In October 2014, I published an article entitled “The 3 reasons why France became the most depressive country in the World, and why this is an opportunity for humanity.”
Among the causes that I had identified to explain the resignation of the French, the first that I put forward was the absence of collective challenges. To me, France illustrated how a society could become a prisoner of its fears, contradictions and pessimism.
When I wrote these lines two months ago, I vaguely hoped for an event that could take the country out of its torpor. But I never thought that fate would put France in the spotlight so tragically.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo acted as a revealer. In a situation that has been deteriorating imperceptibly, it suddenly made the French realize that they lived in a society where basic values were not shared anymore, where the pleasure of living together had become non-existent and where tensions have reached an almost insupportable threshold.
Now, facing this ordeal, the collective response has been remarkable: people united and lived a true communion around the three most fundamental values of the Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity.
“I’m Charlie” became a global symbol and revealed in contemporary France a burst of greatness that resonated with the great moments of its history, when it was still one of the great spiritual lights of humanity.
But if Charlie bombings released remarkable positive strengths, they also revealed an element of obscurity, with manifestations of hatred and violence which are probably just the beginning considering the amount of suffering and frustrations accumulated for decades.
In other words, France has become an extremely polarized country, and I have a feeling that future crisis will only reinforce this divide. Those responsible for the attacks are not strangers form far away that came to strike the country, but French people that turned into terrorism.
Strengthen security in the country will not heal the lack of common purpose and values in France, so it’s up to us to ensure that this surge of awareness created by the attacks will be the cornerstone for the construction of a new collective reality.
1. I am the Republic…
What struck me most after the attack is that many people seem to have rediscovered the importance of freedom of expression in our lives only then.
But was it really necessary that 17 people died for a society to federate around a value that should be natural in the consciousness of all?
To my opinion, this wavering comes from the fact that France has lived for decades in an artificial consensus. We have forgotten that the values that underpin a society find strength not because they are accepted without discussion, but precisely because they are debated so that every citizen can reclaim them.
From this point of view, it seems incredible that at a time when we need more than ever to create moments of national consultation, politicians eliminated the referendum from the democratic system, when it is the only form of direct consultation outside the voting. The last referendum in which participated France was in 2005 and it gave birth to the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 and the only thing it demonstrated is that leaders were no longer taking into account the opinion of the people.
It seems to me that we completely misuse the possibilities technology give us: instead of using the Internet to distract us or feed endless comments of the world, it would be high time to develop collaborative tools that allow us to consult, define common goals and work together to change things for real.
2. I am the media…
The other reality revealed by this event is the divorce between the mass media and the people.
Few countries have the chance to produce as many thinkers, inventors, artists, brilliant scientists as France. But they are extremely poorly represented. The French know the face of Cabu or Wolinski as they still were regulars of TV shows in the 80s, but it was not until their murder that they could appear again at a prime time…
The philosopher Gilles Deleuze had already analyzed the cause of this phenomenon in May 1977 in the journal Midnight: the more the media become stupid, the more they are deserted by talented people. Deleuze has prophesied that this would eventually lead to a time when the mainstream media, rather than serve as an incentive to society to evolve, would create a collective idiocracy by feeding people with content intented to maintain ignorance, fear and need for security.
The French media handed the country a dark mirror that flatters its worst instincts for too long. Deleuze concluded that it was necessary to storm the mediatic citadels to create openings. Journalists lack of imagination and always invite the same people who have, in his words, “the insolence of a servant or the sparkles of service clown.” Never mind! Let’s make some noise and demonstrate that there is another France: positive, creative, courageous and rich of its diversity…
I would complete Deleuze message by encouraging everyone to become more of a writer, a producer and a journalist. Again, new technologies give everyone the opportunity to find a space of autonomy: up to us to grasp it.
3. …and you can kiss my a** !
Obviously, it would be impossible to conclude an article about Charlie Hebdo without paying tribute to his spirit of revolt.
Charlie Hebdo artists have dedicated their lives to make fun of taboos, to burst abscesses and to assert the sovereignty of the individual against all authorities, whether political, social or religious.
We can criticize the coarseness of their provocations or make fun of their quixotic mindset, but it is a fact that we need more than ever to learn how to disobey.
Whether in the context of education, work or in public life, we are increasingly conditioned to be conformist, passive and not to ask awkward questions. The result: a society where people offer no resistance to manipulation.
The number is in no way a guarantee against it and it is not impossible to imagine that the 7 billion people of the planet eventually merge into a single, standardized, boring servile mass.
It seems to me it would be a betrayal to make victims of the attack of Charlie Hebdo a political symbols. The best way to honor them is to cultivate our sense of independence, humor and creativity. In short, make sure that “I am Charlie” becomes, taken by everyone, an act of resistance against anything that prevents us to speak freely and be true to ourselves.