By Sianny Rooney. Dec 13, 2018 21.41 French time.
This Saturday will be the 5th consecutive weeks of the Yellow Vests protest, as Les Gilet Jaunes are preparing for their “Acte 5”. It is a protest towards injustice of the French Government to its citizens. It is the revolution fighting for their egalité (equality) and liberté (liberty), values and culture that the French hold dearly and strongly in their hearts and minds.
Nothing seems to be able to stop their movement, not even the recent Strasbourg terrorist act shooting. In fact, there is conspiracy theory (la théorie du complot) developing in the society, asking whether the Strasbourg shooting is not another false flag from the Government desperate trying to hold power and control and also to put a stop to the Yellow Vests movement. The French Government, Macron and his political party LaREM (La Republique en Marche) asked the Yellow Vests not to protest for Yellow Vests “Acte 5” (Round 5 Yellow Vests Protest). “Who gain/benefit from this tragedy?”, the question that people ask amid the oddity of the situation such as the shooter this time again left his ID card to be found (the same in Charlie Hebdo’s terrorist attack shooting), he can enter the very guarded Strasbourg Christmas Market with gun, got shot in the arm, managed to escape and still in the run until now, etc. (UPDATE: the alleged shooter of Strasbourg terrorist attack has been shot dead last night by the police. Dec 14, 2018. 09.58 French time)
This is what distinguishes the French people from the rest of the world. Majority of the French people are well read, cultivated people where political discussion over family dinner is something that you will normally find in France, whether it is in the city or in the village, regardless of people’s economic and education backgrounds. Discussion over dinner between family or friends can ranges from the latest fashion from Yves Saint Laurent to the recent leaks in French political or business world, a very intelligent diverse enriching discussion and sometimes funny just like the ones you can find in the French famous satirical weekly newspaper “Le Canard enchaîné“ (if you are lucky of course). Thus the French are very well-versed with what is going on in their country, the economic and political situation and what the government has been doing to the people.
For decades, the government has been trying to reduce the socialism aspects of the country for profit. They’ve been trying to privatise healthcare, education, public services and infrastructure. The rich and the multinational big corporations have been exempted from tax, while the poor and middle class have been heavily taxed to cover the country’s budget deficit. While public services, health, education and other social benefits deteriorate.
During Macron’s presidency, the ISF or tax on the wealthy has been abolished. Big multinationals such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Starbuck, Total, etc don’t pay tax. To add, most of the richest also avoid or evade tax through tax havens, so the rich don’t really contribute to the country’s welfare. There are 9 millions people living in poverty in France or 13% (out of a population of 67 millions as of Jan 1, 2018) and 200,000 homeless people. Most of the policies basically is to take money from the middle class and the poor and giving it to the rich. Making the poor poorer and the rich richer. In short, the French government has broken their social contract of taking care its people/citizens.
The government and the mainstream corporate media only talk about the protesters violence and ignore the violence (social injustice) that they imposed on the people and the violence to Yellow Vests protesters. You will find many videos of the French police violence to civilians and protesters especially in social media such as Twitter, including the violence to students in Mantes La Jolie which created outcry nationally and internationally. The police gassed the protesters, shot civilians with flash balls and mutilated their faces, and detained protesters in advance without due process so they couldn’t join the Yellow Vests protest.
Brazilian Archbishop and social justice advocate, Dom Hélder Câmara explained well this social injustice phenomenon in his published “Spiral of Violence” tract. He observed that there are 3 types or cycle of violence:
1) The first, which is the mother of all violence who give births to all types of violence is the Structural or Institutional Violence. Which legalises, perpetuates dominations, oppressions and exploitations, which crushes and wear down millions of people in its silent and well-oiled wheel. Institutional violence could be defined as “any institutional condition, action or policy that emotionally or physically dominates, diminishes, dehumanizes or destroys others or the rest of creation.” In short, institutional violence is injustice. Institutional violence is rejection or neglect as well as attack — a denial of needs, a reduction of persons to the status of objects to be broken, manipulated, or ignored. The violence of bombs can cripple bodies; the violence of miseducation can cripple minds. The violence of unemployment can murder self-esteem and hope. The violence of a chronic insecurity can disfigure personalities as well as persons. And the violence of unequal laws can kill personhood as well as persons.
