Victoria Jelinek


Covid-19, 13 aoĂ»t – RentrĂ©e Ă  l’Ă©cole

Bonjour Monsieur,

J’ai lu (Le Monde et Les Echos) qu’il n’y avait pas de prĂ©cautions de sĂ©curitĂ© Covid-19 pour les enfants des Ă©coles Ă©lĂ©mentaires de moins de onze ans dans toute la France au retour des Ă©coles le mois prochain. Est-ce vrai? Si oui, comment est-ce possible? Il a Ă©tĂ© largement dĂ©menti que les enfants ne peuvent pas attraper le virus (100000 aux États-Unis cette semaine, Reuters), il est largement admis qu’ils peuvent le propager, et l’immunitĂ© collective signifierait 60 Ă  70% de la population testĂ©e positive pour Covid -19.

women revolutionMon enfant de neuf ans comprend certainement le protocole de santĂ©, mais c’est un enfant qui est impuissant face aux autoritĂ©s adultes, et qui ne pourra par la suite pas maintenir des distances de sĂ©curitĂ©, se laver les mains rĂ©guliĂšrement, garder ses effets personnels des autres enfants, ou aĂ©rer le salle de classe dans laquelle il est assis toute la journĂ©e (ou insistez pour que les classes soient Ă  l’extĂ©rieur lorsque cela est possible) s’il n’y a pas de rĂšgles en place que les adultes doivent exĂ©cuter et suivre pour le bien-ĂȘtre de tous. Comme nous l’avons dĂ©jĂ  vu avec le port de masque «obligatoire», de nombreuses personnes ne suivent pas ce protocole, mĂȘme s’il est dĂ©fini par la loi, mais nous devrions essayer de dĂ©finir des paramĂštres.

 

L’Organisation mondiale de la santĂ© et divers syndicats d’enseignants (y compris le mien) conseillent d’Ă©taler les salles de classe pour permettre la distanciation tout en permettant une frĂ©quentation rĂ©guliĂšre en classe et le port obligatoire de masques par les enseignants et les travailleurs pour assurer un retour en toute sĂ©curitĂ©, ainsi que des fenĂȘtres ouvertes, un lavage rĂ©gulier des mains (il n’y a jamais de savon dans les salles de bain de l’Ă©cole de mon fils!), des entrĂ©es / couloirs se dĂ©plaçant dans l’un ou l’autre sens, et une dĂ©sinfection rĂ©guliĂšre des surfaces. Ceci afin de permettre Ă  la fois d’aller Ă  l’Ă©cole mais aussi de ne pas infecter notre population avec Covid-19 peu de temps aprĂšs avec une augmentation des «clusters».

De plus, nous vivons dans un endroit trĂšs touristique, et cet Ă©tĂ© a de nouveau Ă©tĂ© extrĂȘmement occupĂ© par les voyageurs – Ă  la fois ceux qui viennent et ceux qui sont en vacances dans d’autres pays. Je connais plusieurs familles dont les enfants frĂ©quentent l’Ă©cole locale et qui ont voyagĂ© Ă  destination et en provenance de diffĂ©rents pays avec peu ou pas de respect des protocoles de sĂ©curitĂ©. En consĂ©quence, leurs enfants pourraient ĂȘtre asymptotiques, ou malades, et nous ne le verrons pas complĂštement se manifester avant la fin septembre, aprĂšs le retour des enfants pendant deux ou trois semaines.

Pourquoi agir de maniĂšre Ă  ne rĂ©pondre qu’Ă  la crise? Pourquoi ne pas anticiper la crise et agir en consĂ©quence? Encore et encore, les professionnels de la santĂ© et les scientifiques disent que NOUS AVONS LE CONTRÔLE avec ce virus si nous avons simplement un leadership clair et la discipline pour adopter des mesures de sĂ©curitĂ©. Quelle excuse avons-nous pour ne pas faire ce que nous pouvons?

