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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Repository of Finkielkraut quotes

There's no English translation of Alain Finkielkraut's latest book, L'Identité malheureuse, damn it. So I'm gathering some of the best lines, for review purposes (hi, copyright lawyers!) here.


Abuse of Gallic hospitality:

"For the first time in the history of immigration, the guest is now denying his host, whoever the host may be, the right to incarnate the nation that is welcoming him."

"Under the prism of romanticism for the other, the new social norms of diversity create a France where one's origins have no right to be mentioned unless they are exotic, where only one identity is stricken with unreality: the national identity."

"To forget or to excommunicate our past, this is not to open ourselves to the dimension of the future: it is to submit, without resistance, to the power of onrushing events ... Abandoning the great ambition of the Enlightenment—which was to stamp our image upon the entire world—does not have to lead to the destruction of that image."

"One group's [the native French] roots are considered suspect, their genealogical pride repugnant; meanwhile, the others [Muslim immigrants] are invited to celebrate their history and cultivate their otherness."

Finkielkraut warns against democracy when it's interpreted only as a moral rather than a political process: it's no longer OK to make distinctions between good students and bad, learned men and idiots, moral action and immoral action, everyone is the same—and yet the actual democratic process has less and less effect on the actual flow of events.

"In democratic eras, all authority becomes suspect, save the authority of public opinion. There is no power that society doesn't protest, save precisely the power of society."

"Freed from tradition and transcendence, democratic man thinks like everyone else while thinking he thinks for himself."

The Left wishes it could fire the People and replace it with a People that behaves properly:

"'The People' have disappointed the left; they have trapped themselves in nostalgia, they have become reactionaries. ... the Front National is now the premier working-class party in France. ... But it's precisely those who denounce this occurrence, those very nice bobos [moneyed hipsters], who in a practical sense avoid the problems [of mass immigration] through their choice of residence, and even more through the choice of where they send their children to school ... 'The Other, the Other'—they repeat this buzzword endlessly, but it's in the comfort of familiarity between themselves that they cultivate exoticism."

Kids these days: Born knowing everything—or everything they need to be consumers, anyway. Finkielstein discusses the dying habit of reading one thing at a time: a single text that takes a person out of his ego, place, and time. Educational institutions were once a sanctuary for the mind. Now the present is inescapable.

"Courted, honored, flattered by the entertainment industry, [the adolescent] is no longer defined by the fact that he's not yet a completed being. He's not missing anything. He has no desire to be educated: He's already sitting on a throne. ... The modern world breaks down the doors of the temple, the modern brand of liberty invites itself into playgrounds and classrooms; the present will no longer let you push it away, the mundane is never forgotten, the impulses of life invade the institution; society, with its codes, its fashions, its brands and emblems, its fetishized objects, its in-group signaling and signs of belonging, explodes inside the school."

Kids with screens, ignoring the real people around them:

"What they've forgotten in their fervor for equality and liberty, is that bourgeois customs had a moral foundation. ... They force you to feel, all while playing into the social comedy, concern for others. When I'm polite, I'm following a custom, of course; I'm playing a role, no doubt; I'm betraying my roots, possibly. But above all, as Hume showed, I'm letting other people know that they count in my view. I greet them, I bow to them, I acknowledge their existence by de-stressing my own. A child who's been left to the devices of his inborn egocentricity and new technologies does the opposite: he denies the existence of the person who's right in front of him. He snuffs out the external reality which, in other eras, he would have been forced to face.

(Schools cater to bored Internet addicts by providing textbooks that resemble the Internet: with short texts and lots of pictures. Students harass and threaten teachers who do not comply with the fashion in which they wish to consume their education.)

By contrast, could we reinstate the old idea of aidos, a sort of reverent modesty, in the schools?:

"This ethos would remind students that they aren't simply owners of rights, that they not only possess claims that must be paid to them, but that they also have obligations to fulfill and a debt that they owe for the labors of those who came before, the advantages of civilization, and republican institutions."

"What is a classic? It's a book whose aura envelops you before you read it. We aren't afraid that it will disappoint us, but that we will disappoint by not being equal to it."

Finkielkraut works, throughout L'Identité malheureuse, on the idea that the Holocaust and the end of colonialism made Europeans terrified of their own history. The mantra "never again!" has caused people to become stuck in expecting racism and facism to come only from the same direction it struck from last time. Since they're looking for white people to misbehave, they gloss ideologically over the evidence that immigrants may now be generating racial hatred all on their own:

"These aren't idiots or bad people, but men and women of good intentions, who need to think that villainy has a central address, that racism has a single face, that events all fall into a single paradigm ... does the Just remain just when it's divorced from reality?"

"Mais taisez-vous!": After a series of interruptions and ad hominems, professional smugnaut Adbel Raouf Dafri finally makes the philosopher lose his cool: