By Nathan Barton
Considering the Yellow Vest protests (even rebellion) in recent weeks, we left my journey through the history of French revolutions, rebellions, and protests in 1945, freed (by their own, not just Allied (British Empire and United States), efforts.
In 1945, France was seemingly at peace, and it seemed that the people were in charge. Or were they? The corrupt Third Republic was dead, the various monarchists had no real power. The Fascists were being chased down, the colonies were being reorganized. A new democracy was born.
And in turn was taken over by a new Napoleon, Charles de Gaulle. In 1946 he relinquished his temporary leadership of the nation as its wartime leader and helped establish a Fourth Republic. But that was short-lived. Besides the Viet Minh Rebellion in Indochina, there were serious internal problems in France (which included Algeria), and threatened coups and rebellions. In the usual French way, people took to the streets, attacking and destroying and looting. The elite let them riot, and reestablished their own sources of power.
Incredibly, in 1958, a Fifth Republic was established when de Gaulle was invited back, and then elected President. Once again, France turned away from true republican governance to strong-man rule: the Fifth was once again centralized and with a powerful presidential office. Which de Gaulle used to full advantage. His rule was not free from rebellion and protests, and even coups, including one in Algeria in 1961, the loss of Algeria the next year, and then the student protests (rebellions) in 1968. but the strong presidency proved more durable than either of the Empires or the last several monarchies.
In 2019, the Fifth Republic remains, as the latest in a string of powerful presidents rules the nation. And has, at least to date, overcome various threats, including more protests, riots, rebellions, and more. Unfortunately, it may be that the decisions of past presidents (since de Gaulle) have created the seeds of destruction once again.
For the past few years, Muslims have been a major problem. Some of these are the descendants of those who considered themselves French and therefore left Algeria a half-century ago. Some are political refugees (and their children) from Syria and Iran and the like. Some are “guest workers” from “former” French possessions in Africa (and Southeast Asia). And some are part of the current EU’s wide-open gates for anyone and everyone from the Middle East and North Africa. Lumped together, taught Islamist extremism, and seemingly ignored by the authorities, Muslims in France have rioted, destroyed property, fought police, and more.
They may not have learned much from their adopted or inherited nation. But they certainly learned about street fighting and street politics in general. Paris (and elsewhere) have been convulsed by their protests for years.
Which may be why the people of Paris and other cities, in 2018 and 2019, have decided to return to their roots and go out as did their ancestors in 1789 and 1830 and 1848. Go out to protest and demand “liberty, fraternity, and equality” from the government. And while there, burn and wreck and attack those who are different.
Although it has only gone on for a few months, there is a distinct possibility that this could be another 1848. This might be the protest, the rebellion, that actually becomes a revolution.
While I can sympathize with their anger and frustration, I see only that they have made the same mistakes as their ancestors. Here are a few:
- They expect government to provide almost everything.
- They see these ideals (liberty and equality) as collective (fraternal) and not individual.
- They view equality as the end and not the means.
- They demonstrate they are unable to take responsibility individually for their actions.
- They expect different results from doing the same thing over and over again.
It appears that to far too many French people (as to Americans and others), they do not want liberty for everyone – just for themselves. They are seeking to gain their own freedom (as a group, mostly) only by stealing it from others. To put it in Haitian terms (remembering that Haiti is itself French), they just want to change masters. They want to put themselves in charge, and the former rulers in slavery.
Not true liberty or freedom. Just a different form of tyranny or slavery.
Sorry, but that sickens me. I’ll hold out for real liberty. Not the French version.