Is Paris burning?

Paris is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and due to the fact that I was born and grew up there, I am extremely biased about it.

March 1971

It distresses me to no end to think that in the last 2 weeks the City of Lights has turned into another Beirut. As seen on vivid video clips, the city was racked by violent riots and senseless devastation.

There was rioting all over France and particularly in Paris where the famed Champs-Élysées were the scene of ferocious fighting. Impressive damage was also inflicted upon the Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue Kleber. Numerous cars were set on fire and stores and buildings were vandalized by the so-called Gilets Jaunes “yellow jackets”.

What happened?

Committed to reduce global warming, French president Emmanuel Macron introduced new carbon taxes to urge motorists to change behavior and protect the environment. The fuel tax was accompanied by other measures including incentives to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.
But considering the high price of gas in France (around $5.54/gal) this well-intended initiative was not well received by the electorate.

Many demonstrators complained about their struggles to stay afloat in world afflicted by a disproportionate gap between the rich and the poor. A great number of these people barely make 2,000 euros per month to cover rent, food, taxes, gasoline and many incidentals. Macron on the other hand has been accused of speaking only for the rich.

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?”

All demonstrators did not mean to wreck the city, but marginalized young people from the “banlieues” did. These so-called “casseurs” (breakers of things) were not interested in righting wrongs. They descended on Paris with the sole objective of looting and vandalizing.

People have the right to protest government measures that they find unjust or arbitrary, but vandalism of any sort is not the way to do it. A massive, dignified demonstration would do more to rally common folks to their cause than senseless devastation.

On the other hand, profits should not be the only concern of large companies. Board members would be well advised to include philanthropy and altruism in their mission statement. In a perfect world, a percentage of their profits should be devoted to improve the living conditions of the disadvantaged.

To this effect, many protesters are demanding the immediate reintroduction of the wealth tax (ISF) previously cancelled by Macron.

In the latest news development, the so-called “carbon tax” has been postponed for 6 months. Unfortunately, this does mean that calm will prevail.


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