Enfin, Ă  part une brĂšve communication en mai du bureau du maire disant que la frĂ©quentation serait obligatoire pour tous les Ă©lĂšves, nous n’avons reçu aucune information de l’Ă©cole ou du bureau du maire local concernant les protocoles de sĂ©curitĂ© pour nos enfants ou les attentes pour nous parents. C’est nĂ©gligeable. Si nous n’avions pas eu l’incroyable professeur de classe que nous avions, nous n’aurions rien su, et de nombreux amis se sont retrouvĂ©s dans cette position, s’appuyant plutĂŽt sur des ouĂŻ-dire (ce qui Ă©quivaut Ă  la dĂ©sinformation et Ă  la panique).

Nous devons faire mieux si nous voulons Ă©viter un autre confinement ou, bien pire, une sociĂ©tĂ© trĂšs malade et contagieuse qui entraĂźne la perte de nombreux ĂȘtres chers.

Merci d’avoir pris en considĂ©ration ce que j’ai Ă©crit ici en tant que parent, professeur, et membre de votre Ă©lectorat trĂšs prĂ©occupĂ©.

Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur, mes salutations distinguées.

 



Covid-19 5 Avril, 2020

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Cher Monsieur President Macron,

J’Ă©tais fier et soulagĂ© quand la France a commencĂ© rapidement et avec fermetĂ© le 16 mars. J’ai fĂ©licitĂ© le gouvernement français Ă  chaque occasion de «prendre de l’avance» sur la courbe. Je me sentais protĂ©gĂ©. Depuis, j’ai changĂ© incommensurablement «mon air».

Hier, je suis sorti (dans la voiture) chercher des cigarettes. C’Ă©tait la premiĂšre fois que je conduisais en trois semaines ou parcourais plus d’un kilomĂštre. À mon grand Ă©tonnement, les gens Ă©taient rassemblĂ©s en groupes dans les coins, le long des routes, Ă  bicyclette, profitant de la journĂ©e ensoleillĂ©e et se tenant proche de l’autre, parlant en groupes et en groupes. Comme s’il n’y avait pas de virus infectant les deux chiffres en France seulement. De plus, au cours de la derniĂšre semaine, j’ai remarquĂ© depuis notre vĂ©randa arriĂšre, qui surplombe une petite route, des groupes de personnes qui n’ont pas l’air liĂ©es (sont en fait similaires en Ăąge) Ă  faire du jogging, de la marche et du vĂ©lo ensemble.

C’est trĂšs inquiĂ©tant. Au magasin de cigarettes, l’homme derriĂšre le comptoir ne portait pas de masque ni de gants, et ne m’a pas simplement fait effectuer un paiement «tactile», mais a pris ma carte et saisi les informations manuellement, et a pris chacun des magazines que j’achetais et les scannĂ© chacun manuellement, comme il l’a Ă©galement fait avec chaque paquet de cigarettes. Il a touchĂ© chacun de mes objets Ă  fond. J’Ă©tais mortifiĂ©. Je lui ai demandĂ© pourquoi il n’avait aucune protection pour lui-mĂȘme et pour les autres, comme un masque ou des gants, et il a bĂȘtement rĂ©pondu: “Je me sens bien.” Mes voisins partent chaque jour, avec leur famille et leurs chiens, deux ou trois heures Ă  la fois, puis reviennent, puis repartent encore deux ou trois heures, tout au long de la journĂ©e, chaque jour. J’ai deux amis qui m’ont demandĂ© sĂ©parĂ©ment de les rencontrer pour boire un verre chez eux, me disant qu’ils le font avec d’autres amis.

Pas Ă©tonnant que la France soit si riche en infections et en dĂ©cĂšs consĂ©cutifs. Le confinement DOIT ĂȘtre appliquĂ© ou il n’a tout simplement aucun.

Hier, j’ai regardĂ© un extrait de nouvelles (Ă©trangĂšre) expliquant pourquoi il y a des endroits dans le monde qui ont le virus corona, mais qui ne voient PAS les infections rapides OU les dĂ©cĂšs, comme en France, en Italie et en Espagne. En Islande, ils testent activement la population, puis ils ont des DETECTIVES, des forces de police, trouvant TOUTES les personnes possibles avec lesquelles une personne infectĂ©e a Ă©tĂ© en contact au cours des deux semaines prĂ©cĂ©dentes, puis les mettant en quarantaine pour une obligation deux semaines, souvent trois. CoĂ»teux? Est-ce moins cher d’avoir un confinement dans un pays oĂč les gens le traitent avec une attitude cavaliĂšre?

