Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.
You might have recently noticed in the media that the national motto of France, "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité", has seen a renewed popularity amongst the French people.
This motto reminds us of the founding values of France. It has become a symbol of the République, just like Marianne and the tricolour flag.
Every French person knows these three complementary words as they are engraved on the facade of schools, universities and town halls. But do you know where this motto comes from and what it really means?
Originated from the "Révolution Française" in 1789, "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" was just one of the several battle cries of that era. And, just like many revolutionary symbols, it disappeared under the Empire and the Restauration, between 1804 and 1830.
France had to wait until 1848, during the writing of the Constitution of the 2nd République, to see the motto "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" reappear and be erected as a fundamental principle of the République. Since then, it has become an integral part of the national heritage.
But, individually, what do these three terms mean?
La liberté (freedom) is the first human right and is applied to many aspects of our lives: freedom of speech, of movement, of opinion, of association and of beliefs. Anything that isn't forbidden by the law cannot be precluded as long as it doesn't hurt others. L'égalité (equality) means that the law is the same for everyone and that every citizen is subjected to the same rights and the same duties, without discrimination. La fraternité (fraternity) is the most original of this triptych as it relates more to the community than the individual and to a sense of morale obligation. In everyday life, it means acting in a spirit of solidarity - not dissimilar to the Australian value of "Mateship"
A few days ago, before the French presidential elections, the motto of "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" was widely used by the French people in a symbol of fight against the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in France and in other countries. It was felt strongly in the country and helped the nation bind together at a time where French values seemed threatened.
Vive la France!
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