Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Not to look away"

On reading this interview with Andre Glucksmann, I found that much of what he says resonates with me deeply. Here is a selection of thoughts I found particularly acute:

.. "The intellectual is incompetent [who] flouts his own expertise without having any. And at the same time, he presents himself as judge." ... intellectuals abstain from preaching goodness. *

Two weeks ago, Glucksmann kicked up yet another stink with an article that appeared in Le Monde titled "Why I'm voting for Nicolas Sarkozy." ... It is Sarkozy, not the socialists, who took up the case of Bulgarian nurses in Libya who were condemned to death (more), who protested the massacre in Darfur, who recalls the 250,000 Chechnyans killed. Glucksmann always felt more at home with the Left, he explains in conversation, but the distinction has now become misleading. It was Sarkozy, and not a leftist, who provided the only realistic answer to the uprisings in the banlieues: these people need work, the French economy needs a kick start. Glucksmann argues that if you look at content and not words, you have to vote "right" on occasion.


... most problems in the world come from people who need identity at all costs. Most wars are, among other things, wars of identity [-] ... "If you have a solid identity, there's no problem. If you don't have one, and that's increasingly the norm in today's world, you can either accept that or try to create one, with violence or at the expense of others." A large portion of the world's population today lives somewhere between the old world of agrarian certainties and Western democracies, where various groups live together according to rules; in a violent zone of uncertainty and conflict over identity. This is an ideal climate for nihilism... The nihilist... may pose as a nationalist, a Marxist or a Muslim fundamentalist, but these are all just alibis. In fact, he is just empty, without a base, and his only motivation is to hate and to destroy the other.

In his last book "Le Discours de la Haine" (more): .. misery and repression... are just taken as an excuse to give brutality free rein. In elaborated cases, an entire ideology is constructed. It's never the cause of hatred, it's an alibi that's put there in retrospect. And therefore, the rebuttal of ideologies does not lead to a disappearance of destruction. .. "Some feel they've been called upon by God, others feel liberated by the absence of God and all conventions. Both work with or against each other and kill profligately, because they feel they have the right to do everything.

"None of that speaks against the right to revolt. Glucksmann remains full of admiration for the engagement of his mother and her comrades in the French Resistance. For him, the Resistance is a perfect example of how partisans must not copy the methods of their oppressors.

When I asked him about the essence of his thinking, he said: "Nicht wegschauen" (Not to look away). On this particular afternoon, these are the only two words he says in German, his mother's language in which she once lulled him to sleep in occupied France.


* Here Glucksmann provides an example:

...On the scales of world opinion, some Muslim corpses are light as a feather, and others weigh tonnes. Two measures, two weights. The daily terrorist attacks on civilians in Baghdad, killing 50 people or more, are checked off in reports under the heading of miscellaneous, while the bomb that took 28 lives in Qana is denounced as a crime against humanity. Only a few intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Lévy or Magdi Allam, chief editor of the Corriere della Sera, find this surprising. Why do the 200,000 slaughtered Muslims of Darfur not arouse even half a quarter of the fury caused by 200-times fewer dead in Lebanon? Must we deduce that Muslims killed by other Muslims don't count - whether in the eyes of Muslim authorities or viewed through the bad conscience of the west? This conclusion has its weak spots, because if the Russian Army - Christian, and blessed by their popes - razes the capital of Chechnian Muslims (Grosny, with 400,000 residents) killing tens of thousands of children in the process, this doesn't count either. The Security Council does not hold meeting after meeting, and the Organization of Islamic States piously averts its eyes. From that we may conclude that the world is appalled only when a Muslim is killed by Israelis.

Should we thus presume that the public at large implicitly endorses the ideas that Ahmadinedjad shouts at the top of his lungs? And yet so many of those sceptics who display consternation over bombings in Lebanon seem shocked if you suspect them of anti-Semitism. I want to trust them. We don't want to imagine that the entire planet is mired in anti-Jewish paranoia! But then the matter becomes even more puzzling. What is the source of this hemiplegia? Why is the world frightened by Israeli bombs alone?


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