The President of France has penned us a letter. We can be sure that his wife Brigitte, once a professor of French literature, approved the final draft.
In response to the riots and general upheaval of the last two months, Emmanuel Macron says he wants to transform the anger of the people into solutions. And so a new form of governance has emerged (so we’ve been told), a governance called “participatory democracy.” It’s an exercise that seeks to involve citizen participation.
The first step was to place a “cahier de doléances” (a register of grievances or a ‘complaints’ book’) in every single Town Hall around the country. Since December 8, people have been going to their local Town Hall to write their gripes into the book. Here’s a copy of one book from the town of Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac in the Aveyron region, population 550.
“Everything increases except wages”, one person wrote. “With the cost of living constantly rising and the social minima permanently stagnating, it’s obvious that fewer and fewer people can live properly.”
Another person wrote this – “We need to spend money wisely, and the politicians must set an example. If I were young and healthy, I would have participated in the Yellow Vest demonstrations. I would have demanded a reduction in excessive state spending, a reduction in the excessive number of Senators, deputies and useless officials. I would have shouted against excessive state spending by the former presidents of the Republic (and their ministers.) This is especially why I would have liked to join the protest marches: to rail against those who create the misery of some in France.“
Here’s the beginning of President Macron’s letter which I translated into English for you (I couldn’t resist inserting a few comments of my own. As you can imagine, the chattering classes in the media and on political talk shows have analyzed, criticized and decoded this letter to death) –
Dear Frenchwomen, dear Frenchmen, my dear compatriots,
In a period of questioning and uncertainty like the one we are going through, we must remember who we are.
France is not a country like the others. (it isn’t?)
The meaning of injustice is sharper than elsewhere. (it is?) The need for mutual aid and solidarity is stronger.
Here in France, those who work pay for the pensions of retirees. Here in France, a large number of citizens pay income tax, sometimes a lot, which reduces inequalities (but you gave a huge tax break to your rich friends … does that mean that inequalities have escalated?). Here, education, health, security, justice are accessible to all regardless of their situation and wealth. The vagaries of life, such as unemployment, can be overcome, thanks to the effort shared by all.
This is why France, of all nations, is one of the most fraternal and the most egalitarian. (Fraternal? Those recent riots with scenes of people getting their heads bashed in didn’t look too fraternal to me.)
It is also one of the freest, since everyone is protected in his rights and in his freedom of opinion, conscience, belief or philosophy. (I think that some Muslims who are banned from wearing certain Islamic clothing would disagree with you there, Mr. President. Oh, I see that you carefully omitted “freedom of religion”.)
And every citizen has the right to choose those who will bear his voice in the conduct of this country, in the drafting of its laws, in the major decisions to be taken. Everyone shares the fate of the others and everyone is called upon to decide the fate of all: it is all that, the French nation. How can we not feel pride in being French?
I know, of course, that some of us today are dissatisfied or angry. Because taxes are too high for them and public services too far away, because wages are too low for some to be able to live with dignity, and because of the fact that our country does not offer the same chances of succeeding based on the place or the family someone comes from. (And why is that?? So you’re admitting that a Mohammed from the burbs or Algeria doesn’t stand a chance.) All would like a more prosperous country and a more just society. (Isn’t that your job?)
This ambition, I share it. The society we want is a society in which to succeed one should not need relationships or fortune, but effort and work. In France, but also in Europe and in the world, not only a great anxiety, but also a great trouble has won the spirits (We have a lot of ‘trouble’, can you be more specific?). We must respond with clear ideas.
Taxes are at the heart of our national solidarity. Taxes finance our public services. They pay our teachers, firefighters, police, military, magistrates, nurses and all the public servants who work for you. But taxes, when too high, deprives our economy of resources that could be usefully invested in companies, thus creating jobs and growth. And it deprives workers of the fruit of their efforts.
This is why I proposed and I launch today a great national debate which will run until March 15th. In recent weeks, mayors have opened their town halls so that you can express your expectations. I have received the first feedback which I will take into account. We will now enter a larger phase and you will be able to participate in debates near your home or express yourself on the internet to put forward your proposals and your ideas. In France, overseas and with French residents abroad. In villages, towns, neighborhoods, on the initiative of mayors, elected officials, community leaders, or ordinary citizens … In parliamentary assemblies as regional or departmental.