Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.

French Carbon Tax Protests

Yellow vests imposed on motorists become powerful anti-government symbol.

For more than a week, protests have been underway across France, sparked by January’s scheduled increase in carbon taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. These taxes are supposed to save the world from climate change by encouraging everyone to drive less.

But working folk, especially those who reside outside of urban centers, have no choice. They need to get to work, and their elderly relatives need transporting to medical appointments. As Geoff Chambers observes: “Telling a plumber or refrigerator repair man to work from home or to travel by public transport seems…a sure recipe for starting a revolution.”

It’s a strange worldview that says we should lead diminished lives today so that people in the technologically advanced future will reap the rewards. (Human history is full of doomsayers who were convinced the future would be dire, but who have been proven wrong time and again.)

There’s a poetic aspect to these protests. French law mandates reflective yellow vests in every automobile. These aren’t to be kept in the trunk/boot, but within the cabin itself. In the event of a breakdown, a vest must be donned before one exits the vehicle.

Perhaps there’s some sense in this. But as soon as something stops being a suggestion and instead becomes a law, problems arise. One wonders how politically connected the manufacturers/distributors/retailers of such vests happened to be around the time that law got passed. More importantly, individual liberty is undermined when police have an excuse to harass anyone at any time under the guise of checking for the presence of such vests.

In a marvelous flourish, the good people of France have turned this lemon into lemonade. Dressed in these vests, they’ve taken to the streets to protest. An item everyone has been forced by the government to purchase has become a powerful symbol of resistance to a government-imposed carbon tax.

Visual impact is tremendously important if one hopes to attract media attention. A good visual can mean the difference between making it onto the television news or being wholly ignored.

The photos of, and videos from, these protests are fantastic. Those yellow vests (gilets jaunes) are the cat’s meow.

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LINKS:

  • See Geoff Chambers’ compelling exploration of the larger context of these protests here and here.
  • See this photo collage posted on Facebook, this collection of images from search engine DuckDuckGo.com, and this collection of images from Google
  • This BBC article says the fine for not having a yellow vest in one’s vehicle in France is 135 Euros – approximately 120 UK pounds, or 153 US dollars. The article also reports that these protests appear to be genuinely grassroots in nature: “In a country where protests are often tightly managed by one political party or trade union, this is a movement with no recognised national leader, no formal structure or affiliation, which unites voters of all ages from the far-left, the far-right, even those who once supported President Macron.”
  • There’s a huge difference between peaceful protest and violence and vandalism. People who attack police and firefighters, and who damage property, aren’t admirable – whether they’re wearing gilets jaunes or not.

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This entry was posted on November 26, 2018 by in media and tagged .
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