If we could stop using words indiscriminately, democracy would be much better off. Thus, terrorism should be defined as the attempt to influence the course of events, outside a state of war, by the exercise of violence against civilians, known or anonymous; whereas people who are not are often designated by this name; In particular, the French Resistance fighters, designated as “terrorists” by the Nazis, were not terrorists; similarly, those who oppose, by vandalism or obstruction, a legal decision that they consider contrary to their interests or to their conception of the general interest are not terrorists.

I propose to use the words “subversion” and “subversive” to designate them, for want of a better term; distinguishing between “non-violent subversion”, (which does not confront the forces of order) such as the current actions in museums, which is acceptable, and “violent subversion”, (used by those who oppose the police and gendarmerie forces) which is not.

Many, if not almost all, of the major reforms in history in many countries have been achieved through subversion. In fact, by definition, any future reform is, by nature, illegal today. And anticipating it is by definition subversive. Thus the right to strike, Thoreau’s civil disobedience movement, Theresa Billington-Greig’s feminist movement, the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality; and so many other struggles; in so many countries.

In a democracy, where there are a thousand ways to be heard, there should be no need to use subversion; not to protect the environment, not to defend secularism, not to fight it, not for any other cause. It should be enough to try to win the argument through reasoned public debate. Especially since violent subversion is mostly a pretext for indiscriminate acts of vandalism and systematic attacks on the police.

However, in many countries, even democratic ones, and even in France, one can understand that, for some, certain laws in force, and certain actions of public authority, are contrary to the long-term interest of humanity; one can understand the anger of young people against the legal ravaging of their future by old people; in particular, I understand those who, in France, illegally oppose the construction of water reservoirs from groundwater (and not, which would have been a lesser evil, from wastewater); because these reservoirs will divert scarce natural reserves for the benefit of a few, who will use them to produce maize, almost all of which will go to the production of animals for slaughter, which are themselves major emitters of greenhouse gases: Even if it is premature, it will be recognised one day that growing maize to mass produce pigs, cows and chickens is an aberration.

There are many other situations today that justify this anger.

First in France, where we waste our too rare food production and groundwater instead of recycling waste and reusing wastewater; where our food model, which was once one of the healthiest in the world, is becoming a disaster: waste, poisons (artificial sugars, meat, fast food, etc.) and reduction of meal times; or our industries, especially those of mobility, remain horribly polluting; where our sustainable energies, (nuclear and renewable) are in a disastrous state .

And even more so outside France: because, in terms of CO2 emissions, France is only 19th in the world, with 0.93% of global emissions, and the ecological problems are first in the United States, then in China, then in India; tomorrow, they will be in Nigeria. It is in these countries, above all, that one should be subversive, and I therefore understand those who, in despair at not being able to win their case legally, go through these channels. But not those who, in our democracies, resort to violence. It is never acceptable.

Just as there is a PeaceCorps, Greenpeace and others, there should be a global Greencorps, whose mission would be to alert in time to all violations, even those covered by local laws, of the great principles of human survival; with the general interest in mind; and not, as some do, by simply attacking this or that developed country to serve the interests of another.

This is obviously very difficult, if not impossible, given the geopolitical power relations. However, it would only be the beginning of what would be necessary: one day, certain heritages that are essential to the future of humanity (such as the oceans and their delicate balance, biodiversity, the Amazonian and African forests, certain sources of energy and raw materials) would have to escape the whims of industrialists and visiting leaders.


Image: In 1908, on the front page of the Petit Journal of the time, Hubertine Auclert surrounded by feminist activists empties the ballot box at a polling station in Paris.