From Adbusters – Stéphane Hessel, writer, resistance fighter, co-author of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and inspiration behind Occupy movement, dies at 95. As the French president, François Hollande, said of Hessel, he was “a huge figure whose exceptional life was devoted to the defence of human dignity”.”It was in pursuit of his values that he engaged in the resistance,” he added, concluding: “He leaves us a lesson, which is to never accept any injustice.” In honoring his legacy, and lesson, we are re-publishing this piece on Stéphane Hessel’s work, below.
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Last year I came across a small booklet in my local book store. At just 37 pages long, I purchased the English translation of Indignez-vous (Time for outrage) by Stephane Hessel. It didn’t take me long to read it but the impact lasted a lot longer than the 37 pages.
A year after buying a copy Indignez-vous, France voted Sarkozy out of office and opted for a socialist direction in the form of François Hollande. On election night I went back to that little but fierce booklet and read it again as the results came in on TV.
Stephane Hessel is a 94 year old resistance veteran. He wrote his essay in order to resurrect the resistance sprit of modern youth not only in France but across Europe. In the French presidential election the majority of French youth backed a socialist candidate and perhaps this is a sign that the resistance sprit has indeed emerged once again in France. While Occupy movements sprung up across the world in 2011 and the Arab spring brought democracy to some parts of the Middle East, the sobering fact is that a resistance society did not become a reality in 2011 but on a warm night in May 2012 when France gave the left something to hope for.
The result in the French presidential election was watched carefully from Ireland. The harsh austerity measures imposed on the Irish have been part of the bail out conditions when Ireland applied for financial aid. Sarkozy had been viewed in Ireland not as a friend but as an agitator of the stern economic conditions imposed on the nation. Reading Indez-vous once again on the night of the French election results while sitting in front of my TV at home in Ireland, several sentences in the booklet sprung out at me:
“Social rights are under attack,” Hessel wrote and how right he was. Across Europe social rights are ebbing away to make way for austerity changes. “The power of money which the resistance fought so hard against has never been as great and selfish and shameless as it is now.” Hessel paints a picture how capitalism has become an ultra-modern dangerous machine, one which drove Ireland into the arms of the IMF. The resistance veteran tells the youth to “take over, keep going, get angry!” The youth did get angry and they showed it with their votes they cast on May 6th. Hessel informs us that “with outrage comes political involvement” and he also goes on to say: “to the young, I say, look around you and you will find things that vindicate your outrage.” Hessel speaks as a voice from a generation which stood up against what was wrong and fought for what was right. Concluding his brief yet impactful booklet, he writes: “to you who will create the 21st century we say with affection, to create is to resist, to resist is to create.” More…