The former Baywatch star, Playboy model, and one of the first victims of the sextape craze, Pamela Anderson, comes from the same low-value entertainment realm as Trump, but she has emerged from that nonsense with a political view that is rich and deep and sophisticated. Her recent deconstruction of the "Yellow Vests" riots in France is masterful. Anyone in America could understand it—even someone in Idaho.
Reports on CNN and other mainstream media corporations only baffle the situation. One would think it is just another cycle of a long tradition of the French "taking it to the streets." They are always angry about something. The French Revolution refuses to die there. Political upheavals are as French as eating frog legs. That kind of thing. But Anderson makes it clear that the riots aren't genetic or recrudescent. They are indeed addressing a real problem that is specific to our post-social democracy, post-crash moment. Let's read her words.
What happened, according Anderson, is this. The French government, which is currently led by President Macron, recently announced a tax increase on gas for the noble purpose of making people use other means of transportation that are more climate-friendly. But this backfired because it simply punished those who—in the middle and working classes—are condemned to use cars (a luxury) for basic needs. And there is more.
...The French state encouraged people to buy diesel fuelled cars for many years. For example, in 2016, 62% of cars in France were diesel cars, as well as 95% of all vans and small lorries. So it is no wonder that many people view the new policy as a total betrayal.
So, is this an unenlightened riot? Are the working and middle classes resisting the the realities of climate change? No. There is more to consider.
Getting a new [fuel efficient or electric] car is probably not a big deal for President Macron and his ministers. But it is way too difficult for many people who are already financially stretched to the max . Many poor people will not be able to get to work, especially if there is no reliable public transport in place throughout. Many old people will not be able to get to the shops or to the doctor.
The essential problem is, the rich are making the poor and working classes bear the costs of what should be an equitable response to the ever-growing climate crisis.
Some people might think that Yellow Vests ["Gilets Jaune" named after roadside-safety vests] are fighting against good policies that aim to reduce carbon emissions. But let's not forget that it is the world's richest 10% who are responsible for nearly 50% of total lifestyle consumption emissions.
But what about the violence? The riots have, according to reports, resulted in four deaths, the collapse of the rule of law, the criminal destruction of property, and the shut down of "beloved tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre." Isn't this a bad thing. Shouldn't protests be peaceful?
...[T]he critics of "violent riots" pretend that the current capitalist society is non-violent. Violence is a part of modern society and comes in many forms.
For Anderson, the problem begins and ends with an economic system that is structurally violent (the Iraq wars, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and so on) and rapidly destabilizing the climate. It's also a system that is most threatened by climate change, and not because it will cause hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage, as a "congressionally mandated" report recently stated. The destruction and high costs of climate change is not what the elites or the leaders of the current economic order fear. What freaks them out more than anything else is any authentic attempt to solve the crisis. Such a project would be huge and ultimately displace one form of globalization (which began in the 17th century and is with us today and has the expansion of the market as its sole directive) with another one that is structurally and ontologically new.
To explain the difference between these forms of globalization, I must turn to a new and short book, Down to Earth, by French philosopher and historian Bruno Latour. Making sure not to get entangled in class politics (Latour's aversion to Marxism is a bit maddening and unproductive—more about this in another post), he describes the main feature of globalization (or modernization) as its "Out-of-this-World[ness]." Indeed, there is not just a beyond this-world (called earth), but a universe of several worlds. And these fantastic planets must be maintained at all costs. Interest on debts grows like grass and trees on them. Trump is totally oriented to these other worlds that monstrously influence the economy of the this-world.
Trump has managed to identify the Out-of this-World, the horizon of people who no longer belong to the realities of an earth that would react to their actions. For the first time, climate change denial defines the orientation of the public life of a nation.The brilliance of this analysis is made clear with a little extra thought.
Trump might be the first president (indeed, leader of the world) whose whole political project is defined by the climate crisis. It's not so much he is in denial ("I don't believe it"). It's worse than that. His response to climate facts that are completely incompatible with the infinite dream of American prosperity is to precisely name globalization (as modernization) as the problem, and to organize a fantasy exodus from it to a neo-nationalism, or ersatz local that is, in fact, Out-of-this-World.
It's moving from one dream (the fantastic worlds that sustain the values of shares and financial assets), to a fictional past that has a border, a wall, job security for white males, white family values, and white fathers in charge. This local, as Latour explains, is not the same as the grow/buy local movement of the left. That local is still (though weakly) oriented to the other and terrifying globalization of the this-world, which Latour describes as Terrestrial. And it's not just about the earth. It is about a slim part of it that Latour calls the "Critical Zone." This is what's at stake. Not nature-as-nature, but, recalling the theology/philosophy process of Alfred North Whitehead, is "nature-as-process."
Seen from space, everything that has to do with knowledge [of the] Terrestrial is in fact limited in a surprising way to a minuscule zone a few kilometers thick between the atmosphere and bedrock. A biofilm, a varnish, a skin, a few infinitely folded layers.
Trump's imaginary local cannot escape the realities of the Terrestrial. It's a Critical Zone that has no borders; that's indifferent to his first Americans, his race, his great againisms. But for many Americans, this move from a kind of globalization (which Trump deviously ties what it is not—the this-world) to a local that in fact exists nowhere feels real. And that is all Trump needs: this feeling that electrifies his rally. For them, the US is unplugging from the world that refuses to be the worlds of infinite white American prosperity.
As for France, it attempted to answer the global crisis by recognizing it, but transferring its costs to citizens who have lost many of the securities and certainties of post-war social democracy (the Trente Glorieuses). The French capitalist state wants change without change. This will not do. The globalization of the local proper requires the worldwide restructuring of human lives. The rich everywhere will have to become much, much poorer. The poor will need greater and greater assistance (real, post-state social institutions). There will be a globalization not of things, but of people.