I first met Adrien Jean Marquez-Velasco at an English pub. It’s common in a European setting to have a lot of socialisation in the pub. You can meet many half-drunk people, and then never again. Sometimes it’s a tedious repetition of small talk, but Adrien left quite an impression that day. Within the first five minutes, he told me he writes about philosophy, and that he doesn’t believe liberty exists. He suggested I read his website. Surely, I did. I went home that day thinking that he’d be an interesting person to interview.
That was five months ago.
I do a quick search on Facebook. A few days later, we meet at a quiet bar-café facing the Basilica of Saint-Sernin. He dresses smartly in a French man’s closet staple: a long black coat and a white button-up shirt. When he speaks, his voice is measured, and has a solemn conviction to it. Occasionally he lets out a tight smile, but always holds a direct gaze. Taking out a couple of books, he says “This is my manifesto… And you know, one day I intend to translate it into English. I would want you to read it.”
Basilica of Saint-Sernin. Source: destination360
A man of many trades, he describes himself as a politician, philosopher, writer, and personal coach. I can’t help but wonder why he engages with so many occupations. “No,” he corrects me, “they’re all the same things. They all have the same purpose: to help people. That’s my purpose.”
In his website, he writes emotively about a paradigm shift, from ‘Liberty Money Individualism’ (‘Liberté Argent Individualisme’), to a new political movement: ‘Altruism Happiness Citizenship’ (‘Alturisme Bonheur Citoyen’). His philosophy is what he calls “a happiness society”. Described as “heavenly”, it brings people back to their “basic values”, which are collectiveness and altruism, rather than individualism and selfishness.
Thought on the Elections
Would life change as a result of winning the elections? He answers candidly that he’d then earn €6,000 – €10,000 monthly. Secondly, he’d have a newfound power and credibility, since his words would weigh more. He also mentions that the chances of him winning are five to ten per cents. What makes him stand out from the rest of the candidates? “Honest, natural, for the people… ,” he replies.
“You’re a foreigner,” he states the obvious, “you don’t understand French politics or the corruption.”
A huge proportion of the French political system is hierarchical. A majority of French bureaucrats come from specific vocational schools: the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) and Ecole Polytechnique. Further, the majority of candidates from these schools are part of the French elitists. Some still introduce themselves as pupils of the ENA, or Ecole Polytechnique, because these schools are a defining key to entering a profession.
Goal of his Think Tank: A ‘Happiness’ Society
Le Grand Rassemblement (The Grand Gathering) thinks social members have been stratified into two classes: the ‘rich’ and the ‘everyday’. He points to himself as an “everyday kind of person”. In order to function properly, society requires a sense of togetherness between those at the top and bottom. He says, “to live together we have to convince rich people that they would be more content if we had a better spread of wealth.”
The ultimate goal of humanity is to be happier. When I ask whether his ideals are attainable, he gives a resolute “Yes”, and reminds me of the “humanistic” nature of all people. “No, they are not bastards, shitheads… They’re humans. We all fundamentally want the same things.”
To Adrien, the rise of populism reflects a sick society, unhappy with the current system. But his think tank delivers remedial ideas. He highlights that populism is “a question of economics, not politics.” Given the recent events, when one thinks of populism, names such as Donald Trump and Theresa May likely come to mind. In truth, “we must ask ourselves why. Populism is a failure of the system today where the wealthy simply do not care. People have to think about this in terms of a global crisis and how to manage society.”
To him, happiness is lying on your death bed, thinking “I regret absolutely nothing”. He refers to a study on twenty-seven universal cases of happiness, which he can’t recall by whom. Among these cases that breed happiness are fraternity, friendship, responsibility, and love. He questions me, “Is this not universal? Does everyone in this world not want this?” A paradigm shift towards a fundamental humanism has the power to “change the world”.
After which, I ask about the practical ways in which he plans to implement this, had he won the elections. He emphasises education. Education should be more all-rounded, rather than merely theoretical.
In this rat race, the focus is so much on selfish gains. Many have forgotten that at the core, it’s truly the aforementioned values that fulfil them. He asks me to think about the difference it would make if one were taught from a young age about what makes a person truly happy to be alive. In practice, Le Grand Rassemblement stands out, because it realises that only the financially powerful can bring about change, and hence, we must persuade the wealthy to be more philanthropic. Just as we are about to part ways, I ask him if he believes liberty exists. He chuckles, then sighs,
Do you think true liberty ever exists? From the day you were born ’til today, you are shaped by your parents, your surroundings, society… Trust liberty doesn’t exist.
Adrien Jean Marquez-Velasco
I thought the heart of Adrien’s ideas is very noble, as they display a utopia. Though, frankly, I was a little baffled. When I probed into their practicalities, his reply just didn’t seem very convincing. Our conversation steered to one of self-development and popular psychology.
I recalled my very first Politics lesson on the two major schools of thought: idealism and realism. Both absolutes aren’t fully attainable in society, yet they serve such a potent role: providing the semblance of an equilibrium for States to make better decisions. Since every action will invariably open a new set of problems, isn’t it better to – rather than adopt a complacent realist attitude – strive towards better ideals, such as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals?
Prescriptive political realism argues that whatever the actual state of international affairs, nations should pursue their own interests.
Barack Obama or Winston Churchill or Mahatma Ghandi, respected leaders always have a dream. But they often speak with glittering generalities, which still garners so much support because the crowds blindly love it. We indeed need leaders with genuine socialist orientations to combat the rise of extreme right-wing populists, such as Marine Le Penn.
I shrugged. While I liked the soundbites of his ideas, I didn’t think they were viable or appealing to rat-race democracies – like ours. Yet, a real estate developer with no political background said in an interview that he wanted to become the next president. Nobody took him seriously. Today, Donald Trump’s president of America.
The truth is that, in politics, nothing is inconceivable. Was I talking to the next president of France? I caught myself shrugging again: you never know! I’ll make a note to remind myself to Google Adrien’s name again ten years from now.
Written by Emily Chen Sue Mei
Featured image from Adrien Jean Marquez-Velasco
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE.