Insta is a common phenomenon in social media when it comes to sharing what happens in public spaces. Words, sentences and drawings on walls usually tell many stories which are transformed into thoughts and sociopolitical projects.
We usually take for granted writings on walls in restrooms, classrooms and multiple surfaces. The whole idea of posting those writings started when I have become aware of their impact, especially on the lives of young people. Most of them reflect how youth perceives and reacts to their sociopolitical realities.
The first post deals with the long history of tensions between French youth and police. Walls, windows, tables, stairs and doors in learning spaces has always been a place where students express their worries openly without barriers or fear. In the first photo, the message is bold and frontal saying that « all cops are bastards ». Although the language is vulgar and brutal, it denotes how students feel about police officers. Students are blaming the police for restricting their freedom through the abuse of power. In the second photo, the writing in french « La police tue » which means that « the police kills » is going further in accusing police officers of committing murder. This is due to the numerous human casualties in youth protests in France or sometimes in other countries like the US. Above « la police tue », there is a chronology of the minorities that French police is discriminating against ( Arabs, Jews, Blacks, etc). It seems that surfaces in learning spaces serve as a platform through which students communicate with their authorities.
The second post tackles the issue of persistent residential segregation in l’ile de Saint Denis which sustain racial and economic injustice. Both France and the USA are more diverse than ever but still segregated. This mural is drawn by students in Alfred Sisley middle school in L’Ile de Saint-Denis. It’s a call for help as it is a strong reminder that geographical constraints hinder fair and equal opportunities for minorities. The mural is a form of chronology of how black people were segregated in the US. The question is why specifically students of L’Ile de Saint Denis drew the mural ? First, half of the students are from minority groups and second, most of them are originally from France’s ex-colonies.
The third one is about the actual pandemic which has transformed every aspect of our life including our universities. It may be easing, but a new set of emotional and psychological challenges has only just begun. Many psychiatrists and counselors recommend that people should take small steps back after the pandemic trauma. Although the physical impact of the virus is lessening, there would be a mental health fallout. In the first photo, a university student wrote the word « anxiety » on the wall with tears dropping from the letters. With the university buildings in the background, and the word « anxiety » at the forefront, it gives us the impression that students cannot focus on their studies while being anxious. Students worry that their attempts to return to pre-pandemic routines may feel unsettling. In the second photo, another student made it clear that there is no such thing as back to ‘normal’. « Il n’y a pas de retour à la norme ». Going back to university should have been taken one step at a time, which was not the case for most universities.
This picture questions identity in France: Can a person belong to France and still be Moroccan, Senegalese, Algerian, Tunisian or any other nationality. The answer to this question is often a no. In multiculturalist societies (such as the United States and Canada), « dual belonging » is accepted whereas in France it detracts from the quality of one’s commitment to French identity. In his book French National Identity and Integration, Patrick Simon states: » National identity is not only a product of individual feelings of belonging and attachment; it is also affected by external perceptions of identity ». In the photo, a student wrote in french » Notre identité ne sera jamais nationale » , our identity will never be national. He rejects the french identity because he is convinced that he will never be considered as french. On the basis of skin color, language, accent, self-presentation, or surname people are evaluated on whether they are french or not. Therefore, looking and sounding French are crucial parts in feeling French.
When contrasting the new and the old generation of university students, younger ones are often suspected to be less interested or engaged in politics. However, studies conducted by Anne Muxel on political participation of young people, have shown that French youth is as interested in politics as the rest of the population. They are concerned by national issues but what creates the distance are politicians themselves, electoral competitions and double speak. In the photo, students are demanding the liberation of a political prisoner named George Abdellah. He is a Lebanese Communist locked up in France for almost 37 years. Why ? How is a Lebanese arrested in 1984 in Lyon still in French prisons despite the fact that he should have been released 22 years ago?.
Young people are rebellious by nature and that is not a new phenomenon. They rebel against any tradition and reject any system of their parents. It has always been a rebellion against authority and people who have it. For instance, rich people are usually the ones targeted since they control the economy. Benjamin Wolman stated in her book « the rebellion of youth » that the meaning of the term « young » is closely related to evolutionary levels. For her, rebellious youth are culture-free and it’s not particularly related to a socio-cultural setting. In the picture, one of the student has written the word » I rebel » alone meaning that he or she rebels for the sake of rebellion. When you are young you don’t have to have a reason to rebel, you just do ! I chose to put the two writings together « I rebel » and « Ils ont les milliards » in the same picture frame, since the one who wrote « they have billions » is definitely rebelling against rich people.
In the age of COVID, people have started to talk about saving old people because they are the most vulnerable. But on the other facet of the coin, it means sacrificing young people by multiple confinements and activity restrictions which eventually shuts down the economy. A medicine professor, Xavier Lescure evoked the following alternative: « young people can no longer live under pressure and I think we either confine populations who are extremely at risk, or to admit that at age 80, all we experience afterwards is a bonus. Can we still allow ourselves these bonuses today? I am not sure. » His point of view might seem a bit extreme but states should think ahead when announcing new restrictions or confinements. They should strike a balance between the two categories depending on their specificities.
Face masks have become an integral part of our life even after this pandemic ends. They are here to stay as they are quickly becoming a way to express ourselves and an indispensable accessory of the modern age. Because of their presence in our everyday life, people start to make meaning of their use depending on their preferences of which type of mask they are wearing. On a psychological level, in his research article, Luca Tateo states: « The mask evokes safety and fear, it mediates in the auto-dialogue between “I” and “Me” through the “Other”, and in the hetero dialogue between “I” and the “Other” through “Me” The dialogue is characterized by a certain ambivalence, as expected ». In a way or another, masks have become the embodiment of our super-ego.
I think that young people will continue to communicate their concerns by writing on different surfaces, and Instagram will always serve as an effective medium to the world of social media.
Author: Imad BAAZIZI