Notre Dame and Yellow Vests – Weaponising the Soul

At certain moments of life, it is necessary to make choices. Choices that will define the future of our lives, both personally and collectively. These moments are rare. They often give vertigo. They can give birth to the best and the worst. Often, in these moments of potential change, for fear of the worst, the human being prefers the status quo. Those who benefit from the system have understood this and are playing the card of fear.

With the approach of the beautiful month of May, we are clearly in a sequence where our individual choices will definitively decide the outcome of a social movement unprecedented in its form and magnitude. The rendezvous of Saturday, April 20th, in Paris, as well as the call for convergence with the unions on April 27th, then the inevitable May 1st, followed by a May 4th convergence with climate struggles …. We know that the coming days will be decisive.

The powerful also know it, and fear it. And they will do everything to prevent citizens from choosing change. As such, the fire of Notre-Dame of Paris is particularly revealing. If their sadness is not to be questioned, the way in which political and economic power seized this drama reveals their barely veiled play: using sadness to contain popular anger. Many (beautiful) things have already been written on this subject. What is needed now is to put things in their place and that the emotional shock does not prevent citizens from seeing clearly in the situation.

Let’s say it plainly and simply: there is no connection between the accidental fire of Notre-Dame and the fight of the Yellow Vests, like how there was no connection in December with the terrible attack in Strasbourg. If it were necessary to find a link, it would be in the state of decay of buildings, both public and private, due to the slow but inexorable pauperisation of society, for the benefit of making some ultra-rich ever richer. Those who say that protesting a few days after this tragedy is indecent are extremely immoral. They use God and our humanity for private interests and very far from divine wills. Because your God, whoever he is, cannot accept that a billion euros is released in one night to rebuild one of his houses and that it is impossible to find some millions to feed the poorest who live a few meters from this cathedral. He cannot accept that we forbid the distribution of food to migrants, that we close the places of reception, that we gradually cut all the social aid for the poorest, that we let our elderly ones die in general indifference. And he will feel much closer to the protesters who have been fighting for months for a more just society.

Mr. Macron, Saturday, we will go down to the street, thousands, to voice our anger. We will do it the following Saturday, and on the 1st of May. And maybe even the days and nights between. And if this anger generates a broken shop window or a burned car, do not risk to slip in any reference to Notre Dame. To do so would be to defile the memory of this place as well as that of millions of believers, including Yellow Vests. This also applies to anyone trying to steer street anger using this drama.

Today, the choice to make is that of our humanity. Wanting to find humanist values, both preached by many sacred texts as well as by libertarian works [no relation to the Liberation movement in America – ed], is today to fight against the current system. The authorities are aware of it and will not let itself be destroyed without having tried everything.

If we give up in the days to come, it is not a “simple” battle that we lose. It is the hope of recovering our humanity. To no longer accept that a few thousand people will earn more than millions. Macron is the quintessence of what 21st century politics can be: a seemingly attractive marketing product, but an extreme contempt for others, especially those who have not “succeeded”. His way of dealing with the revolt of the Yellow Vests is like today’s capitalism: indecent, limitless, and sure of itself.

Each of us is faced with a simple choice in the equation but difficult in its implications: give up and leave the current authorities in place. This means that future social struggles will suffer the same fate as the last ones, that the fight will no longer be possible over major reforms, over changes of paradigms, but only over small branch and non-structuring measures. Or fight and cede nothing until the current system falls, literally. It means taking personal and collective risks, exposing oneself physically and juridically. To face also the reproaches of friends who have not yet realised that this is a desire to find one’s humanity; our collective humanity.

So we are at this moment of our lives where it is about taking our souls and using them as weapons against those who refuse to lose their privileges in order to offer a more dignified life to millions of people.

Abbot Pierre, born in 1912, was a priest, a resistance fighter, then a deputy who fought all his life to ensure that the poorest of the poor found decent living and housing conditions.

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