Au Vietnam, en CorĂ©e du Sud et Ă  TaĂŻwan (juste en face d’un petit canal en provenance de Chine), ils ont maintenu la propagation en vĂ©rifiant les personnes qui arrivent par avion pour la fiĂšvre, puis en les ramenant chez eux dans une voiture gouvernementale (seule!) Et en les mettant en quarantaine. Encore une fois, ils effectuent des tests massifs sur la population, mettent en quarantaine ceux qui sont positifs, puis recherchent activement leurs contacts potentiels au cours des deux semaines prĂ©cĂ©dentes. De plus, ils publient qui est infectĂ© afin que les gens puissent voir s’ils ont Ă©tĂ© en contact avec la personne infectĂ©e. De cette façon, tout le monde AILLEURS n’est pas en lock-out et le pays n’est pas fermĂ© et souffre d’une catastrophe financiĂšre ET le virus ne se propage pas. Est-ce une violation des libertĂ©s civiles? Est-ce moins le cas pour nous dire que nous devons avoir un morceau de papier justifiant pourquoi nous sommes Ă  l’extĂ©rieur, ainsi que notre carte d’identitĂ©, ne devrait ĂȘtre Ă  l’extĂ©rieur que pendant une heure, et la crĂ©ation d’une situation dans laquelle les voisins s’espionnent les uns les autres avec suspicion et la colĂšre dans leur cƓur?

L’Organisation mondiale de la santĂ© a dĂ©clarĂ© dĂšs le dĂ©but que le moyen le plus efficace de lutter contre la nature infectieuse du virus Corona est de procĂ©der Ă  des tests massifs de la population, d’isoler les personnes atteintes de la maladie, puis de rechercher «de maniĂšre agressive» toutes les personnes dans lesquelles elles se trouvaient. Les contacter et les isoler Ă©galement. Oui, cela coĂ»te cher et cela nĂ©cessite un grand effort coordonnĂ©, mais est-ce plus cher que de fermer l’économie pour «endiguer le flux» de patients vers les hĂŽpitaux?

En parcourant le nombre de personnes infectĂ©es par pays et par État sur le site Web de l’UniversitĂ© John Hopkins, je note que mĂȘme si certains États des États-Unis, la SuĂšde, la Suisse, par exemple, N’ONT PAS de confinement en vigueur, ils ONT instillĂ© des mesures de sĂ©curitĂ© ( pas de place dans les restaurants, tous assis Ă  six pieds de distance, nombre limitĂ© dans une rĂ©union, travail Ă  domicile si vous le pouvez, fermetures d’Ă©coles, etc.), qui SONT appliquĂ©es et qui sont par consĂ©quent respectĂ©es par les gens, et le virus ne se propage pas! Pourquoi y a-t-il beaucoup moins de cas d’infection dans ces États des États-Unis, en SuĂšde, au Luxembourg, en Suisse, en Belgique, etc. qu’en France (ou en Italie ou en Espagne) et mĂȘme moins de dĂ©cĂšs, alors que la France, l’Italie et l’Espagne sont confinement total?

Quel est le but de paralyser l’Ă©conomie et de faire en sorte que CERTAINS d’entre nous adhĂšrent au confinement, alors qu’il y a Ă©videmment BEAUCOUP de personnes qui ne respectent pas les rĂšgles? Dans l’Ă©tat actuel des choses, les gens voient Ă©videmment l’amende potentielle de 135e pour ne pas avoir adhĂ©rĂ© aux mesures de confinement comme une menace vide. Alors que je remplis chaque jour le journal pour moi et ma famille avec notre raison de sortir, je n’ai pas vu un seul officier de police, mĂȘme une fois depuis que nous nous sommes isolĂ©s le 14 mars.

