What seems like a long, long time ago, way before the toilet paper wars changed the landscape of our planet, Sandy and I spent some time in Paris.
It was my first time in the City of Lights and I loved it. I didn’t think I would, frankly. I have grown up on a steady diet of how the Parisians are rude, aggressive, don’t like Americans, etc.
That could not have been further from the truth. The Parisians we talked with were absolutely wonderful; quantity and quality of the history in that chunk of the planet are unparalleled. The statues of Washington and the real, tangible manifestation of Liberte Egalite Fraternite amongst the French were on display everywhere we went.
What I was not expecting to see was the open hostility by the French to the one thing I have always identified with the French: socialism.
We were on one of the “hop-on, hop-off” double-decker tour buses that carries tourists throughout the city. They don’t necessarily cater to Americans, though there were a few of us on board. There were also a ton of tourists from Asia, Africa, other parts of Europe, and the Middle East. At the helm was a young woman who was currently a student at the Sorbonne. She spoke to us in a variety of languages. At one point she instructed us to glance towards a particular government building that housed the French Transportation Administration. Derisively, she suggested the building was really owned by the French Transit Workers Union, and, as such, there was very little actual “work” that ever took place behind the gothic walls.
As we were getting ready to “hop-off”, I heard her speaking to a family of Americans a few seats in front of Sandy and me. She was not on her microphone, but she was speaking with enough passion I could make out the gist of the conversation. President Emmanuel Macron was not her favorite person. Macron has been the President de la Republique Francaise since 2017 and, though a member of the Socialist Party, has actually been somewhat of a business-friendly centrist. My assumption was that this young student from the Sorbonne wanted more of the socialism and less of the centrism.
I was dead wrong. She was downright antagonistic towards the State. Listening to her talk to this family, it suggested that many of her twenty-something friends also felt the same way.
During our national meltdown of out-of-favor historical statues that went into overdrive during the run up to the presidential election, there were a few of us who questioned the wisdom of erasing negative aspects of our national history. Those who were in the older demographic group were decidedly against the removal of national icons. Those in the middling age groups were the most vocal in icon removal program. The younger generation… teenagers and early twenty somethings were entirely ambivalent.
The French, though, were very vocal about it across the political spectrum.
That crap was not going to go down in Paris. (Evidently their devotion to the preservation of history is more important than the nullification of empirical events.)
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
Since the 1960’s there has been a march towards collectivism and State control as a means of modifying the outcome of wealth creation. This has now become a dominant paradigm not just in the United States, but also in Western Europe. (Eastern Europe, still reeling from the consequences of collectivism, is far more suspicious of attempts to subvert individual liberty.)
Yet, as this march towards State control has become the raison d’être of both established political parties in the U.S., there is a growing push back from, at first blush, an unlikely source… but, after further analysis, an entirely predictable quarter.
College students, and those of college age, are beginning to display a serious distrust of collectivism. They are also starting to view the mandarins in power as fundamentally corrupt. Nothing can be seen as it is; there is always a hidden message and agenda that cannot be spoken. The accumulation of power, control, and capital is assumed to be the ultimate goal of the State. Tempering the ambitions of the individual outside the confines of the State is perceived as a necessary principle of a monolithic central authority. The only way to achieve that objective, absent raw force, is through subtle manipulation.
Youth have always resisted orthodoxy. Frankly, I have always felt this is a good thing. We become better as a society when we have to win over our youth or when they have to win over us; that dialectic improves the lives of everyone. Conservatism (in this case Individualism), has been the orthodoxy that was to be rejected for roughly two centuries. That has not been the case, though, since the 1960’s. Now the youth of yesteryear are in control, firmly ensconced in the palaces of power seeking to wield greater control of the population. The emerging youth needs to rebel against something… hence the new rage against the machine.
Suddenly Individualism (Classical Liberalism), is hip again. And the emerging network of hip classical liberals is showing a deep distrust of the masters.
Last week President Emmanuel Macron decided to do a little co-opting. His people engineered a TikTok video (ostensibly geared towards the youth of France) where Macron emphasized the need for COVID vaccination. Trying to expand on his youthful appearance and appear “one of them”, Macron sat at a desk in a suburban-type setting wearing a black tee shirt as he encouraged the young, college-aged kids of France to take up arms against COVID.
The youth saw something different. On his t-shirt he had a graphic of a cubist owl. “What did the owl mean?” “Who was he messaging with the owl?” “What secret implications did the owl have?” The message he was trying to convey was totally lost. What did emerge on social media was a massive spread of general distrust of Macron as an individual and, by extension, the State.
Many on the left chastised those who were questioning Macron. Pundits starting berating the French youth. “How dare they question science; how dare they question the experts?!”
Yet question they do… as they should.
Perhaps, just perhaps… Bob Dylan once prophetically crooned: The Times They Are A-Changing.