Réseaux sociaux: Facebook confirme Girard (Universal theater of envy: Welcome to the brave new world of mimetic desire that social media has now brought to our personal computers !)

31 décembre, 2018

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Tu ne convoiteras point la maison de ton prochain; tu ne convoiteras point la femme de ton prochain, ni son serviteur, ni sa servante, ni son boeuf, ni son âne, ni aucune chose qui appartienne à ton prochain. Exode 20: 17
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Je vous le dis en vérité, toutes les fois que vous avez fait ces choses à l’un de ces plus petits de mes frères, c’est à moi que vous les avez faites. Jésus (Matthieu 25: 40)
Comme par une seule offense la condamnation a atteint tous les hommes, de même par un seul acte de justice la justification qui donne la vie s’étend à tous les hommes. (…) Là où le péché abonde, la grâce surabonde. Paul (Romains 5 : 18-20)
Les envieux mourront, mais non jamais l’envie. Molière (Tartuffe, V, III)
Il ne faut pas dissimuler que les institutions démocratiques développent à un très haut niveau le sentiment de l’envie dans le coeur humain. Ce n’est point tant parce qu’elle offrent à chacun les moyens de s’égaler aux autres, mais parce que ces moyens défaillent sans cesse à ceux qui les emploient. Les institutions démocratiques réveillent et flattent la passion de l’égalité sans pouvoir jamais la satisfaire entièrement. Cette égalité complète s’échappe tous les jours des mains du peuples au moment où il croit la saisir, et fuit, comme dit Pascal, d’une fuite éternelle; le peuple s’échauffe à la recherche de ce bien d’autant plus précieux qu’il est assez proche pour être connu et assez loin pour ne pas être goûté. Tout ce qui le dépasse par quelque endroit lui paraît un obstacle à ses désirs, et il n’y a pas de supériorité si légitime dont la vue ne fatigue sas yeux. Tocqueville
Il y a en effet une passion mâle et légitime pour l’égalité qui excite les hommes à vouloir être tous forts et estimés. Cette passion tend à élever les petits au rang des grands ; mais il se rencontre aussi dans le cœur humain un goût dépravé pour l’égalité, qui porte les faibles à vouloir attirer les forts à leur niveau, et qui réduit les hommes à préférer l’égalité dans la servitude à l’inégalité dans la liberté. Tocqueville
La même force culturelle et spirituelle qui a joué un rôle si décisif dans la disparition du sacrifice humain est aujourd’hui en train de provoquer la disparition des rituels de sacrifice humain qui l’ont jadis remplacé. Tout cela semble être une bonne nouvelle, mais à condition que ceux qui comptaient sur ces ressources rituelles soient en mesure de les remplacer par des ressources religieuses durables d’un autre genre. Priver une société des ressources sacrificielles rudimentaires dont elle dépend sans lui proposer d’alternatives, c’est la plonger dans une crise qui la conduira presque certainement à la violence. Gil Bailie
Si le Décalogue consacre son commandement ultime à interdire le désir des biens du prochain, c’est parce qu’il reconnaît lucidement dans ce désir le responsable des violences interdites dans les quatre commandements qui le précèdent. Si on cessait de désirer les biens du prochain, on ne se rendrait jamais coupable ni de meurtre, ni d’adultère, ni de vol, ni de faux témoignage. Si le dixième commandement était respecté, il rendrait superflus les quatre commandements qui le précèdent. Au lieu de commencer par la cause et de poursuivre par les conséquences, comme ferait un exposé philosophique, le Décalogue suit l’ordre inverse. Il pare d’abord au plus pressé: pour écarter la violence, il interdit les actions violentes. Il se retourne ensuite vers la cause et découvre le désir inspiré par le prochain. René Girard
Nous sommes encore proches de cette période des grandes expositions internationales qui regardait de façon utopique la mondialisation comme l’Exposition de Londres – la « Fameuse » dont parle Dostoievski, les expositions de Paris… Plus on s’approche de la vraie mondialisation plus on s’aperçoit que la non-différence ce n’est pas du tout la paix parmi les hommes mais ce peut être la rivalité mimétique la plus extravagante. On était encore dans cette idée selon laquelle on vivait dans le même monde: on n’est plus séparé par rien de ce qui séparait les hommes auparavant donc c’est forcément le paradis. Ce que voulait la Révolution française. Après la nuit du 4 août, plus de problème ! René Girard
