The very nature of a revolution is to challenge the status quo. The abomination of the existing order and its further replacement with a more acceptable form is its aim. The entire nature of any revolutionary movement is determined by its objectives. Revolutions are not stirred for the sake of it. They have an underlying grievance and propose a bridge towards a desired result.
At least the effective ones.
When the French populace in 1789 etched its place in eternity, it was because of an inequitable organization of the social order. When Indian soldiers mutinied in 1857, it was against the severe religious and cultural persecution meted out by the British Empire. To not let my sentience command rationality, even in 2018, the strikes in France, represented the angst of the suppressed masses against certain unpopular reforms. From the rail strikes, where the affected population sought to disrupt daily travel schedules to mark their grievances to the students pouring out in huge numbers against the university reforms, it all made complete sense.
However, this motivating sense of purpose got a dire setback last evening.
First of all, you, the supposed harbingers of egalitarian thought and self-proclaimed keepers of individual liberty, seemed to be woken up from your collective amnesia regarding the injustices of the university reform once the campus in Paris was blockaded. Despite the radical action taken by the Parisian students, considering that it brought seven campuses throughout France to a standstill, it was a commendable one. We were soon to jump in the bandwagon in the form of a General Assembly. It was perhaps the innate knowledge of futility which allowed you to make peace with spending half the time of the assembly, discussing the appropriate mode of voting rather than the substantive agenda. As a firm believer in democratic debate and dissent, I along with a multitude of students looked forward to a better second leg. Given that the extremist movement in Paris had been given up, we were most definitely hopeful. We were in for a disappointment and it is the reasons for this disillusionment that I shall talk about in the course of this letter.
To begin with, let me lay extreme emphasis on the importance of discussion on the controversies surrounding police brutality and immigration. Thus, notwithstanding their complete estrangement from the initial issue for which the General Assembly was convened, I sought to give them pertinence. Seeing you pour in huge numbers and vote in such solidarity, honestly made me happy since I assumed that you, by the virtue of your political affiliation would understand the plight of the minorities and would represent them in a manner most beneficial for the concerned group. I presumed that you would represent the fight of the people against systemic injustices. I believed that you would discard petty objectives and would aim to raise your voice by all means necessary. I was wrong.
Realization hit me once I realized how out of touch some of your leaders were. While asking for a room for the purpose of political expression, all your supporters being rational and independent voters chose to be blinded by a sense of duty and joined in by pouring their votes for you. Even after rightly being pointed out by a committee member that the provision for such a room had been already made, a member meekly changed the demand to “a room of our choice.” If this doesn’t suffice as redundant and inconsequential arm twisting, certain definitions need revision.
While discussing the second agenda, I was impressed by the invigorating arguments made by some of your members. They showed a deep understanding of the issue and were willing to counter logically the rhetoric being thrown at them. I agreed with many of their arguments.
However, we were soon thrown into reality. We were made to realize that the issue at hand was not indeed the condemnation of the existing grievances against certain sections of the society. The issue that concerned you was definitely not utilizing the vast democratic strength you commanded to usher in a substantial difference to the existing order. The issue that concerned you was not using the forum to champion the causes of those who suffer direly from police brutality. The issue was that of a blockade. And honestly, that seemed to be the sole driving force of the entire fiasco.
So driven were you by this singular objective that you conveniently passed upon a chance to take the revolution where it belongs. When the opportunity presented to act in a more definitive manner and take the protest against police brutality to the concerned executive authority and demonstrate in front of Hôtel de ville, you were confounded, for supporting this claim would take away your whimsical fancy of blockading the campus and opposing it would be contrary to the entire value system that you represented. Perhaps your myopia got the better of you since the 70 blank sheets that you raised collectively drew an ugly caricature of your hypocrisy. In a breath, you treacherously traded the possibility of reaching out to a much larger section of the affected population with the walls of LS01. I am sad to say that if those whose claims that you supposedly fight for, were there to witness you, their heads would hang in shame. Mine did.
You are all intelligent individuals who are completely aware that a blockade which has the aim of bringing the authority to the negotiating table in this case would not be effective. You do not expect Mr. Turpin or Mr. Chopin to bear the onus of police brutality- something completely different and unrelated to their sphere of influence. You obviously do not wish to raise more awareness or aim to arm twist the authorities in Reims to come up with a constructive measure for the same because if it had been the case, you would have chosen to march to the town hall- a more crowded and hence effective public space, but you didn’t. Then, what is it that you ultimately aim to do? Do you aim to achieve something? I don’t think so.
Owing to your obvious dedication to the cause, a question particularly troubles me. Why were you not brave enough to take your cause to the streets? Is it that fear instilled you at the thought of leaving the comforts of the campus for the purpose of revolution? Did you realize that facing the authorities and attempting to bring about a change that actually touches the lives of people would be more difficult than blockading a campus? Did you not know already that you cannot fight the fight for systemic injustices from the confines of an air conditioned amphitheater? I am quite sure, you did.
I appreciate your resolve, for spitting in the face of authority and telling them that you will hijack their institution as they will be forced to stand back and watch (for the sake of democracy, of course) requires courage. However, your courage is misplaced and you know it. A generation has already been disillusioned by the evils of armchair revolutionaries. I, along with the future, hope that you don’t join their league.
Thank you for giving us a couple of free absences though, we owe you that much.
Featured picture: Sciences Po Paris, Blockade, by: AFP https://www.thelocal.fr/20180418/paris-french-students-blockade-sciences-po-university