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Thanks for your words. A few good ideas in there.

Indeed French discourse tends to be entangled... there is a taste for detail, for nuance, for in-phrase sentences and a need to cover everything that is to be said in one breath, that makes long, winding phrases quite usual. A bit like the paragraph above :)

One can hardly live in France and not be touched by the grandiosity: either it gets on one's nerves, or one starts adopting it without realising.
I for one have read the above text with a vivid feeling of empathy, so many points are valid today in every  life.

Ennui is not exactly boredom, it may mean worry, or trouble, but also lassitude, fatigue, the sense employed by Cioran. There is Sartre in that, l'affirmation de l'absurdité d'être, and the profound ennui resulting from that realisation. A french writer once explained  for him the verb "faire" was trivial, unimportant, while the verb "être" on the other hand, was  fundamental, expressing someone's very essence.

"la fatigue des choses comprises"... There is a certain sense of clarity to the French spirit that Cioran points to, always going for the ultimate cause of things. The French believe in absolute truths, like most people down south - you might have also noticed it about Italians. The fatigue, as in the feeling one has  found all (absolute) truths out there, and there's nothing more to know, just like the greatness is all in the history, and there are no more great things to do. It's the tiredness of Old peoples. And I'm thinking of italians too.

May be it was also the year, 1941, after the defeat.
But the article I quote was published in a recent issue of Le Point, precisely because it seems to fit so well the current moods.
There was talk these last years about the French fundamental values, the future of France, a new direction, a renaissance... There is a feeling like no one actually can put a finger on it. Like the 20th century somehow finished the history. What else is to be done now.
So I guess there's more to this text than just Cioran's pessimism and the dark years of the nazi occupation.

Somehow this reminds me of Japan. Another old people, which don't seem to have a problem reinventing themselves over and over again, every coupl'a'centuries.

I for one have not seen this tendency to introversion, and hairsplitting, to any other country.
Related to that, many warned about  a risk of "repli sur soi" these last years, btw.

Humanism and "l'esprit républicain" have definitely replaced the church and the monarchy - that was a long process all through the 18th and 19th c. , now completed.

Of course some of these are terrible generalizations, but also the overall feeling.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Fri Jun 12th, 2009 at 08:13:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
Ennui is not exactly boredom, it may mean worry, or trouble, but also lassitude, fatigue, the sense employed by Cioran. There is Sartre in that, l'affirmation de l'absurdité d'être, and the profound ennui resulting from that realisation. A french writer once explained  for him the verb "faire" was trivial, unimportant, while the verb "être" on the other hand, was  fundamental, expressing someone's very essence.

hmm, well looking around at the ashes of europe at that time would lead any thinking person to ask those kinds of existential questions, as in:

"we say we know who we claim to be, but look at the fruits of our actions! do they not tell more about who we really are, than the pious claims to 'progress', which are our own reflections in narcis's pool?"

interesting also that this 'god is dead' phase of nihilism in europe was harbinger to the the onrush of input from eastern religions/philosophies that started with huxley, krishnamurti, watts and others during the decade after.

our religions in the west were all about doing, and doing became our god. we neglected being in favour of doing, and became inexpert, callow and naive about our own existential qualities.

personally i believe this change has been largely positive, with some notable exceptions, and credit this sense of moral vacuum your diary describes as being the driver to seek out others' opinions and beliefs as possible alternatives to the western attitudes of cultural imperialism and taylorist industrialism whose bitter fruit lay before their stinging eyes.

yes we had dragged ourselves up out of child slavery, the black death and the inquisition...

and hitler wasn't even religious, so we couldn't use that scapegoat to explain away the collective psychosis.

it made us face that productionism had become our de facto religion, and the cosmically stupid results of taking that path.

we are still strugglng to emerge from those contradictions, imo, and you could even say that much of europe's elder generations is still in PTSD.

the old dregs of nationalism are slow to dissolve, but the young, who travel the continent like one big back yard, will bring a change, incrementally, as they see through the conditioning of cultural determinism much better than the generations presently calling the shots.

i digress...

ValentinD:

The French believe in absolute truths, like most people down south - you might have also noticed it about Italians.

actually i see it different. moral relativity is an art form here in italy!
the contributions of france to european thought and identity have been, and are immense.
placed at its heart, she represents many of our finest qualities, chief of which is nuance.

what i am happy to see lampooned is the pretentiousness that is also a national characteristic, and thin-skinned defensiveness at the merest suggestion we outside france may have some claims to culture too, lol! too self-referential...

it's often said that visitors can see a country in some ways better than its inhabitants, de toqueville was a good example of that.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jun 13th, 2009 at 05:21:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm. 'But look at the fruits of our actions'! do they not tell more about who we really are.

That's reasons enough to bring up thoughts about the  "fundamental absurdity of being".
And this applies to so many other contexts. From an eco view point, for instance - so much 'progress', and look what we've done to this world.
Being so careless for so long, and then suddenly waking up to the results of our deeds is doomed to lead to subliminal passive-nihilist feelings.

You're right about the onrush of input from eastern philosophies. I have a hard time calling it religion - at least here in the West it was perceived more like a way of life, with some esoterism to make it go down easier. This shows imo how people need spirituality in their lives, even in absence of established religions. I think in absence of any structure, parachuted on a desert island and left to their own devices, people would still devise a law system (that would limit the 'Positive Freedom' :) ) and a spiritual  one.

Your point about religions being about doing... this might be one of those differences between the western and eastern christianities. I'm no expert in the subject, but being educated in the eastern one, this is  how it feels.

