Thursday, January 06, 2011


Stephane Hessel with Jane Birkin in October 2010

* "I would like everyone – everyone of us – to find his or her own reason to cry out. That is a precious gift. When something makes you want to cry out, as I cried out against Nazism, you become a militant, tough and committed. You become part of the great stream of history ... and this stream leads us towards more justice and more freedom but not the uncontrolled freedom of the fox in the hen-house."
* "It's true that reasons to cry out can seem less obvious today. The world appears too complex. But in this world, there are things we should not tolerate... I say to the young, look around you a little and you will find them. The worst of all attitudes is indifference..."
* "The productivist obsession of the West has plunged the world into a crisis which can only be resolved by a radical shift away from the 'ever more', in the world of finance but also in science and technology. It is high time that ethics, justice and a sustainable balance prevailed..."
These are a few passages which I translated from the slim 13 page volume I bought last week. The book, or pamphlet is titled Indignez-Vous!, which translates as Cry Out!
The author is a 93 year old German born French man, Stephane Hessel, whose family emigrated to France in 1924. By the time WW2 started, he had become a diplomat and ended up in London with de Gaulle and then came back to France to organize the Resistance. He was captured by the Germans, tortured and sent to concentration camps and sentenced to be executed. He miraculously escaped 2 times.
Hessel worked with Eleanor Roosevelt after the war and was one of the committee who drafted the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
Though Hessels tract is far from a blueprint for resistance, it is a strong plea for action. He offers no new radical ideas other than the calm common sense he has been stating for years.

"They dare to tell us that the State can no longer afford policies to support its citizens," Mr Hessel says. "But how can money be lacking ... when the production of wealth has enormously increased since the Liberation (of France), at a time when Europe was ruined? The only explanation is that the power of money ... has never been so great or so insolent or so selfish and that its servants are placed in the highest reaches of the State."
In a party-political aside which might or might not undermine his new status as political prophet, Mr Hessel went on to imply that "resistance" should begin with a rejection of President Nicolas Sarkozy and a vote for the Parti Socialiste.
I saw an interview with Hessel on Monday and he said his book was being translated into 14 languages. It has sold almost a million copies here in France since it was released in October.
Hessel is real life hero whose message goes beyond ideology. He is a humanist in the truest sense of the word! If you understand French, here is his New Years message for 2011!

1 comment:

mud_rake said...

There are too few Wise Ones left and, additionally sadly, too few listeners to them. The Wise Ones here in America are drowned out by the shrill voices and babble of the nincompoops- the ones that the media follows 24/7. Hope fades.