Saturday, June 04, 2005

EndPage, Levy, Europe

London, it seems, does have crime after all. I can think of a good country for these folks. Pretty soon they won't even have to go back in time to get there.
On an entirely other, potentially more productive note, have only skimmed so far but this (from EndPage), and this look interesting. And yet another heavy-weight intellectual soaps the box:
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has it out with the French naysayers. First he lists the beneficiaries of the "non" to the European constitution, counting Putin and Islamists among them. Then he comments on the strange victorious alliance of the Left with the extreme Right Front National: "Even if you don't know anything about the history of France, and even if you don't believe in the unconscious element in language and its dark ways, you can still see that something is very amiss if after a political earthquake you watch TV and see that you are not only geographically but also semantically very close to extreme right leaders who the night before you'd been calling fascists, and against whom you now – that was the second event of the evening – have nothing more to say."

One should be careful here. Such concerns about semantics, and the question of a potential "unconcious element in language" are deeply valid, in my view, and not to be dismissed. Having said that, there does seem to be an important distinction––something along the lines of that most frequently drawn by Zizek––at stake in these debates, as myself and others have wondered about, from time to time. The stakes are quite high, of course, when one begins to suggest that neo-fundamentalists are in a certain sense more honest (than self-professed "liberals"), in that they are merely voicing a frustration that is inherent to or symptomatic of a (neo)liberal-democratic order (one whose notion of 'tolerance' rings ever-increasingly hollow, perhaps). But to hastily equate the two––neo-fundamentalist and progressive or far left––simply because they voted the same way, thus sweeping away a whole host of concerns about the nature of the problem itself...well this seems to be unjust, not least of all because it risks reducing politics and political identity to the hopelessly overdetermined (and at once reductive) act of voting alone. The far left MUST have "more to say," and must not stop saying it.

That said, one should ask whether the revving up of this Enlightenment, European legacy or Kantian rhetoric is really appropriate, not least of all as it seems to co-exist with and even fuel a certain anti-immigrant sentiment. A Europe than merely "tolerates" anything even vaguely like a "parallel society" is a scary prospect indeed. There's more here.

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