By Simon Charbonneau

Since the last century, modern times have taught us the role played by ambition among young intellectuals in the political history of our country. Whether it is the birth of socialism in the 19th century, communism in the 20th century or ecology in the 21st century, new ideas have mobilized new generations determined to radically change the established order. 

These ideas were considered to hold great hope for humanity. Hence the power of mobilization for the new generations that have always brought together idealists, but also realists anxious to find a place in the sun. However, one should not have a Manichean vision of these two tendencies, because political history has not stopped showing us that the young idealist can be transformed into a ruthless realist in view of the difficulties of the function, as it was the case of Robespierre, of Lenin, of Trotsky or even of Jules Guesde and of the anarchist Hervé in 1914 with the Sacred Union. Closer to us, we can also cite representatives of the 68 generation who went from the proletarian left to the most caricatural capitalism, like the former director of the newspaper Libération, among other examples. In fact, the capacity to resist the great collective currents depends on the convictions and the personality of each one, opportunism affecting the weakest. Generally, the most discreet, those who never wanted to be in the sunlight, are usually the most serious and the most convinced!

In fact, the psychological mechanism of this kind of « betrayal » is quite simple to explain, as it is the brutal transition from the dream to the harsh realities of politics. Entire generations have gone from radical speeches marked by naive hope to the vagaries of a banal political career. There are beautiful pages in a book by my father (Bernard Charbonneau, Une seconde nature, published by Sang de la Terre, 2012) about the political itinerary of the Romanian writer Cioran, to explain the 180° turns taken by well-known figures of his generation.

The same phenomenon can be found among many environmental activists now comfortably installed in ministerial offices or at the head of media companies or Internet platforms. From this point of view, the libertarians are right, one should not be tempted either by power or by the desire of social success. However, many green activists, in the name of a taste for action, are tempted by this path which, in reality, does not lead to much from the point of view of the values they claim to defend (social justice and the defense of nature). Let’s admit that things are complicated, because the generosity and the spirit of justice that are at the origin of the commitment can quickly give way to a taste for power and especially for honors. From this point of view, the character of Bartleby from Melville’s novel has been well understood and used by Jean-Bernard Maugiron’s website who invariably declares to each job proposal and promotion from his boss  » I’d rather not! « , a refusal that seems inexplicable.

It is true that today we are witnessing what my father called  » the green light » with all the process of political recuperation of the ecologist cause rightly denounced by a newspaper like La Décroissance. From this point of view, he was not mistaken, but nevertheless, if we look at the reality of things, we have to say that this recuperation is much less effective than the one of the social question by the progressive ideology because of the specificity of the ecological question. Indeed, we can observe the resistance of the tragic reality of the problems currently threatening humanity in front of the green propaganda carrying the lie of the transition, yet every day denied by the worrying messages for some time strongly mediatized, coming from the whole world. Hence, the official opportunistic practice of the policy of oxymoron dear to Bertrand Méheust, where radically contradictory choices are made at the same time! The inescapable power of nature is there to call to order the Promethean aberrations of men. The problem is that those whose minds are colonized by the power of technoscience are leading us straight to the abyss!

The only way left is the radical refusal to support this resignation, which is the only way to achieve a true ambition that requires the cultivation of a personal conscience that is both intellectual and moral. This ambition, in my opinion the only truly honorable one, supposes first of all to face the tragic reality in which humanity finds itself at present, which supposes a critical effort by going against the current of the received ideas which for example always give priority to the action in the basic activist compared to the fact of carrying out a reflection which is often a source of anguish.

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