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Home -> People -> Stephane Hessel, 'Indignez-Vous!', & Los Indignados

Stephane Hessel, 'Indignez-Vous!', & Los Indignados

Written: December 2011
Published: 19th December 2011

Special note: A number of the names, titles and phrases referred to in this article are French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and German and as such have diacritics. For various reasons and after much thought I have chosen (in all but one case) to omit these in this article, but in doing so I intend no disrespect whatsoever to the people, movements, cultures and languages referred to.

"I was 23 in 1940, so needless to say that those five years
really had a huge impact on me. This is a war that I experienced
in many ways: as a simple soldier in 1939 and 1940 before the
French Army’s defeat, as a trainee in the Royal Air Force, as a
Free French fighter working in the secret services in London, as
a Resistance fighter in France, as a prisoner at the hands of the
Gestapo and then as an inmate in two concentration camps.…
Of this long and arduous adventure, something clearly emerged:
the need to give a sense to my life by defending the values that
the Nazis had scorned." 
- Stephane Hessel, author & former diplomat

In late 2010 an unassuming pamphlet was published in France to unexpected and runaway success. Its author was a 93-year-old man, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, who had been part of the drafting of the Free France principles during the Second World War and who, following the war, had been involved with the team of people who wrote the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

A former ambassador for France to the UN, Stephane Hessel wrote 'Indignez-vous!' as a call to the people of France, encouraging them to rise up against social and economic injustices. The essay was based on a speech which Hessel gave in 2008; his publisher proposed turning it into the form of a small book and to that end helped him work on the text. The result was a publishing phenomenon.

From its release in October until the end of the year the essay sold more than half-a-million copies in France, reaching the top of the best-seller list there, and going on to sell 1.5 million that country alone. Its reputation quickly spread abroad and it has now been published in at least twelve languages.

Born in Germany in 1917 to a father who was a novelist, poet and translator, and a mother who was a painter and fashion journalist, Stephane emigrated to France with his parents and elder brother in 1924. In the late 1930s he became a naturalised French citizen, and enlisted in the French army in 1939. He fled to London in 1941 and worked as part of Charles De Gaulle's resistance. A few years later whilst on a mission in France he was captured by the Gestapo (10th July 1944, in Paris), tortured and held in concentration camps. He was due to be hanged but managed to escape both death and the Nazis. After the war he helped organise meetings for the group of people who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; he was selected in his capacity as chief of staff for the person who was assistant secretary general of the UN and secretary of the Commission on Human Rights. His life since then has involved an enduring dedication to promoting those rights both in France and internationally.

Stephane's biography on the official website of the European Union's Parliament reads:

"Since the war he has been an indefatigable defender of human rights inside and outside France, a commitment which he sees part of the same combat that had led him to join the "exhilarating adventure of the Free French". In October 2010, his essay "Indignez-vous!" was published, in which he argues that the French people need to get outraged again, as were those who participated in the French Resistance during World War II. In his essay, Mr. Hessel describes a personal outrage against the growing gap between the rich and the poor, France's treatment of its illegal immigrants, the plight of Palestinians and the importance of protecting the French welfare system."

Source: biography of Stephane Hessel on the Europarl website

The title of the essay, 'Indignez-vous!', can be found in this quote from it:

"Le motif base de la Résistance était l'indignation. Nous, vétérans des mouvements de résistance et des forces combattantes de la France libre, nous appelons les jeunes générations à faire vivre, transmettre, l'héritage de la Résistance et ses idéaux. Nous leur disons: prenez le relais, indignez-vous!"

Here is the translation as it appears in the official English language edition:

"The motivation that underlay the Resistance was outrage. We, the veterans of the Resistance movements and fighting forces of Free France, call on the younger generations to revive and carry forward the tradition of the Resistance and its ideas. We say to you: take over, keep going, get angry!"

Much of the thinking behind the words of 'Indignez-vous!' stems from the contrast Stephane Hessel makes between the values and principles of Free France with some of the French policies of recent years:

"I was in London, where I had joined de Gaulle in March 1941, when I learned that the council had put the finishing touches on its programme and adopted it on March 15, 1944: a collection of principles and values for Free France that still provides the foundation of our country’s modern democracy. We need these principles and values more than ever today."

