and all of a sudden all of that debt was gone – or at least a feasible payment every month. All because enough people cared enough (for a month) to get together and do something real about it.
I don’t know what would happen in the US if people really changed their mindset about protesting and went out onto the streets en-masse. I have no idea if it could actually change something, or if it’d just make everything worse. All I know is that what these people in France are asking for, isn’t really all that different (ok it isn’t any different) than what people in the US are asking for. Please read over that last sentence again. I said people in the US – meaning all the people breathing in the US, and I don’t care what damn list of government policies you believe in so don’t bring it up. I’m saying that these are middle-class people that are tired of not being able to live comfortably and aren’t feeling listened to by their government. That sounds pretty familiar to me?
In the US, at least in New England, I don’t know of any law about this but in at least France and Italy (and it seems also elsewhere as the yellow vests spread) all drivers are legally required to keep a safety vest in case of breakdowns etc, so it was an easy-access item that immediately unified everyone without as much of a breakdown over social classes. I’m not sure if the US has anything like that across the country. Sports jerseys?! (Tailgate protests?! Am I going too far?) That’s the first thing I thought of that almost everyone in the US has at LEAST one of and I felt terrible about it but then Rami came out with the same thing, first try so I’d be amused by any and all other suggestions people may have to stop me from imagining a ban of Red Sox and Yankee shirts taking down the White House together – because THAT would be worth flying home for.