Zigzag. Out with the old, in with the new. We’re not quite sure where we’re going. But we know what we want to leave: ‘flexible’ workplaces where people don’t matter; universities more like biological processes than forums for deliberation and debate; institutions that thrive by making others precarious, isolated, displaced and hungry. Without knowing the shape of what is to come, we are beginning to create it by forming movements informed by what we are moving away from: lack of deliberation and decision; increased isolation and precarity; displacement and lack of basic need.
The French Yellow Vests are an example of such a movement. Here’s what I learned at a recent neighborhood Yellow Vest assembly in Paris.
“Paris, today and tomorrow
WHY I WAS, AM AND WILL ALWAYS BE:
One is not born, but becomes, yellow vest!
Yes, one becomes yellow vest, not by intellectual demonstrations, philosophical gesticulations or ideological convictions…one becomes yellow vest because one lives life, because one is life; because one is at heart exchanges with the others, because for us the other not an object, but a person.
One is yellow vest because the words solidarity, empathy have a sense for all those who have been demonstrating for several months now.
What does being “yellow vest” mean to me?
Beyond a formal, structural, reflective response, such as the analyses they’ve hit us with now for so many years (media, “intellectuals,” “specialists”), the yellow vests, specifically the yellow vest that I am, see in this movement most simply the possibility of being; without knowing where this movement conducts us, we are there every Saturday in the capital and throughout France, and it is good, it is even very good.”
Those present were young and old, male and female. Some spoke of liberty, others of democracy. They spoke of neighborhood gentrification in which public institutions were threatened with becoming private spaces for the élite. They discussed the role of the police.
Some gave long speeches, some spoke very little. Some came with prepared remarks. Others were spontaneous. They voted on issues and made group decisions. The process itself hinted at what is to come.