He goes on to give an outline of what the Resistance called for, and after the war set about creating:
  • Social security - a comprehensive system which could guarantee all citizens a livelihood whenever they were unable to get it by working.
  • Retirement - a system which would allow older workers to retire and live with dignity.
  • National ownership - sources of energy (electricity, gas, coal) as well as large large banks were nationalised.
  • Democracy - both economic and social, involving the removal of large-scale economic/financial feudalism from the management of the economy.
  • Public interest - establishing that 'the general interest had to be given precedence over particular special interests..... a rational organisation of the economy to guarantee that individual interests be subordinated to the public interest, one free of a dictatorship of established professionals in the image of the fascist state.'
  • A fair division of wealth.
  • A free press - the Resistance knew that a genuine democracy needed to have a press free of not just State interference but 'the forces of money and foreign influence'.
  • Education - every French child to be able to have access to the most advanced education.
Stephane argues that "All of these social rights at the core of the programme of the Resistance are today under attack."

Whilst calling for action fuelled by outrage at social injustices, his call is for those actions to be non-violent in nature. In the translated edition of his essay there is a section titled "Nonviolence: The Path We Must learn to Follow" in which it says:

"I am convinced that the future belongs to nonviolence, to the reconciliation of different cultures. It is along this path that humanity will clear its next hurdle."


"...we continue to call for “a true peaceful uprising against the means of mass communication that offers nothing but mass consumption as a prospect for our youth, contempt for the least powerful in society and for culture, general amnesia and the outrageous competition of all against all.”

Indeed, even on a personal level video interviews show that his characteristic manner is affable and kindly.

Birth chart

The time of Stephane Hessel's birth could not be found so this chart has been calculated for midday and the house cusps have been removed. The position of the Moon needs to be treated with some caution - it could be about six degrees either side of where it is shown in this wheel.

Stephane Hessel - birth chart
Stephane Hessel
20th October 1917, Berlin, Germany

The first thing I want to zone in on in Stephane's chart is the Sun at 26-and-a-half degrees Libra. Aside from having the Sun and Mercury in Libra coming in very handy for a diplomatic career, it is a civilised, humane Sign associated with fairness which are of course the qualities which are intended to underpin human rights. Staying on that theme, Mercury forms a trine with Uranus and Jupiter, and although Jupiter and Uranus are wide of the usual orb there is an implicit grand trine configuration between Mercury, Jupiter and Uranus, all in the humane Air Signs.

The next facet of the chart to look at is the position of Pluto. As you can see, it is placed at 5-and-a-half degrees Cancer, near the south node at just over 3-and-a-half degrees of the same Sign (therefore the Moon's north node is directly opposite at just over 3-and-a-half degrees Capricorn). Pluto in Cancer and Neptune in Leo together mark a major theme of the world-at-war period: the ideal of the individual (Leo) unfolding her/his potential and the safety and security of her/his homeland and culture (Cancer) which ought to empower and enable the individual's fullest process of self-becoming. Stephane's essay quotes the Universal Declaration thus:

"...Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 'Everyone has the right to a nationality'; and Article 22: 'Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organisation and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.'"
Source: English translation, 'Time for Outrage!'

In terms of outer planet aspects, the Saturn-Neptune conjunction is often associated by astrologers with workers' rights, socialism, and sometimes with France itself, whereas the Saturn-Uranus planetary pair - in opposition phase in this chart - is associated with issues of freedom and rights, as well as things like heavy industry and what is often termed 'Western capitalism'. The involvement of Mars signifies both war and indignant outrage, and the fact that Mars is placed directly opposite Uranus increases the wattage of the human rights indignation. There is a warning in these placements, however, because Mars in Leo tends towards egocentricity and Leo is known for pride being its downfall. The French verb 'indigner' comes from Latin and refers to being treated in a way you are not worthy of, being treated as less than you merit, less than you have a right to expect. Whilst this of course naturally arises when treated unfairly, the flip side of Leo is being puffed up with a sense of one's own importance to the extent of insisting on receiving more than one is due.

On a psychological level it can take the form of secretly regarding even ordinary reality itself as an affront to one's inner sense of specialness, as if divine children ought not to be exposed to the apparently drab surroundings of the ordinary earthy world; Fire Signs want the mundane to be lit with magic and mythic glamour. But with Mars accompanying and accompanied by both Saturn and Neptune the working class struggle against deprivation comes to the fore, galvanised and radicalised by a Uranus which is at home in its own Sign of Aquarius.

