Globalised Minority Versus Marginalised Majority!
Thousands of people have been staging protests in France against the increase in the gasoline tax, since November 17. Gradually, the anti-government agitation in Paris has started receiving support from the entire Europe!
In recent times, the typical French forecourt price for sans plomb 95 has increased from EUR 1.36 a litre to over EUR 1.60 in the last 12 months, while the price of diesel has risen from EUR 1.24 to over EUR 1.50. It is to be noted that the price of crude oil has not only increased in the global market, but the French government has also increased the tax on petroleum products. The rural people, involved in service sector, travel major cities everyday and they rely heavily on the public transport system. As a result, the government’s decision to increase tax badly affects these people.
Prices of essential products, too, have increased in the West European country in the last few decades. The volume of national expenditures for essential commodities (or services) – like room rent, gas, electricity and oil – was EUR 3.5 billion in 1959. And now, it touches EUR 410 billion. Although the common people are worried about the current situation, the Emmanuel Macron administration has taken no major step so far to tackle the crisis, apart from announcing that fuel price hikes would be suspended. However, the announcement has failed to win the confidence of the protesters, who express serious doubt over the proper utilisation of the public money by the government.
A couple of weeks ago, Jacqueline Moro – a video blogger – uploaded a video to the social media, creating fresh troubles for the government. In the video, she strongly criticised the French government for increasing the fuel prices in the pretext of environmental tax. As the video went viral, people started to unite through Facebook and Twitter, and took to the streets.
Stéphane Hessel (1917-2013) – a Berlin-born French diplomat and ambassador – published a booklet, titled Indignez-vous! (Time for Outrage!), in 2010 and it immediately became the bestseller in France. Hessel mainly discussed about a movement behind which there was no union or political party. Even no leader or union led the movement, which was spontaneous and controlled by a small action committee based in the locality. He called it ‘movement of infuriate people’.
Why the French people got frustrated? There are so many issues… Nearly 63% of jobs vanished in France from 2000 to 2007! Also, a number of companies have left the country in recent years in order to reduce the cost of production. As a result, workers or industrial labourers have become the critically endangered species in France. Unfortunately, the French government has failed to rescue the industrial sector from the crisis. The agricultural sector, too, is going through turmoil. On an average, one farmer commits suicide in every two days because of skyrocketing prices of agricultural labour, seeds and machinery. The ‘helpless’ government has no other option, but to reduce the prices of agricultural products in order to compete with African and South American farmers!
Meanwhile, the characteristics of the middle class people have changed in France. The middle class was considered as a ‘class of people’ sandwiched by the upper class and the working class. In other words, the yardstick to determine the middle class was ‘economic’. Now, the urban middle class people live in areas where we hardly find upper class citizens. Majority of the middle class people own small houses and have white skin. It means the racial identity has become the yardstick to identify the class. Rural people, who arrived at major cities to find jobs, have settled in middle class colonies. These areas had become industrial hubs after the WWII. They have been marginalised gradually since the late 1990s and France has become two separate nations. While 40% of the French population enjoy the fruit of globalisation and spend lavish life in urban areas, 60% of the people have become marginalised and settled in rural areas. The majority marginalised France have confined themselves to nationalism, but the minority globalised France back President Macron’s concept of ‘cultural pluralism’.
Critics are of the opinion that the French president, in the veil of pluralism, allows the European Union (EU) to influence the national politics. They allege that the government reduces the municipal services, imposes ‘unfair’ tax on goods, services or properties, plans to abandon social security schemes and reduces rights of the workers.
Marine Le Pen
On the other hand, Marine Le Pen and her right-wing populist party ‘Front National‘ have managed to secure the support of economically and culturally retrograde minority people. It seems that the workers, farmers and the middle class people in France are inside a lift that is moving downwards. As the skin colour of the minority people are white, people – who take part in the ongoing Yellow Vests movement – have ‘racist’ tendencies. For the ‘minority’ white people, black and brown migrants are the main culprits! So, the ‘marginalised’ France has triggered the movement against the ‘minority’ France.
The Arab Spring in Egypt, the 2011 Spanish Spring, the Occupy Movement in the US, and the La Neu De and Yellow Vests movements in France should be considered as the ‘movements of infuriate people’, as they protest against the injustice! With the voice of common people being neglected in the sphere of traditional politics, people decide to abandon the representative democracy and violate the rules by actively taking part in nationwide protests.
President Emmanuel Macron
Some try to find the source of the ongoing Yellow Vests movement in the Student Revolt of 1968 in Paris. Basically, the Student Revolt was a spontaneous movement that encouraged people to abandon the ‘traditional politics and institutions’. Others try to understand the ongoing protests in the light of the Poujadist Movement of the 1950s, when the small shopkeepers and artisans revolted against the owners of shopping malls and supermarkets.
Whatever may be the context, the Macron government will have to bow down to the public anger. The French Presidential system, which becomes synonymous with monarchy, is facing a serious crisis… a very serious crisis!
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