View from Rue Saint-Georges

Taking It to the Streets

Darkness descends on the City of Light

By Thomas Chatterton Williams | December 12, 2018

On the past two Saturdays in Paris, and in France more broadly, pent-up, nihilistic rage has erupted in the streets, let loose by the gilets jaunes (or yellow vests) movement, which formed in protest of a short-lived increase in fuel taxes. Near my own apartment, I have seen the remnants of this rage manifested in Stars of David scrawled across jewelry stores, incinerated motor scooter frames, and shattered McDonald’s vitrines. Burnt garbage and ripped-up cobblestones litter the streets as far as the eye can see.

Still unclear, though, is what any of this means, what purpose it serves, or what, if anything, might be done to dampen a fury that no longer knows a national boundary and seems to burn throughout the developed world—a fury rooted in the simple and inconsolable realization that progress, as we have long been understood it, has ground to a halt; the realization that the next generation will likely have it worse than we did. This terrible understanding is fueling an inchoate anger throughout French society. People are coming to see that they may not be able to age with anything approaching dignity, and that they may not even be able to rest at last with the knowledge that they will leave a clean and habitable planet for their children.

We had all, French and non-French alike, better hope that President Macron finds a way to prevail.

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