Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Nothing that is taken seriously is spared."

...Forced Westernization, development, Arab nationalism, Pan-Arabism, socialism: all that failed. What's left? Religious identity, the collective conscience ordered around the inheritance of a tradition. Push this recovery movement to the end and you've got fundamentalism, so that it's no longer a matter of rediscovering habitual religiosity, but rather the truth of sources hijacked by the corruption of the present. The pretext/affair of the caricatures of Mohammed has demonstrated the immense resentment felt by populations that feel despised, abandoned by history, in a situation of perpetual failure in relation to a West that does not measure how the penetration of its ways of doing things and of thinking is destructive to the existing social order, notably in this Islam that, as much as a faith, is a way of life. The West is blind to the impact of globalization of the economy and customs, to how it disaggregates the traditional family and violently changes the relationship between men and women and between generations. We're talking about an existential uprising.

Aren't you struck by the rise in derision toward all religion?

Yes. There's some new quality to derision as it has been practiced, say, the last two or three decades in Europe. It illustrates the "departure" of religion that we talked about. We've gone beyond anti-religious criticism like we once knew, which expressed hostility on principle to a system one fought as contrary to the spirit of freedom. The opposition could be very violent, but it supposed a sort of agreement: you believe in the authority of revelation, but we believe in the autonomy of reason. The dissension was inexpiable, but there was an implicit consensus with regard to the stakes and the grounds of the confrontation - including recourse to deadly ridicule.
With derision, we step out of this implicit agreement. What is rejected is the very ground for belief. That's what makes it more hurtful for a religious awareness than traditional anti-clericalism or atheism, which could clash, but which had strong foundations. With derision, religious awareness is abused in its most profound being: the sense of [a] certain significance to existence, the sense of ultimate questions before death, and beyond that, salvation. Religious people are overridden by a smug superficiality.

The political world is not spared either ...

No, of course not. Nothing that is taken seriously is spared. Derision has become a sort of criterion for hyper-modernity. For very prosperous societies, we should undoubtedly see that as the reflex of a spoiled child. It is an ideological epiphenomenon that pushes the liberal faith of our societies to the limit: everything goes along on its own, so why ask dramatic questions? Seriousness is quite out of fashion ... It goes without saying that the more committed one is in one's faith or political action, the more this rejection of seriousness hits you in the face. And then imagine the reaction in societies where the difficulty of existence still preserves all its
weight ...

The West Is Blind to the Impact of Globalization on the Economy and on Morals: an interview with Marcel Gauchet in Le Monde, Saturday 11 March 2006

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