Je suis sceptique que mon pays fera ce qui est dans le meilleur intĂ©rĂȘt de la nation. En fait, je crains que la France ne mette un terme au confinement – pour tout ce qu’il vaut – trop tĂŽt en raison de l’adhĂ©sion aux arguments «économiques» des mĂȘmes personnes Ă  courte vue et Ă©goĂŻstes qui n’adhĂšrent pas au confinement, renvoient nos enfants Ă  l’Ă©cole (mettre en danger parce qu’il y aura eu beaucoup de divergences dans la façon dont les familles respectives se sont «auto-isolĂ©es») et puis il y aura encore une nouvelle augmentation terrible des infections et des dĂ©cĂšs, et un autre confinement inefficace, et ainsi de suite.

Le gouvernement français a bien commencĂ© – de maniĂšre dĂ©cisive et rapide – puis a Ă©chouĂ© par la dĂ©sorganisation. Pour remĂ©dier Ă  cela, veuillez soit appliquer activement le confinement, OU tester la population, mettre en quarantaine les personnes malades et rechercher activement celles avec lesquelles elles ont Ă©tĂ© en contact (ou publier les donnĂ©es publiquement), et les isoler Ă©galement.

Merci pour votre considération.

SincÚres amitiés,



Covid-19 March 17, 2020

President Macron addresses the nation for the second time in a week

To my family,

TelecommuteWe allowed S to watch the address too. This virus is a huge thing
the first of its kind in a century (Spanish Flu 1918), and President Macron notes this (like the Humanities and Classics man he is).

It was a beautiful and sad speech. He candidly says that it is the beginning of the “onslaught” of this virus, that it will accelerate in the coming weeks and months, with a “second wave” that will effect younger people.

He calls on us to prepare for this. He calls for solidarity. He calls for “brotherhood” (the whole “libertĂ©, egalite, fraternitĂ©â€ reference to the French Revolution that is noted on the side of every mayor’s office in every village and city throughout France)

He says that we must trust the experts who are guiding the decision for a lockdown – scientists and healthcare professionals who are on the front line of this crisis.

However, he notes, despite this context and the seriousness of the threat, the protocol to help first responders (healthcare professionals, police) by slowing down the spread of this disease enacted last Thursday, the public has not respected the guidelines. So, 100k army and extra police will be deployed across the country to enforce the ban on our movement as of tomorrow at midday. From then, we must have a written explanation downloaded from the government’s site (or handwritten for those without printers) explaining why we are out. We are only allowed to get food, medicine
to exercise, walk our dog, but not to meet with friends and extended family, “in the streets” or in our homes, or we will be fined 38e and “there will be repercussions.” I’m not clear what the repercussions would be. Perhaps it’s the 38e? (it was in French after all).

Borders across Europe/the Schengen Area have now collectively been closed to all foreign nationals for 30 days as of midday tomorrow also, with extension after that if needed. There seems to be some lenience with UK citizens, though I’m not sure exactly how this works given that they are now out of the EU, but it’s, perhaps, because it’s a recent ‘divorce’ that there is this allowance? I’m not clear on this to be honest


President Macron referred to what French citizens must now face as “life in slow-motion,” but he called on us to spend this time “reading, reflecting on what is essential,” and said the nation would “prevail” in this “war.”

(I hope Netflix and our internet doesn’t somehow go down. That would TRULY leave me desperate).

There are many measures to help businesses and the economically vulnerable, and there is (subsidized by the government as usual) childcare for those who are first responders and necessary governmental workers.

He called for solidarity and courage.

He closed his address with the classical, “Vive la France. Vive la RĂ©publique.”

Which S kept saying afterwards to himself as he was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. After he went to bed, I heard him ask his father, who was was sitting with him, “Daddy, what will happen if you or mommy get the virus?” To which M said, “We’ll be fine honey
we’re strong.” He then asked why we have to stay indoors and not see friends if we’re not sick. To which M said, “To protect others, honey
to protect those that aren’t so strong
to make sure that we help the nurses and doctors who are dealing with this each day by not spreading the disease further
”  It was quiet after that. He was probably asleep after that long winded response (as you might be now with my long missive – I type quickly. Perhaps, M, you can use it for your morning ‘private time’ reading?).

Gods hope all of us we will be protected and fine. Particularly as we can’t get to one another easily if there is a personal crisis.

