when joie-de-vivre turns surreal


With at least one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Trump, Putin, Orban, Erdogan, Modi et al.) knocked out of his saddle this morning, the world looks a little less damned. The Amazon can breathe! My intent yesterday was to ignore politics completely in this letter, but the defeat of Boss Bolsonaro by Lula the Squid has me doing the samba at the keyboard. Nonetheless, like Brazil most of the worlds’ major nations seem to be hardening further into opposing irreconcilable ‘truths.’  We’ll see what happens in Brazil when Jair breaks his brooding silence.

In the meantime, France has her own fractures to deal with. Macron’s center-right government is on tiptoes, painfully aware of the risk of uncontrollable street protests, another Yellow Vest type uprising over the cost of food and energy as winter approaches That said, it’s still about 70 degrees in Paris today, October 31, and the violent protests have been coming from a very different direction: radical ecologists.


On Saturday between 4000 and 7000 resisters congregated in the sleepy agricultural region of les Deux-Sevres to sabotage the construction of a mega-reservoir, one of sixteen planned there to keep the farms producing as in the past. Anonymous in hooded blue suits they broke into the construction space and used disc drills to wreck the pipes. Sixty gendarmes and fifty demonstrators were wounded in the clash. The defenders of law and order decry the lack of same. Numerous ecologists deplore the giant reservoirs, which will draw water in fall and winter from neighboring rivers, as artificial degradation of the soil and making it harder for nature to rebalance under climate change. In the end, they predict, it’s a losing strategy against prolonged summer drought. I’m reminded of the Keystone pipeline resistance in the US, a key (sorry) difference being that the French radicals are extremely organized (uniforms, even!) and coordinate to set up ‘ZAD’s,’ i.e. occupied Zones of Defense, wherever they take a stand, be it against mega-reservoirs, new airports, giant dams, or other perceived environmental threats.

There’s a legitimate argument boiling here about ends versus means. Hard to say the same of the ultra-left’s new craze for flinging food at paintings by e.g. Van Gogh and Monet ‘in protest.’ What the–?


Macron’s party, the clunkily named ‘La Republique en Marche,’ or LREM, holds a plurality in Parliament but not a majority. Frustrated in his efforts to bring home his main cherished reforms, such as extending the retirement age, he is floating the idea of calling for new parliamentary elections. Risky? A recent poll finds that if the presidential elections were held again today (they are in fact four years away) radical-right leader Marine le Pen would edge out Macron in the first round. He too would gain points, all at the expense of the squabbling leftists and the rump party of the right, the once-powerful LR, now sort of analogous to America’s Republican never-Trumpers, although not as quashed.

In other words, by absorbing the moderate social democrats and moderate right, the center-right government has created a large vacuum. More and more disaffected groups see Le Pen’s party as the only viable opposition.


France and the newly cohesive EU have a decent chance of getting through the coming winter of inflation, energy cuts, and discontent. As long as a nuclear bomb doesn’t fall, that is. There’s a surreal element to these balmy late fall days in Paris. One strolls along the Seine and meets friends in a café, while only three hours away by plane a brutal war rages. 


  1. Margot Livesey · · Reply

    As always so illuminating and informative. Thank you, dear Kai.

  2. Always a pleasure to read your POV. Thanks!

  3. Your commentary sings, as usual, but also chills with its references to the status quo (Latin for “the jam we’re in.) Please keep explaining the relationship of French political choices to those for the rest of the West.

  4. “And I looked and behold a pale horse…”
    Thank you for your clear analysis as usual. And yes. People are still gathering at the “terasse du café”, while the Pale Horse is destroying Ukraine…
    Stay safe…

  5. Irene S. · · Reply

    I’m fascinated by the reservoir resistance in France. Here in the States much of the pipeline resistance (including the Keystone XL) has been led by the tribes. The Northwest tribes have a powerful weapon in their treaty rights, particularly their fishing and shellfish rights. They have been very successful in shutting down proposed terminals and LNG plants in the region.

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