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Can you hear the gilets jaunes sing?

  • 31 July 2019


I'm feeling romantic about the gilets jaunes. It's probably partially due to the remnants of my standard winter televisual fare of the French Open followed by three weeks of the Tour de France. All those ruined castles.

Feeling misty-eyed about people who are being tear-gassed is a little declasse, if the more centrist media outlets are to be believed. I'm supposed to hate the Yellow Vests. But to me their behaviour is ... well, it's classy, in the true sense of the word. These working class people are supposed to shut up and sit down and take what they're given. That they refuse to do so is breaking all the rules.

What is romantic about people rioting in the streets and causing havoc? Is it not irresponsible to refuse to join the chorus of hatred at these upstarts who should just go get a job, stop creating chaos? These people who without fail have taken to the streets every Saturday for nine months?

Well, no. That would assume that getting back to work when there isn't enough work, that going on as if everything is just fine when so much must change, that pretending that the wineskins don't need changing when you know that the seams have split in multiple places, is the sane and rational response. It would assume that your insistence that society begins functioning for people rather than for personal profiteering is irrational.

Well, blame Les Miserables, but to me, a motley crue of people who encompass the entire political spectrum standing as one is very romantic in such a divide-and-conquer age. It's actually a bit bloody miraculous. That they are standing up to Emmanuel Macron, ex-investment banker and now French President, and the austerity tactics of a failing economic system is cause, yes, for alarm. Violence is always alarming. But it's cause for celebration too, if you happen to love the idea of a fair society and people fighting for its return.

For years we've watched the tech sector move fast and break things. We were encouraged to applaud it, even, until it began to dawn on us that the things it was breaking were affecting workers and that many of those breakages took from the commons of entire industries in order to line the pockets of a few. The same old story.

Well, the gilets jaunes are a social disruption. They are a people who are not taking austerity as the