Functioning through a balanced, mature and self-aware Libran Sun and Mercury this can work well without the potential 'Shadow' side playing up. Rather than being a kind of dark arrogance it seems to function in Stephane Hessel as a desire to re-dignify people who are homeless, rightsless, deprived of education, healthcare or a roof over their heads. Hence the call to 're-dignify oneself' by rising up against being treated in unworthy ways, ways which do not befit your stature as a human being who lives, not just who works, shops and generally slaves away doing the bidding of more powerful people who take more than they are due and do not give as much as they are gaining. Instead of being resigned to such circumstances the call to 'indignez-vous!' or in German 'empoert euch!' means to allow the natural anger to rise so as to correct the situation, or being Libran about it for a moment, to re-balance the situation by bringing a 'one up, one down' relationship back into a level one of equality. Hence Mars (anger) is triggered by Uranus (injustice, human rights, inhumanity, unprincipled behaviour), and the need to ensure that the engines of 'western capitalism' (Saturn-Uranus) are harnessed to socially beneficial ends (Saturn-Neptune). Coming full circle to focusing again on the Libran planets we began with, Stephane Hessel writes of rising up on other people's behalves:

"The rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 are indeed universal. When you encounter someone who lacks those rights, have sympathy and help him or her to achieve them."
Source: English translation, 'Time for Outrage!'

Publication of 'Indignez-vous!' in France

'Indignez-vous!' was first published in France on the 21st of October 2010 by a small publisher named Indigene Editions, working from a loft in the city of Montpellier, which is in the south of the country just a few short miles from the Mediterranean coast. The initial print run was 6,000 and the price was set at 3 euros, which at that time was equivalent to £2.66. Remarking on the price of their books, the website of Indigene Editions contains a wonderful phrase which can be translated as 'because truth costs less than lies' ('parce que la verite coute moins cher que le mensonge'). Advertising of the initial print-run was by word-of-mouth only.

The time when the book went on sale is not known so we only have the date to work with, therefore the same precautions as with the above chart apply here: the house cusps have been removed, and the Moon's precise degree cannot be known so please allow a leeway of about six degrees either side of that shown.

Chart for the first publication of 'Indignez-Vous!'
Publication of 'Indignez-vous!'
21st October 2010, Montpellier, France

Straight away we see a correspondence in the Sun's position with the author's birthchart; in other words, the booklet was printed almost on his birthday - who knows whether by accident or design. However in my opinion this is more than just a coincidence, since the same degree area is strongly present in the charts of the European Union and its institutions etc, significant parts of which are based on France institutional models, principles and values. In late 2003/early 2004 with other self-described left-wing activists Stephane Hessel co-wrote a proposal which was circulated in March 2004 and later submitted as a petition to the European Union with the goal of having it inserted into the EU's then-forthcoming Constitution. (Their attempt was unsuccessful.) The proposal's heart was the idea of a 'Social Europe', encapsulated in this key extract which has been translated from the original French text:

"Article 1. We give ten years to achieve these five objectives:
 - Employment for all: an unemployment rate below 5%;
 - A society of solidarity: a poverty rate below 5%;
 - A home for everyone: a rate of inadequately-housed less than 3%;
 - Equal opportunities: an illiteracy rate at 10 years of age lower than 3%;
 - Solidarity with the peoples of the south: an Official Development Assistance higher than 1% of GDP.
Penalties comparable to those imposed on countries that do not meet the Maastricht criteria will be applied to States that do not satisfy the social criteria in 2015."
Source: Projet de Traite de l'Europe sociale: Cinq criteres pour l'Europe sociale

Bi-wheel: Stephane Hessel & publication of Indignez-vous

Bi-wheel: Stephane Hessel's birth chart on the inside,
publication of 'Indignez-Vous!' on the outside.
NB Please ignore house cusps - no times of birth and publication are known so the houses cannot be calculated.

The second interlinking with Stephane's birthchart is with Pluto and the Moon's nodal axis. In his natal chart Pluto is at 5-and-a-half degrees Cancer and the south node of the Moon is close by at just over 3-and-a-half degrees Cancer, and the north node is directly opposite at 3-and-a-half Capricorn, whereas at the time of the essay's publication Pluto stood at 3 Capricorn whilst the Moon's north node was located at just over 5 degrees Capricorn. This means that Stephane was having his half-return of Pluto when he wrote and published the essay.

Despite Pluto taking 248 years to go once round the Sun its orbit is very elliptical and consequently it moves more quickly through some Signs of the Zodiac than others, which in turn means that it's not always necessary to live until you are 124 years old for Pluto to complete half its cycle round your birthchart. At the half-way review point of his own Pluto cycle, Stephane distilled into his essay a lifetime of lessons derived from his Plutonic experiences through half the Zodiac.

