Paris is burning! - YASIN AKTAY

Paris is burning!

The protests that started in the suburbs of France and then spread to whole of the country which have now turned into a rebellion has entered its third week. The fact that Paris is under fire cannot be hidden anymore even though the most important thing that was reflected to the world during these past three weeks was the effort to conceal this rebellion and make it invisible.

Although it is more widescale and comprehensive than the Gezi events that occurred 5 years ago in Turkey, it is not in the news as much as Gezi events were. This alone is extremely interesting.

What is interesting? Is it the fact that the Gezi events have remained on the agenda of the world media for a long time even after it concluded and was always on the headlines, or is it the fact that the uprisings in France aren’t covered that much in the world media? Which one is normal?

With this, we once again remember that France has always been the country of demonstrations, protests, uprisings, and revolutions. If we take a look at history, we can see that this is all part of a historical tradition.

However, this last incident has many dimensions that are different than the previous ones. There is a movement, but it doesn’t have any message or leader, and it doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere. The uprising itself has become the purpose.

People from different factions of society joined the movement at the beginning which was initiated to protest fuel tax hikes. The “yellow vests,” who gained the support of 72 percent of the people and brought together the far right and the far left, has now turned into a popular uprising. But this is a movement that doesn’t have a leader, that doesn’t have a message except “inviting Macron to resign” and doesn’t have a political vision. They don’t have a slogan or a common target. The “yellow vest,” which has become their distinctive symbol, has already equally united almost the whole of the French population since it is compulsory to have them on all motor vehicles.

It is egalitarian because the motor vehicle doesn’t have to be cheap or expensive, and it doesn’t matter which ethnic or occupational group it belongs to. Everybody has that vest. It is this easy to initiate an uprising, it is as easy to go out and to take off the yellow vest. Thus, the uprising doesn’t have any class or ideology.

Macron criticized the protests very harshly in Argentina where he was attending the G20 summit, but there is no group which he can distinguish as the addressee. There is a mass that requires him to face the entire French population. Moreover, when they look for someone to address in order to listen to their demands and calm the masses, no one appears, no one could. Because there is no one who leads the movement. Moreover, the movement is now spreading beyond France to Belgium, Holland, and Germany. With the vandalism and the violence it takes with it, it sets every place it goes on fire. Why the anger, why the rage?

From whatever perspective you look at it from, it is a strange situation. In recent years, sociologists have been trying to differentiate the features of the movements that haven’t been seen in the previous years in the movements that express demands, both peacefully and violently, under the title of “new social movements”.

The old social movements were revolutionary movements that were trying to change the world totally in the direction of a utopia. We left socialist or nationalist independence movements far behind. The women’s movement, environmentalist movements, initiatives for better cities were considered among these movements.

The Arab spring has manifested a totally different process. People just took action for honor, bread, and freedom without considering big ideological aims. For a while, the spring perhaps gave hope for the actual spring movement, but what the counter-revolution process has been doing to the Arab peoples is just a cruel oppression.

I think, with Paris, we are going beyond the new social movements. This is a situation that requires us to revisit everything we know about sociology. Upon a preliminary inspection, one sees no reason for people whose demands are satisfied to attempt such an uprising.

Well, opposition, demonstration, and protests are OK, but what is the problem that things have come to the point of vandalism and a rebellion?

Or do we still think that to rebel one needs to have chains to cast off?

Was it not the first big disappointment of the Marxists that the expected revolts did not take place in those despotic societies, and that the societies which had all their needs satisfied were more prone to rebellion?

When it comes to mankind and society, as long as we think of them as the unilaterally “educated” and obedient subjects of our grand plans and utopias, they are going to continue squashing those expectations.

Let’s see where the waves of France 2018 uprisings will reach, what kind of a wind it will bring where, whose bubble it will burst and to whom it will give hope.


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