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(en) France, UCL AL #347 - Culture, See Yannis Youlountas: We are not afraid of ruins (ca, de, fr, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 13 Apr 2024 10:05:12 +0300

In 2019, the right returned to power in Greece, promising to put an end to Exarcheia, "the rebellious and united district of Athens". With this new film[3], director Yannis Youlountas reports on the resistance that has been organized, again and again, against the evictions, destruction, and seizures in several emblematic places of the country. Currently on tour in France, Switzerland, Belgium, to present it, he agreed to answer a few questions, between two of his... seventy-five stops.
Libertarian alternative:
If Greece serves as a laboratory for European neoliberal policies, can it also be a model of resistance to them?

Yannis Youlountas:

Yes, Greece is both a front for the hardening of capitalism and authoritarian society in Europe, but also a particularly interesting model of resistance. The crisis has pushed us to action in many areas. The State having abandoned most of its social prerogatives to keep only its punitive prerogatives, the resistance offers alternatives to the State through mutual aid and self-management. These are concrete alternatives that speak concretely to a part of the population because they are useful to them. These are not just leaflets or speeches, but immediate solutions to the suffering of the social base which at the same time prove that we can organize ourselves differently, without hierarchy or bureaucracy. The best examples are self-managed health structures, solidarity kitchens, free zones and accommodation places for precarious Greeks and exiles in which the organization is horizontal.

This transformation of the social imagination also involves a rise in cooperative and anti-authoritarian pedagogies, notably Freinet pedagogy. It is a field of struggle in its own right, because it is not a question of convincing adults, but of getting to the root of the problem which is our conditioning, from a very young age, to live in competition, in competition, to jostle against each other, instead of helping each other in cooperation which alone can allow us to change life and build a new society truly based on freedom, equality and adelphity. In this sense, the resistance in Greece seems to me very concrete and directly useful to the social base, which reminds us of the workers' movement in France, from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, from the Canuts to the Second world War. At the time, in France, the workers' movement practiced mutual aid and self-management to collectively cope with unemployment, illness, work accidents and, of course, the absence of retirement (until the birth of Social Security, a self-managing project initially, at the initiative of workers resisting Nazism, but unraveled over the years).

The current social movement in Greece is somewhat on the same ground, alongside the social base mistreated by the State. This allows us to better disseminate our ideas by concretely showing the society we want.

Libertarian alternative:

Despite the repression, the trivialization of the extreme right and its accession to the authorities in many countries, signs of a darkening horizon, the "actors" of your latest film never show despondency and exude great combativeness. How do you explain it?

Yannis Youlountas:

There is no secret, it is in action that we find energy, will, perseverance. The worst is to wait or to hope, which amounts to the same thing since to hope means to wait in many languages around the world like in Spanish for example. We have nothing to hope for. We have nothing to wait for. Change will only come from ourselves. It's up to us to take action in one way or another, however modest it may be. Getting back in motion involves both the body that acts and the thought that traces the path. As the poet Machado said: "the path is made by walking".

We must therefore get moving, take the road towards utopia to better see the prospects. It is also an opportunity to meet, beyond our differences, as Angela Davis so well wrote: "By fighting together, we learn to perceive new possibilities which, otherwise, would never have been visible to us. our eyes"[1]. The philosophers of antiquity said for the most part that we think better while walking, going out into nature or the agora, and certainly not by locking ourselves in an ivory tower, away from the world, into a monastic life, supposedly to think better.

Too many humans toil around in sterile, absurd and repetitive existences, just like captive animals going around in circles in their cage. Authoritarian and capitalist society is a prison on a large scale and its screens push us to simply live there by proxy, by delegation, by submission. Power is a thief of lives. It is becoming urgent to break with this negation of ourselves and the world. It is time to take our lives in hand, by switching from the noun power to the verb power, that is to say, by overthrowing those who claim to lead and govern us to move on to another society in which we will finally have the full capacity to choose our lives: each freely for what concerns their personal existence and, of course, together for common projects useful and necessary to all, in mutual aid and cooperation.

