french youth sound off one year after the paris attacks
On the anniversary of the November 13 attacks in Paris, i-D meets a generation in revolt.
Exactly one year ago, we were wondering how best to talk about the sad fate that struck France and its youth. The question still seems relevant today. How should we discuss November 13, 2015? How should we define a memory for those events? What lessons can we draw from them? How should we move on?
It felt right to us to go back and meet French youth just before the painful anniversary. But since the attacks, other tragic events seem to have added to the dreadful equation that makes up 2016 — from the attacks in Nice to the worrying rise of far right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen; Brexit to the election of Donald Trump. After all this, maybe it's time to rename our generation? Some like to call it Generation Z, others Generation Me. Maybe we should call it Generation Invincible, because we're a generation that keeps taking it on the chin without loosing an inch of humanity.
Paying tribute to those who lost their life in the streets and in the Bataclan a year ago, i-D meets French youth to discuss their desires and fears as France heads for a critical presidential election.
What do you do? I'm at college, sometimes model and I skate. How has the year since the attacks been? It's been a bit heavy. My mom was more stressed out than normal. I was suddenly conscious that you could die at any moment. I skate a lot at Republique; I could easily have been in those areas as well. I'm only 18, I need to live my youth. How was it to turn 18 in Paris in 2016? It's super difficult, especially when you don't have any money. What do you like to do in Paris? I hang out with my friends, I've got a part time job, and I skate. We often hang out in an arcade as well — it's awesome. What are your dreams? To travel, to see something other than Paris. Maybe modeling will help me do that. I don't want to just go to major capital cities — I really want to go to far away and different countries, and to keep skating. What do you think of Trump being elected? I don't really know what to think. Everyone is shocked, but it's the reality which needs to be questioned. It didn't happen for no reason. If you had the power to change something in the world, what would it be? Racism, particularly in France. We think we live in an open and free country, but it's not true. The biggest victims are the Arabs; my friends are getting insulted all the time. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? "Dans les poems de Michelle" by Terri Moise.
What do you do? I'm an actress. How has this year been for you? It's gone by so quickly, out of time. I feel like the events could have easily have happened yesterday or years ago. I'm apprehensive about the anniversary. What's changed since? There's a new awareness, especially towards death. It's a reality which was forced upon us, but it is probably a good thing, because we appreciate our existence knowing we are not immortal. Afterwards, racism, fear of others — not just in France but all over the world. And in your life? It has changed my relationship to spirituality. I have become a believer in a spiritual sense. For six months I was angry, I didn't have the structure to go beyond my outrage at these events and to reconnect with spirituality, death and life. What is the best way to revolt today? Any action can be a form of revolt. To revolt requires feeling injustices — in the streets, through films. I cried on Tuesday morning in the metro. I think that this kind of feeling is already a form of revolt. How do you feel about the upcoming elections in France? I think that all this will create revolt. I hope that people, in urgency, will project themselves, will act, and will emerge from their denial. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? Erik Satie.
Where are you from? Paris. I was born and grew up in the 10th arrondissement. Did the attacks change something in Paris for you? Yes, even just in the air of the city, its atmosphere. We all suddenly felt that our little comfort zones would not last as we thought. I felt a before and after, but with time I think that the events have given us a chance to put things into context, and appreciate what we truly value. Everything makes more sense in the light of what happened on November 13. Do you feel your connection with partying has changed? Without realizing, we are more in the moment — we give more meaning to the ephemeral and the present. It is this uncertainty and fragility that make us live things with more intensity and surely differently. In my opinion Nuit Debout was a movement born partly from November 13, and from violence in the broader sense. These events accelerated time. I feel like I have lived five years in the last 365 days. What is the best form of revolt in 2016? Be creative. Create alternatives. With video, music, drawings, writing — help things be seen differently and allow for singularity and creativity. We have all experienced the fear, the wake up call, the anguish. Now, we must go beyond feelings. How do you feel about the upcoming elections in France? I'm looking at them with a certain distance. I believe, but I prefer to concentrate on my life — try to be good and to act well towards those around me. If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? Ideally, do something that makes people more chill, more relaxed — something that slows everyone down a bit. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? "Pom Poms" by Betty.
What do you do? I'm doing a doctorate. How have you lived this last year? Pretty badly. The November 13 attacks opened up lots of flaws in France and it has been a hard year. There has been a point of no return. Has it changed something for you? Throughout this year — in large part due to the events of November 13 and what has happened since — I think I've stopped defining myself as French, something I had never done before. Is it a statement? No, not even. I'm not proud or happy about it. It is something which has been imposed on me. It's very difficult to explain; I haven't been a victim of crazy racism or anything. But the general climate — not just the media discourse but also everything around — made me realize that I don't belong to it. Do you think that the attacks changed our relationship to the each other? Yes, absolutely. I think it is too soon to say in what way, though. I live in Paris, and there is clearly more fear, but there is also a desire to re-appropriate public space. I don't know what that will result in, but the desire is there. If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? I think there has been a huge acceleration of the neo-liberal system, which has become more and more comfortable and shameless. If I could stop that, I would. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? Either "Don't Touch My Hair" by Solange, or "I Only Have Eyes For You" by the Flamingos.