Passing the baton: the Indignados of Spain, & the Aganaktismenoi of Greece

On the 15th of May in 2011 a movement gathered together in the centre of Madrid in Spain. Officially named 'Democracia Real YA!' ('Real democracy NOW!'), also going by the tag '15-M' deriving from the date, they were unofficially known as 'los indignados' - the indignants, or the indignant ones. The protests in Greece started earlier than the 15th (as did the Spanish protests, though not using the 'Indignados' moniker) but as far as I've been able to ascertain they did not use the 'indignation' terminology until the 25th of May, when the Greek language equivalent of exactly the same word was used: Aganaktismenoi.

Further down the line these movements were the template for some of the slogans, structures and activities of the 'Occupy' protestors in the USA, and before them they had much in common with and drew inspiration from earlier protests in Iceland (2008 onwards), Ireland (2009 onwards), Portugal (March 2011's widespread Movimento 12 de Marco, a.k.a. Geracao a Rasca ('desperate generation') protests about unemployment, austerity and the economic crisis), Tunisia (December 2010 onwards), Egypt (January 2011 onwards), and so on.

The themes running through Stephane Hessel's essay were largely echoed in these street demonstrations: wanting a European Union - and world - for the people, not for the markets; desperate concerns about rising unemployment; people being turfed out of their homes; appallingly poor representation by the traditional political parties; the socialisation of losses and the privatisation of gains; and so on. Upholding non-violence and practising real democracy were common threads, as was the use of technology to help link together and spread the word about the purpose and aims of the movements.

As you can see, a variation of the title of the Spanish translation of Stephane Hessel's book 'Indignaos!' appeared on certain versions of the 'Democracia Real Ya!' graphics; they used the singular 'you' form of address ('Indignate!') rather than the 'you' plural ('Indignaos!'):

'Indignate!' graphic by Democracia Real Ya
Graphic by

According to the official website in the section carrying the press releases (at this link), the 15M gathering was scheduled to take place in Madrid at 6pm. Similar demonstrations were held in various places across Spain on the same date, some of which used the same starting time, others were later (I haven't as yet come across any that were scheduled to begin earlier in the afternoon, but it's possible some did). This is the chart for that date, time and place:
15M / Indignados / Democracia Real YA protest in Spain
15M protest organised by Democracia Real YA
15th May 2011, Madrid, Spain

The chart is striking for its arrangement of planets. The T-Square formed between Saturn, Uranus and Pluto is present in the chart - Pluto is actually almost exactly on the midpoint of Saturn and Uranus (it's just 4 arc-minutes from exactitude). Remembering the charts of Stephane Hessel and the publication of 'Indignez-vous!', we find in the 15M chart that the Moon that afternoon crossed those important late degrees of Libra, directly opposite an extremely close conjunction of Mercury and Venus in Aries, which was accompanied by Jupiter slightly earlier in Aries and Mars in the first degrees of Taurus.

In fact six planets in Aries and Taurus form a perfect symmetry, all converging on the same degree: 29 Aries, with its polarity midpoint at 29 Libra. These are the planetary pairs:
  • Sun-Uranus - human dignity, human rights, the intersection point of the individual and the collective, rebellion, but also technocrat leaders [midpoint: 28 degrees 56 minutes Aries]
  • Mars-Jupiter - righteous indignation, moral outrage, taking action, uprising of energy, rebellion, anger, risk-taking, boldness, assertiveness, possibly violence [midpoint: 29 degrees 29 minutes Aries]
  • Mercury-Venus - social networking, interconnectivity, but also markets, trade, currencies [midpoint: 29 degrees 38 minutes Aries]
Symmetries in the chart for the 15M / Indignados demonstration
Symmetries of midpoints & aspects in the chart
for the 15M demonstration

The Moon, representing the people as a whole, sits on the midpoint of them all acting as a conduit, or perhaps a better metaphor would be a lightning conductor. What strengthens the symmetrical arrangement and brings the Sun/Uranus midpoint into highest focus, is the fact that the Moon, the Sun, and Uranus are all in a septile aspect with each other: the people inspired to stand up for their rights, seized with both the motivation to do it and the knowledge that it was possible.

What's more, at 6pm this planetary septile configuration formed further septiles with the Midheaven in Madrid.

Good timing, you could say. Good placing, too.

Related links:

Stephane Hessel's biography at the EU Parliament's official website

Official website of publisher of 'Indignez-Vous!'

5 Criteria for a Social Europe, from the Draft Treaty for a Social Europe - Cinq criteres pour l'Europe sociale par Stephane Hessel, Pierre Larrouturou et Michel Rocard

Information about Stephane Hessel

France Today article about Stephane Hessel

Democracia Real YA! (Real Democracy Now) - official website

El Pais (Spanish newspaper) report on 15M protest

25 slogans of the 15M/Indignados movement:


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