Good intentions are expensive. But seldom is the bill footed by the well-intentioned.
I forked out $1,100 this week to an auto-mechanic to fix a “problem” non-existent just six months ago.
My Volkswagen, you see, is no longer fashionable. It’s a dirty diesel. That trusty lump of German steel failed its annual roadworthiness test. To the delight of the auto-mechanic.
“New laws, mate,” he said with a muted glee, my floppy hairdo somehow thickening his joy.
“Pumps out black smoke—polluter,” went the decree.
My oil-sodden tormentor teasingly revealed that new emissions laws passed earlier this year had condemned the steed to leper status. That it was literally killing the planet. That polar bears, given the chance, would quite happily and justifiably crunch through my ribcage.
The cost for being such a disgusting threat to the planet was $1,100 for a device I couldn’t pronounce, but would, he assured me, keep another polar bear on solid ice.
“Less black smoke, then, you see? Problem solved.” Right.
What did I do about such an injustice? Bar an aborted, though eruditely composed and deftly balanced Facebook status—nothing. I’m British.
And sadly, not French. Our cousins across the Channel wouldn’t fathom such trifles. As we can see.
Paris, and large swathes of France, currently are roiling in a fantastic bonfire of every vanity President Emmanuel Macron has slicked upon his citizens since taking office last year.
What started as a humble protest against a fuel tax, has warped into the worst French riots since the 1960s. French citizens, garbed in symbolic hi-visibility vests, are swarming the streets, burning and smashing and screaming and, well, doing what the French tend to do whenever the urge visits them.
What do the gilets jaunes want? Well, they’ve got what commentators assumed was their aim. Macron has cancelled the new tax. For now. But the French, over 80 percent of whom support the gilets jaunes, continue their de facto national sport.
Never mind the insistence of the market fundies at the Wall Street Journal; the French are not rebelling merely against the highest tax bill in Europe. Neither are they protesting a climate change “hoax.” The birth pangs of a new small-state anti-tax republic? Non!
The French are out to destroy the pretender in the palace.
Indeed. The man Time christened the next leader of Europe isn’t too popular in France. To determine why is not too taxing.
After all, his election bucked an irresistible European trend towards populist governments. He only won because the other option was the historically toxic Marine Le Pen. A record number—9 percent, the highest since the Fifth Republic’s founding in 1958—of French voters cast a ballot-blanc.
The man fancying himself a Jupiter perhaps didn’t realize his appointment came ribboned with reluctance.
Heralded among global villagers as the antidote to populist venom, Macron has ruled in every way that description suggests.
He quickly set out to wean the French from fossil fuels. The pesky 65 million living outside of the glossiest Parisian arrondissements would have to deal with it—rendering diesel the enemy of the effete. That was after imploring citizens to buy the then-apparently cleaner diesel cars. Which they did, with misguided faith.
And it is little more than a misguided faith that animates Macron. As la République blazed, little Jupiter busily lectured President Trump, in the company of his tony pals. Perhaps he should consider that more French citizens approve of Donald Trump than of their own AWOL president.
But that matters little. Macron is out to save the world from climate catastrophe. Those fuel taxes are the omelette, those paying them are the eggs.
Saving us lesser souls means jetting around the globe and dishing out sermons to folks similarly and completely severed from the people over whom they rule, and the medicine they prescribe.
It’s free-bet politics. Macron and his ilk lay down a wager—the plebes pay the bill—Macron and his cronies win heady congratulations among themselves.
Because such policies are footed by the poorest. That’s the beauty of neoliberalism and its insatiable pursuit of utopia. The elite engorges itself, while lecturing the proles to tighten their fraying belts.
Those charges, as we can see, don’t fancy their roles in this latest bit of elitist kabuki theater. Macron is serving mung bean stew to those stretching their paltry budgets to the occasional climate-killing Ribeye.
What do the gilets jaunes want? Well, brief on-street interviews have found a range of political opinions. Some are on the Left, many on the Right. All are thoroughly pissed off. Like Brexit, and Trump, they feel left behind in a world which has little to offer them except and apparent and inevitable decline, and a job driving for Uber.
Unlike Brexiteers, however, the gilets jaunes seem determined actually to do something to right their wrong.
And that hellbroth is about to thicken for little Jupiter. French farmers are said to be joining the tumult next week. That’s after a promised escalation of riots penned in for this weekend which will see 89,000 security personnel take to the streets. Some are calling it a coup.
Eric Drouet, a leader within the gilets jaunes, told French media: “Saturday will be the final outcome. Saturday is the Elysee. We all would like to go to the Elysee.”
If I still had that $1,100, I’d don a yellow vest, and join them.
Photo Credit: Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images