Will French officials’ turtlenecks save the country from crisis?
Has anyone else noticed the number of Western officials who have gone out of their way lately to model for – or lecture to – their constituents on how to not be a selfish, irresponsible jerk amid various crises that these same officials had a role in promoting or exacerbating?
Here in France, as Paris Fashion Week was in full-swing last week, top French officials were modeling the new Fall/Winter 2022 Virtue-Signaling Collection. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire showed up indoors amid 20C weather in a turtleneck. “You will no longer see me wearing a tie, I’ll wear a turtleneck instead,” Le Maire said. “And I think that will be very good, it will allow us to save energy, to show proof of sobriety." If someone showed up at work in ski attire amid summertime weather claiming definitive proof of “sobriety” – energy-related or otherwise – it might be time for an intervention.
Not to be outdone, French President Emmanuel Macron subsequently donned a turtleneck for a public address. French Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne and Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher also showed up at yet another indoor event wearing down jackets.
Western leaders seem more focused on coercing and cajoling their citizens into austerity than on fixing what they’ve broken. The latter would require courage – specifically, opting out of what Brussels’ brand of self-harming “solidarity”.
This pattern of behavior didn’t even start with the current energy crisis. The blueprint is well-worn.
We’ve long become accustomed to climate-related browbeating. Here in Paris, the Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has been on a years-long crusade to purge any and all vehicles from the city by frustrating drivers with various traffic impediments and restrictions, including a 30km/h speed limit. The measures aren’t just frustrating for many but arguably pointless or even counterproductive.
Germany in particular took the zero-carbon concept to the extreme by attempting to pivot its entire industrial economy to green energy, which the French, nearly fatally, copied. The fact that France didn’t get around to fully decommissioning its nuclear reactors in the interests of the environment means that, unlike Germany, it hasn’t fully tossed overboard its only real lifeline amid the EU’s current auto-sanctioning of its gas supply from Russia.
All that green virtue-signaling was so totally pointless that the EU ultimately ended up backpedaling earlier this year and reclassifying gas and nuclear energy as green anyway. Yesterday’s polluter instantly became today’s environmental champion – not because they did anything differently, but because the EU snapped its fingers and proclaimed those previously labeled dirty polluters as green. They could easily do the same and stop choking off their own energy supply. But ideology always takes precedence. And that’s where these propagandistic virtue displays come in.
The same sort of pattern played out amid the Covid-19 crisis. Suddenly public officials were seen everywhere with a mask over their face, even if they were outside or alone in their office appearing strictly via video. Then came the procession of images showing the same Western officials getting the Covid jab. All of this imagery effectively replaced any meaningful debate over anti-Covid measure and those in charge stay on top of the narrative. Anyone who rolled their eyes cynically at their displays immediately marked themselves as someone who deserved to be shunned by the more “socially responsible”.
And now, amid the energy crisis caused by the chosen policies of our Western elites amid the conflict in Ukraine, we have the energy saving virtue-signalers.
“Everyone is asking, ‘What can I do?’,” said Margrethe Vestager, vice president of the European Commission, when addressing how Europeans can help reduce the bloc’s energy dependence on Russia. “Control your own and your teenager’s showers. And when you turn off the water, you say, ‘Take that, Putin!’” But that was back in April, before any serious talk of rationing, deindustrialization, business bankruptcies, and exploding household energy bills across Europe. And now, in an attempt to halt inflation caused by a multiplication of Western crisis mishandling from Covid to energy sanctions, Western governments are being warned by everyone from United Nations trade experts to the International Monetary Fund that their interest rate increase approach, spearheaded by the US Federal Reserve, risks plunging the world into a recession, if not a depression, as everyone except the most wealthy struggle to keep up with the cost of borrowing money for things – including daily essentials – that they are increasingly incapable of affording.
Even as Germany’s industrial powerhouses were wringing their hands over plant shutdowns, Economy Minister Robert Habeck was bragging about how he’d cut his shower time down – twice.
Various EU member states – including Spain, France, Greece, and Italy – have imposed indoor heating and cooling limits in the interests of saving a few extra molecules of gas. Like all these other crisis-related symbolic measures, the move mostly serves to convince citizens that they’re doing something productive by contributing to the fight against Russia/Covid/carbon while officials promoting them quietly drag everyone even deeper down a hole through their own mismanagement, incompetence, and ideological tunnel-vision – all while pointing at Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.