An atmospheric river of mass strikes and unplanned protests moved through Germany, France and Israel this week, dispersing hundreds of thousands of conscientious objectors onto the streets of Munich, Paris and Jerusalem in protest of their state’s policy initiatives and laws.
Pension reform in France and labor disputes in Germany spread across the EU like wildfire, climaxing in nearly one million protestors to judicial reform in Israel. Sanitation, transportation, strikes and violence all affected chaos and death in cities whose politics are at odds with its citizenry.
Shall we include Audrey Hale in the milieu; a transgender former student who shot and killed six at The Covenant School? The massacre on Monday presaged a "Trans Day of Vengeance" protest unfolding in Washington DC over the weekend, and if political demonstrations are in essence "public protests designed to effect political change" then yes, let’s do. For those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolutions inevitable.
Tout ce qui est bon
While the 28-year-old former student is being remembered as “good at school, good at art, and good at illustrating” by Byron Edwards, former vice president of the Nossi College of Art & Design, his most haunting memory is his last. “She seemed like a really good person.” Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard explains;
A word of uncertain etymology, the word good can be traced to Old Saxon gōd; Dutch goed; German gut; Old Norse gōthr; Gothic goths; Russian godnyi. Collectively, they describe goods, benefits, advantage, welfare, association and virtue.
To that end, the 2023 French Pension Reform Bill has triggered “association” it seems in France. Opposition to increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old has yielded violence, property damage, vandalism, barricades, rioting, garbage pile up, looting and death in the streets of Paris since January 19, 2023. Acts of civil disobedience are orchestrated to cancel the pension reform of the Bourne government.
France's pension system is built on a "pay-as-you-go structure,” both workers and employers are assessed mandatory payroll taxes that are used to fund retiree pensions. At 62, the government issues a guaranteed pension, effectively replacing prior earnings, which results in 14% of France’s economic output. However the system is in an increasingly precarious state.
In 2000, there were 2.1 workers paying into the system for every one retiree. In 2020, that ratio had fallen to 1.7, and in 2070 it is expected to drop to 1.2, according to official projections. In response to rising life expectancy, labor will need to work 2 years longer.
In March, the government used Article 49.3 of the constitution to force the bill through the French Parliament, bypassing a vote and sparking mass protests. 13,000 officers were deployed to the French capital to marshal some 740,000 people on Tuesday. They made 27 arrests including “Valerie” for describing President Emmanuel Macron as 'filth' in a Facebook post. “Valerie” will be fined €12,000 euros if convicted, and "Valerie" is scheduled to stand trial in June.
Das ist alles gut
The 2023 Germany strike is another nationwide labor related political demonstration occurring on the continent. In March 2023, strikes were organized by Ver.di and EVG, two major transport unions in Berlin, who demanded a 10.5% pay increase for their members to offset rising food and energy costs. The strike is one of the largest to affect Germany in decades and is impacting airports, public transport, and the country's largest seaport. Railroad services, as well as early morning regional and commuter rail services, are suspended throughout the country.
The strike, involving over 400,000 transport workers, aims to warn the government and employers about the potential consequences of failing to negotiate salary increases that would keep pace with inflation. The unions argue a strike both “benefit” and offer a decisive “advantage” to employees by materializing the demand and its repercussions to the public. The strike caused significant disruption to travel and commerce in Germany, Europe's largest economy. After 24 hours strikes ended, negotiations between the unions and employers resumed.
כל זה טוב
Nearly a million people have gathered across Israel to oppose judicial reform. Changes to the judicial system and balance of power were proposed in January 2023; seeking to limit the Supreme Court's power to exercise judicial review.
If adopted, the reform would grant the Knesset power to override Supreme Court rulings by re-introducing the legislation and approving it with a majority. The reform diminishes the ability of courts to conduct judicial review of the Basic Laws by changing the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee. The government, rather than its elected ministers, will ultimately appoint judges.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that the reform is necessary because “the judiciary has too much control over public policy, a better balance is needed between democratically elected legislators and the judiciary.”
Netanyahu announced Monday that he would delay the proposed overhaul, suggesting that a compromise was needed to prevent “a civil war.” Some protesters, however, have pledged to keep up the pressure until the legislation is withdrawn.
Leap of Faith
It was Soren Kierkegaard who introduced the concept of a 'Leap of Faith' in Philosophical Fragments. According to Kierkegaard, faith doesn’t require reason, logic and rationality. It's to trust or believe despite the evidence. That leap, figuratively, to explore the unknown is responsible for the social, spiritual and scientific crusades in human existence.
The epochs of injustice and incomprehensible demoralization invoked by man again and again throughout the annuls of history have and continue to be met by faith. This intangible phenomenon was exercised by Suffragist's illegally casting their ballots to vote; Gandhi’s Salt March; White Only Sit-Ins; Straight Only Sip-Ins; Tree Sitters; Data Surveillance; Mormon Pioneers, and Boston Tea Parties. That same faith is being executed today in Paris, Munich and the Holy City.
Political demonstrations, given a place at the boundary of fidelity to law, can be characterized in many ways including legal protest, conscientious refusal, uncivil disobedience, militant protest, organized forcible resistance, and revolutionary action. Most are patriotic, whether by air on land or sea, yet all will fall on the right or wrong side of history.
Less than 20 minutes before The Covenant School massacre on Monday, Audrey Hale sent a message on Instagram to a former classmate. It began,
Something bad is about to happen. I’ve left more than enough evidence behind. One day this will make more sense.
Her final sentence, with chilling salvo, was also her last. "It's all good."