We have been and will continue to, respect the guidelines. But, I have been appalled by the numbers who have not (the weather has been extraordinary, but it’s rather surreal to see so many over the last three days not taking this seriously despite national directives). I’ve also been perplexed and hurt by friends who have castigated me for self isolating: “I wouldn’t have thought YOU would be like this!” and “It’s a bit mad, don’t you think, to just stay at home when the weather is so gorgeous?!” and, “Drop by for a coffee – don’t be like that.” And, “I feel as though you’re judging me for continuing to live my life!” And, “It’s hysterical behavior if you ask me.” And, “It’s no worse than a really bad flu for most of us, stop being such a worry wart,” sorts-of-things. (The fact that I am a worry wart isn’t the point).

I suppose crisis brings out a variety of responses in people. I, too, didn’t take it seriously till last Thursday and had been mystified, incredulous, and somewhat disdainful when a couple of my friends were ‘banging the drum’ that it was time to lockdown everywhere asap. Then it hit me. I read something the other day about coming to terms with this virus socially is akin to the six stages of grief, so, perhaps, we are at different stages in this, just like the outbreak is in different stages of development in different countries?

I know for us, like many, we are worried about the future for our son. As M once said, “Having a child is like having your heart outside your body.” I love that. It’s so true. And mine beats heavily now…

And, like many, we are worried about money. Unlike the huge amount of money that is being put out there in France to alleviate the stress on businesses (the French government is paying salaries for workers while businesses are closed, rents and mortgages for those that are “poor” are being paid by the government, taxis, hotels, childcare for first responders, subsidies to hospitals and army tents to be set up in the hardest hit areas in order to support hospitals, all courtesy of our government). We freelancers, however, receive little or nothing. And, we won’t receive regular assistance because we have a bunch of money in our bank account from the sale of our previous house that will be used to build our new house. But, it doesn’t look as though our new house will be built this summer because if things remain, the wood/build will not get here and the workers can’t build it/be on site, and then we’ll be stuck paying our exorbitant rent! But, we’ll see how this all goes.

Things are changing daily.

There are so many in worse positions of course. I was told by a friend who had lived in Nigeria for 15 years, that most people in Africa live with this type of fear and uncertainty all of the time. You ‘just’ learn to cope.

Though, thankfully, in France, our poorest are given help with food, housing, and health, so there are not these types of desperate situations for the most part. Isolation is an issue.

And, of course, we could be ill. The impotence and fear of S’s recent illness is still fresh in our minds (the 40+ fever for five days in which he couldn’t eat and it would not go down! I’m so glad I insisted his blood was tested or I’d have thought it was Covid-19!).

And President Macron suggests that instead of visiting our elderly family members and neighbors, we offer to support these people in our communities by offering to get groceries and do errands for them (he actually said this! Makes me chuckle how he considers everything), and, of course, we would have “justification” for doing this (but we must fill in the form for transit! Goodness knows the French LOVE their paperwork).

Trying, terrible times. My dear friend E (S’s “nou nou” from three months old to three-years-old) who is now a neighbour, and who is normally a stoic, humorous, Welsh woman who regularly chides me to “take off my ‘big girl’s blouse’ and just get on with things,” texted me after the televised address and said she was despondent, that “The future seems bleak.” Rather alarmed, but figuring immediately that it made sense that it’d take something of this magnitude to shake her up, I suggested she bundle up warmly – it gets cold at night here – come over in ten minutes and meets me on the back porch – that I’d make us both very large whisky sours (washing my hands first of course) and, adhering to the security restrictions, we’d sit outside in lawn chairs two meters apart and talk. It was poignant as we sat on our respective sides of the porch quietly talking. The sky was bright with stars. There was a rock slide on the mountain that was SO loud it sounded as though Thor was smashing rocks together. We heard the sound of an owl and foxes (perhaps the owl was caught by the fox?). J chased a big deer away (which I soundly – though softly – scolded her for).

Oh my. What a world we live in.

So, it seems we have no choice but to spend this time at home, “reading and reflecting on what is essential,” as le president advises.

