In a stunning rout, French President Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority Sunday to the resurgent right and ascendent left.
In French, they call it, “étonnement,”- it means, “a sudden wrenching self-beholding.”
There are other words for it: Enlightenment, epiphany, satori. Lots of world languages have felt the need to vocalize the concept. Hence, there are many words dedicated to communicating it.
Most major religions and famous philosophers have had a word for it, too; a way of describing one of the central experiences of a human life.
Fans of Oprah know it as an, “Ah-ha Moment.” Writers like Eckhart Tolle describe it happening in a single, blinding flash; a thunderclap instant of sea-change akin to a mountain falling into the sea.
Plato might have called it, “Leaving the Cave.” Schrödinger might have expressed it as, “Opening the Box.”
Taoists might call it the Tao, since the nature of the Tao is returning; beholding a familiar thing and truly seeing it for the first time, new. But, “the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao,” as it says in the very first lines of the Tao Te Ching, so perhaps not.
Tibetan Zen Buddhists like the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche might have even called it, “Dharma,” as in, “The body of teachings that opens the student’s mind to the nature of reality as it actually is.”
This definition of Dharma, which is only one of many, is interesting because of what it conspicuously leaves out, as much as for what is says.
It doesn’t say, “the religious text,” or, “approved course of spiritual study,” that opens the student’s mind: It specifically uses the intentionally vague, “body of teachings,” which could mean almost anything, and frequently does.
Sources of true enlightenment- vehicles by which immutable truth reaches our deepest, inner knowing- are often not found in libraries or classrooms at all. It is frequently our experiences, more than anything else, which are the means by which we are disabused of our mistaken notions about reality and the world as we know it.
We, “see the light.” We, “see now through a glass darkly but someday will see clearly,” when the, “scales are removed from our eyes.” We, “get wise,” “wake up.” There comes a moment of stark realization, a clarion call of truth so piercing as to penetrate our malaise and technofog, and we reach one of those before and after moments of our lives that are either so wonderful or so terrible as to alter things permanently with a bright dividing line between past and future.
Before and after the dear children were born; before and after the economic crash of 2008. Before and after the accident; before and after rebuilding schools and homes in Haiti after an earthquake. Before and after landing that dream job. Before and after losing it.
For French President Emmanuel Macron, his moment of étonnement, of surprise and eye-opening self-beholding may have come yesterday: Before and after his political party was wiped-out in the elections of 2022.
“Macron loses absolute majority as far right makes historic breakthrough and left surges,” reported the French news outlet, Le Monde, late yesterday, adding; “According to initial results, the French president’s coalition Ensemble! is set to win only 234 seats after Sunday’s legislative elections, compared to the 346 it currently held.”
The projected total of 234 seats, in addition to representing a loss of over 100 seats for Macron’s Ensemble! Party, is well short of the 289 seats he would need for even a simple majority.
“The expected number of seats for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (90) amounts to a historic breakthrough,” according to La Monde. “Only once under the Fifth Republic had the far right passed the threshold to form a group in the Assemblée (15 MPs), which allows for certain parliamentary resources and perogatives.”
Prior to this election, Le Pen’s party held only 6 seats.
“For the NUPES, the united left under Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the estimated seat numbers (141) show a strong progression from five years ago,” Le Monde added. “The entire left held 67 seats in the outgoing legislature, with the Greens, in particular, having too few MPs to form their own group.”
“Macron faces 5 years of gridlock after stunning parliamentary defeat,” blared Politico yesterday evening, breaking the bad news to nervous election watchers on three continents. “French President will have to battle for his promised reforms after far-left and far-right rivals log historic gains.”
Oddly, Macron was elected to a second term with 59% of the vote only two months ago. What changed?
It is possible that French voters are reacting to surging inflation in France. In April, inflation in France hit its highest point since 1985; 4.8%. The rate rose to 5.2% in May, as economists had predicted it would.
The inflation plaguing many nations in the wake of COVID19 doesn’t look likely to ease anytime soon. Nor does the public show much interest in attempts to explain away the sticky problem.
Financially struggling households don’t care that even, “America’s Most Important Economic Storyteller is Confused,” about inflation; they don’t care to hear a bedtime story about inflation unless it has a happy ending.
Working-class Americans don’t believe that, “The Fed’s war on inflation is also a battle for the minds of consumers,” or that, “There’s a right way and a wrong way to think about inflation.”
Washington Monthly’s, “Note to Reporters: Americans Are Better Off Even After Inflation,” might make quite an impression on journalists covering the economy. This sentiment does not impress average Americans struggling to get by, who are coping with new expenses that have been, according to CBS, “impossible to prepare for.”
The Rising Cost of Everything is nothing more nor less than the biggest problem some economically-disadvantaged people have ever faced- in their entire lives. Not everyone remembers the Savings & Loan fiasco of the 1980s. Not everyone even remembers big bank bailouts or Lehman Brothers, either.
Worse, some of the coming solutions are going to make things even harder for the working class and people struggling to pay their bills.
“The Federal Reserve says its remedies for inflation ‘will cause pain’, but to whom?” asked Clara E. Mattei for the Guardian on June 18, before giving the answer we all know in our bones to be true: “Easing inflation will disproportionately harm working-class people.”
Increasing the cost of borrowing money might slow down inflation but it will also increase financial pressure on paycheck-to-paycheck households who have already been forced to use credit to make ends meet amid soaring prices on essentials.
Inflation is walloping working-class people of all ages and backgrounds.
People who rent: “Rents across U.S. rise above $2,000 a month for the first time ever,” reported NPR on June 9. People who drive or buy things: “As Gas Prices Near $5 a Gallon, Record Fuel Costs Upend Businesses, U.S. Economy,” gloomed the Wall Street Journal on June 10. Seniors: “Three painful ways in which inflation is ravaging seniors’ retirement income,” reported USA Today in April. People who eat: “Sorry shoppers, food prices are likely to keep rising. Here’s why,” according to CBS on April 22.
If things in France are anywhere near this bad, President Macron and his party are going to need a plan to ease the financial pain of the working-class. And soon.
Otherwise, Macron’s political party, Ensemble!, might have to confront the realities of another apt French word: Dégringolade- a rapid decline or deterioration (as in strength, position, or condition), downfall.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)