My theory is that productionism and then consumerism are direct consequences of materialism. I don't even hold my friend Marx guilty for that (even though he did put in his brick): the progress of the physical science has been so overwhelming that we were bound to be taken away with the wave.
On the other hand, when we confound the destruction of a rigid, stratified, closed, society, with the dismantling of any moral and spiritual value system, I think we're running grave dangers.
This is why I've always made the connection between the 'positive freedom' dogma and the neoliberalism. Bankers are humans, the financial world is inside the human society, not the other way around, and we'll have to think and see if our society's ruling principles are not the root cause of the destruction we witness.

You mention the generation calling the shots, 40 to 70 yo I imagine; but they are those who were children or young adults in the  '60s and '70s, they were brought up during the sexual liberation, the flowerpower, the hippy and the wars for civic liberties. The old nationalists are long gone by now.
Erasmus and Interrail brought young people out and about in Europe, but most of my own workmates (in the 27-40 yo range) hardly ever travelled outside France.
This is why I wonder if nationalists will ever go away, just like I wondered about religions.
I don't know. I started to stop believing in 'trends'. The society seems to be much more complex than any mind could fathom.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Sun Jun 14th, 2009 at 10:01:15 PM EST
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You're right about the onrush of input from eastern philosophies. I have a hard time calling it religion - at least here in the West it was perceived more like a way of life, with some esoterism to make it go down easier. This shows imo how people need spirituality in their lives, even in absence of established religions. I think in absence of any structure, parachuted on a desert island and left to their own devices, people would still devise a law system (that would limit the 'Positive Freedom' :) ) and a spiritual  one.

i can understand why you wouldn't call eastern philosophies' religion', but the matrix whence they came certainly was, and their age and durability predate what we laughingly call civilisation-as-we-know-it.

having boiled out what you term 'esoterism' from our own worship, eastern thought contained ancient truths that we perceived as novel, as they hadn't been chez nous for centuries.

i detect, possibly erroneously, a note of disparagement in your reference to 'going down easier'.

ValentinD:

My theory is that productionism and then consumerism are direct consequences of materialism.

quite possibly so, but here's another duality we should surely be a' wearying of by now. matter and spirit are not separate, notwithstanding western efforts to claim it so.

as for a way of life, yes, but not in the accoutrement sense, bells, patchouli etc, more in a series of cultural windows opening, whose scented air revealed in contrast the foetid spiritual fumes we were idiotically committed to breathing.

the orient has a different take on time than we do, maybe because they have more of it recorded, i don't know for sure.

in trying to annihilate emptiness of time(instead of vice-versa), we have merely succeeded in speeding it up, and we are paying the price, as the desert proverb says: 'to hurry is to die'.

when the receiver breaks down, it's natural to give in to thinking/believing the sender is dead.

ValentinD:

You mention the generation calling the shots, 40 to 70 yo I imagine; but they are those who were children or young adults in the  '60s and '70s, they were brought up during the sexual liberation, the flowerpower, the hippy and the wars for civic liberties. The old nationalists are long gone by now.

excuse me, 70 year olds were very rarely affected by the new wave of ideas we're discussing, besides, don't you think the young prancing puppets sent to entertain and distract us have strings pulled by 70 and 80 year-olds?

interestingly enough the numbers you quote fall quite neatly either side of the fault line, too old or too young to have had their adolescent hearts broken by their own culture, and to have had faith rekindled by other ways of devotion, condemned as 'colourful' by the p-t-b, and relegated to sunday supplement lifesyle pages, and soon commercialised into trivia.

how much damage have rumsfeld and cheney caused, and these are only two that are visible?

being 70 ain't what it used to be, look at berli, nation wrecker extrordinaire! monkey gland extracts and the best medicine money can buy have extended these old vampires' lifespans, while a generation or go they would have been sent off to drool at pasture, now they own vaccine firms, frolic with harems and shoot their friends.

funny old world...

(devil's avocado warning)

ValentinD:

On the other hand, when we confound the destruction of a rigid, stratified, closed, society, with the dismantling of any moral and spiritual value system, I think we're running grave dangers.

yes, and in not dismantling (more peaceful than destroying) 'rigid, stratified, closed,' religious tyrannies we run equally grave ones.

 let's add 'sexist', 'child-abusive', 'medieval-minded' to that list while we're at it.

ValentinD:

Erasmus and Interrail brought young people out and about in Europe, but most of my own workmates (in the 27-40 yo range) hardly ever travelled outside France.

that's why we're still a generation away...
ValentinD:

I don't know. I started to stop believing in 'trends'. The society seems to be much more complex than any mind could fathom.

trends are mostly visible in the rear view mirror. society's over-complexity is a giant overcompensation stemming from the amount of truthiness sold us as gospel.

be your own trend, lol!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 16th, 2009 at 10:07:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"moral relativity is an art form here in italy!
... what i am happy to see lampooned is the pretentiousness that is also a national characteristic, and thin-skinned defensiveness at the merest suggestion we outside france may have some claims to culture too, lol! too self-referential...
"

lol Well when one lives in France one begins to understand how that comes about, and even see it as quite harmless. On the other hand there's a certain kind of nationalism, or rather, ethnocentrism in France. I see it in relation with the obsession for nuance, which leads to sometimes absurd exigence, even perfectionism, and with the 'absolute-truth' side.

Note that I said 'absolute truths', not absolute morals! Morals are a complicate thing, it involves  empathy, style and a lot other things.
I was rather speaking about the cartesian spirit at work here. The cartesian spirit needs absolute precision, and accepts no relativity (even when it look like it does).

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Sun Jun 14th, 2009 at 10:12:13 PM EST
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