Though tomorrow I start teaching online classes. I’m advised that it’s “very important” that we “model peace and serenity” for the students.

Sleep is best for that.

Bon courage a tout.

Please keep in touch virtually. How lucky we are to have email and cell phones! (They wouldn’t have had those things during the last pandemic!).

Keep safe. 

Love, Tori

Photo is courtesy of the link below (via friend) on Reddit and someone with the handle u/krinosh:



December 10, 2018 III – Macron’s Address to the Nation

French flag blowing in the wind.“Europe and the world are waiting for us to defend the spirit of enlightenment everywhere.” Emmanuel Macron

I listened to Emmanuelle Macron’s address to the Republic and it was fantastic.

He was conciliatory, reflective, and humbled. He has realized that for his presidency and his party to survive, he has to change. This adaptability is ideal in a president. He was specific about the changes that he will implement in response to the Gilets Jaunes movement. He was emotionally sensitive to the issues around retirees, divorcees, and the poor in particular. He has listened. He accepted responsiblity for not paying attention to the vulnerable in the nation. And even as he has compromised, he made a point of reiterating the obvious – that protest is to be respected, but peace and collectivism is the objective, not chaos and violence. Communication has been a problem with this GJ movement ‘cause there is not, technically, leadership, and when Macron’s administration has attempted to speak with the protestors, and those from the GJ movement have tried to respond, they have been heckled by their compatriots for speaking to the government.

I respect Macron, and I believe he has absolutely paid attention to the grievances, despite their being arguably incoherent – they want lower taxes yet they ALSO want more public services. He has proposed that he will meet with citizens throughout the country and through discussion these people will, perhaps, understand how much it does cost to run hospitals, train stations, and in order to provide public services to the general public, including enacting clean energy policies to help the environment. It can’t happen without taxing the citizenry, though there is credence in making sure the taxation takes into account capability and geographic situation as much as is possible.

Even as there is justifiable criticism that the very rich are evading their taxes and are growing richer under Macron, he did not mention adhering to the wealth tax. He did say, however, that there is the need to enforce tax evasion and, ideally, that employers should pay employees an annual tax-free bonus.

This evening, Macron proposed the following specific fixes in response to the GJ movement:

  • Retirees will be tax free up to 2,000 euros received in pension per month.
  • There will be a rise in minimum wage of 100euros per month that will not be additionally taxed.
  • He has scrapped the fuel tax (even as it is necessary for environmental change).

These things might land him in trouble with the EU because it will cost the French government a great deal to pay for these changes, particularly without the additional tax revenue. And the benefits will not be visible for some time, lamentable in the ‘quick fix’ attention spans of today and with the individuals that compose this movement.

In response to the criticism that he, Macron, is too Paris-centric, he said that he will visit mayors and their citizens throughout France. In normal France, the France pre-En Marche in which the rulebook was torn up, those in power would create a commission to investigate, then pile it up with other findings. Macron will meet with local representatives in order to listen to the citizenry’s particular needs based on their geographic location and consequently unique problems, and together attempt to find solutions to economic inequality.

 

 

 

 

 

 



December 10, 2018 II – The Yellow Vest Movement

“I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French.” Charles de Gaulle

Macron as a traitor on the vestI once said to a French doctor during a visit to her office that I’m so grateful for the French healthcare system. Like England, where I had lived for thirteen years, there is universal healthcare. Unlike England, one must be a resident of France, pay your taxes, and while the state covers 70% of your healthcare (100% for your children), you must have private insurance to cover the rest. A visit to a general practitioner will cost you about 23 euros and to a specialist, about 60 euros (of which 70% will be returned to you). Similar to the USA, and unlike England, in France you can choose your general practitioner and they will refer you to specialists of your choice. Moreover, the French have effectively integrated methods based on medicine, or ‘hard’ science, with non- traditional methods, such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, and nutritionists.

Back to the visit with the doctor and my compliment to the French healthcare system. She, in turn, was grateful for my appreciation. She told me that on an average visit, about a half-hour in duration per patient, she earns 10euros, with the rest being reimbursed or going to fund the collective ‘mechanisms.’ She didn’t have a problem with this, telling me she wanted to be a doctor to help people and she is. However, she said it’s frustrating because the French patients are never satisfied with the system. For example, when the Carte Vitale* machine doesn’t work and she must consequently give the patient a brown form+, they complain about having to cover the expense of an envelope and stamp in order to send the form and get reimbursed for their visit.

