Younger people find it strange that the Vietnam War has so much importance in the consciousness of those who are now more than 60 years old. During that war, however, many of us knew more about the geography of that small, distant, exotic country than that of our own.
Even stranger, it appears that that war – made by gigantic airplanes and bombs against tiny Asians who filed on bare feet through intricate subterranean labyrinths – was won in part by a 90-year-old Englishman, a philosopher named Bertrand Russell.
Beyond the Viet Cong’s formidable resistance, it was the universal consciousness created by Russell that woke up the world to the inhumanity of that unjust, barbarous war, where the barbarians were the wealthy, cultured, developed and technologically prepared Americans.
The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, Bertrand Russell created the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal and, walking alongside the young, woke up the world to Vietnamese tragedy.
His tribunal had no legal power but did have an immense moral force capable of restraining the leaders of the great American power who had planes and bombs but no ethical basis for the war.
Forty years later, another, even older gentleman is encouraging the young around the world to express their indignation against another hateful war, the war of the bad economy that destroys nature, causes unemployment, unravels public services. This economy, above all, condemns the young to a life with no future, like that of the young American soldiers in Vietnam.
He is Stéphane Hessel. With a little book entitled Indignez-vous! – published in English as Time for Outrage: Indignez-vous! – he is awakening the young to the crimes against humanity committed by those responsible for the economy. Published in several different languages, the book gives young people in diverse corners of the world the incentive to occupy plazas and streets.
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