2) The second is the Counter Violence or the Revolution Violence, which is born out of the desire to abolish or fight the first violence. Institutional violence breeds counter-violence or violence number 2– race or food riots, prison revolts, taking hostages, terrorism, violent revolutions, and some of the crime we experience in our communities. But the response to violence number 1 can also be nonviolent resistance — labor strikes, rent strikes, land takeovers, and other forms of civil disobedience as well as legal protests.
3) The third is the Repression Violence, whose goal is to suffocate or kill the second violence by being an auxiliary or accomplice to the first violence which breeds/creates all sorts of violence. It takes the form of bigger police or military forces, military interventions, more prisons and tougher prison sentences, torture, censorship, destruction of unions, and other repressive practices characteristic not just of military regimes around the world but, at times, of our own government as well.
It is a hypocrisy by the French government and the mainstream media to only focus on the second violence, and to ignore the first violence that created the second and the third violence that kills the second. Injustice must always be addressed including social injustice facing the French people and people all over the world. Without justice, there will be no peace.
Last Monday night, after four consecutive weeks of Yellow Vests demonstrations, President Macron finally gave a 12 minutes national speech (recorded ahead, not direct) to address the Yellow Vests’ demands after refusing to meet and talk to them for a month. But in his speech President Macron lied by saying that the minimum wage (SMIC) will be increased by 100 euro/month. But instead what he meant is increase for those in minimum wages if they work overtime. And the increase in overtime pay has been planned by the government way before the Yellow Vests movement. The president also didn’t explain where the money come from to fund the increase in overtime pay (since Macron doesn’t want to re-establish the ISF tax for the wealthy, means that the money will be financed by the middle class and the poor, once again). Macron also said that the French people’s anger is legitimate, but their violence is unjustified. He never addresses the violence from him and his government, not the social violence that created the Yellow Vests Movement in the first place and the police violence to crush Yellow Vests Movement (the first and third violence in Dom Hélder Câmara’s Spiral of Violence).
Below is Mathilde Panot, one of the deputies from LFI (La France Insoumise) who said: “Yesterday, the President spoke. He lied.” She exposed the lies and scams of President Macron’s Monday night speech in front of the Assembly/Parliament.
Instead of truly and sincerely address the grievances of the people and Yellow Vests, president Macron lied. Which did not successfully weaken the Yellow Vest movement, but aggravates the situation instead. Then, the next day the Strasbourg shooting happened and the government urged the Yellow Vests to not protest. You can understand now why there is a conspiracy theory in France. People just don’t trust the government and the mainstream media anymore.
I agree with Emmanuel Todd, a French historian and sociologist who said that President Macron is not intelligent enough to manage the country and its political crisis. I also agree with him that this is the moment to be proud as French people. Proud for your resistance, proud for your strength and courage in facing tyranny and oppression who try to take your liberté and egalité away. Proud for your relentless fight for egalité, liberté and fraternité.
Below is a photo of high school students from Montreuil showing support for students in Mantes la Jolie “Traverse la rue, prends ton bahut” (translation: “Cross the street, take back your school”).
Traverse la rue, prends ton pays! My phrase which means “Cross the Street and Take Your Country Back!”, as my support to the Yellow Vests and French people, also my support to the students’ protests all over France and Mantes la Jolie.
As the Yellow Vests movement spilled to other European countries such as Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, etc France has become a leader in fighting for human rights, freedom and equality. One thing for sure is that France remembers and learned from its history. If this Yellow Vests Movement inspires other movements all over the world for freedom and equality, France can become once again the world’s leader in terms of Revolution in history. Vive la Révolution!