French author Edouard Louis' Twitter posts about the yellow vest movement (gilets jaunes)

Citizens' Press translated Edouard Louis' reflection on the ongoing yellow vest movement in France.

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Read the original thread here, in French.

Edouard Louis

Twitter, Dec. 4, 2018. Translation.

For a few days I have been trying to write something about and for the yellow vests, but I have been unable. Something about the extreme violence and contempt directed against this movement has paralyzed me, because, in a way, I feel personally targeted.

It is hard for me to describe the shock I felt when I saw the first images of the yellow vests appear. In the photos that accompanied the articles, I saw bodies that almost never appear in the media or public space.

Suffering bodies, ravaged by work, by fatigue, by hunger, by the permanent humiliation of the rulers towards the ruled, by social and geographical exclusion. I saw tired bodies, tired hands, bent backs, exhausted stares.

My reason for being shaken was of course because I detest the violence of the social world and its inequalities, but also, and perhaps above all, because these bodies that I saw in the photos looked like the body of my father, of my brother, of my aunt.

They looked like the bodies of my family, of the people of the village where I lived as a child, of these people whose health is devastated by misery and poverty, and who rightly always repeated “we don’t count, no one talks about us”

-whence the fact that I felt personally targeted by the contempt and the extreme violence of the bourgeoisie that immediately fell upon this movement. Because for me, everyone who insulted a yellow vest insulted my father.

Immediately from the birth of this movement, we have seen “experts” and “politicians” in the media mock, put down, and condemn the yellow vests and the revolt they embody.

In social media, I saw the words “barbarians”, “morons”, “rednecks”, and “irresponsible” stream past. The media talked about the discontented “grunting” of the yellow vests: the popular classes do not revolt, no, they grunt, like animals.

I heard talk of the “violence of this movement” when a car was burned, or a window broken, a statue vandalized.

The usual phenomenon of the differential perception of violence: a large part of the political world and the media would have us believe that the violence is not the thousands of lives destroyed and reduced to misery by politics, but a few burned cars.

You really have to have never known misery to be able to think that tagging a historic monument is more serious than the inability to care for yourself, to live, to feed yourself or your family.

The yellow vests talk about hunger, precariousness, life and death. The “politicians” and some of the journalists respond: “Symbols of our Republic have been vandalized.” But what do these people mean?? How dare they?? Where do they come from??

The media also talks about the racism and violence among the yellow vests. Who are they mocking? I don’t want to talk about my books, but it is interesting to note that every time I published a novel, I was accused of stigmatizing poor and rural France

precisely because I evoked the homophobia and racism present in the village of my childhood. Journalists who have done nothing for the popular classes become indignant, and suddenly start playing the defenders of the popular classes.

For the rulers, the popular classes represent the class-object par excellence, to use the expression of Pierre Bourdieu; a manipulable object of discourse: good authentic poor people one day, racists and homophobes the next.

In both cases, the underlying intent is the same: to prevent the popular classes from speaking for themselves, about themselves. Too bad if we have to contradict ourselves from one day to the next, provided they keep quiet.

Of course, there may be homophobic or racist acts among the yellow vests, but since when do the media and the “politicians” care about racism and homophobia? Since when?

What have they done to fight racism? Do they use their power to talk about Adama Traoré and the Adama Committee? Do they talk about the police violence that every day falls upon Blacks and Arabs in France?

Did they not give a platform to Frigide Barjot and countless bishops at the time of the marriage for all issue, and in so doing, did they not enable and normalize homophobia on TV screens?

When the ruling classes and certain media outlets talk about homophobia and racism in the yellow vest movement, they are not talking about homophobia and racism. They are saying: “Poor people, be quiet!”

Furthermore, the movement of the yellow vests is still a movement under construction, and its language has not yet been established. If there is homophobia or racism among the yellow vests, it is the responsibility of us all to transform this language.

There are different ways of saying “I am suffering”. It is precisely in the moment of a social movement that the possibility opens up that those who are suffering will no longer say: “I am suffering because of immigration and my neighbour who is on social assistance,”

but rather: “I am suffering because of those who govern. I am suffering because of the class system, I am suffering because of Emmanuel Macron and Edouard Philippe.” A social movement is a moment of subversion of language, a moment when old languages can vacillate.

This is what is happening today: For a few days now, people have been assisting with reformulation of the vocabulary of the yellow vests. We heard only about fuel at the beginning, sometimes about people on social assistance. We now hear the words inequality, wage increases, and injustice.

This movement must continue, because it embodies something just, urgent and profoundly radical, because the faces and the voices usually assigned to invisibility are finally being seen and heard.