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Another way to govern

1 mars 2021
Another way to govern

I’ve always felt that the weight of Power was leading to uniformisation of diversity, this through an array of norms supposed to control individuals. This has been the long standing conception of power in France  , whose State constituted the Nation. James C Scott’s  book “ L’oeil de l’Etat, moderniser, uniformiser, détruire” ( The Eye of the State, modernising, uniformising, destructing), recently published in France ( Editions La Decouverte)  consolidates my convictions in this matter.

Confronted with the diversity of lands, of identities, norms and local freedoms , the King of France already tried to bring about the census of its population, to bring unity in the instruments and units of measurement, so that he could better assess the production of wealth and define the appropriate taxation. Even the apparition of family names goes back to the Royal Will to identify each individual so that one could control, submit and above all, know each conscrit as well as taxable individuals. 

The French Revolution achieved this work in defining its great abstract principles, before setting out to uniformise the population of France through a wide range of general norms, which in time became more and more precise.  

One needs to assess what this normative frame means for our Breton Identity or all that makes us different in Brittany. We have been enclosed in  “general “local collectivities  such as regions , departements, communes, just as everywhere in France with the exception of Paris and some metropoles who knew how to obtain a particular status that suits them. 

When the master reduces all its conquests to his norm before giving himself a particular status, it’s time to question it. There are however only very few people who wonder about this state of things. 

From the moment we are asked to define ourselves as a standard Region  and not as a distinct collective being or people, which is actually what we are , we must ask ourselves whether we should be defined by this legal regional frame or if it is up to us to define ourselves independently from the law that reduces us to be a simple region . Furthermore one needs to underline that this regional frame of only four departements corresponds only to a part of  historic Brittany, which included the fifth departement Loire Atlantique.

For any identity reference, adopting the frame of the administrative region condemns us to exit History and prevents us from defending our interests against Paris, the great beneficiary of centralism. 

I’ve always been astonished by people’s  inability to aknowledge the difference of wealth between Paris and “the provinces “, as if our mind had become acustomed to this unequality , which gets close to deprivation. Citizens from other countries find it difficult to comprehend how the French state can spend 8 Million euros to support the languages of Brittany, threatened to disappear and provide 100 Million Euros for the running expenses of the Opera de Paris. That is to say  that the survival of two languages wouldn’t even deserve one 10th of the running expenses of a cultural institute of France’s capital city.  Not even our elected regional representatives see the problem in terms of domination but in terms of a hierarchy of values. 

The supreme trick of this legal frame is that it uniformises continuously. it is in fact its main purpose and if we don’t pay attention, it may well be the end of our Breton difference and our ability to present ourselves as a distinct collective being with special interests to defend. This is the bad slope that we are following at the moment with the soft managers representing us whilst applying a democratic varnish to the system that is depriving us. 

We must endlessly remind the regional  legal frame that we are a distinct collective being , that we have special interests to defend, that our territory has a maritime economy, that it should be normal for our children to have access to their mothertongues Breton and gallo, as well as to their history,  as defined by all great international conventions. 

The inextricable reglementation falls on us from the summit of the State, with the aim to submit any reality to the norm. Any attempt from the base to obtain an exception or to initiate a special norm adapted to the situation fizzles out. It never works because the legal political system doesn’t want it. 

When in 2015 the Law “ Notre” *  was voted,  I remember how easy it had been for the forces of the state system and other power networks to ruin all attempts to establish a real regional authority. The regional power of reglementation that the Loi Notre should have brought about, has considerably shrinked down to some ability to act within the restricted frame of regional competence. 

Decentralisation? subsidiarity? They are addressed in the Constitution, not in reality . When the legal political system refuses to open itself to the base towards decentralisation, one only needs to proclame it solemnly according to the supreme norm. That is to say in a similar way to these autocratic regimes who are gratifying themselves as “democratic republics”. Decentralisation? only the opposition speaks about it.

France has always feared the diversity of reality all the more as it felt diversity had to be submited to create the nation, and that according to some current opinions  the persisting differences may still be threatening it today. France’s state has forged a mistrusting society whilst so many things require trust. The price of this distant Power  is the tentacular State preoccupied by controlling and producing norms rather than listening to the needs of society. 