L’erreur est toujours de raisonner dans les catégories de la « différence », alors que la racine de tous les conflits, c’est plutôt la « concurrence », la rivalité mimétique entre des êtres, des pays, des cultures. La concurrence, c’est-à-dire le désir d’imiter l’autre pour obtenir la même chose que lui, au besoin par la violence. Sans doute le terrorisme est-il lié à un monde « différent » du nôtre, mais ce qui suscite le terrorisme n’est pas dans cette « différence » qui l’éloigne le plus de nous et nous le rend inconcevable. Il est au contraire dans un désir exacerbé de convergence et de ressemblance. (…) Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme.Ce sentiment n’est pas vrai des masses, mais des dirigeants. Sur le plan de la fortune personnelle, on sait qu’un homme comme Ben Laden n’a rien à envier à personne. Et combien de chefs de parti ou de faction sont dans cette situation intermédiaire, identique à la sienne. Regardez un Mirabeau au début de la Révolution française : il a un pied dans un camp et un pied dans l’autre, et il n’en vit que de manière plus aiguë son ressentiment. Aux Etats-Unis, des immigrés s’intègrent avec facilité, alors que d’autres, même si leur réussite est éclatante, vivent aussi dans un déchirement et un ressentiment permanents. Parce qu’ils sont ramenés à leur enfance, à des frustrations et des humiliations héritées du passé. Cette dimension est essentielle, en particulier chez des musulmans qui ont des traditions de fierté et un style de rapports individuels encore proche de la féodalité. (…) Cette concurrence mimétique, quand elle est malheureuse, ressort toujours, à un moment donné, sous une forme violente. A cet égard, c’est l’islam qui fournit aujourd’hui le ciment qu’on trouvait autrefois dans le marxisme.  René Girard
Si Jésus ne parle jamais en termes d’interdits et toujours en termes de modèles et d’imitation, c’est parce qu’il tire jusqu’au bout la leçon du dixième commandement. Ce n’est pas par narcissisme qu’il nous recommande de l’imiter lui-même, c’est pour nous détourner des rivalités mimétiques. Sur quoi exactement l’imitation de Jésus-Christ doit-elle porter ? Ce ne peut pas être sur ses façons d’être ou ses habitudes personnelles : il n’est jamais question de cela dans les Evangiles. Jésus ne propose pas non plus une règle de vie ascétique au sens de Thomas a Kempis et de sa célèbre Imitation de Jésus-Christ, si admirable que soit cet ouvrage. Ce que Jésus nous invite à imiter c’est son propre désir, c’est l’élan qui le dirige lui, Jésus, vers le but qu’il s’est fixé : ressembler le plus possible à Dieu le Père. L’invitation à imiter le désir de Jésus peut sembler paradoxale car Jésus ne prétend pas posséder de désir propre, de désir « bien à lui ». Contrairement à ce que nous prétendons nous-mêmes, il ne prétend pas « être lui-même », il ne se flatte pas de « n’obéir qu’à son propre désir ». Son but est de devenir l’image parfaite de Dieu. Il consacre donc toutes ses forces à imiter ce Père. En nous invitant à l’imiter lui, il nous invite à imiter sa propre imitation. Loin d’être paradoxale, cette invitation est plus raisonnable que celle de nos gourous modernes. Ceux-ci nous invitent tous à faire le contraire de ce qu’ils font eux-mêmes, ou tout au moins prétendent faire. Chacun d’eux demande à ses disciples d’imiter en lui le grand homme qui n’imite personne. Jésus, tout au contraire, nous invite à faire ce qu’il fait lui-même, à devenir tout comme lui un imitateur de Dieu le Père. Pourquoi Jésus regarde-t-il le Père et lui-même comme les meilleurs modèles pour tous les hommes ? Parce que ni le Père ni le Fils ne désirent avidement, égoïstement. Dieu « fait lever son soleil sur les méchants et sur les bons ». Il donne aux hommes sans compter, sans marquer entre eux la moindre différence. Il laisse les mauvaises herbes pousser avec les bonnes jusqu’au temps de la moisson. Si nous imitons le désintéressement divin, jamais le piège des rivalités mimétiques ne se refermera sur nous. C’est pourquoi Jésus dit aussi : « Demandez et l’on vous donnera… » Lorsque Jésus déclare que, loin d’abolir la Loi, il