My point? While the French argue that they are collectively oriented, in general, they are not. They do not seem to care that their participation is necessary to maintain the heavily subsidized welfare state – public schools, universities, extracurricular activities++, school lunches+++, CAF** and housing subsidies, healthcare, retirement, etc. To sustain these services means paying a modest fee for them, as well as paying taxes, in order to support the whole system and the vulnerable within society. Many here begrudge paying anything even as they feel it’s their right to receive these benefits, which they complain are too little, and many people actively work to undermine the system. While a large part of me appreciates the French cynicism, and I agree that the super rich seem to avoid all fees, the average French knee-jerk cynicism also frustrates me. Having originated from a country where the cost of an emergency medical service without good health coverage could mean that you and your family lose your home due to the expense of it, or you have to take two mortgages out to fund your child’s university education, I’m grateful for the services in France. So, I consequently pay my taxes and all fees without question, even as I’m lucky that I do not use most of the services on offer. This does not mean that I don’t see that it is ‘apples and oranges’ to compare France – a noble, socialist state – with USA – a staunchly Capitalist one – and the subsequent services available in each.

However, France, like the rest of the world, is polluted due to fossil fuel consumption, deforestation, consumerism and waste. Where I live, many children have chronic coughs that the doctor’s dismiss with a sad shrug, saying “C’est comme ca…” On higher particle days, the kids aren’t allowed outside to play. Originating from France is the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to collectively reduce carbon emissions. In response to this, Macron’s administration put a nominal tax (literally a few cents) on diesel and petrol in an effort to curb its use. Many in France are very poor, earning an average income as teachers and police officers, of 1200euros per month. In rural areas of France, driving is necessary and these extra pennies mean a lot. However, in France, there is a 10,000-euro rebate when you convert your existing diesel car to an electric or hybrid car. Most don’t know this, and when they do, they argue that the cost of electric and hybrid cars is still too expensive. That’s true when you’re earning 1200 euros a month and have a family, even with CAF and governmental subsidies, but it’s a substantial offer. Arguably, all new technology is the bastion of the middle class and the rich, but as with all new technology, it will become more affordable, and we must begin the process somewhere of conserving our environment and our collective existence. Perhaps Macron’s administration should have begun with taxing the manufactures of the vehicles, yes, but there is an argument that by doing this, these manufacturers would withdraw a lot of manufacturing from France, which would also create a problem with a loss of jobs and income. Perhaps France should have built efficient public transit that uses clean energy that the people could use in order to discourage the use of their cars? But where would the money come from? Perhaps the taxes should have been placed on the fossil fuel companies, and the EU should enforce this collectively?

But I encourage people to ask themselves several questions: Is it not suspicious that many involved in the Yellow Vest movement are from middle class families? Is it not suspicious that at the same time that the Yellow Vest’s are claiming to be for the everyman, they are destroying the property of those working and having businesses? Is it not suspicious that what began as a protest about the increase on the cost of diesel and petrol, is now about wages, taxes, housing, retirement benefits, cost of living, etc.? Is it not suspicious that the average person involved with this movement is calling for the ‘head’ of Macron, a “banker,” rather than also seeing him as the Classicist, a man who spent more time studying the Humanities – literature, history, economics, philosophy? Also, a man they voted for. Is it not suspicious that the Yellow Vests have thus far refused to speak to the prime minister unless the meeting is filmed? Is it not suspicious that by reducing the speed limit on the highways, thereby limiting nasty emissions that prompt climate change, which the government has done, is not adhered to by the people themselves? Isn’t the nasty transport of goods by trucks perpetuated by our ordering goods online in order to avoid paying more for these same products?

