Two years have passed since one of the great political and social thinkers of our time departed this world.
On 26 February 2013 Stephane Hessel died at the age of 95. Hessel enjoyed a long life, from his birth in Berlin to his final breath in Paris, where one of his last works Indignez-Vous! (Time For Outrage) was published.
The small book holds a large punch and it came to life from a fiery speech Hessel gave in 2008 commemorating the French resistance. The 37 page book was translated into many languages and emerged during a time when the occupy movement was breaking out of social networks and onto the streets, it was a time when the Arab spring was spreading across the middle east, a time when the Sarkozy presidency was coming to an end and Greece was in the throes of social and economic upheaval.
Indignez-Vous! the short yet fierce little book showed the resilient spirit of Hessel who penned the work at the age of 92. The resistance veteran strived to resurrect the resistance spirit for this generation not only in France but across Europe and further afield.
Indignez-Vous! warned us of how social rights can fall victim to harsh economic changes. Hessel painted the capitalist machine as the agitator of such harshness, “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 used Indignez-Vous! to call the youth out against the social oppression that a recession brings. The small book was his last great call on the current generation to take over, keep going, get angry! Indeed the youth took over when they occupied Wall Street, indeed this generation kept going as the Arab spring spread like wild fire and indeed the modern voter got angry when they dumped Sarkozy from office, but in 2015 the fight continues.
Hessel came from a generation that stood up against the wrongs done against social freedoms and human rights, he called on the modern youth to follow suit and keep the flame lit, to you who will create the 21stcentury, he writes in Indignez-vous! “we say with affection, to create is to resist, to resist is to create.”
Across Europe the austere way of living created a harsh reality, especially in countries such as Spain, Ireland and Greece.
Recently in Greece we have seen the people there pushed to their limits and in its general election they chose left wing values in the form of the anti-austerity party Syriza. In Spain we might see the same trend in it’s forthcoming election as the similar anti austerity party Podemos is rising to become a beacon in the Spanish political landscape. In Ireland, the support of the Labour party which oversaw strict austerity measures in government is being eradicated by anti-austerity left wing parties such as Sinn Fein. A general election in Ireland is a year away, but the rise of Sinn Fein and other left wing parties is inevitable and like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, Ireland can also display that social courage and left wing values that Stephane Hessel advocated for.
Hessel’s legacy is a great one, his freedom fighting spirit, his handbook of social revolution Indignez-Vous! and his overall fantastically inspiring life. Stephane Hessel lived life long and rebelliously, it is just a pity he hasn’t lived it just a bit longer to see this generation through these hard times but his words remain with us as a legacy of a permanent revolution.
To create is to resist, to resist is to create.
Stephane Frederic Hessel 20 0ctober 1917 – 26 February 2013