Stand up – Night
Under a warm April sun, I went to the place de la République, in Paris. It was the end of an afternoon, I was trying to understand the Nuit-Debout (The Stand up-Night). Neither approving nor condemning, but seeing this movement as it was, this village fair, astonishing and irritating.
On the Place, one talks tremendously, in small groups or in assemblies, some are making sketches, others are cooking or singing or consulting with lawyers. In total, one wants to PARTICIPATE ! “Participation” is the major trend behind social networks success. Like Facebook, Nuit-Debout is a fun mess, as fun as the desire to express oneself.
20 or 30 people meet to create a commission. These are big in number and diverse in nature: Action commission, Camping commission, Stand Sketching commission etc. … Here, the Digital commission is opening a debate: RECONSTRUCTING DEMOCRACY, why, how and with whom. A huge debate, anchored by Richard Stallmon, the creator of the free softwear movement.
Debout-Choir / Protest songs Workshop. A time for me to rediscover old French songs. Before the event of mass media, songs used to communicate information. There were songs about everything: prison, strikes, fires, shipwrecks.
Each evening, the general meeting attracts hundreds of people. Speakers follow each other continuously, talking for two or three minutes. Struggles concerning intermittent workers, feminists, union members. The community restaurant interrupts the flow: “We need a gas bottle. Does anyone have one?”
Is this what a revolution looks like? A torrent of words, the intense need to express oneself ? I remember how Tocqueville remembered the 1848 revolution. Also in my mind, Willliam Klein’s movie on May 68 : “Big nights and tight mornings” (“Grands soirs et petits matins”). The same scenes now and then: people talking to people they don’t know. Strangers listening to each other and reconstructing the world.
Cut-out pieces of paper and coloured pencils. In the République village, one listens to all opinions and one has fun in creative workshops. Against uniform thinking and forms, one attitude: “I WAS THE ONE WHO DID IT”.
Nuit-Debout invents a language for assembly participation. To show one’s approval, one elevates one’s two arms and one agitates one’s wrists. Other signs indicate disapprobation, the desire to speak, the wish for silence …
Impaired-hearing people are numerous at Nuit-Debout. They fight for better access to all communication means. 500.000 hearing-impaired and blind people cannot make a phone call because of their state. They want telecom operators to create centres for relay phoning. These would transcribe simultaneously a conversation into sign language or in a multimodal way.
I am impressed by the scale of the mobilisation and by its diversity. All the professions seem to be at Place de la République: doctors, lawyers, cooks. Under the protection of an awning, a tv station has been created. At the entrance, one reads a scrawl: “Don’t enter, show in process.”
The inescapable media person. A bit worn out and disoriented, waiting for a violent occurrence or for anything to happen.