It is desperately unfashionable to spare a good word for President Emmanuel Macron. You may call him elitist, aloof, politically deaf and dumb, an imperious windbag or vacillating introvert, a conservative in progressive clothing or vice-versa, or all of the above. Just don’t give him any credit.
The current global nationalist/populist movements have roots beyond national borders, have mushroomed to a greater or lesser degree in nearly all Western-style democracies (hello Japan and South Korea, where are you?) The Yellow Vests are hardly a ‘French exception.’ However, early on Macron launched a strategic counter-move whose exceptional, earnest optimism quickly invited ridicule: Le Grand Debat.’ Nothing less than an inclusive convocation of the French people, primarily via city halls and other local meeting venues, to openly vent their concerns, grievances and preferences. Since January 15th, crisscrossing forgotten France, Macron has attended in person most of these 21 pow-wows intended to ‘give the word back to the people.’ Over 500,000 individuals contributed their thoughts in person, an estimated additional million via Internet et al.
12 million Euros for futile window-dressing? Or a step toward restoring some degree of national cohesion? The next few weeks should be telling, as the government promises to announce concrete policy measures based on ‘Le Grand Debat.’ But meanwhile, today April 8th, the process came to an official close, with a general and concise summing-up by PM Edouard Philippe.
- The tax burden must (of course) come down
- people recognize that therefore public expenditures must be cut (but who loses out?)
This duo could be called the Sisyphean squaring of the political circle. It has proved particularly unattainable in France. Recently, talk has resurfaced of extending the retirement age past the current 62, which is expensively out of step with the rest of Europe. Logical, but a dangerous rail for Macron to touch nonetheless.
- Perhaps surprisingly, ahead of any other topic the third top concern of the 1.5 million consulted is climate change. As in, god damn it, you so-called leaders, do something!
After the unified outrage over the Yellow Vests’ desecration of the Arc de Triumph, angry indignation has broken out anew among many Parisians over changes at the other end of the Champs-Elysees. The large round basins near the Grand Palais, long dry and idle, are now being irrigated by a new set of ultra-modern devices – are these in fact fountains? – designed by the brother designer team of . Talk about turning a concept on its head!
Some speak with derision of YMCA-type showers (albeit crusted with Swarowski crystals). I’m personally reminded of the ‘tippy-tap’ hand-washing system disseminated to poor villages by my non-profit, Techxlab.org. Okay, they only cost 6.3 million Euros, ‘privately financed’ from a special fund set up by… Paris Mayor Anne Hidago.
Audacious aesthetic? Hilarious hoax? Next to be seen at: Mare-a-Lago?
Please, you be the judge.