1789 and May 1968, two landmarks symbolizing some of the many aspects of the French nation; revolution, that is the word. The desire to go against the established order, to destroy anything existing so that a whole new system and order can be born again; here is one of the many characteristics of the French philosophy, and habits. As a French citizen it really seems that I have not been spared myself. Very early in life, I will develop this desire and ability to challenge any established idea or opinion whenever in a philosophical point of view; I could find defection and flaws in them. “Activist”, is the word often used, within the French society, to qualify the kind of person I am. Also, as it is put out on the CNRS website, it seems that France has moved from a biological form of racism in the 19th century to a new form of the same plague more based on culture, values and civilization, in the 21st century. There is no doubt that such phenomenon, leaves ethnic minorities in general with no other choice than fight, challenge or rebel against such system.
Unlike my “bobo” school mates in the 1990s, who would very often decided to go on strike or rebel against a system of which they were unconsciously the beneficiaries and the engine, the reason and expression of my discontent questioned and challenged a whole system not to say a civilization of which I felt myself the victim. Being a hard assimilating subject, who even refused to blend with other activists lest their blindness finally affected me, I also was to end up rebelling against those I considered the unconscious activists of the oppressive system; those who think they rebel against the system but ignore that in reality, their fight only protects and fuels the values of that same oppressive system.
It was in my late twenties and in my thirties that I was to make the acquaintance of activists I first and for the first time felt close to. The young men and girls from North and West African descents, I met not only spoke a language I could understand but they also, in their activism, dealt with issues I directly felt myself concerned with. Islamophobia,
Negrophobia, discrimination, integration, assimilation, multiculturalism, racism, and many other words ending in iationsm (ia, tion, sm) etc… were the main topics of our conversations.
For those who are unfamiliar with the life and experience of activists, let us put it this way. When integrated in an organization, the activist will very often find a new reason and meaning to his life. From passiveness and victimization he will move to reaction and confrontation. He then perceives the other members of the organization he belongs to, as brothers and sisters united in the common fight against the established order they have to eliminate. The activist partly relies on his “campagneros” and he is even very often totally dedicated to them.
When I first joined the few organizations I knew, it was a bit like being part of large families, and that was all what I needed at the time. This period of fight and struggle against the system was also a rich education process. But, as my Dad often says it: any good thing in life has a limit and an end. In the deprived districts and suburbs of Paris and its region, activism, just as Rock, Reggae, Funky and Hip Hop in their time, slowly became for the youngsters a new getaway from misery and uncertain future. And, just like many others before them had sold themselves for the sake of money and notoriety that would finally ruin their art, claim and originality; most activists I then regarded as brothers and sisters, progressively became eager for fame. And, as if history repeated itself once again, the most hard core activists progressively tuned their voices, and lined up to the official political discourses.
Also, because being an activist or referred to as one today in Paris somehow rhymes with trying to make a living out of a system one is fighting against, “Activism is dead and it is high time we reinvented new tools to change the deal” is my opinion and conclusion.