THE CHANGE IN FRENCH PROTEST TRA­DI­TION

Con­trary to past pro­test­ers through­out French his­tory, the French peo­ple are now in the streets not to de­fend their world­views or eth­i­cal con­cerns, but to ob­ject to a sin­gle ma­te­rial pol­icy of their gov­ern­ment

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - Mehmet Barlas

FRENCH cit­i­zens are not in the streets de­fend­ing their world view or eth­i­cal con­cerns but to ob­ject to a sin­gle ma­te­rial pol­icy of their present gov­ern­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron

The na­ture of the world is con­stantly chang­ing. The past will al­ways be the past, and we’ll al­ways learn some­thing dif­fer­ent from it. How­ever, cur­rently, the world is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dra­matic changes, par­tic­u­larly rel­a­tive to peo­ple’s thoughts and world views. When I first heard the rea­son be­hind the “yel­low vest” protests in the French cap­i­tal Paris, I was re­minded of mass French protests in re­cent his­tory. The rapid change in the world is ap­par­ently be­ing felt in France, I said to my­self, since the French protest tra­di­tion has al­ways been unique, pi­o­neer­ing and based on some­thing dif­fer­ent than the mo­ti­va­tion of to­day’s yel­low vests.

France, in­deed, has been a Euro­pean coun­try where only ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­si­tion pro­vided the mo­ti­va­tion for the masses to hit the streets. The Paris Com­mune of the 19th cen­tury or the May 1968 stu­dent up­ris­ing are prime ex­am­ples of this. French peo­ple were ac­cus­tomed to protests, demon­stra­tions and or­ga­niz­ing ral­lies based on their world views; some­times on the fa­mous Marx­ist doc­trine or some­times the youth ni­hilism voiced by Cohn Ben­dit.

How­ever, French so­ci­ety is now in the streets not to de­fend their world views or eth­i­cal con­cerns, but to ob­ject to a sin­gle ma­te­rial pol­icy of their present gov­ern­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron. The re­ac­tion of the peo­ple is a sim­ple re­flec­tion of how the world has trans­formed.

Speak­ing to the French daily L’Hu­man­ite, so­ci­ol­o­gist Benoit Co­quard said: “The yel­low vests share the same world view and the same lifestyle. What is at the cen­ter of their lives is au­to­mo­biles.” Yes, au­to­mo­biles. It is very strange when com­pared to the his­tory of protests in the coun­try.

As Co­quard ex­pressed, the rea­son why the yel­low vests, who come from many dif­fer­ent sec­tors and classes and many of whom are not even from the same cities, have protested is in­creased taxes on fuel oil. Con­trary to past pro­test­ers in French his­tory, they nei­ther de­mand a re­form for univer­si­ties nor are they re­act­ing against the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in the coun­try. All they stand against and com­plain about is pay­ing too much for taxes and fuel.

As a re­sult, the French gov­ern­ment an­nounced this week that it has de­cided to freeze the price in­creases and tax hikes for six months and sur­ren­dered to the yel­low vests. How­ever, the protests will not be recorded as suc­cess­ful but in­stead as a mile­stone in French protest his­tory and tra­di­tion.

Pro­test­ers wear­ing iconic yel­low vests dur­ing a rally near the Arc de Tri­om­phe as riot po­lice try to clear the area, as part of a demon­stra­tion over high fuel prices, the Champs El­y­see, Paris, Dec.1.

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