l’accomplit, il formule une conséquence logique de son enseignement. Le but de la Loi, c’est la paix entre les hommes. Jésus ne méprise jamais la Loi, même lorsqu’elle prend la forme des interdits. A la différence des penseurs modernes, il sait très bien que, pour empêcher les conflits, il faut commencer par les interdits. L’inconvénient des interdits, toutefois, c’est qu’ils ne jouent pas leur rôle de façon satisfaisante. Leur caractère surtout négatif, saint Paul l’a bien vu, chatouille en nous, forcément, la tendance mimétique à la transgression. La meilleure façon de prévenir la violence consiste non pas à interdire des objets, ou même le désir rivalitaire, comme fait le dixième commandement, mais à fournir aux hommes le modèle qui, au lieu de les entraîner dans les rivalités mimétiques, les en protégera. (…) Loin de surgir dans un univers exempt d’imitation, le commandement d’imiter Jésus s’adresse à des êtres pénétrés de mimétisme. Les non-chrétiens s’imaginent que, pour se convertir, il leur faudrait renoncer à une autonomie que tous les hommes possèdent naturellement, une autonomie dont Jésus voudrait les priver. En réalité, dès que nous imitons Jésus, nous nous découvrons imitateurs depuis toujours. Notre aspiration à l’autonomie nous agenouillait devant des êtres qui, même s’ils ne sont pas pires que nous, n’en sont pas moins de mauvais modèles en ceci que nous ne pouvons pas les imiter sans tomber avec eux dans le piège des rivalités inextricables. (…) Même si le mimétisme du désir humain est le grand responsable des violences qui nous accablent, il ne faut pas en conclure que le désir mimétique est mauvais. Si nos désirs n’étaient pas mimétiques, ils seraient à jamais fixés sur des objets prédéterminés, ils seraient une forme particulière d’instinct. Les hommes ne pourraient pas plus changer de désir que les vaches dans un pré. Sans désir mimétique il n’y aurait ni liberté ni humanité. Le désir mimétique est intrinsèquement bon. L’homme est cette créature qui a perdu une partie de son instinct animal pour accéder à ce qu’on appelle le désir. Une fois leurs besoins naturels assouvis, les hommes désirent intensément, mais ils ne savent pas exactement quoi car aucun instinct ne les guide. Ils n’ont pas de désir propre. Le propre du désir est de ne pas être propre. Pour désirer vraiment, nous devons recourir aux hommes qui nous entourent, nous devons leur emprunter leurs désirs. Cet emprunt se fait souvent sans que ni le prêteur ni l’emprunteur s’en aperçoivent. Ce n’est pas seulement leur désir qu’on emprunte à ceux qu’on prend pour modèles c’est une foule de comportements, d’attitudes, de savoirs, de préjugés, de préférences, etc., au sein desquels l’emprunt le plus lourd de conséquences, le désir, passe souvent inaperçu. La seule culture vraiment nôtre n’est pas celle où nous sommes nés, c’est la culture dont nous imitons les modèles à l’âge où notre puissance d’assimilation mimétique est la plus grande. Si leur désir n’était pas mimétique, si les enfants ne choisissaient pas pour modèles, forcément, les êtres humains qui les entourent, l’humanité n’aurait ni langage ni culture. Si le désir n’était pas mimétique, nous ne serions ouverts ni à l’humain ni au divin. C’est dans ce dernier domaine, nécessairement, que notre incertitude est la plus grande et notre besoin de modèles le plus intense. René Girard (Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair)
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le « soldat inconnu ». Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
« Que celui qui se croit sans péché lui jette la première pierre ! » Pourquoi la première pierre ? Parce qu’elle est seule décisive. Celui qui la jette n’a personne à imiter. Rien de plus facile que d’imiter un exemple déjà donné. Donner soi-même l’exemple est tout autre chose. La foule est mimétiquement mobilisée, mais il lui reste un dernier seuil à franchir, celui de la violence réelle. Si quelqu’un jetait la première pierre, aussitôt les pierres pleuvraient. En attirant l’attention sur la première pierre, la parole de Jésus renforce cet obstacle ultime à la lapidation. Il donne aux meilleurs de cette foule le temps d’entendre sa parole et de s’examiner eux-mêmes. S’il est réel, cet examen ne peut manquer de découvrir le rapport circulaire