France's Wage Crisis

The Growing Unrest Surrounding France's Wage Crisis Is Eerily Reminiscent Of What We Are Facing In The U.S.

An uprising that has left four dead.

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These past few weekends have seen a tumultuous period in France's socioeconomic history, as protests erupted on the streets of Paris in response to a rise in fuel taxes. While that tax has since been rescinded and major reformations in economic policy have eliminated the original notions of taxing low-income pensioners and overtime pay, the movement against President Emmanuel Macron's government has transcended across the working and middle classes as an outcry against the increased costs of living in France — a clear clarion call of dissent that stands against the ideals that were promised by the recently-minted government.

President Macron was elected in 2017 to lead France on a campaign that was dedicated to helping establish much-needed economic reform and stability to lower class citizens in addition to an essential restoration of villages and neighborhoods with diminishing public services. Instead, his policies would have cut minimum income by approximately 20% and would also have caused an even more poignant division in the wage gap between the rich and poor.

The streets of Paris have seen considerable upticks in violent protests as groups of "yellow vest protestors" have demonstrated against the oppressive policies suggested by President Macron — an uprising that has left four dead. Approximately 1,000 people have been detained and hundreds injured as these dissenters clashed with the 90,000 officers deployed nationwide in response.

Six top-tier French football league matches were postponed as a result of the unrest, and national sites such as the Louvre were closed down in an effort to contain the situation. Despite the havoc wreaked by the protests, there is still widespread support for the movement, as evidenced by a poll held by French newspaper "Le Figaro" showing that 78% of respondents believe that the protestors are fighting in the best interests of the French Republic.

The proliferation of the Yellow Vest Movement through social media such as Facebook has led to its rapid dissemination amongst the general population, fueling anger against the Macron Administration for a perceived tyrannical rise in the cost of living.

While the protests have died down in intensity since their initial violent inception, there is still an undercurrent of caution surrounding the citizenry and the government, as Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a continuous police presence across various regions of France (complete with armored vehicles) and popular tourist destinations such as the Eiffel Tower have remained shut down.

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5 Major Issues Facing The United States Today

And why they are so important
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The Land of the Free. The Home of the Brave.

The U.S. is a country that I have always felt lucky to grow up in. We have the strongest passport in the world, best air-traffic control, a powerful influence in international relations, and a stable-ish governmental system. We haven't had violent governmental upheavals lead by dictators (though we could argue we have a fear-mongering president at the moment). As a white, American, middle-class woman, I can't say that I haven't experienced the comforts and privileges of being an American, and I have been grateful for some of them. It's impossible to ignore the shady stuff that the United States government has done though, including displacing an entire indigenous nation in order to take their land and capitalize on its resources.

When we celebrate patriotism in the United States, we sing our national anthem proudly and cheer that we are living in a "free country." There are five particular areas where, compared to other countries, the United States could be doing a lot better. Love for one's country has to be more than a paltry sense of nationalism or a spirit of competition against other nations. It has to be a willingness to admit the faults of the country you live in and fight for not only the rights of you and your family, but for the rights of all inhabitants of the United States.

Here are only five of the many issues I think the government needs to address to move in the right direction, since it feels like we've been moving backwards since November 2016.

1. First off, the quality of education in America varies widely depending on the location of a school and its financial resources.

According to The Atlantic, one in four American students don't meet the base-level of math competency as observed in PISA surveys where global education is reviewed. The U.S. ranks 26th out of the 34 surveyed countries in mathematics scores. The Socio-economic status of the students and schools surveyed has a lot to do with this low score. Additionally, there is not a clear set of curriculum besides for Math, Sciences, Reading, and Writing courses (as well as gym classes), that seem to be required. Private schools can adjust this curriculum how they see fit. Some schools can't afford to train their teachers to teach AP classes or hire enough faculty to actually benefit their students. Once again it seems like the more money you have, the better education you'll get for your kids. Students in inner city schools are more likely to be educationally disadvantaged compared to those that live in wealthier suburbs.

2. Parental Leave

The U.S. is still one of the only industrialized countries that does not have paid leave for the parents of newborns. Less than 2o percent of employers in America offer fully paid maternity leave. My parents were lucky that my grandmother lived ten minutes away so that I never had to go to an infant day care or anything of the kind as a toddler. Most families go into debt when one of the parents has to quit their job or pay for nannies and day care because they can't earn a salary when they decide to stay home for their children. Countries like Russia, the Netherlands, France, and Spain offer 100 percent pay to their workers and over 100 days of parental leave. The US, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea are the only countries that do not require parents to take a paid leave. Apparently raising families in America is only practical if you're wealthy.

