N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
The flames have been extinguished, the smoke over France is beginning to clear. The chaos seems to be over, the French malaise is becoming clearly visible.
The violence that followed the death of 17 years old Nahel in Nanterre has exposed several pain points. One of them is police violence. But this violence is counterbalanced by a society that can also be violent, as evidenced by the number of town halls and mayors that have been brutally attacked. Not so long ago the yellow vests traced a trail of destruction through Paris for months. And at the retirement demonstrations in March, hundreds of police officers were injured and street furniture went up in flames. Demonstrations in France include burning cars, burning garbage, broken shop windows and flying cobblestones.
France is struggling with many deep-seated frustrations, that are tearing apart a country that already has many deep fissures. If the roots are not addressed, the anger will continue to simmer. In the banlieues (suburbs), sinking further into their isolation. In depopulated provincial towns in decline. With the middle-class that barely keeps it head above water. With environmentalists being silenced. These people whose voices are less loud than those of the elite in Paris.
President Macron had given himself and his government 100 days in March to reconnect with this people after a series of crises in recent years . But ‘les 100 jours de l’apaisement’, hundred days of reconciliation, end in chaos. At Quatorze Juillet (14 July), the heyday of the French tricolour and ‘liberte-egalite-fraternite’, freedom-equality-brotherhood, Macron wanted to celebrate this renewed unity. But hundred days were not enough…