de la victime et du bourreau. Le scandale qu’incarne cette femme à leurs yeux, ces hommes le portent déjà en eux-mêmes, et c’est pour s’en débarrasser qu’ils le projettent sur elle, d’autant plus aisément, bien sûr, qu’elle est vraiment coupable. Pour lapider une victime de bon coeur, il faut se croire différent d’elle, et la convergence mimétique, je le rappelle, s’accompagne d’une illusion de divergence. C’est la convergence réelle combinée avec l’illusion de divergence qui déclenche ce que Jésus cherche à prévenir, le mécanisme du bouc émissaire. La foule précède l’individu. Ne devient vraiment individu que celui qui, se détachant de la foule, échappe à l’unanimité violente. Tous ne sont pas capables d’autant d’initiative. Ceux qui en sont capables se détachent les premiers et, ce faisant, empêchent la lapidation. (…) A côté des temps individuels, donc, il y a toujours un temps social dans notre texte, mais il singe désormais les temps individuels, c’est le temps des modes et des engouements politiques, intellectuels, etc. Le temps reste ponctué par des mécanismes mimétiques. Sortir de la foule le premier, renoncer le premier à jeter des pierres, c’est prendre le risque d’en recevoir. La décision en sens inverse aurait été plus facile, car elle se situait dans le droit fil d’un emballement mimétique déjà amorcé. La première pierre est moins mimétique que les suivantes, mais elle n’en est pas moins portée par la vague de mimétisme qui a engendré la foule. Et les premiers à décider contre la lapidation ? Faut-il penser que chez eux au moins il n’y a aucune imitation ? Certainement pas. Même là il y en a, puisque c’est Jésus qui suggère à ces hommes d’agir comme ils le font. La décision contre la violence resterait impossible, nous dit le christianisme, sans cet Esprit divin qui s’appelle le Paraclet, c’est-à-dire, en grec ordinaire, « l’avocat de la défense » : c’est bien ici le rôle de Jésus lui-même. Il laisse d’ailleurs entendre qu’il est lui-même le premier Paraclet, le premier défenseur des victimes. Et il l’est surtout par la Passion qui est ici, bien sûr, sous-entendue. La théorie mimétique insiste sur le suivisme universel, sur l’impuissance des hommes à ne pas imiter les exemples les plus faciles, les plus suivis, parce que c’est cela qui prédomine dans toute société. Il ne faut pas en conclure qu’elle nie la liberté individuelle. En situant la décision véritable dans son contexte vrai, celui des contagions mimétiques partout présentes, cette théorie donne à ce qui n’est pas mécanique, et qui pourtant ne diffère pas du tout dans sa forme de ce qui l’est, un relief que la libre décision n’a pas chez les penseurs qui ont toujours la liberté à la bouche et de ce fait même, croyant l’exalter, la dévaluent complètement. Si on glorifie le décisif sans voir ce qui le rend très difficile, on ne sort jamais de la métaphysique la plus creuse. Même le renoncement au mimétisme violent ne peut pas se répandre sans se transformer en mécanisme social, en mimétisme aveugle. Il y a une lapidation à l’envers symétrique de la lapidation à l’endroit non dénuée de violence, elle aussi. C’est ce que montrent bien les parodies de notre temps. Tous ceux qui auraient jeté des pierres s’il s’était trouvé quelqu’un pour jeter la première sont mimétiquement amenés à n’en pas jeter. Pour la plupart d’entre eux, la vraie raison de la non-violence n’est pas la dure réflexion sur soi, le renoncement à la violence : c’est le mimétisme, comme d’habitude. Il y a toujours emballement mimétique dans une direction ou dans une autre. En s’engouffrant dans la direction déjà choisie par les premiers, les « mimic men » se félicitent de leur esprit de décision et de liberté. Il ne faut pas se leurrer. Dans une société qui ne lapide plus les femmes adultères, beaucoup d’hommes n’ont pas vraiment changé. La violence est moindre, mieux dissimulée, mais structurellement identique à ce qu’elle a toujours été. Il n’y a pas sortie authentique du mimétisme, mais soumission mimétique à une culture qui prône cette sortie. Dans toute aventure sociale, quelle qu’en soit la nature, la part d’individualisme authentique est forcément minime mais pas inexistante. Il ne faut pas oublier surtout que le mimétisme qui épargne les victimes est infiniment supérieur objectivement, moralement, à