Our current existence is based on conditioning ourselves to the perpetual negation of what we are capable of. We are birds struck by a spell in a cage whose door is ajar: we do not dare to fly away because our masters have succeeded, over time, in persuading us that we do not know how to fly. Power denigrates us, makes us feel guilty, infantilizes us, stupidizes us in order to better exploit us. We are robots in his service, undead, brainless collaborators, who transform the entire Earth and everything that lives on it into merchandise. The vital challenge of our time is to decolonize our social imagination to stop this senseless and deadly enterprise which amounts to collective suicide. It is only by leaving this great monstrous routine that we better perceive the other possible paths, easily within our reach. The experience of horizontality and self-management is a revelation which, most often, gives us a lot of ideas and energy, just like cooperative pedagogy among children.

Libertarian alternative:

This screening tour also helps fuel a collection of materials, with a view to a new solidarity convoy to the self-managed places[2]. Is it a question of pushing the spectators to become actors, in some way?

Yannis Youlountas:

Yes exactly. The worst thing would be if the spectators of our films were simple consumers of emotions, landscapes, portraits and actions with no connection to their existence. There are several ways to get involved, even if only by bringing food and equipment for the solidarity convoy being prepared. There are also those who commit and choose to go with us to Greece, with the next convoy. It's a unique experience, the opportunity to discover most of these places, to meet people, to see things for yourself, beyond the films, directly on the ground. It's a very inspiring moment. In short, from the simple pack of diapers brought to a screening-debate to participation with a van in the next convoy, it's up to everyone to see what they can do and how far they can contribute. The important thing is to get moving, and not just be a passive spectator. We need to strengthen ourselves in the fight for inevitable change in society. There are also children who participate in preparing the convoy.

For example in certain classes, at the initiative of teachers who have seen our films and who have already come with us. In several cities, there are also small groups of children who sort toy donations, instead of spending their Sunday in front of screens. There are also teenagers who make the trip and accompany their parents in the solidarity convoy to meet other young people on arrival, among young Greek activists and exiled teenagers. These are also very moving and very educational moments.

Libertarian alternative:

A wide variety of collectives, unions and political organizations organize these evenings. Why is this important to you?

Yannis Youlountas:

It is particularly important not to remain in a closed circle, only among convinced people, but to open up to all those who have various questions, young and old. Around us, more and more people share a triple observation: we are not in a democracy, inequalities continue to grow, capitalism is destroying the planet and life on earth. On the basis of this shared triple observation, we can open up new perspectives.

Even the yellow vests have shifted from a simple demand for purchasing power to a demand for change in the political system. The current regime is increasingly authoritarian, it no longer even relies on parliament to give the illusion of democracy. The dominant media, in the service of economic power, continue to mechanically raise the far right, as always in times of crisis, since fascism is the final stage of capitalism when illusions no longer work and its mask falls. More and more people understand that "representative democracy" is an oxymoron. We are still in the political prehistory of humanity, in an archaic society. Most privileges have not yet been abolished. Capitalism clearly appears to be a deadly economic system, not only due to the exploitation of workers, but also the rapid destruction of all life on earth, systematically transformed into merchandise. We no longer have a choice: it is becoming urgent to change the political and economic system, no longer just to live differently, but now to save life. In the 21st century, changing life is no longer a poetic speech, but a cry of rage.

We are very close to a tipping point. But we will only succeed if we are able to give the example of another way of living together to propose another social imaginary: that of a cooperative and united society, and, consequently, a society in which diversity will be truly considered as wealth, as opposed to the uniformity towards which authoritarian society on the surface of the globe currently tends, under the caudal forks of advertising and bureaucracy. It is this challenge that we must meet within the social movement by being less clannish and less sectarian, more welcoming and more attentive to our differences of point of view. We were not born in the same place or at the same time, we did not receive the same education, the same culture of origin, we did not read the same books or meet the same people, it is therefore logical that we do not have exactly the same opinion, nor the same way of acting.

The diversity of the social movement is its beauty when it is in action and does not waste its time arguing over commas. It would also be good to once again organize departmental social forums. As in the days of cheerful Porto, a quarter of a century ago. It's a good opportunity to get to know each other better, to understand each other better, by participating in round tables, by discovering each other's information kiosks, by sharing meals, concerts and film screenings... We are not as different as we think. Above all, it's our journeys that are different. We don't start from the same point, but we often aim for the same goal.

Comments collected by Ernest London (UCL Le Puy-en-Velay)

To validate

[1]On freedom: A small anthology of emancipation, Angela Davis, 2016

[2]Solidarity convoys to Greece

[3]See the site Don't be afraid of ruins!

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