I understand that many in France voted for Macron as opposition to the Front National, and that many view him as unforgivably arrogant (an irony, given that the French are stereotyped as arrogant). I also understand that people are frustrated and poor. That there is abhorrent global economic inequality. I agree with the suspicion that corporations and a superrich class of people are dictating global politics and laws, perpetually squeezing public services and the working class for their own increased profits and the perpetuation of their lavish lifestyles. I respect to some extent that my compatriots are noting this and protesting. However, the Yellow Vests are a fragmented and violent movement that is being manipulated into a frenzy by the same powers the participants are protesting. Macron is not the enemy. Nor are foreigners or refugees. Big business and tax evaders are the enemies. Macron is pro European, actively building bridges between member states, which is important because a united Europe is much stronger than a divided one, despite the rhetoric that cynically opposes the union and capitalizes on people’s fears and anger by creating scapegoats. While he may have been a banker briefly, he’s a truly cultured man and that means he understands context and the long game. He’s a man who has benefitted France as its president by increasing the profile of France through his efforts and his charisma, making it once again a power to be reckoned with (which happily coincided with the World Cup 2018 win). He has openly criticized Trump, rising xenophobia, and nationalism disguised as patriotism. He is actively arguing the need for climate action, even as arguably it is not nearly enough. These are great things socially and practically. He has served as the opposition to rising ignorance. His presidency has increased tourism to France and consequently bolstered the economy, and it has brought France back to the forefront of negotiating tables throughout the world. And now he is being undermined in these efforts, which will not benefit France or the European Union collectively. Is it not suspicious that this undermining occurs after the USA has officially dismissed climate change and Brexit has destablized the EU?

Yes, there is much more to be done about economic inequality, strife, and the environment. There is credence to the argument that letting even ‘little things’ go is a ‘slippery slope’ to creating an individualistic, capitalistic society like the USA. Yes, Macron is from the privileged class, and there is rising and unforgiveable economic inequality, but wouldn’t it be more helpful to stop condoning those culprits activities? Focus one’s efforts? Demand that companies such as Amazon and Google, for example, pay their fair share of taxes to operate in Europe. Demand that the taxes on the super rich in France (and the rest of the EU) are enforced. Demand that campaign financing is absolutely transparent so that there is not a conflict of interests. Tax the hell out of fossil fuel companies throughout Europe. Pay your own taxes so that your kids can continue to have benefits when they need them. Stop buying products online and support local businesses rather than these same ‘dark forces.’ Stop buying services or products from international companies that are contributing to economic inequality by creating monopolies and not paying their fair share in the societies they operate in. Stop driving so much. Stop eating so much beef, and buy it locally when you do eat it in order to undermine the big business agriculture has become. Use the subsidies and loans available to convert your homes to clean energy and your cars to clean energy.

I hope that Macron is able to face down the agitation and keep a steady hand on the tiller of the country. We shall see what he says tonight when he makes an address after the fourth weekend of riots in Paris. As it is, the Rassemblement National (Marine Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, as they have rebranded themselves since their defeat to Macron) is on par with Macron’s En Marche to represent France in the European elections in May. May the gods help us all and may reason and concerted effort prevail.

*A Carte Vitale is given to residents who pay their taxes or need special assistance. It is swiped through a machine at a doctor’s office so that reimbursement to the patient is immediate.

+A brown form is a sheet that is dated and signed by the doctor that the patient must fill in with their name and health number, and then send to the state’s Assurance Maladie (Health Insurance) for reimbursement.

**CAF supports childcare on a sliding scale, from 20c an hour up to 4euros an hour for baby and children’s day care and after school support. They also provide subsidies for families to take holidays around France each year. They also enable a mother to take three years off when their child is born, by giving her a monthly allowance. They also give a family a one-time fee upon the birth of a child that ranges in size, to a monthly stipend for each child to a certain age. The assistance the CAF provides is seemingly endless.

++Extracurricular activities in my village include taking the kids regularly to do a week of alpine skiing with instructors, as well as Nordic skiing, swimming lessons, museum visits, all subsidized by the commune.

+++School lunches for the elementary school children are three course events – salad, meal, cheese or desert – that are usually locally sourced and bio. And, thanks to Nicholas Hulot’s response to a petition, they are now serving a vegetarian meal once a week in order to ‘put the subject on the table’ about the correlation between meat eating and climate change.