Loyal Upset Patterns reader My Dad e-mailed me a link to this entry (also posted here) at the progressive Vermont blog Green Mountain Daily. I think that it and some of the comments that follow express a widespread sentiment among left-leaning Americans that France has this great, mobilized political left that holds the government’s feet to the fire and defends progressive values whereas in the US, by contrast, the citizens are too lazy and complacent to effect any real change. Not to be pretentious, but this made me think of the famous Aristotle quote about anger:
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Widespread protests and strikes like what they have here in France are incredibly disruptive. Of course, this is the point, and sometimes being disruptive is good. If your government is carrying out an immoral or unjust policy, then a huge protest, perhaps even a violent one, might be justified, if that’s what it takes. But protests and strikes have significant costs: they’re disruptive and wasteful. So if you have a political culture like the one in France, where the public is constantly eager to unleash large strikes and protests that reflect unfocused populist anger in response to even mild reforms, it can be really pernicious.
I’m all for civic engagement, but it really is important for anger to be directed at the right person to the right degree for the right purpose and in the right way. Granted, this is a lofty ideal, but until the current Gallic rabblerousers (whom I had to walk through to get to the cafe whose wifi I’m using right now) get closer to it, I think that a few more American-style politically apathetic couch potatoes among the citizenry might not be the worst thing in the world for France.