Former local elected official, Céline Pina is an essayist and activist. She is the founder of “Viv (r) e la République”, she also published Guilty silence (Address, 2016).
Account settlements in the city center, gangs of armed and hooded individuals who surge to confront each other, totally uninhibited violence … since Friday, Dijon has been in the grip of a form of chaos reminiscent of Beirut and its latent civil war , and which brings us back to the time of the Middle Ages, when the safety of streets, squares and roads were not ensured due to the lack of a state strong enough to maintain public order.
I would never have thought of finding or knowing this insecurity of everyday life which characterized for me a distant past and bygone times, or at least distant geographical spaces whose violence testified to a lesser degree of civilization. Countries lacking a modern state and where tribalism thrives, with its violence, its excesses and its rivalries. Countries where power is exercised by terror and where violence and death regulate tensions and successions. Countries where you can be injured or killed because you went to get bread at the wrong time, and where the people are not the source of the legitimacy of power, but the herd which is subjected to its abuses.
Difficult, moreover, to know in reality the reasons for such an outburst of violence. The aggression of a young man of Chechen origin would have been at the origin of these confrontations, but what strikes since, it is the difficulty to stop them and the feeling that in Dijon, force does not remain with the law at the moment. We have witnessed a state in great difficulty in gaining respect in the very heart of its cities, not only in its periphery. No doubt, moreover, because he first gave up ensuring republican order within the districts. It is ultimately within these same districts that the guerrillas fell back and that the conflict is currently raging. Because it is guerrilla warfare that it is. But until now, we imagined it exclusively reserved for the ghettoised districts of the suburbs, those spaces where a few kilometers from Paris, we no longer live in France. The violence that defines these areas of lawlessness is not blind and spontaneous. An area of lawlessness is not an area where no power is exercised, power and social control are on the contrary very strong and very embodied, even if they are based only on money, brutality and fear. Violence is a regulatory tool accepted and claimed to the point that often a neighborhood will practice omerta on the perpetrators of this type of violence, to shout at police repression at the slightest intervention of the police.
The state seems resigned to no longer being able to hold the street.
Out of state control, these territories increasingly function according to tribal, gregarious and ethnic logics. Once formed into a community of allegiance, it is the rivalry between the groups for control of the territory that is expressed, the cannon fodder of these confrontations being as young as flammable, the overflows do not stop jerking good words. When the engine is domination, hatred and resentment, only the proportional use of force can restore order. If it’s still possible …
Admittedly, the violence of the suburbs is not a new phenomenon, but what has changed is the abolition of any symbolic border: today this endemic violence is metastasizing. It is no longer under control, it becomes that of cities and town centers. It is no longer circumscribed but extends. In Dijon, it is in the heart of the city that the bands are now competing. The state seems resigned to no longer being able to hold the street. To have turned a blind eye to the endemic violence of gangs in the neighborhoods and to have given up exercising the law on all points of the territory, did not allow the abandonment of some to strengthen the security of others. We have weakened collectively and both the caids and the political agitators rightly saw it as a mark of weakness, and the proof that they had become powerful and dangerous enough to be granted entire chunks of national territory. So they took the opportunity to expand. The city has become for them an arena and one can fear that Dijon is not an isolated case, but the revealer of what awaits us in the future. The weakness of the state is not indeed good news for our freedoms, because not only does it guarantee them, but it guarantees the only way to exercise them effectively: by ensuring our individual and collective security.
According to Hobbes and his Leviathan, the legitimacy of power is based on consent and renunciation. It is a question for each individual of agreeing to give up a piece of sovereignty to acquire a State capable of protecting his person and his businesses. “Sovereignty (…) was erected by his own consent and for his own defense”. The first act of sovereignty therefore consists in the protection of one’s own, it determines the existence and the assurance of all other rights and freedoms, it is the basis of the founding pact of any modern society. This requires the existence of a legitimate form of violence. That exercised by the State. As Republicans, we add to it “Within the framework of the rule of law” for the legitimacy of this exercise comes from the fact that it is a question here of ensuring respect for the framework that men have given themselves and to which they freely consent to submit. This violence is that which is sometimes necessary to maintain or restore order, insofar as asking nicely is sometimes not very effective … The union of these two terms, violence and legitimacy, offends our modern sensibility . One of our current thoughts is the idea that violence can be legitimate. It is, however, one of the bases of the exercise of power.
Besides, if we are there, it is probably for want of accepting the existence of this legitimate violence and for want of exercising it wisely. Legitimate violence is not about being strong towards the weak and weak in front of the strong, slapping short arms on yellow vests, rolling out the red carpet to those who promote race warfare under the guise of denouncing the police violence, as do many of those who revolve around the Traore committee. Legitimate violence is not the glorification of force, but the awareness that there are conflicts of values, that tolerance does not solve everything and that life is not a big Macdo where everyone comes as they are. As a body politic, we are constituted, we have an identity, aspirations, a history to know and a future to write. We also sometimes have to defend it. We want to deploy our lives in a world where we do not challenge equality for women because of their gender, where we do not claim different rights because of skin color, where we does not define the identities of individuals on racial, religious or ethnic criteria. These principles are attacked on our soil even without our reacting. It is even the possibility of reacting which is attacked, with the work of delegitimization of the police. It is not for nothing that the Islamo-leftist movement has seized the subject of police violence and exploits the tragedy of George Floyd for the purpose of political destabilization. Our democracy is vulnerable, fragile, cuts down on its defenses and it shows. It is logical that this reinforces predation, whether political or common law. The weakness of the nations heralds the misfortune of their peoples. Indeed, when a state is challenged the monopoly of legitimate violence, it is archaic violence that re-emerges.
»See also – Guerrilla scenes in Dijon: the outdated state?
The monopoly on legitimate violence is disappearing.
From the moment when the human being is reduced to being nothing more than the representative of his ethnic group, his religion or his sex and sees the other either as a fellow man or as a barbarian, then he no longer remains which justifies collective protection. All that remains is to know who is the constituted group that will dominate the others. And sorting can only be done by force since there is nothing to exceed and nothing to unite. It is then that the monopoly of legitimate violence disappears, spreading this poison throughout society, making force and the hierarchy of submissions the only tool to find its place in the tribal order as within the clan.
What happened in Dijon is not a news item. The rise of violence in our streets is not an unfortunate coincidence, it speaks to us of the impossibility of protecting a people when a power has lost the link with what founds its legitimacy, when it no longer knows what is the identity of France and what are the universal principles which it embodies, when it is challenged the monopoly of legitimate violence because it no longer appears as the guarantor of both the social contract and the pact of civilization. What Dijon tells us about is a country that can no longer ensure the security of its hotspots that are the centers of its own cities, what Dijon tells us about is a country that is falling apart. Will we have to get used to it?