Images of striking workers clashing with police in northern France on Wednesday dramatically capture how much the conflict over controversial labor reforms in the country has escalated.
French police deployed water cannons to disperse protesters blockading a fuel depot in Douchy-les-Mines at dawn on Wednesday, Le Huffington Post reported. The confrontation followed similar clashes between strikers and security forces at an oil refinery and petrol depot in southern France a day earlier.
French gendarmes observe striking workers near the oil refinery at Fos-sur-Mer, France, on May 24, 2016.
The protests began earlier this month, when France’s Socialist government forced through a labor reform bill that makes it easier for companies to hire and fire employees and relaxes regulations protecting workers’ pay and working hours.
Opponents of the reforms accused the government of using anti-democratic means to push them through without a parliamentary vote. Activists held demonstrations and one of France’s largest labor unions, the CGT, called for nationwide strikes.The work stoppages have hit France’s oil infrastructure particularly hard. Protests and blockades have disrupted all eight of the country’s fuel refineries, and at least one-fifth of gas stations around the country have totally or nearly run out of fuel.
On Wednesday, the French government released its strategic oil reserves for the first time in six years to help alleviate the fuel shortages, assuring the country that these reserves could last for more than three months.
Meanwhile, unions voted Wednesday to start strikes at French nuclear power stations, and public transport workers have joined the strikes, causing travel chaos. Unions have also called for country-wide walk-outs and protests to take place on Thursday.
French citizens debated the strikes on social media, some using the hashtag #JeSoutiensLaGreve (I support the strike).
The French government has refused to accept labor groups’ demands to roll back the reforms
, saying they are necessary to reduce a troubling unemployment rate that hovers around 10 percent. Officials also say the reforms were amended based on feedback from several unions that now back the bill.
An employee of the France’s national state-owned railway company (SNCF) raises a flare as they block the access to an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France, on May 25, 2016 to protest against the government’s planned labour law reforms.
France has been using strategic fuel reserves for two days in the face of widespread blockades of oil depots by union activists, the head of the oil industry federation said on May 25, 2016. / AFP / JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD (Photo credit should read JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A cloud of tear gas is seen around the statue of the Place de la Nation during clashes between youths and police during a demonstration against the French labour law proposal in Paris, France, as part of a nationwide labor reform protests and strikes, April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French workers and protestors stand near a burning barricade to block the entrance of the deposit of the society SFDM near the oil refinery of Donges, France, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo
Riot police prepare to intervene to disperse refinery worker holding a blockade of the oil depot of Douchy-Les-Mines to protest against the government’s proposed labour reforms, on May 25, 2016.
Refinery workers stepped up strikes that threaten to paralyse France weeks ahead of the Euro 2016 tournament as the government moved to break their blockades, escalating a three-month tug-of-war over labour reforms. / AFP / FRANCOIS LO PRESTI (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP/Getty Images)
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When it comes to the betterment of humanity, activism is perhaps the most important yet most controversial element in society. Activists are the free thinkers, the system busters, the loving warriors, the boat-rockers, and the truth tellers. These visionaries are the vanguard of social reform, acting as the warning system for a society out of balance. Activists are often criticized, ostracized, and even killed, yet their legacy stands among the most virtuous of contributions throughout history. Whether in the form of social media outcry, boycotts, protests, public art (Banksy), sit-ins, or armed insurrection, activists have undoubtedly been a major driving force of progressive social change.
Yet despite the intensity of external focus typical in most activists, honorable and necessary though it is, internal focus for the purposes of Self-Work, tends to be lacking in the majority of activists. This explains why there are social REVOLUTIONS (revolution = revolve = circular spin = going in circles) instead of social EVOLUTION, which transcends the violent, divisive, authoritarian paradigms which has enslaved humanity for centuries.
If activists integrated Self-Work as part of their transformative process, not only would they be more effective and healthier on all levels, but their impact on society would move beyond minor accommodations to a deeper paradigm shift. Due to this deficiency of Self-Work, many well-intentioned activists, swept away by their righteous anger in the “revolutionary mindset”, become just as aggressive and power-hungry as the tyrants they vehemently oppose. Violence is all too often met with violence as police brutality is met with rioting (an understandable yet self-defeating reaction), and “in-fighting” by activists against other well-intentioned activists exacerbates our challenges rather then allowing for a peaceful exchange of ideas. This hyper-aggression only serves to perpetuate violence which could otherwise be resolved with responsible self-awareness, compassion, critical thinking, and a broader perspective. This is the obstacle humanity has yet to overcome through Self-Work, and, as the saying goes, “When people do not learn their lessons, history repeats itself.”
There are many people speaking out about the atrocities and injustices of the world. Oftentimes activism comes with a lot of finger-pointing and hostility. Understandable. Who wouldn’t be upset? The problems of the world often seem insurmountable and sometimes the weight of life wears down even the best of us. As important as honoring our healthy boundaries and anger is, dwelling in anger causes us to miss out on the richness of higher understanding. It’s important to keep in mind that the moment we demonize or vilify those who disagree with us or do things differently, we commit an act of violence by severing an opportunity to learn and find loving empathy and compassion to resolve conflict. We cannot hold on to spite and vengeance, for the problems of the world are too enormous, and hostility, no matter how small, simply creates more violence. We must become more mindful, understanding, and conscious in our behavior if we are to ask others to do the same.
Time shows us that even in the most dark of circumstances, there is understanding and love to be found, within and without, for all things serve a purpose in objective reality. As difficult as it can be to come to terms with, all moments of life are like lessons in the school of Earth. It is rightfully natural to be angry, afraid, sad, and defensive, passively or aggressively, but for the sake of transformation and growth, we must not stop there.
Justice is neither avoidance or vengeance; it is taking responsibility by utilizing the opportunity to see things clearly through gaining knowledge, healing, and, ultimately, understanding and finding forgiveness by seeing the greater context, which ultimately leads to compassion. With communication comes new perspective. With new perspective comes new understanding. With understanding comes connection. With connection comes love. And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
If we, as activists, ever want to realistically live in a world wherein people are well-educated, empathic, and responsible enough to be sovereign and easily resolve (or avoid altogether) social injustices, we must embody the very maturity and virtue we ask from others. We must strive to be a living example of the principles and ideals we uphold.
Photo via Flickr user mpeake
By Alex Kane
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Adam Kokesh has been sentenced to 2 year probation with time served Friday morning in D.C. Superior Court,. The prosecutors had sought a 12 month sentence due to the fact that 31-year-old Adam Kokesh, remains “unremorseful for his actions” and is at a “high risk for recidivism.” (more…)