The social crisis that France has lived this autumn is also, or above all, a cultural crisis. The protagonists are segments of the population that reside in different geographies, that have different consumption habits and that have access to education at various speeds. Those who feel they are victims of that invisible segregation, although with very clear effects in daily life, no longer only protest at the roundabouts. They have transferred their struggle to the cultural sector, as shown by two scenes witnessed in recent days.
The first took place last Friday in the outskirts of Besançon, in the depressed extreme east of the country, where a group of yellow vests he faced the actor Franck Dubosc outside the room where he was going to represent his new comic show. They came to ask for "a gesture from the artists": the creation of "a common fund" to help them defray the fines received by members of the movement during the protests of recent weeks. "We want a commitment," they demanded. Dubosc had supported the yellow vests At first, before taking distance from the violent drift of their mobilization. The actor listened to them with a smile and said he was aware of the seriousness of their situation, despite being "a privileged". But then it did not get wet. "It's hard to give money to everyone," he replied. "Our job is not politics. I am a clown".
On Sunday night, a second event took place in Paris, where between 200 and 300 undocumented immigrants tried to access the headquarters of the Comédie Française, the great public theater founded in 1680 in the center of the capital, during the performance of a work by Victor Hugo. If they showed up at that temple of high culture, it was to ask the theater administrator, Eric Ruf, to help them regularize their situation. "That he contacts his ministry of guardianship to get an appointment with Christophe Castaner, the interior minister. Our goal: papers and housing for all and all occupants, "expressed the statement released by the group that organized the protest, La Chapelle Debout, named after the northern neighborhood of Paris where many migrants are concentrated. The riot police soon evicted them with tear gas.
Why do those excluded from the cultural sector ask for accounts? Maybe because they do not understand the silence of a collective that, in the past, never hesitated to defend the disadvantaged. The difference, this time, is that the protesters do not necessarily belong to their same political family (42% of the yellow vests support the National Regroup of Marine Le Pen, according to an Elabe survey published earlier this month). "I am shocked by the silence and the caution of artists and intellectuals, who distrust them and despise them," said writer Annie Ernaux, author of books such as Years or the recent Memory of girl, to the weekly Télérama. "What disconcerts them is that this movement of demand does not arise from the Parisian population, cultivated, informed and politicized, with leftist convictions," added Ernaux, one of the few who defended the movement from the first week.
The yellow vests they have had little support in the world of culture, except for a minority of popular idols, such as the actress Brigitte Bardot, known for her ultra-rightist philias, but also the singer Michel Polnareff or the musician Jean-Michel Jarre. At the other end of the spectrum, they have had the help of some writers in the orbit of Pierre Bourdieu, whose theses on social inequality continue to soak the intellectual climate of France today.
The main one is Édouard Louis, the very young writer turned into an international phenomenon thanks to the autobiographical story To end Eddy Bellegueule, which has been meaning repeatedly by the yellow vests, facing the misunderstanding and criticism of many. "I grew up in a family of seven and we had to live with 700 euros per month. Five children and two adults. Maybe you should come from that world to recognize it, "he said. The New Yorker. "When it came to voting, people like my father and my mother doubted between the extreme right and the left. Never for the parties of the classical right, because they were the symbol of the dominant bourgeoisie ". This insurrection is located in that space between opposing ideological fields.
Another voice of support has been that of the director Stéphane Brizé, responsible for films like The law of the market or the recent In war, which predicted the conflict between social classes that has ended up producing. "I come from that world, which is forced to shut up and be content with what you have. That is, with the crumbs of neoliberalism. That world is saying today, on the street, that it can not stand any more, "explains Brizé.
The question is whether the French cultural system itself, with a polarized offer between extreme elitism and mere entertainment with little height of view, is not responsible for this fracture. France spends 14,000 million annually on the promotion of culture, if we add the budget of the French Government and that of local administrations, but a large part of the population feels totally disconnected from that institutional culture.
In the France of the 1980s, cultural mediation policies popularized the term of publics empêchés ("Public prevented") to designate those who did not have access to it: the sick and hospitalized patients, people with disabilities or prisoners, among other groups. Today the label is also used to designate those excluded by that official offer. "That these two cultural worlds are ignored is something we have known for decades, but with the yellow vests that gap has come to light," said a few days ago an editorial Le Monde.
Emmanuel Macron an ace is kept in the sleeve: the new cultural pass that will give 500 euros to each young Frenchman of 18 years to spend on products or cultural activities. The initiative, which has an annual budget of more than 400 million euros, will begin to experiment in February 2019 in five French departments. Although many already doubt its effectiveness: the measure is inspired by the one that started up Matteo Renzi in Italy with abundant problems, such as the black market that originated or the fact that 40% of the half million young people who were entitled to it they did not even pick it up. The social crisis that France has experienced is also, or above all, a European crisis.