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The deep Crisis of the West

«There is a clash of civilizations»

13.04.2014. French society is under threat, argues philosopher Alain Finkielkraut in a controversial new book. The conservative spoke to SPIEGEL about what he sees as the failure of multiculturalism and the need for better integration of Muslim immigrants:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Finkielkraut, are you unhappy with today's France?

Finkielkraut: I am pained to see that the French mode of European civilization is threatened. France is in the process of transforming into a post-national and multicultural society. It seems to me that this enormous transformation does not bring anything good.

SPIEGEL: Why is that? Post-national and multicultural sounds rather promising.

Finkielkraut: It is presented to us as the model for the future. But multiculturalism does not mean that cultures blend. Mistrust prevails, communitarianism is rampant -- parallel societies are forming that continuously distance themselves from each other.


SPIEGEL: You yourself are the child of immigrants, the progeny of a persecuted family. Does your personal will to integrate explain your radical commitment to the values of the Republic?

Finkielkraut: I defend these values because I probably owe more to my schooling than do the Français de souche, the hereditary French. French traditions and history were not laid in my cradle. Anyone who does not bring along this heritage can acquire it in l'école républicaine, the French school system. It has expanded my horizons and allowed me to immerse myself in French civilization.

SPIEGEL: And made you into its apologist?

Finkielkraut: I can speak and write more openly than others precisely because I am not a hereditary Frenchman. The natives easily allow themselves to be unnerved by the prevailing discourse. I don't have such complexes.

SPIEGEL: How do you define this French civilization that you speak of?

Finkielkraut: I recently reread a book by the admirable Russian writer Isaac Babel. The story takes place in Paris. The narrator is in a hotel and at night he hears the lovemaking sounds of the couples next door. Babel writes: This has nothing to do with what one hears in Russia -- it's much more fiery. Then his French friend responds: We French created women, literature and cuisine. No one can take that from us.

SPIEGEL: Those are idealized clichés that nations create for themselves.

Finkielkraut: But it is true, or at least it was in the past. France can't allow itself to bask in its own glory. But it has evidence of its civilization, just like Germany -- it has its sights, its squares, its cafés, its wealth of literature and its artists. We can be proud of these ancestors, and we have to prove that we are worthy of them. I regret that Germany -- for reasons that are understandable -- has broken with this pride in its past. But I believe that German politicians who speak of Leitkultur -- the guiding national culture -- are right. The Leitkultur does not create an insurmountable barrier to newcomers.


SPIEGEL: Isn't it extremely easy to attribute all problems to poverty immigration from the developing world?

Finkielkraut: A public political debate on the issue is the least that one could expect. Instead, this field is ceded to the extreme right.

SPIEGEL: How do you view the political rise of Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front party?

Finkielkraut: This disturbs me, of course. But the National Front would not be continuously on the rise if it had not discarded the old issues of the extreme right. Nowadays the National Front focuses on secularism and the republic.

SPIEGEL: That sounds as if you could imagine voting for the party.

Finkielkraut: No, I would never do that because this party appeals to people's base instincts and hatred. And these are easy to kindle among its supporters. We can't leave these issues to the National Front. It would also be up to the left, the party of the people, to take seriously the suffering and anxiety of ordinary people.

SPIEGEL: What do you say to people who call you a reactionary?

Finkielkraut: It has become impossible to see history as constant progress. I reserve the possibility to compare yesterday and today and ask the question: What do we retain, what do we abandon?

SPIEGEL: Is that really any more than nostalgia for a lost world?

Finkielkraut: Like Albert Camus, I am of the opinion that our generation's task is not to recreate the world, but to prevent its decline. We not only have to conserve nature, but also culture. There you have the reactionary.

SPIEGEL: When you see all these problems in France -- the debts, unemployment, educational crisis, identity crisis -- do you fear for the future?

Finkielkraut: I become sad and feel a growing sense of anxiety. Optimism would seem a bit ridiculous these days. I wish the politicians were able to speak the truth and look reality in the face. Then, I believe, France would be capable of a true awakening -- of contemplating a policy of civilization.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Finkielkraut, thank you for this interview.

Read the entire interview in Der Spiegel.

Alain Finkielkraut is one of France's most controversial essayists. His new book, "L'Identité Malheureuse" ("The Unhappy Identity," Éditions Stock ), has been the subject of heated debate. It comes at a time when France finds itself in the midst of an identity crisis. But rather than framing things from a social or political perspective, Finkielkraut explores what he sees as a hostile confrontation between indigenous French people and immigrants. He was interviewed in his Parisian apartment on the Left Bank.


Mozilla cannot tolerate diverging views on gay marriage

13.04.2014. The American CEO forced out for opposing gay marriage is a victim of ideological intolerance. Commenting on the forced resignation of her chief executive after he was found to have contributed $1,000 to a California movement against gay marriage, the executive chairwoman of Mozilla, the company that makes the Firefox web browser, apologised for not having pushed him out faster. [...] Mozilla’s treatment of the hapless CEO, Brendan Eich, is chilling. A man was kicked out of his job for having an opinion about a current, unrelated controversy. In the eyes of his boss, Mr Eich had become that social leper, a thought criminal. Some gay activists have professed shock that gay rights have been used in this way to destroy other rights. Such avowals of outraged liberalism cut no ice. Having hijacked the institution of marriage, stamped all over religious beliefs and smeared objectors as bigots, such activists can scarcely pose now as principled defenders of freedom. Thus writes Melanie Phillips in a recent article in The Times. She later concludes as follows:

This intolerance, however, extends far more widely. In the 1990s, when I started writing about the breakdown of the nuclear family, I quickly found certain things had become unsayable. Researchers who produced evidence of the harm often done to children by divorce or elective fatherlessness were not only vilified as “senile”, “sloppy” or — again — “Christian”, their grant funding dried up. At government level, statistics revealing that unmarried cohabitants abused women and children some 33 times more frequently than married couples simply vanished after the different categories of relationship were excised from official scrutiny.

When it comes to man-made global warming, the totalitarians seem to have taken over the House of Commons. Last week its Science and Technology Committee declared that ministers who questioned the “majority” view among scientists about climate change should “shut up”, and that BBC editors should seek special clearance to interview climate sceptics.

That’s nothing compared to what many distinguished sceptical scientists go through on the front lines of the green battlefield. They are subjected to death threats, calls to try them for war crimes in “some sort of climate Nuremberg” or proposals to subject them to aversion therapy to produce correct thinking. Professor Richard Lindzen, a former expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has described how scientists working in the IPCC process were forced to tell lies and victimised if they refused.

Here’s the really striking thing. Although such issues arise from secular ideologies, their proponents resemble the medieval Church which, believing in the imminent perfection of the world, had to get rid of heretics who might get in the way. Today’s heretics, global warming sceptics, defenders of traditional marriage, opponents of elective fatherlessness and others, stand in the way of secular ideas aimed at purging human nature and the world of all bad things.

Medieval Christianity stamped out dissent by killing or conversion. Western liberals do it by social, professional and legal ostracism. So conscientious objectors to gay rights are the equivalent of racists; global warming sceptics are likened to Holocaust deniers.

With both communism and fascism defeated, the West has succumbed to yet another variant of a world view that brooks no dissent. Back in 1952, J. L. Talmon identified it as “totalitarian democracy”, which he characterised as “a dictatorship based on ideology and the enthusiasm of the masses”.

We now have a culture of ideological intolerance, stamping out not just dissent but free inquiry, all under the guise of creating a kinder, more inclusive and progressive world. Which all goes to show there’s no one more illiberal than those who wear liberalism on their sleeve.

The entire article has been republished by Document.no.



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