From a half a world away I’m trying to understand and explain the yellow jacket revolution in a context that is relatable to most Americans. As they riot in Paris, and now across Europe, the protesters wear yellow because it is highly visible and meant to be seen (or demands to be seen). They also wear yellow vests to show they work for a living. What they want is some dignity because they feel they work hard and do contribute to society (and should also benefit by society).
It seems the average French person sees Macron as being very arrogant and a puppet not working for the people’s interests. Wait, that sounds exactly like Trump…
The French are tired of an oligarchy that is becoming more and more powerful as the average person struggles to pay rent and bills on low wages. The older pensioners are tired of being forced to live on an amount that is virtually impossible to live on. Wait! That sounds exactly like what is going on in America…
There is also an element of anti-globalization. Many of the French have a feeling that they are tired of giving up control of their lives to a greater cause.
The French genuinely believe they can make a better system. They have a long culture and history that demonstrates they can improve things. This is really not all that different from the concept of American exceptionalism–i.e., the belief that Americans could do anything better than anyone else. Both of those do sound arrogant, but it is important to understand that one must believe in an ideal, and have the intent to do better before one can actually do better. As I see it improving things is the opposite side of genuinely wanting to see things improved on the exact same coin.
The French know that they will get a better deal out of rioting and causing disruption to the system. Whether that comes in reduced taxes for laborers or higher minimum wages, or increased pensions for the elderly or the disabled. The French elite also understand that they have to keep the people pacified because the people have cut off heads before and probably would cut off heads again if the situation called for it again. The rich want to be able to walk the streets of Paris and enjoy the luxuries of the city. They don’t want to be forced to live behind their gates. There’s no gate that’s going to keep an angry mob out long term either. Plus, it only takes one underpaid or disgruntled domestic staff to unlock the gate from the inside. They know the mob isn’t coming for them.