Current events in France (#10) To better understand a country, it is useful to read its press and watch its TV. You can see what are the main issues for the people, what are the current controversies (the French are very good at that...). In this section, I try to describe with more detail, the main topics for the French.
 WARNING ! The comments below do NOT reflect MY own opinion but are a tentative synthesis of what comes out from the French press and TV in a given month ! I do express my own opinions on page Editorial !
Webmaster Philippe Rochefort and wife Harriet, with a friend, discussing current world affairs in a French bistrot.
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The Yellow Vests upheaval (2018-2019)

In November 2018, the government of president Macron made two decisions which enraged millions of people all over the country. A new increase of the already very high taxes on gas (80% of the price of gasoline is tax) and a general diminution of speed limits on rural roads (from 56 miles/hours to 50). The first was aimed at reducing car accidents, the second at reducing car traffic to protect the environment. Those two decisions were stupid because in rural areas, the average income is low and nobody can live without a car and most have to drive to the place where they work. Several hundred of thousands of opponents blocked the roads all over the country, wearing the yellow vest which is mandatory in all cars for safety reasons. In spite of the inconvenience, this movement was popular and supported by more than 80% of the population. The “Yellow Vests” were the poorest of the working class, living in the poorest regions of France, far from the more prosperous metropolitan areas. Sociologically, they are very comparable to the American voters who supported president Trump. Without leaders and without a programme, the movement was

spontaneously organised, deciding to hold a major demonstration every week in Paris and in the largest cities in France. Gradually, the demonstrations became more violent, especially in the most visible places for the media, like the Champs Elysées avenue.Public support remained strong (between 60 and 80%) as the Yellow Vests made their demands known: to be able to give their opinion to a political class that they consider very far away, to restore more social justice and less inequality, to
Yellow Vests in Paris, Rue Cler, Jan.5, 2019

improve life outside the big cities. Taken aback, the government proposed after a few weeks the organization of a major national debate, where everyone could present their problems and propose solutions. For two months the government organized a giant debate: more than 10,300 meetings, with almost two million participants and more than 200,000 proposals! But, at the end of the debate (March 15, 2019), it was clear that the Yellow Vests had refused to participate in the debate and any official meeting with the government, had excluded any of their members who had appeared somehow like a leader or a spokesperson and refused to constitute a list for the next European elections (in May 2019).
It was a spontaneous, unorganized movement, offering no interlocutor to the public authorities, which refused all legal obligations (for example, in France, all street demonstrations are allowed, provided that they have been previously declared to the police, who take the necessary steps to ensure that they can take place peacefully).
The demonstrations, which have taken place every Saturday since early November 2018, have therefore become increasingly violent and public support has decreased to 40%  but the movement did not stop.
Today it is impossible to predict how the current situation will end, but most likely, this movement will jeopardize any form of civilized political life. More about the "Grand Debat". (May 2019)

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books:

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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