'No one is in charge here': How yellow vest protests spread, and why Macron's struggling to keep up

President Emmanuel Macron attends the "Great Debate" with mayors from rural Normandy on January 15, 2019.

Bourgtheroulde, France (CNN)I'm sure you've heard the old bromide attributed to Charles de Gaulle, who wondered how it was possible to govern a country like France, with its 246 different kinds of cheese.

These days, Emmanuel Macron is discovering the complexity de Gaulle was talking about as he confronts the myriad demands of his constituents in an effort to mollify the "gilets jaunes," or "yellow vest" movement.
He's calling it Le Grand Débat -- the Great Debate. A chance over the next two months for everyone in France to get their gripes off their chests.
    Shortly before Macron's visit to Normandy to launch Le Grand Débat, I received a lecture on "individualism" from a yellow-vested protester at a roundabout known colorfully as the Rond-Point des Vaches -- the Roundabout of Cows. (A side note: in France, "la vache!" is a mild curse, as well as a metaphor for obedient taxpayers who are constantly being pushed around and milked).
    "No one is in charge here," protester Olivier Bruneau, a 42-year-old factory worker, told me. "But everyone has a reason for joining in the movement." Welcome to Normandy.
    The Rond-Point des Vaches has been occupied continuously from the very beginning of the Yellow Vest movement by "individualists" huddled around burning piles of wooden transport pallets. Each has a slightly different set of reasons for being here.
    As Denis Lacorne, senior research fellow at the prestigious Sciences Po, told me, "The Yellow Vest protests create a kind of artificial, but real, solidarity among protesters. They're isolated in their rural settings and suddenly they meet people like them, make friends and have a good time."
    A car driver shows his yellow vest to cheer protesters as French President Emmanuel Macron visits Normandy on Tuesday.