jpv. Since mid-November there has been a lot of talk about the “yellow vests” (“gilets jaunes”) in France and the surrounding countries. The term is derived from the yellow warning vests, which must be carried in every car, and which the protesters wear as identification marks.
The demonstrations, initially organized nationwide via social media, began as a protest against additional fuel levies planned by President Emmanuel Macron to finance and implement the energy turnaround in France; prices had already risen by 18% in the course of the year. This was the drop that broke the camel‘s back.
For several weeks now, and still today, people, many of whom have never voted or demonstrated, have been gathering at countless roundabouts throughout France to draw attention to their situation. The “Ronds-Points” have become the heart of a French revolt of the common people from the rural regions, mostly from the lower middle class, who is not represented by any party, feels marginalized by the globalized economy and despised by the Parisian elites.
On the first weekends – before violent attacks by organised groups of thugs took over – they also travelled to Paris to express their “Raz-de-bol” to the government and especially to the president.
Historically, the Ronds-Points are no accidental arena. They are an expression of an urban sprawl that has been going on since the 1960s, with disastrous ecological and social consequences that the current malaise has helped to cause. The old village, the industrial estate, the social housing estate, the owner-occupied housing estate, all this is scattered and far apart – and somewhere in between the Rond-Point. The metropolises in which the winners of globalisation are thinking about ecology and the future of transport are often more than a hundred kilometers away. There is also little left of rural agriculture. The local farmers have largely disappeared, as have the grocery stores and craftsmen, post offices and railway stations, bakeries and cafés. Without a car, neither the workplace nor the shopping facilities nor the doctor can be reached. New are the industrial agriculture, the single-family house in the countryside, the “Hypermarché” (giant supermarket), which all result in a large land consumption.
The following two articles deal with the future of the yellow vests and the need for re-industrialisation in France.
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