Victoria Jelinek


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.

 

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Is There Nothing Hallowed?
November 18, 2017, 2:22 pm
Filed under: From the Soap Box | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

imagesThe manifestation of all of the rotten elements of US society that have been growing over the last 50 or so years is terribly overwhelming and heart-wrenching.

The FCC ruling today is a big blow to its last semblance of democracy (and its cut to subsidies for the poor to have internet access is simply mean). The looming tax cuts for the very wealthy, including write-offs for private jets and other corporate expenditures, as well as inheritance tax avoidance is blatant avarice. Meanwhile, teachers, fire fighters, police officers lose itemized deductions, and the opportunity to own a home, put their children through university, and to receive healthcare without a lifetime of debt. The hypocrisy of the Trump regime regarding sexual assault is sickening, as is the public’s preoccupation with it in the face of the larger atrocities being committed daily by this administration while the public’s attention is averted. Those who are excessively wealthy and who run the government must be laughing at the stupidity of ordinary people. In a complex and insidious way, we are all complicit in what has happened.

However, all of the aforementioned doesn’t matter in the long-run if there are no more forests, or natural lands, or safe drinking water, or the air can’t be safely breathed. Nor does any of it matter when wildlife has been eradicated. The Trump regime had already lifted a ban on the hunting of wolves and bears (and their young), made deals with oil companies to build pipelines & drill for oil in protected territories to undermine the welfare of our planet, its animals and ourselves. Only today a pipeline spilled hundreds of thousands of oil in South Dakota and a steel corporation was discovered dumping tons of toxins into Lake Michigan.

And if this wasn’t enough, the Trump regime reversed legislation that protected elephants and lions in Africa. Today, the wealthy donors to this administration received some ‘payback’ because they can now ‘hunt’ down these animals and bring “trophies” in the form of their body parts back to the US in order to display and, ostensibly, impress guests (?!). Let that sink in – the body parts of a lion or an elephant as a ‘trophy’ to be mounted somewhere in their house. Imagine how these elephant’s babies will feel when some soul-less white man fells their mother or father or brother or sister. They will suffer fear and loss. They will grieve. They are sympathetic, smart, wise, and loving creatures that are family-oriented. They mourn for those members who die, and they remember them long after they are shot, dismembered, and carried back on an airplane by a savage.

***Addendum: Trump says the elephant ban is “on hold.” Outrage, thank goodness, must have been enough. However, this administration will ‘slip it in’ when no one’s looking, so to speak. Also, this still leaves the issue of lions as trophies & wolves being hunted down in their dens…



January 2017

what-is-fascism

*Need to put in cabinet nominee information/hearings.

Because each new day with this unpopular man in the White House is yet another affront, I feel I must list, each day, Trump’s actions in order to chronicle and to order in my own mind.

Disclaimer: I understand that this is not an exhaustive list. I have rationed myself maximum two hours to read the news and go on social media each day, and I task myself with checking two sources for all information read.

If you, a prospective reader, have information to add to any of this, please do let me know – thank you!

Jan. 20, 2017

  • Women’s March DC extends to millions marching across USA and the rest of the world.

Jan. 21, 2017

  • Trump claims more at his inauguration than at the Women’s March and that CNN is spreading falsehoods about his inaugural day and the crowds there.
  • Spicer press meeting, “alternative facts” enters the public’s vernacular via Kellyanne Conway.
  • Trump repeals a low income tax credit for first time homebuyers.

Jan. 23, 2017

  • Trump signs order to revive construction again on Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.
  • Reference to climate change wiped from the White House website.
  • Trump declares there will be an “investigation” into voter fraud during election2016 due to “illegals” voting.

Jan. 24, 2017

  • Trump signs order to deport three million Muslim immigrants, to temporarily halt immigration, and to (re start) a Muslim registry. Various city mayors and police forces declare they will not support the deportation.

Jan 25, 2017

  • Trump signs order to begin building wall between US and Mexico (NAFTA?)
  • EPA banned from posting updates, reports, information on climate change on website, via social media, or the press.
  • Trump signs order to repeal EPA financing for scientific research saying it is a “conflict of interests.”
  • Trump announces that there will be investigation into de-funding “sanctuary cities” for immigrants (see Jan. 24).
  • CDC cancels their attendance to a major climate change conference.
  • Trump signs “anti abortion order.” The order blocks United States funding to foreign organisations that perform or provide advice on abortions.

Jan. 27, 2017

  • Trump orders a travel ban on all citizens, travellers w existing visas, green card holders, dual citizenship holders from seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Protests erupt in major cities airports all over the country.

Jan. 29, 2017

  • Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are ejected from the Principals Committee of the National Security Council. In place of them and added as a regular member is the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, the publisher, Steve Bannon. Also added as a regular member, Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

Jan. 30, 2017

  • Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is fired after she instructs Justice Department not to adhere to the executive order by Trump to Muslim ban due to the legality of the order.

Jan. 31, 2017

  • Betsy Devos nominated as Education Secretary.
  • Senate Democrats boycott nomination hearing on Mnunchin and Price.
  • Trump says America fully behind Muslim Ban and to ignore the “hysterical cries” of the TV and protesters.