As some of you may know, I’ve spent a lot of time in rural France this year. Since my mother died, I’ve been over every month to deal with my father’s affairs. In this role, I’ve had a lot of conversations with workers and professionals in one little corner of the country.
Here are some reasons why a lot of French people in the regions feel embattled.
Essentially, the tax system penalises you for being self-employed or running a small business. This latter forces people to keep their businesses as one-person enterprises, even when that means working an 80 or 90 hour week, or to flip-flop in and out of unemployment in order to maintain benefits, or to go on to the vast black market, and hope no one shops them. These are some of the reasons behind the high unemployment rate outside the big cities. Nor have wages for ordinary people kept up with inflation. Just as in Britain, France has a huge number of “working poor”.
On top of that, towns outside Paris are dying. In a familiar story across the West, globalisation has dealt a body blow to many industries — especially important French staples such as textiles and fashion.
Then there’s more, in our local town, Carcassonne — a major tourist magnet — about a third of the shops have closed in the past five years. So the town centre, which used to be a busy shopping destination for the local region is semi-boarded up. Americans will be familiar with this “donut” effect, when out-of-town shopping malls hollow out a city. It’s terribly depressing.
Certain regions may be thriving, but this has not reached into the whole country at all. These problems have been rumbling on for years, and in fact were one of the reasons Macron got elected in the first place.
To top this off, in rural France, if you don’t have a car, you’re stuck. There’s no bus service at all in the countryside in Aude, for example. If the price of fuel goes up, you are directly taxed whether you’re rich or poor. When President Macron created this fuel tax, he was attacking something essential for people living in the country.
Just to put a number on that. The price of diesel — used by a lot of people — had already gone up by 23% this year. If you’re only just getting by already, this could tip you over the financial cliff.
No, he is not popular where I go and has not been since about six months into his presidency. Here’s what they say down in Languedoc: “He’s not for the rich; he’s for the very rich.”
These are some of the exact same problems that led to the vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Those left behind by globalisation are frightened and angry — and they have been ignored by the politicians in power for decades. In France this has been exacerbated by people literally being massacred on the street.
The Islamist threat is a daily reality — not all the incidents reach the world media. For example, this year there have been at least two violent Islamist attacks in Carcassonne, including a siege — and it’s not a big place. Bloody murders in Paris, Nice, Toulouse and elsewhere have scared people.
The French responded to all this anxiety and uncertainty, initially, by electing Macron last year — a man who was not a member of any of the big political parties, but created a party of his own. Like Trump, he seemed to be a “third way”.
Unfortunately, he suffers from that Sagittarian shadow quality, arrogance, and as far as the ordinary punter can tell, he’s a paid-up member of the “global elite”. For the French, it’s like having to watch Richie Rich tell them how to run their lives. It’s obvious he has absolutely no idea, they mutter. Last summer he told a striking factory worker that he could wear a suit too if he just stopped skiving. Macron, it turned out, was wearing a suit that cost €1700, about a three-weeks salary for the working poor.
During the long, hot summer, there was a feeling of unease, of being in a strange dream, of waiting for something to happen.
So the Gilets Jaunes protest came as zero surprise to me — except insofar as it turns out that the experience of one small corner of France is reflected across the whole hexagon. The French have a great tradition, dating back the 1789, of taking to the barricades when they are pissed off.
BUT, on the other hand, the ferocity of the protests is shocking. And the attacks on what the French would consider “patrimoine“, cultural icons that belong collectively to all citizens of the Republic, are actually bizarre. These are acts of self-harm in a country where citizens have a real, felt, stake in what they collectively own — the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Mont Blanc, Alain Delon, the woods and water and pilgrim paths of the beautiful land. It’s very troubling — because it suggests that for some, that collective sense of ownership is broken.
What on earth is going on? We should ask ourselves who exactly is whipping up a situation that was ripe for whipping up… And where does this self-hatred come from?
There are many charts for France, but the one I find plugs right into the psyche of the country is for the First Republic — and you will see how active this chart is today.
• Transiting Jupiter, the planet of expansion approaches the ASC in hot, rebellious Sagittarius.
• Today’s New Moon is actually on the French national Moon. The Sagittarian Moon is a perfect expression of the French people: philosophical, intellectual, outward looking, diverse, lovers of the outdoors & sports. Who’s more Sagittarian than Asterix the Gaul — a traveller, a boar hunter, a boozer, a compadre, a fighter, a word-wrangler?
