I’m not generally a fan of violence nor specifically a fan of assault.
I cannot dredge up even the smallest bit of concern at the sight of an Air France executive chased over a fence by workers:
These workers are fighting for their jobs. They’re literally doing to the executives what the executives would—metaphorically—do to them.
I have no illusions that labor violence in the US would not be met by even greater police violence, nor that the citizenry would support the workers. Whatever our paeans to ‘plain-spoken hard-working salt-of-the-earth heartland’ types, what we Americans really respect is money.
If you have to work to get it, okay, fine, but if you’re out there doing what someone else can do (cheaper), shut up and get back to work.
There’s an incident recalled in Adam Gopnik’s essay “Trouble at the Tower” in which a tourist (British? American?) was prevented (roughly?) from getting off at the wrong platform by the elevator operator. She complained, he was fired, the rest of the tower workers went on strike until he was restored to his position.
Naturally, sympathy in France gathered quickly around the wronged operator and his striking friends, while sympathy in the Anglo-American side gathered around the roughed-up lady. . . [S]he was just trying to have a good time, we think. But he was only doing his job, they think.
Gopnik elaborates upon and, honestly, overplays the disjuncture between the customer/producer mentalities (just as I overplay the respect for money/work disjuncture), but I think he does get at something about cultural defaults: the French sympathy tends toward the worker, while the American does not.
In France, the storming of the offices of the jobs-cutting executives (or the blockade of roads by tractors) is not a horror, but a tactic. In the US, workers respond to cut jobs by reapplying for the same position at a lower wage.
And if corporations kill workers? Oh, well.
(Is it worth noting that the one of the few corporate executives who’s going to jail for killing people is doing so for killing customers, not workers? I think so, yes.)
There are plenty of us (in both countries) who would set the switch differently, but we’re straining against custom. What they (we) take as right we (they) can scarcely imagine here.
So to see what is possible—that fighting back is possible—well, if I’m not exactly thrilled by the assault, there is a certain grim satisfaction in that man’s ripped shirt.