Video of angry Air France employees, perhaps as many as 3000, getting rowdy outside of the company headquarters to the point that two executives had their clothes nearly ripped from their bodies were popular on cable news and around the Internet on Monday. Nobody appeared to be seriously hurt, and news reports made no mention of anyone requiring medical treatment. Tailoring, on the other hand, appears to be necessary for some of those involved.
I wish we saw more of this in the U.S. I really do. I have no desire to see anyone injured. I do, however, have a strong desire to see people react to the slow dismantling of their middle class existence with human emotions – anger, maybe – that are perfectly natural under the circumstances. I'd like it if people didn't take everything done to them in the name of quarterly earnings lying down, or like dead-eyed cattle following the ass in front of them into the slaughterhouse. I think it would be nice if the people who make these decisions had to pause, even for just a moment, to wonder if they're going to be mauled by a crowd of people they've just decided to fuck, and thereby decide to be maybe just a bit less draconian in their decision-making as a result.
It's not that rowdy behavior like this accomplishes anything substantive; it's that this is how this is supposed to work. People should get mad when they get screwed. They should get mad at the people who screwed them, especially if it was done to increase their already substantial compensation even further. This is what bothers me about American labor. Everyone from the unions to the media to the workforce itself approaches these economic upheavals with listless resignation. "Well, we did the best we could" counts as fiery labor rhetoric now. It's probably your fault, the rest of society says to the newly unemployed. The laid off have been convinced that they're powerless – and they're not wrong now – and whatever anger they have is re-routed by the media and their social betters. They get mad, but they get mad at the Mexicans or affirmative action or liberals or "banks" (read: Jews) or ivory tower academics. Even worse, their emotions are redirected toward things that explicitly have nothing at all to do with their situation or economics (Kim Davis, someone a-comin' for their guns, unisex bathrooms at a college they can neither afford nor get into, War on Christmas). They just know that their mad, and like any angry person they look for something to be angry toward. Leading them there isn't rocket science.
In other countries there are still competing messages. They have the same Murdoch journalists telling them to be angry at immigrants or the gays or Big Government. But they also have union leaders and other figures in their lives telling them that The Company is screwing them and The Boss is not their friend but rather someone who will fleece them at every opportunity for no reason more nefarious than that is exactly how this system works. Call me a crackpot or a sadist, but I think our nation and our economic system would be a lot healthier if the CEO class endured the occasional smashed windshield. That is preferable, at least to me, to a reality in which the working class of this country hero-worship the same group of people who are forever kicking the rungs out of their economic ladder.