War. Three letters, so far yet so close.
March 24th, 2022 – Marseille, France
Here we go. There is no words sufficiently precise to express what I need to write today, no experience felt before to signify the depth of the knowing this day brings out in me.
Yesterday, on the 23rd, Vladimir Putin announced he would start a military intervention in Ukraine, moving Russian forces from the north-eastern frontiers to the rest of the country, dropping missiles and fear, sending the smell of gunpowder within the rest of Europe.
War. Three letters, so far yet so close.
A war that escalated in a day, as far as abolishing a frontline to extend it as planned, over the cities and the minds. A war that coexists with other wars, a war that is because of a nationalist imperialist trajectory of power ordered tightly by an official psychopath.
Palestine, Somalia, Afghanistan – land where the bombs are too killing these days.
My goal here is not to write a historical or geopolitical lesson – I am not there, I don’t know that much but as a human I need to remind myself that we are not going to watch the continent fall into darkness. In a little more than a month in France, the presidential elections will tell us if, as a people, we’ve given up on our unity or if we’ve let – with time and silence – install in our country far-rights politicians believing that France is white, catholic and obedient to the sacro-saint liberalism.
As I see the European Union and the US responding with economic sanctions to Russia, I see how this logic can impact both our daily life but also the already set political and military alliances that have always prevailed in times of war. I am listening to the news and I feel us all trying to understand how, why, what the fuck is going to happen next.
I listened to the journalists talking calmly, I watched on Instagram videos of missiles near Kyev as we also have watched children beaten and killed in the streets of Sheik Jara, Palestine. I cannot help but notice how much easier it is to apprehend a war that is close, understandable because it is my continent. What is happening to Ukraine is linked to identity politics, to a long history of debates interrogating what is Russia and what is Ukraine. Both countries, including the separatists and the nationalists, have been fighting for a while – now, Russia is stronger in terms of weapons and strength, Ukraine will defend itself and the world is asking : what country next ?
For Putin, Russia is a European country, ideas that are shared by a lot of Russian people. This geographical reality has been serving as a justifier to Putin’s will to ideologically dominate a greater European territory. That said, Russia was never candidate to enter the European Union, wanting to keep its power pole as a Eurasian country, unique in itself, in its history and the diversity of its peoples.
If we move up a little bit and look the nationalization of the politics happening in European countries for the past twenty years, we can feel the chills this violence is blowing on us. My goal here then, is to write in order to measure the state of things on another scale. A micro scale, the human dimension of all of this.
This beginning of war is scary but we were expecting it, maybe not like this, maybe not right now, but let’s be honest, it was pending. As I am writing here, now, in my comfortable apartment in Marseille, I feel us mourning a kind of peace we somehow got used to, in France, in Occidental democracies. Even though we are not threatened directly, we cannot escape the fact that this war is also happening online. In France, too, within the media et political networks, choices were made, alliances done and undone, lies built on blood and illusions nourished and sublimed by a fucked up layer of republican values supposedly keepers of the peace.
In France right now, public and private mainstream media are broadcasting hate speech delivered by presidential candidates while closing up our worlds by selecting a range of news that can’t offer a clear vision of where the world is now.
Me writing these words today serves as a turning point in my practice of journalism. I will never work for an institutional media and I will always write the name of those I accuse, with no fear and with in mind the strength to wait for things to unfold. This is the point I want to insist on : we are deprived of our time to think things through. Capitalism and its boxes we sleep in ask of us to work for the greater good and sleep again just so we can work again the next day. Political ideologies – as is Putin’s nationalist discourse – are constricting us with ropes and metal chains so we keep silent. The over-represented hate speech in the French political landscape right now takes it roots in the colonialist capitalist system that keeps reproducing itself through racist and conservative institutions. Through the media, the educational system and the health care machine, along the ways that draw the lines between us – visible lines held by the powerful elected republicans bourgeois – the States are succeeding at controlling us. I’m not saying there is no space in France for rebelling and refusing the status quo. Most of my friends and people I know in France are trying, in big or little ways, to change the ways this society breeds little neo-fascists at an accelerating rate. What I mean is that it takes radical positioning to stand in the way of the State, a kind of determination that not everybody has. If some can’t, we’ll do it for them, we’ll carry their voices, their stories, their hopes and their successes.
In Russia as in France, as in Ukraine and Israel, there are people who believe in change and there are people who don’t want change. There will always be sides, beliefs that hurt and other that elevate, that heal. What needs to be said again is that – as I read this morning – it is not the people who declare wars, it is not the people that shoots first. In time of war, new solidarities arise, in times of total obscurity, hands are held and lives are saved no matter the religion, the skin colour, the nationality. We shall not ever forget that, that it is possible to talk still and that we must do it when we can, that our words of peace and hope are necessary. It is never too late to ask “why” when someone bursts in hate. Yes, we must protect ourselves but we must also stand in power as we have the knowledge to not be ashamed anymore, to talk our truth and meet one another where the pulse beats hard. Imagine today, in small room in a four story ex-urss building in Kiev. A girl and her mother are packing their stuff, they’ll take a convoy with other neighbours to flee. They tried to go in 2015 but abandoned the project, hoping the war will not last. They stayed and they lived, never expecting Putin would do it again. Now they don’t know where they’ll go but they want to hope it’s possible not to live in fear like this. Imagine you meet them somehow, imagine what you would say to them.
