These are not the best of times on either side of the English Channel. Paris is burning as les citoyens – who have protest in their blood – take to the streets in outrage over higher taxes on the hoi polloi but not on the hoigty-toigty types. French President Emmanuel Macron took to the airwaves to promise tax relief for workers and pensioners and an increase in the minimum wage. While he acknowledged his own role in the situation – protestors have accused him of being out of touch – Macron said France’s problems predate him by decades and stem from the changes wrought by globalization.
To the north, British Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to postpone a Parliamentary vote on Brexit – the British exit from the European Union, slated for March 29 – because she doesn’t have the votes. How to keep the border open between Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, part of the E.U., is a main sticking point. But in reality, the one thing people agree on is that they don’t like the deal at all.
On the surface, the two nations seem to be facing the same dilemma – the populace, and populists, disenchanted by their leaders. The situations, however, are quite different. The French people are disgusted by the elites, the wealthy, having more and more while they have not. It’s been a common French problem since the Revolution and an understandable one given the increasing disproportion in incomes between the lower classes and the upper one worldwide.
The British people have a problem with elites, too, but for them -- as for their American cousins – the elites are not just the rich squeezing them out of jobs with cheap immigrant labor. (Which turns out to be a fantasy as there are more jobs than can be filled, just as in America.) No, for the British common man and his American counterpart, the elites are the aspirational types who are for open borders and, especially, open-mindedness. So, their problems are closer to those of the Trumpettes, who blame immigration for what technology has wrought, ignoring their own lack of intelligence, industry, imagination and courage to reinvent themselves.
Will Macron survive? Will May? Will the Brexit deal go through? Stay tuned for more episodes of “As the Channel Churns.”