• But, hey ho, quest-ce-que c’est? That New Moon is being squared by a crazed conjunction of Mars, the planet of action and aggression, and Neptune, the planet of illusion, in the third house of gossip, slander, news and information. One can’t help but wonder what’s happening on French Facebook. The French spy agency found interference from Russia during the elections… and as we know these days, there are many forces ready to stir the pot of intrigue, paranoia and lies.
• Revolutionary Uranus is back in Aries for his final fling. Remember when he went into Aries and the Arab Spring burst forth? Yet again we have a mass movement with seemingly no leader. (Although Marine Le Pen waits in the wings.) Headlessness seems to be a Uranus in Aries thing. Those of you who are close readers of the Oxford Astrologer will know that I compared the Arab Spring to the European revolutions of 1848 at the time. These also went nowhere, but actually sowed the seeds of change that came much later.
Transiting Uranus opposes the French Neptune in Libra, those dreams of equality and fairness. It’s also in a configuration with the Nodes, exactly half way between the Dragon’s Head and the Dragon’s Tail. This is a turning point in the journey of Uranus as he wends his way through the Zodiac. These demonstrations — and how they are handled — could have an effect well outside the borders of France.
Uranus was agitating that natal Saturn in the summer, disrupting the country’s sense of stability, and triggering that opposition with Jupiter in Scorpio. In fact, the opposition between Jupiter and Saturn across those fixed signs keeps the country on an even keel.
During the event of May 1968, revolutionary Uranus was on France’s North Node in Virgo.
So why the attack on the patrimony — on the beauty? One of the most shocking images of the past few days is the smashed face of Marianne, inside the Arc de Triomphe. It recalled in an instant, the destruction of Palmyra by Isis, the Buddhas of Bamiyan destroyed by the Taliban.
Marianne in her red cap has been a symbol of France herself since the revolution — a symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity. The smashed statue showed Marianne shouting in revolutionary fervour, maybe storming the Bastille. Her broken face recalled the faces of the rioters themselves.
Again, there’s the image of self-hatred. This is us, and we break our own face.
This mirroring is Neptunian — and it’s no coincidence that Mars and Neptune are conjunct in Pisces. Violence has fallen into the mirror, shards scatter, breaking the hearts and minds of bystanders. Neptune is also a symbol of art, beauty, magic — the higher octave of that aspect of Venus. And look how France’s Neptune is on the bendings of the transiting Nodes and opposed by that disruptive Uranus.
The religion of France is rationalism — Neptune in Libra (a sign of beauty, symmetry, balance, civilisation) — and that rationalism is directly under attack from the Awakener. The Big Joker is laughing in the face of France’s great beauty, the country’s myth of itself as the most civilised country in the world.
But there’s more. President Macron has reached a personal turning point. The South Node is exactly on his Ascendant. The Dragon’s Tail — karma — has come, and, as we know, it is square the planet of revolution, Uranus.
Interestingly, during these riots, Mercury has been retrograding across the top of his chart, and yesterday it turned direct. His status has been readjusted, not just at home but abroad.
Some might say that Macron made an early mistake when he compared himself to Jupiter. Clearly, he did not read his Greek myths with enough attention, because that’s the kind of statement that really irritates the king of Olympus. There’s a word for it: hubris.
He also believes himself to be a master of symbols, but his astrological advisor should have pointed out that Jupiter is, in fact, in opposition to him in his natal chart, and retrograde. Although he is wildly Sagittarian, Jupiter is not the master of his chart. In fact, perhaps, if there were a planet that he needed to conjure symbolically, it would be Saturn, chart ruler, well placed in the seventh house, supporting his Sun (perhaps partly represented by his much older partner). Indeed, Saturn’s transit through Sagittarius was extremely helpful to Macron, propelling him to the presidency.
But that’s hard to do when your thing is your youthful zest. Macron’s always played the boy wonder. He has too much Jupiter energy already. He needs to cool it down.
Note how Macron’s Neptune is on France’s Moon — and both are one degree from today’s New Moon. The relationship between President and people needs to be reset, right now. Macron needs to stop lecturing people and start listening. He needs to stop spending so much time on France’s place in the world, and start making decisions that help his fellow citizens live with dignity.
Jupiter’s transit through Sagittarius is certainly going to be interesting for both Macron and the people of France, and it could be an opportunity. By the end of January, Jupiter will be in mid-Sagittarius, blowing up that Neptune-Moon conjunction.
More posts on France.