What I am asking of us is it we make an effort to organize so we are able to prevent this war to reach our minds and maybe avoid the blatant racism talking the majority of refugees rise because of this war in Europe. Most migrants coming from sub-saharian Africa and the Middle East are already considered as parasites by most governments in the European Union. How many Syrian refugees fleeing their country since 2011 are here, visible, now to tell us how vital solidarity is ? How many of them were violently expelled from camps by the French police and their inhuman methods? In the midsts of it all, the confusion of the people watching these wars happening on tv and online, we cannot help but feel some guilt. This guilt mustn’t provide and be replaced by a force of action and recognition of each other’s capacity and position in those system so hard to escape from.
In this ideal future and in my daily life, I see us organizing in networks of information and resistance that are answers to their attempts to divide and recreate fake national values base on exclusion and ignorance. What is happening in Ukraine and what has been prepared for a long time by Russia should remind us how urgent it is that we try to protect ourselves from becoming closed countries. We have to we keep our arms open to welcome the refugees from anywhere in the world, give them informations and educate ourselves on the whereabouts of this world. The privileged people reading this text, as I am, let’s interrogate our presence in society, how our choices are facilitating the system in ways that could do it less, just less. In resistance, there is risk and is risk, there is courage. I think courage is what is asked of us today. As something to be embraced and used to protect, support and create change. In the fact of gerring conscious on the manipulative mechanics of our own lives, the little lies we tell ourselves to bear own on cowardiness, there is possibility for action. Once you find the strenght, that you connect with others that share the same vision, then a we arises – a we that can exist and sustain itself. The only way our response to hate can be taken seriously is if we face our ennemies with number. It’s bodies against bodies, data against date, visibility or invisibility. The smallest of us can still fight, if the kids keep being unlistened, they will live knowing we did not do anything and we will pay for it. Because the children see, they know something is wrong – on screens and in our crooked smiles, they know. Urgently, we must stop lying to children and explain to them what kind of times they will live through, prepare them to care and to love above all.
I feel like the bubble has broken - 50 years of simili-peace we and our parents and grandparents had.
If I was to meet this young Ukrainian girl and her mother, I would ask if I can hug them, give them love and strength. I would ask if they’re okay and invite them in my home if I can. I would do the same with anyone I meet because there is no point in refusing to meet the other. There is no need to hate so much that we can’t empathize – that we kill, in the name of the absence of empathy. We are going to have to get used to welcoming more and more refugees in France and the world will begin to see a wave of political exiles from more and more countries in the world.
I cannot help but think about the on-going war against Palestine and its people and the complexity of the weeds of a symbolic and physical violence that is so hard to understand it’s easier to close our eyes. Thinking about a war in Europe forces us to think about the other wars elsewhere, the presence of the French and American armies in every strategic places in the world, the murderous intricacies of oil commerce and the proximity of military conflicts in the zones where oil is taken. There are also wars declared but not acknowledged : the war on women, the war on indigenous people and the war on the planet, the two oldest genocides. In France, in 2022, already 15 women were officially murdered. On those 15 murderers, only 1% will be judged and sanctioned to prison. Whilst we are trying to formulate reforms to abolish the carceral system, it is hard to envision this happening whilst one the biggest country in the world is right now trying to invade all of the ex-USSR countries starting by Ukraine justified by a history of russian anexation on Ukrainian territory (Donbas and Crimea). This imperialist policy of colonization by force is feeding on fear and acting through concrete actions – military or economical. Invading the thoughts, ideas, bodies, organizations, territories, invading to Ukrainian government as a ghost that eats everything on its path. The war in Ukraine was an asleep snake, awaken by enough time spent stabilizing a strenght by one of the most dangerous head of state alive right now : Vladimir Putin. The war in Ukraine is also the cold executive order of a dictator. Around him, for afar but not so much, Turkey and China. Holding guns and oil, they make Russia stronger and more able to unravel it evil plan. No avengers will come, no superheroes, just regular people remembering that there is never ever a good reason to invade, kill and separate people. Today we have to recall that being anti-war and anti-imperialist is not something of the past and that our local struggles are linked to the international burdens. We are all linked by history yes, but also by capitalism trying to take us down, one by one, tools, things, numbers.
If we condemn Vladimir Putin, then we have to set our tables straight and accuse all the dictators and leaders who abuse their powers on the people and on the land. The abusers are those who pretend to help and then rob later, the one that let their people be killed, racists free-fleeing in the police forces, rapists running around, poor people deprived of their dignity. When I talk about the feminicides in France I do so to insist on the fact that there are more than one priority and more than one fight. This war reminds me of the fight I choose to embark on years again as I began to call myself a feminist.
I would never say to a woman to smile, but to all I will now ask of us to embrace fully our anger and that we allow this anger to form in a devilish smile because it is time to act from it, to let it flow and show them that we too have weapons. We are everywhere in society, we are visible or we are hidden but we are here. The word-of-mouth is the fastest way of communication, the only one that lets the ear be truly itself : you hear and then you create an opinion. If you ever have doubts, then ask, interrogate the state of things, the facts, what you think is true and what doubt is. Don’t be at war with yourself, be at war with those who aggress and limit you, be burning so that together, we may be born again.
Right now, in my hands writing, Marseille is burning.