La Croix: The image of a fiery cocktail thrown at the CRS did not arouse unanimous indignation. How do you explain it?
Michel Erman : The French disapprove, that’s for sure. They do it with words, but they remain, it’s true, resigned in the face of this violence. They are not complicit in it, but show a certain indifference to the suffering of others, whereas there is a man there, a policeman in this case, who, by simply doing his job, finds himself in peril of death.
During the movement of yellow vests, a more tragic scene took place: a demonstrator on a roundabout died after being hit by the vehicle of a mother who was bringing her child to the hospital. One might have expected the movement to be interrupted to make way for meditation and mourning. But that hadn’t happened. It seems to me that we crossed a line at that time, because non-conviction is a form of complacency.
What feeds this violence? where is she from ?
M. E. : Current social anger is the direct breeding ground for this. It is a very strong feeling of resentment that turns into repulsion and hatred, a hatred of which the President of the Republic is the privileged target. Moreover, his effigy was burned, which is a very violent, even cruel, symbolic act. The arsonist of the group of police pushes the logic to the end by depersonalizing the police, making them the henchmen of Macronie. There is therefore a dangerous slide, made possible by a climate of sad passions.
How to explain this climate?
M. E. : It dates back long before the COVID-19 episode. In my opinion, it all started with the attacks in New York on September 11, 2001. Then came the subprime economic crisis in 2008 and then the attacks in France in 2015. These are events that aroused fear of first, then anger, sometimes even hatred.
Let’s not forget that “the Contis” in 2008-2009 (the employees of Continental, editor’s note) set fire to their production tool to express their refusal to lose their jobs. We are then faced with an eruption of violence that takes us out of the world of speech and into a pattern of war. Since then, we got used to it. Not only has anger become a value, which it normally is not, but it has also acquired the right to become a violent passion.
Anger and violence are not the same things…
M. E. : Effectively. Anger (1) is an emotion that has its reasons, good or bad, it is a request for recognition that claims to be justified. We can therefore imagine getting out of it through a process of dialogue. Violence, on the other hand, does not build a relationship, it tends to transform adversaries into enemies. It is a form of Manichaeism since it wants to show the confrontation between Good and Evil, the dominant and the dominated.
On the political level, verbal violence, which we have seen growing for a decade, is restoring the Right-Left opposition. In this sense, the macronism which proposes an overcoming of this cleavage indirectly arouses violence. We can also see that the opponents of Emmanuel Macron have not found a way other than verbal violence to fight him.
So the responsibility for the violence lies with the President’s opponents?
M. E. : No. This responsibility is difficult to assign. Initially, there was a discontent, legitimate in a democracy, against the law on the retirement age. Its adoption by the 49.3 procedure transformed this feeling into quasi-revolutionary fury. The opinion is that the representatives of the people do not represent them; even the Constitutional Council is challenged. Opponents no longer recognize the power in place and want to “turn” the system, overturn the table. It is the same process for the mega basins of Sainte Soline.
Therefore, when a crowd is formed, the effect of personal disempowerment comes into play and the situation degenerates. The violence is not morally endorsed and is not carried by a specific person. This is why de-escalation will be difficult to bring about. As for the thugs organized in black blocks, they have no project of overthrowing power but of destroying the political system.