One year has passed since the attacks. Have things changed in your life since? In fact everything changed before, on January 11, 2015. Then I was really sad. After the November 13 attacks, I was more jaded than anything, more detached. Maybe we will end up becoming used to these kind of shocks. We have almost become used to violence. Nice was the same effect. Do you think there is a way to remedy this? I want to believe that humans are still capable of loving. But deep down I'm asking myself what we should do. I have loads of questions a few responses. What kind of questions are you asking? What to do? How to rebuild? I would like it if I was taken by the hand and shown, given instructions. What is dangerous with these kind of events is that we often become jaded instead of revolting. What do you think we can take from these events a year on? I think we can take a step back from the situation and rise up. We can do this in a calm and peaceful way. We can start by loving each other. How do you feel about the upcoming elections in France? I lost a bit of hope on Wednesday morning. We can't let this continue. Will you vote? Yes, I will through obligation but not because I think it will change things. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen.
How was this year for you? I think I finally accepted what happened. They are loads of terrible things happening all around the world at the moment. We need to think about them too. I lived through similar catastrophes in the past. All I know is that we shouldn't let ourselves die; [we should] keep going forward as long as possible. Do you think people have managed to unite after the attacks? Some people did! It depends a lot on where they come from, their geographical proximity to the attacks. Some people only have TV as a point of reference. Others have taken distance to analyze the whole thing. What's changed in the way we inhabit public space? I think everybody realized everything could collapse any minute. There are armed military everywhere in the city now, people get checked by the police. The attacks have left a trace in Paris. But it's not a reason to stay locked at home. What should we change urgently in France? We should make sure everybody can eat. We should work on strengthening social links. And it is high time we change the political and electoral system that is so anachronistic now; it doesn't reflect the complexity of our societies. I find it very strange that everything articulates around a left and right divide. It doesn't mean anything anymore. How did you react to Trump's election? It feels like a regression to me. I am not that surprised in the end. Everything is possible in the USA and even a guy like Trump can make it as a president. What really scares me is that it could become a way larger movement and touch countries all around the world like France. I keep hoping the French people will think twice. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? "I Get Around" by 2Pac.
Do you think French youth live differently since the attacks last year? We got really scared, but we are young; we are at an age when we keep going. It deeply upset me, but it also made me want to live stronger and do what I love. Do you think French people party differently since the attacks? In my entourage for sure! Young people don't really think about their studies or career. We just want to exist together. And partying is the best way to celebrate union, harmony, and gather different religions, origins, and nationalities to unwind all together. How do you feel about the upcoming elections in France? I am panicking. I am completely off track on this, I struggle getting into it. For me, politicians are like spiders fighting each other. I know I will vote because I am scared but I feel like I will spend my entire life voting against something and never for something or someone. My friends just dream to live on a desert island and create our own world. What do you wish for the world? I wish everybody was happy. I wish for a world of Care Bears. I wish we could mess around like Teletubbies. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? "Garcimore" by Bubba.
What is your occupation? I am a journalist and I work for a production company. We make TV documentaries. How did you react to the attacks last year? I was in New York at the premiere of a friend's documentary. It was probably 3 or 4PM when my sister called me. She was having a drink when she started hearing people screaming in the street and ran home. What was it like to experience from afar? I had a great feeling of guilt. I felt powerless because I was so far from the ones I love. I felt useless, like I had abandoned my family and friends. Do you think the attacks have changed our definition of collectiveness? I was really scared at first when I saw flags on windows, an identity and security movement spreading across the country, the state of emergency. I was scared people would fear each other and reject Islamic communities. But as soon as I came back from New York people's reactions slowly reassured me. What do you think we should learn from those events? I think we haven't learned enough at all. We didn't learn in 2005 either, when riots exploded in the banlieues. A suffering population was trying to say something and we didn't listen at all. They are a lot of social and economical integration policies that should be put in place instead of this security demonstration we have to experience everyday. In 2005, the youth in the banlieues expressed a common discontent, and nobody took note of it. There is so much to be done. How do you feel about the upcoming elections in France? I have no idea who to vote for. Brexit, Trump, it's all so scary. And the way Marine Le Pen celebrated when Trump was declared president... I have rarely been so lost about an election.
What do you do? I'm a student. How did you live this past year? I've realized that not many people were actually conscious of the diplomatic state of the world before the attacks. I think people are now more sensitive to international matters and the world we live in. Did the attacks somehow change the course of your life? I think I'm more sensitive now. Before, when people were debating peace or international intervention, they were generally talking about other countries. Now it is different. It happened in our country and we became aware of another's reality. It changes a lot of things. Do you think youth should rise? Yes. It should have been done a long time ago. What is the best way to revolt? I don't think we can do it through voting. I see voting as a passive form of participation. There is an emergency. We need to think about actions. What do we most suffer from in France? Racism. The tolerant and open image of France has become an illusion. The attacks have pushed some people to unite but others used it as an opportunity to claim a return to a "Real France." It's terrifying. And there are a lot of people suffering from social misery. We have to fight for them. We have to find an intersection between our fights. We are all concerned one way or another. What do you fight for? I am a black female who grew up in the suburbs. My fight sits between those three conditions and against a white capitalist and patriarchal oppression as well as a black male domination. I am deeply Afro-feminist and pan-African. How do you feel about the upcoming elections in France? I am apolitical. I'm not interested in the electoral competition and process. I will fight a different way. If you could play one song to the world, what would it be? "F.U.B.U." by Solange.
Photography Roddy Bow