Indignez-vous!

. . . or “Get Outraged” is the title of short 30-some page essay by French intellectual Stéphane Hessel. Before a few days ago I had never heard of him. But, then again, a few days can be a long time.

I first heard Mr. Hessel interviewed on The World, a radio program created by Public Radio International, the BBC, and NPR’s WGBH in Boston. You can find the short interview here.

In Indignez-vous!, he excoriates modern society. The Guardian sums up his main points:

Hessel’s reasons for personal outrage include the growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, France’s shocking treatment of its illegal immigrants, the need to re-establish a free press, protecting the environment, the plight of Palestinians and the importance of protecting the French welfare system. He calls for peaceful and non-violent insurrection.

Hessel himself writes in the work, “This is an appeal to citizens, young and old, to take responsibility for the things in our society that don’t work,” he said. “I wish every one of you to find your own reason for indignation.”

The Guardian credits much of the essay’s appeal to his personal story which, I have to admit, is very compelling. But, before I knew anything about Mr. Hessel biographically I wanted to get my hands on this tract and read it for myself (unfortunately, no English translation is yet available; even the French version is sold out). It has been on the top-sellers chart for weeks now and was a Christmas bestseller as well. It is not then because of his personal story. His views may have originated there (he helped draft the UN’s Declaration of Universal Human Rights).

But, it is heartening to see people interested in such a call: a call to get outraged at society’s shortcomings. An idea nicely in line with “. . . and worth the fighting for. . .”. Hopefully, people will take inspiration from this and make things happen.

Happy New Year.

 

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