A friend e-mailed me this morning, "Do you think events taking place in Wisconsin might be as important as what’s happening in Cairo, if the media really got the word out? Might it be the spark to halt the Tea Party Express?" Another friend e-mailed, "It’s possible that this labor strike in Wisconsin could become our Uncut." (In response to Britain’s draconian public spending cuts, citizens there formed UK Uncut, a Twitter-organized movement, to protest wealthy tax evaders. If the rich paid for their fair share of taxes, the movement argues, the pressure on the state budget would diminish or disappear.)
Wisconsin’s Republican governor and Republican-dominated legislature are moving to destroy organized labor, moving to abolish democratic rights that were the essence of the New Deal, and treating working-class Americans as though they were meaningless in our country’s mosaic. Meanwhile, those who are responsible for the catastrophic financial crisis are riding high–and in the name of deficits they largely caused, they insist that those who worked a lifetime to build and own their homes, to send their children to public schools, to have security in their retirement years, to have decent medical care–that those citizens should pay the price for budgetary crises in honor, dignity and decency.
There are some who still respect the contributions of working people: Contrast what Governor Walker is doing in Wisconsin with the constructive steps the new Democratic Governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, is taking to address the same problems. But there are too many cheerleaders for fiscal austerity roaming our political landscape, abetted by a mindless mainstream media’s suffocating consensus.
However, as the events in Cairo, and now Wisconsin, show us, this is a moment of extraordinary possibility. It is a time for global, nonviolent challenge to anti-democratic forces, wherever they may be–forces that have enriched themselves while promising stability based on coercion, suppression of rights and profound corruption.
This remarkable moment is captured in a small book by Stéphane Hessel, a 93-year-old distinguished French diplomat, leader of the Resistance, survivor of Nazi concentration camps and drafter of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Published last October in France, Hessel’s "Indignez-Vous!" (which could be translated as "Get Angry!" or–my preference–"Time for Outrage!") and its message of resistance and nonviolence became a publishing phenomenon–unexpectedly reaching the top of France’s bestseller list and selling close to 2 million copies.
We are proudly publishing Hessel’s 4,000-word manifesto in the next issue of The Nation.
"Time for Outrage!" forces us to ask how we can look at today’s trends and not be angry. Hessel calls on the young, in France and around the world, to engage actively in defense of human and economic rights. His fervent advocacy of nonviolent activism captures the spirit of the revolutions in Tunisia and Cairo. It has also moved women marching in Italy to protest Silvio Berlusconi’s barbarism to display the book’s title on placards. It is a spirit that now animates brave and defiant workers, students and their allies all over the world.
In rousing language, Hessel reminds us: "The motivation that underlay the Resistance was outrage. We, the veterans of the Resistance movements and the fighting forces of Free France, call on the younger generations to revive and carry forward the tradition of the Resistance and its ideas. We say to you: take over, keep going, get angry! Those in positions of political responsibility, economic power and intellectual authority, in fact our whole society, must not give up or let ourselves be overwhelmed by the current international dictatorship of the financial markets, which is such a threat to peace and democracy."
There is a new spark in the world and in our country–lit by citizens of conscience resisting forces that would trample economic justice, decency and dignity.
"To you who will create the twenty-first century, we say, from the bottom of our hearts,
TO CREATE IS TO RESIST.
TO RESIST IS TO CREATE." Stephane Hessel, October 2010