Fashions, like children and revolutions, come from Paris. That is why it is not surprising that the yellow vest – the fluorescent garment that is mandatory to keep in cars to have on hand in case of mishap on the road – has become a revolutionary icon imitated everywhere. Since the revolt broke out in France in mid-November, this garment has been seen in protests in Belgium, the United Kingdom or Germany. Now it is the taxi drivers of Barcelona who adopt it as a combat pledge. It will work?
The power of the yellow waistcoat as a rebel flag-an ugly, loud, annoying yellow-resided at first in its ability to make invisible France visible. The vest is the ready-to-wear of France that gets up early. Of the small and medium cities. Which the 15 of each month begins to notice the puncture of the bill for diesel and the one that gets irritated when Paris decides to reduce the maximum speed on the roads of 90 to 80 kilometers per hour. Which feels a victim of globalization and its elites.
Taxi drivers who are besieged by Uber's irruption and other modes of shared transportation they can also argue, like the French yellow vests, that they are victims of globalization, of an unbridled capitalism that upsets the old order and the old protections. They are also a movement associated with the car, a space in which this new flag that is the safety vest is always at hand. Both – the protest of the yellow vests in France and that of the taxi drivers from Barcelona – express a mobility crisis of our time: who travels, how, where, for what price. And both have had a violent drift, deriving in which journalists have been a preferred target.
Here all resemblance ends. The revolt of taxi drivers is sectorial; the one of the yellow vests, is of class, and transversal. The one of the taxi drivers is urban. The one of the yellow vests, is rural and provincial. And, although both movements have degenerated into violence -No majority but real-, this is expressed in very different contexts. In France, a country with a revolutionary tradition and where it is still involved in a certain romantic aura, yellow vests have come to have 80% popular support and a broad social sense of understanding in the face of altercations. In Barcelona and Spain, it is more difficult to imagine that sectorial manifestations such as those of the taxi come to add so many sympathies and that violence marks the agenda of the Government as has happened in France.
Paris is not Barcelona, where, in addition, the vest is redundant: the same color of the taxi, yellow on yellow. Imported fashions, even French ones, have their limits.