by Jerome a Paris
Fri Nov 25th, 2005 at 06:05:16 PM EST
From the front page
French philosopher André Glucksmann wrote a provocative piece in yesterday's Le Monde, where he bemoans the "winds of hate" in our country.
He has been a tireless militant againt Putin and Russia's ugly war in Chechnya and he also supported the invasion of Iraq on humanitarian grounds - Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator that needed to be brought down, and he had been critical before of the links between some parts of the French State with Saddam's Iraq. In that sense he is close to the neocons, pro-American and anti-Russian. He still sees America as a force for good againtt tyranny and hate. Despite this, his words on France are interesting, and also provide some deeper insights.
Translation by me from the article in French in Le Monde:
In France as in the United States, integration is rife with conflict and contestation. No one questions the "Frenchness" of the peasants who impose their will with easy recourse to violence, and one must recognize a properly French virtue in the firebombs of the suburbs. It is in France that our nihilist firebombers learn that what makes you strong is your capacity for nuisance.
The more you break, the more you count. France, both the left and the right, should take a look at the mirror provided by the rioters. Who claims to control Europe while in a minority, even if it means declaring to the countries which are just freed from the domination of their Russian master that they have only one right, to keep silent? Who votes with a 55 % majority against Europe by adding its vote to those from the extremes and the racists? Who takes the risk to demolish fifty years of efforts? Who is ready to get WTO to fail and ignores, in the name of our 2 % of peasants, immense African misery? French diplomacy behaves in the international arena as if all relationships were about who's most harmful to whom. Yesterday it was as friendly as possible with Saddam, today with Putin. It dared call "resistant" the killers of Baghdad.
Similar nihilist behavior inside France creates its dreadful effects. Examples of blackmail abound. Lawlessness takes its toll both in elite France as in the lower classes. Our suburbs are completely French. It's much too easy to stigmatize foreigners. The firebombers are definitely at home here. They are citizens of a country where the winds of hatred blow.
Now, one may agree or not with that pretty dark vision of France (as it were, I think there is too much truth in there for comfort, even if it is a very partial and selective view), but this begs a more general question: why such nihilism? Why such hate?
This is a theme I have touched upon before - that of zero-sum games. Why, after many years of our civilisation successfully growing out of its earlier misery thanks to the adoption of win-win rules (demcoracy, cooperation, openness, accountability) are we falling back to older, almost feudal, rules of behavior?
Is it the pressure of the monetisation of value (only money grants value, and what cannot be "valued" - in dollars - has no value for our society) and the even stronger pressure to maximize such value in the short term?
Is it the disappearance of ideologies (national, political or religious) and the (stifling, but reassuring) rules they imposed on all in society from the onslaught of individual liberty - and our inability to replace collectively-imposed morality by personal responsibility?
Is it just a temporary aberration, when a selfish caste has taken advantage of the openness and the wealth of the system to, quite simply, cheat - and setting the precedent for everybody else to follow, until order breaks down and we come to our senses and kick them out?
Selfishness rules. Instant gratification has become a "human right" ( a "z'acquis sociaux" for the French). Our role models (people on TV) lead us in that direction by their example, and we hate it when we cannot do the same. Some of us are better brought up than others to resist the temptation, but are treated as naive or are abused.
How do we take a stand against hate? One thing is certain: not by becoming hateful ourselves.