French protesters prove their voice can be heard by politicians
If you have ever felt the average person has no sway when it comes to political decisions then there is a lesson to be learned from France this week.
For several weeks, every day, hundreds of French people converged on Paris wearing yellow-reflective safety vests, a clothing item motorists there are required to have in their vehicles.
They were protesting the implementation of a large fuel tax, called an eco-tax.
Many of the protesters talked of feeling overwhelmed as they were faced with more and more price increases and taxes. They have been having to reduce their standard of living because wages had not kept pace and many people are unemployed. Others are retired on a limited income and were feeling overwhelmed.
Many said they had never before been involved in any protest but could no longer stand by. Even if they themselves were financially able to withstand yet another tax they had too many friends and relatives who could not and they felt compelled to protest on their behalf.
While the tax was meant to get people to reduce their carbon footprint, many pointed out they had no way of doing that. They were struggling financially and did not have the option of buying a more fuel-efficient car or electric vehicle to reduce their emissions. Others had to commute long distances if they wanted a job and public transport was not available to them.
The protesters repeatedly called for French President Emmanuel Macron to address them. There was only silence while Macron continued to fly around the world to events.
Protesters clashed with police at times and were moved from one part of the city to another but they did not back down. The “yellow-vests” as they became known were tenacious day after day.
Early this week Macron finally responded, calling for police to take action against the protesters and then said he would delay the implementation of the eco-tax for six months.
Protesters would not back down. They talked of an elite who had simply lost touch with ordinary people. The protest continued.
“... Mr. Macron forgot that a French president is neither a god nor a monarch but merely a politician in a democracy that requires the constant forging of consent,” said an article in The Economist online.
On Wednesday Macron announced he was withdrawing the tax completely.
Back in Canada we have a tendency to complain that the average person has no power and that politicians do not listen to the people.
This may be correct on many levels and clearly a campaign of letter writing, phone calls to politicians, and/or calls to phone-in radio shows has not brought about desired results, particularly when it comes to building a pipeline for Alberta’s oil.
What we have observed in France is a lesson perhaps in what it takes to change the minds of politicians, that people can have a voice, and what it takes to no longer be ignored.
(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions, email her at [email protected]hatnews.com or call her at 403-528-8635.)