celui qui les tue à coups de pierres. Il faut laisser les fausses équivalences à Nietzsche et aux esthétismes décadents. Le récit de la femme adultère nous fait voir que des comportements sociaux identiques dans leur forme et même jusqu’à un certain point dans leur fond, puisqu’ils sont tous mimétiques, peuvent néanmoins différer les uns des autres à l’infini. La part de mécanisme et de liberté qu’ils comportent est infiniment variable. Mais cette inépuisable diversité ne prouve rien en faveur du nihilisme cognitif ; elle ne prouve pas que les comportements sont incomparables et inconnaissables. Tout ce que nous avons besoin de connaître pour résister aux automatismes sociaux, aux contagions mimétiques galopantes, est accessible à la connaissance. René Girard
Jésus s’appuie sur la Loi pour en transformer radicalement le sens. La femme adultère doit être lapidée : en cela la Loi d’Israël ne se distingue pas de celle des nations. La lapidation est à la fois une manière de reproduire et de contenir le processus de mise à mort de la victime dans des limites strictes. Rien n’est plus contagieux que la violence et il ne faut pas se tromper de victime. Parce qu’elle redoute les fausses dénonciations, la Loi, pour les rendre plus difficiles, oblige les délateurs, qui doivent être deux au minimum, à jeter eux-mêmes les deux premières pierres. Jésus s’appuie sur ce qu’il y a de plus humain dans la Loi, l’obligation faite aux deux premiers accusateurs de jeter les deux premières pierres ; il s’agit pour lui de transformer le mimétisme ritualisé pour une violence limitée en un mimétisme inverse. Si ceux qui doivent jeter » la première pierre » renoncent à leur geste, alors une réaction mimétique inverse s’enclenche, pour le pardon, pour l’amour. (…) Jésus sauve la femme accusée d’adultère. Mais il est périlleux de priver la violence mimétique de tout exutoire. Jésus sait bien qu’à dénoncer radicalement le mauvais mimétisme, il s’expose à devenir lui-même la cible des violences collectives. Nous voyons effectivement dans les Évangiles converger contre lui les ressentiments de ceux qu’ils privent de leur raison d’être, gardiens du Temple et de la Loi en particulier. » Les chefs des prêtres et les Pharisiens rassemblèrent donc le Sanhédrin et dirent : « Que ferons-nous ? Cet homme multiplie les signes. Si nous le laissons agir, tous croiront en lui ». » Le grand prêtre Caïphe leur révèle alors le mécanisme qui permet d’immoler Jésus et qui est au cœur de toute culture païenne : » Ne comprenez-vous pas ? Il est de votre intérêt qu’un seul homme meure pour tout le peuple plutôt que la nation périsse » (Jean XI, 47-50) (…) Livrée à elle-même, l’humanité ne peut pas sortir de la spirale infernale de la violence mimétique et des mythes qui en camouflent le dénouement sacrificiel. Pour rompre l’unanimité mimétique, il faut postuler une force supérieure à la contagion violente : l’Esprit de Dieu, que Jean appelle aussi le Paraclet, c’est-à-dire l’avocat de la défense des victimes. C’est aussi l’Esprit qui fait révéler aux persécuteurs la loi du meurtre réconciliateur dans toute sa nudité. (…) Ils utilisent une expression qui est l’équivalent de » bouc émissaire » mais qui fait mieux ressortir l’innocence foncière de celui contre qui tous se réconcilient : Jésus est désigné comme » Agneau de Dieu « . Cela veut dire qu’il est la victime émissaire par excellence, celle dont le sacrifice, parce qu’il est identifié comme le meurtre arbitraire d’un innocent — et parce que la victime n’a jamais succombé à aucune rivalité mimétique — rend inutile, comme le dit l’Épître aux Hébreux, tous les sacrifices sanglants, ritualisés ou non, sur lesquels est fondée la cohésion des communautés humaines. La mort et la Résurrection du Christ substituent une communion de paix et d’amour à l’unité fondée sur la contrainte des communautés païennes. L’Eucharistie, commémoration régulière du » sacrifice parfait » remplace la répétition stérile des sacrifices sanglants. (…) En même temps, le devoir du chrétien est de dénoncer le péché là où il se trouve. Le communisme a pu s’effondrer sans violence parce que le monde libre et le monde communiste avaient accepté de ne plus remettre en cause les frontières existantes ; à l’intérieur de ces frontières, des millions de chrétiens ont combattu sans violence pour la vérité, pour que la lumière soit faite sur le mensonge et la violence des régimes qui asservissaient leurs pays. Encore une fois, face au danger de mimétisme universel de la violence, vous n’avez qu’une réponse possible : le christianisme. René Girard