3. Climate Change

With this week's headliner being Trump's pulling out of the Paris Accords, the U.S. is in a climate crisis. The first major anti-environmental awareness move that Trump made was to appoint Scott Pruitt, a known skeptic of climate change, to the head of the EPA. Pruitt believes that putting the federal government in charge of addressing climate change is a mistake, and this moronic thinking is only reinforced by Trump's promises to increase fossil fuel productions in the U.S. in order to make the world better for the American people. Now that he's pulled out of the Paris Accords, an agreement between countries to lower their emissions, Trump is making certain that the U.S. won't have to play by the rules, and this will undoubtedly cause irreperable damage to the environment, and to foreign relations.

3. Mental Health Awareness

This issue is less talked about on the political level in the U.S. We live in a country that is largely dominated by Western, Christian thought, and in more superstitious, less-educated communities, mental illness is no more than a sign of evil in the world with no cure. Many teenagers reach a breaking point when they go away to college, and suddenly realize that they suffer from extreme anxiety, depression, OCD, and other disorders, which can all be easily hidden when they are high-functioning disorders. Sadly, states have cut back funding for mental healthcare by $5 billion between 2009 and 2012. Mental healthcare is the hardest medical service to get access to in the United States, and almost 90 million Americans live in areas where there is a shortage of mental healthcare professionals.



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My Heart Was Broken On Philippine Election Day

Don't ask me to move on just yet.

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I woke up to the unofficial, partial results of the midterm elections.

Quite predictably, the wife of Philippines' wealthiest topped the senatorial ladder. As my eyes slowly checked who completed the magic 12, tears started to appear out of nowhere.

Waves of emotions kicked in and swiftly bombarded me. I was left appalled, dejected, and miserably confused.

I felt defenseless.

My beloved nation has spoken and decided to resort to personality politics. The clodhopping charisma of action stars like Lapid and Revilla garnered more votes than the legal competence of Diokno and Hilbay. The strong machinery of the Cayetano and Angara political dynasties triumphed over the modest, but determined Colmenares and Macalintal. Not to mention, Bato and Go's mere proximity to the president placed them in the top five, quickly dismissing the daring spirit of Marawi City's Gutoc.

During the campaign period, citizens witnessed candidates who claimed to always care, but were front runners in promoting abuse of power and violence. Candidates who chose to dance their way through the stage instead of joining debates. Candidates who blatantly bought votes, rather than woo citizens with their credentials and platforms.

But why did they still win?

This might be the question of many.

This year's turnout is at its highest. Yes, voters were mobilized, but were they given enough framework to practice their suffrage strategically? The bulk of this year's votes came from class D, most popularly known as the masa. They encompassed 78 percent. Meanwhile, class E occupied 16 percent. Generally, these classes have a higher tendency to fall under the trap of gimmicks and entertainment, which the opposition clearly didn't provide. The remaining 6 percent were from classes ABC.

To be quite honest, I might have been too invested in this year's midterm elections; way more than ever before. But how can I not be when my nation's at war with itself? This time around, we actually had capable senatorial candidates who were worthy of the positions, but were still denied the chance. They didn't have enough financial backing and only volunteers and social media supporters kept their campaigns going.

My fellow men are continuously being blinded due to history's reinforcement. There is this deeply-rooted belief in the superiority that claimed dominance over others — creating an even wider disparity between the rich and the poor.

It is so easy and convenient to put the blame on the voters; to think that it was in their control. We seem to downplay that the crack is at the foundation. The existing systems that we trust, which supposedly build bridges, are in reality the ones burning bridges.

Amidst it all, even with self-preserved lapdogs dominating our government, I can't help but cling on to hope.

Hope comes in the form of the youthful Vico Sotto who ended the 27-year reign of the notorious Eusebio clan. In the form of Magdaleno Marcellones, Jr., a security guard who bravely went against the presidential daughter for the mayoral race in Davao City. In the form of everyone who voted and who will choose to vote again.

May these little beams of hope shed light into a better future, no matter how difficult.

Greater things await you, Philippines.

But you have to fight for it.

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