2018 Day 119 – Enough already

Now I respect the right to peaceful protest, and I’d agree that nobody enjoys high fuel prices. But quite frankly, three days in to this French fuel tax protest, there are things that need to be said.

A recap: around 250,000 people have taken to the streets, blocking over 1,000 roads across France. Delays have gone from a few minutes, to hours. Some roads are blocked completely. Fires are being lit at intersections and across toll ways. A woman was killed when a driver, panicked at being surrounded by protestors, hit the accelerator accidentally. A further 400 have been injured as drivers, fed up with incessant delays, take matters into their own hands to get around blockades. Three of those people are in a critical condition.

My observations, caught up in it for the third day, are this: the protestors lack a systematic approach. They’re disorganised. They’re failing to achieve an outcome, short of getting motorists, who incidentally are not their target audience, highly pissed off.
They’re getting their own teams injured through carelessness and failing to observe basic safety rules at blockades. They have no systemic approach to letting vehicles through road blocks, and to add insult to injury, stuck for hours watching them, they’re behaving as if they’re at a party, while drivers fail to meet employment deadlines, family obligations and miss flights. Which is no doubt going a long way to drivers losing their cool and taking their chances pushing through.

I remind you that a woman has died, three more are critical, a further 400 injured. For fuel taxes. You don’t die for fuel taxes. Human rights: racial inequity, freedom of speech, freedom from poverty, slavery – you might be prepared to die for those causes. Not fuel taxes.

If you’re going to protest, or for that matter understand how to effect an outcome in life, no matter the cause, you need to understand a few basic steps. Identify your outcome – what are you trying to achieve? Identify your adversary – who or what is blocking that outcome. Find out what drives them/it. Supply? Demand? Votes? Put in place a plan to affect or cease up supply/demand/votes, and here’s the important bit, against the person/company/industry that can actually affect the outcome you are trying to achieve. Offer to negotiate before you act. Be prepared to be reasonable in negotiations – the other side also has a view. Take someone to the table who is an effective voice. Above all, ensure the safety of your people.

Stopping traffic in an effort to affect fuel taxes is akin to beating up your neighbour in complaint on violence in your neighbourhood.

You want to change fuel taxes? Go to the table with a plan for replacing the revenue the government will lose. Back that with a plan to affect the voting public’s view on the party that fails to negotiate with you. Don’t put in place a plan that achieves nothing bar hospitalising a good number of your team and angering the very people who likely have the same complaint as you.

Having spent three days caught up in this exceedingly disorganised dispute, I’ve had enough. Minor delays on the first day led to inconvenient delays the second, to a complete debacle on the third. A journey that should have taken a couple of hours, took all day… and we didn’t get close to our destination. There’s no guarantee, despite the four days left to us, that we will be able to cover the 200 kilometres we need to travel to make the ferry. Never mind losing what was meant to be a relaxing end to this journey, in a country I love.

I’m beyond frustrated. I’m angry. I’m angry at the disorganised mess this protest has become, the death and injuries incurred, the delays it’s caused, with no real outcome in sight. They’re pulling the wrong levers.

At this rate, the government need do nothing. It’s only a matter of time, if this continues as is, that protestors and drivers come to blows. The government will then be justified in sending in the police, which it cannot do now. People have a right to protest after all.

As the title of this post states, enough already. Pull back, regroup, think it through, form a strategy, take steps towards achieving an outcome. And stop this disaster, before even more people are hurt. Enough already.

In “travel world” meanwhile, we woke to temperatures of zero degrees and frost. It’s bitterly cold, with high winds.

All day, we played snakes and ladders with protestors, zigzagging the country and getting nowhere. Despite keeping on the D roads, virtually every key intersection point was blocked, stopping us progressing, or worse, having to go backwards. The last delay took well over an hour before we we let through, and then only in a direction entirely opposite to the direction we needed to go in. Chris watched a car get hit by a truck delivering road block materials and I saw another truck narrowly miss a protestor.

Early in the day we saw a gorgeous chateau

and later drove through one pretty village after the other,

but my heart wasn’t in it. I’m worried about not making the ferry, not getting back to Cornwall to pack up and winter the motorhome, not making the flights home. Tell me how that’s going to be effective in reducing fuel taxes. Pulling. The. Wrong. Lever.