On this trip to France we actually saw real gilets jaunes protestors – on two different roundabouts. We also saw some kind of placeholder gilet jaunes at another roundabout, though these weren’t real people but hi-vis vests draped over human shaped objects. Scarecrow gilets jaunes, maybe.
Another phenomenon, bubbling under the last time we were here but now evident everywhere, is that every speed camera has either been burnt out or wrapped in black plastic. All the familiar places, where you know people are going to slow down, the familiar yellow or grey box has been scorched and melted or simply wrapped in black cling film. Oddly, people are still slowing down for these zombie cameras, so 🤷🏼♂️.
As I argued before, regardless of the state of the economy, unemployment, under-employment, etc, the protest against fuel taxes which started all this was the wrong cause. Sure, Macron’s neoliberalism is bad for working people, but these yellow vested ones are probably the ones who voted for his out-of-nowhere “new party” in the first place. Read the small print. And then go and inconvenience some rich people.
But French bad driving habits is an ingrained sickness that is as much a part of the national scofflaw character as a fondness for baguette and lunch at noon. There is no reasoning with them over speeding, and they don’t even have the sobering levels of congestion that we have in the UK to cure them of this love affair with the car.
But I’m a little (a lot) cynical about the vandalism of speed cameras. Sure, it’s a way of sticking it to the man, but it’s also a way to drive as fast as you want without pesky consequences.
(Anyway, all France has to do now is kick back and wait for jobs to trickle back across the channel as companies seek frictionless access to the European Single Market.)
Some people drive around with a convenient gilet jaune on the dashboard of their car. This is supposed to be a way of showing solidarity but is more like a sop to the protestors so they don’t harass you. Others hang them from trees outside their houses. I think it’s dangerously close to hanging out a certain kind of flag so that people wearing a certain colour shirt don’t kick the shit out of you. I mean, what’s the bloody difference between a yellow vest and a brown shirt? I do not feel the warm glow of support for these protestors. It all feels a little right wing to me. I mean, this is a protest with a uniform (albeit a lame one), and these protests against fuel taxes and speeding are also libertarian, Clarkson-like, causes. Underneath it all there might a need for social justice, progressive taxation and equality, but unfortunately, the iconography of this protest has all the appearance of climate change denialists demanding to live their polluting lives without interference.