Is it that surprising when french start up companies, in full Covid pandemia  move to foreign countries in order to obtain financing  for the development of their vaccine, after having knocked with no effect at the doors of the french administration.

The consequence of this complex administration is either escaping abroad or fiddling to get around the norm, with the development of a scheming set of mind recognizable in French people. A mindset that is provoking ever more norms in an infernal spiral of distrust. 

Todays’ trend is the intensification of social control through the greater Power given to the State to access private messages, to store private opinions in order to fight terrorism . In the nineteenth century , the will to control  found its root in the pursuit of “high modernism” or “scientism”. The bright minds of that time were thinking of subjecting nature to what human beings wanted from her, before submiting humankind to its own prescriptions. 

Today we can see  or measure how Scientism has driven us in the wall, when it destroyed nature under the pretext to control it. Colonisation was also its purest product: colonisation that tends  to subject the other to oneself, to assimilate it and to destroy the slightest difference. 

It came with its despicable scale of modernity and universalism according to which all peoples were evaluated. At  the top of which you would find of course Paris and its culture and right at the bottom? the Kanaks . This is not so long ago! We must never forget! 

As main spring of social control remains the fear. however it is less the fight against terrorism that expresses itself in it as the natural domination of the State: the will to control which is inherent to the national state. 

Time will be needed to change this particular approach to exercise power. Brittany is also affected by this way of governing, but it can free itself. lately I was assessing the conditions of regional subventions for cinemas. Facing so much complexity I felt I might faint; a burdensome trail for artists and producers. The creative spririt could not possibly fill out all these forms without betraying themselves in some ways. 

We know that real democracy comes from the base and goes upwards.Therefore it is essential to be attentive to the expression and the needs of the base. 

I feel atuned with the new approach of Power implied by the regional dynamic launched by Daniel Cueff , which consists in listening to the base, in accepting kindly its needs, its expectations, its projects, in order to accompany them better rather than of calling on them through “ appels à projets”, which are of an enormous complexity and are always either ill adapted or arriving too late. 

The regional administration is also really ill, but it’s never too late to change the way to exercise Power. It’s reassuring to see  that some Breton political and economical actors are thinking of a Breton revival coming out from the way to govern in order to liberate not only our energy but also our minds. More than ever we must believe in ourselves , believe in our capacities. 

As for the french State, I think that it’s too late. The State is controlled by an omnipotent all-seing administration which is at the centre of all power networks. in close contact with the financial leaders, with the directors or the great forces of the CAC 40. This high administration dominates outrageously. It has its hands on politics. It will never give up on its privileges. 

The elected representatives of the people? They are only there to provide the democratic discharge to the powerful technocracy. The parliament is almost inexistant, under this governement even more so.  

The essence of french administration is not public service, but the production of norms. Therefore, the legal system is becoming ever more complex and heavy. Even laws designed to simplify administration are adding complexity. 

The heavy public sphere is key to understand this forging ahead regardless of the financial debt. Financial debt serves the purpose of maintaining the public sphere intact and not as one might think  the purpose to finance large investments for the future. For the moment it’s still possible to contract debts for little money . Even covid 19 allowed for a mutualisation of borrowing. One forgets that no system has ever managed to live from debt without crashing down in the end. Will Germany and the northern states accept to pay  endlessly the cost of the french public sphere? We have all reasons to doubt it. We will experience tragic events in the future , not only because of pandemia , but also for financial reasons.  

The Think Tank “ France Strategie” close to the services of the prime Minister of France has already thought about the measures to take in case of crisis regarding the State debt. One would simply need to transfer the property rights or  part of the property rights of French people to the State. It would be left to each owner that has become a tenant of his property to pay his rent to the state and in this way maintain the public sphere and its privileges intact. How can one cut oneself from the population to come to such solutions? 

see the article in the newspaper Le Figaro describing “ The threat of a new tax is hovering over the head of property owners”. https://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2017/10/11/20002-20171011ARTFIG00145-la-menace-d-une-nouvelle-taxe-plane-sur-les-proprietaires.php

More than ever Brittany can become the new democratic horizon and the place to experiment a new way of governing. Brittany could give birth to a new relation between norm and power. 

Yvon Ollivier  

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