As a French citizen I have been abroad for 8 months now. First in England and now the Netherlands. This expat life gave a totally different point of view on politics for me. At home we blame our government for the problems that we have, unemployment, poverty, unsafety…Our political leaders are doing it wrong!
But once, you cross borders and discover different cultures, meet people with different backgrounds and origins, you suddenly realize that these problems are not reserved to your country but are the same everywhere. And everybody is doing the same, blaming their governments… But what if it is not our national government that we should blame, but something more global? And what if the solutions to these problems don’t lie in the hand of our governments but in our hands? As citizen of a country or citizen of the world.
Six weeks ago, a citizen movement called “Nuit Debout” (Up all Night), was born in France. This movement was born spontaneously after demonstrations against a new law changing the labour code. From then, the movement took more and more importance in the whole country; at least that what I thought. However, following this kind of events is quite complicated; an interpretation can be radically different from media to another. So how to get informed? What is really happening in these nightly sessions in Paris?
Thanks to Periscope, I could follow in live some of the general meetings organized on the Place of the Republic. Periscope is new mobile application, considered as social media, like twitter, facebook and instagram. It allows users to broadcast in live what they are filming. During the first nights of Nuit Debout some random participants decided to broadcast. Since then periscope broadcast took more and more importance. As a consequence, in addition to the thousands of people present on the Place of the Republic; tens of thousands people were following the events in live. And participated…
Thanks to Periscope I could see with my own eyes and make my own judgement from abroad. Periscope has become what twitter and facebook meant for the Arab spring. It enabled young people to gather and share information. Information diffusion is no longer reserved for specialized media. Everybody can participate, present or abroad.
So I witnessed some people with real claims and a willingness to change the political system. Immigration, education, economy, women rights, freedom were some of the claims during these meetings. All of these people don’t necessarily have the same political ideas or claims but I could feel that they were gathered around the same willingness of a more democratic system and the need to feel united with other citizen without any political claim (I mean no political color).
However, in media I could read totally different statements depreciating the movement: it was not a spontaneous movement but something organized by left-hand parties; outbreak of violence; no real claims; young idiots… In most of French media we can read anything that can discredit the movement. Most of political figures also denigrate it. Media supporting the movement exist but are really rare and not followed by the most. Consequently, having a proper judgement on this new phenomenon touching my country is not an easy task. Who is right? Media? Politics? Demonstrators? All these channels of diffusion, all different point of views make it confusing…
But I think that, in the end, the real purpose of this movement is or, at least, should be to call into question the global neoliberalism in function since the end of WWII. This system had its glory time but repetitive crisis prove that it’s certainly not adapted to the world anymore: climate change, wars, extreme poverty, growing inequalities… those are new stakes that this system struggle to handle. Traditional political parties are not willing to change how things work to face those issues, in hand with big corporations they keep running the world on the same model, driven by economic profit and growth. But we can feel the change from the population, the way people vote… Growing abstinence or vote for “untraditional” parties or candidates prove that citizens have enough of the current picture. Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, Front National in France or Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the United States. All these examples illustrate radically different values and point of views. But for me, they are all some ways to contest established system and its failures; they are just blaming different persons and causes each time…
What about the future of Nuit Debout? I see interesting points : the movement is still up after more than six weeks. It doesn’t have any official political etiquette; this confirms the spontaneity of the movement and makes it a real citizen movement. Indeed, if the movement last and grows I wish it can be an opportunity to give more voice to citizens in certain political choices. It could lead to the creation of a citizen assembly where random people can have a word to say in political decisions at local, national and international scales. This assembly could bring environmental and social issues in the centre of political decisionmaking.
I hope the movement is keeping its independence. That it is not adpoted by other exsisting political parties or the creation of a new political party. For me, Nuit Debout is a social movement. It is the only way to disrupt the established order, that has reigned for so long. To finally bring on the table new priorities like sustainability, well-being of people on public debates instead of issues like economic growth…
However, it didn’t succeed to be popular in public opinion… Is this media’s fault or does it come from the movement itself? Hard to tell from where I am. Maybe it´s because it has been stigmatized as an extreme left movement, violence had been highlighted in media, which is inherent to every social movement… I keep thinking that it was a really interesting initiative as I believe that from now on, citizens should have more and more voice in public debates. Nuit Debout proved that it is possible to gather people in order to make things change. Besides, it´s also an opportunity for bottom-up initiatives in which I put a lot of hope to build the future of our societies rather than a change from politics. Public debates make people share ideas and suggestions on how to make the changes that they want to see which can lead to concrete outcomes.
And now they are calling for its internationalization “Global Debout” is launched. Calling people to gather in all places of the world on the 15th of May. Like Yanis Varoufakis (former finance minister of Greece) with DIEM25 (for Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), Nuit Debout is willing to bring together people for a common cause regardless of borders. Nobody knows how those projects will evolve but it is still, an interesting phenomenon to follow . Thanks to this Global calling I have finally the opportunity to participate to it and see concretely what it will be about here in Amsterdam.