In 1715, more than 50 years before America was founded, the French people were already caught up in drama surrounding their political leaders. In that year, after the death of Louis XIV, an age of revolutionary ideas and philosophies ignited.
During the next century, against the classical teachings of the ruling monarchs and religious institutions, France experienced The Enlightenment: a time where a generation of scholars enacted ideas based on reason, developing societies based on the still-standing of liberty, tolerance, fraternity, and progress. These philosophies radically impacted the social, political, and economic development of Europe, and were used as the cornerstones to envision a free and independent America.
302 years later, in a time where the horrors of the world seem closer to our lives, the French have yet again shown their commitment to their original foundation ideas. As the world sees President Macron ascend to the highest position of power in France, we’re left to wonder how the election of a former investment banker without the backing of any conventional party, was the only hope for standing up for these ideals.
The main reason why people were excited for Macron was his value as the only alternative to Marine Le Pen and her different vision of the world. From Le Pen’s perspective, a perspective shared by more leaders these days, France is a country weakened by diversity of people, ideas, ethnicity, and cultural background. They hold a belief that the cost of globalization (e.g. people who have lost their jobs through the spread of automatization) is not worth the progress that comes with it. Given the spread of terrorism, the increasing competition in all areas of business, the exceedingly higher levels of skills needed, and the sprawl of revolutionary ideas, it’s simple to understand how much fear is behind their viewpoint. Their opinions are not based out of a corner of hate, but out of an instinctive need for a sense of security and protection from the winds of change.
No one can argue that there aren’t very tangible reasons to be fearful. Everyday, we get reminded of the threats of cyber terrorism, global warming, nuclear proliferation, religious extremism, and global health scares. But, in an era with so much ambiguity and uncertainty, the belief that any one country or culture can protect themselves against all of these threats without cooperation from their neighbors is myopic. The inter-connectivity of our worlds reminds us of how much we all depend on each other.
While the protectionist narratives we see coming from America have been regurgitated by some in Europe, France has, again, shown us the alternative. This presidential election was inundated with calls of how France should protect themselves from the threats of the world by isolating them from everyone else. But, at the end, the principles of liberté, equalité, and fraternité were engulfed in a new slogan of “Better Together”. France elected to work together to fight fear, giving light to the world.