Our supposedly insatiable appetite for the forbidden stops short of envy. Primitive cultures fear and repress envy so much that they have no word for it; we hardly use the one we have, and this fact must be significant. We no longer prohibit many actions that generate envy, but silently ostracize whatever can remind us of its presence in our midst. Psychic phenomena, we are told, are important in proportion to the resistance they generate toward revelation. If we apply this yardstick to envy as well as to what psychoanalysis designates as repressed, which of the two will make the more plausible candidate for the role of best-defended secret? René Girard
In the affluent West, we live in a world where there is less and less need therefore and more and more desire…. One has today real possibilities of true autonomy, of individual judgments. However, those possibilities are more commonly sold down the river in favour of false individuality, of negative mimesis…. The only way modernity can be defined is the universalization of internal mediation, for one doesn’t have areas of life that would keep people apart from each other, and that would mean that the construction of our beliefs and identity cannot but have strong mimetic components. René Girard
Dans notre époque où il n’est plus indécent de se vanter de manipulations en tous genres, le marketing a franchi un pas décisif grâce à Internet et aux réseaux sociaux. Il avait compris depuis longtemps les mécanismes du mimétisme et le rôle des modèles dans les décisions d’achat : la publicité n’a cessé d’en jouer. Mais délibérément ou en suivant un mouvement dont il n’a pas eu l’initiative, le marketing vient de révéler le pot aux roses. Des modèles de consommation officiels ont désormais un nom : influenceuses ou influenceurs. Et les victimes du désir mimétique sont des « followers », autrement dit des suiveurs ou des suiveuses des conseils ainsi dispensés. Ces modèles ont le plus souvent des comptes Instagram ou des chaînes YouTube. Ils parlent de beauté, de mode, de voyages, de sport, de culture… bref interviennent dans autant de marchés sur lesquels ils sont susceptibles d’orienter des comportements de consommation. Du point de vue de la théorie mimétique, ils sont plutôt des médiateurs externes, insusceptibles d’entrer en rivalité avec la plupart de leurs suiveurs, si ce n’est certains d’entre eux mus par leur ressentiment et qui sont dénommés « haters », donc haineux. Nous retrouvons ici les passions stendhaliennes de l’envie, de la jalousie et de la haine impuissante ou encore la figure du narrateur des Carnets du sous-sol de Dostoïevski, cet homme du ressentiment par excellence. La puissance des influenceurs se mesure au volume et à la croissance du nombre de leurs suiveurs. En découle une valeur économique qui se traduit par les rémunérations que leur servent les marques promues. Mais la relation n’est pas si simple : elle suppose aussi que l’influenceur donne des gages d’indépendance à ceux qui suivent leurs conseils. L’influenceur ne peut étendre et maintenir son influence qu’en apparaissant comme souverain vis-à-vis de ses suiveurs mais aussi des marques qu’il promeut. Sinon, il serait lui-même considéré comme influençable par les entreprises dont il vante les qualités, du moins celles de leurs produits et services. Cette suprématie est obtenue par sa capacité à modeler les goûts de ses suiveurs. Il est en effet beaucoup plus efficace, efficient et pertinent qu’une campagne de publicité par voie de presse – écrite, radiophonique ou télévisuelle. Il regroupe une population rendue homogène par l’attraction commune que ses membres ressentent pour son «charisme». Des jeunes gens de moins de vingt peuvent ainsi devenir ce qu’on appelait autrefois des leaders d’opinion. Sans avoir fait autre chose que s’enregistrer en vidéo dans leur appartement en tenant des propos persuasifs, ils peuvent être suivis par des millions d’admirateurs qui attendent leurs avis pour faire leurs choix. Enjoy Phenix, Cyprien, Natoo, Caroline Receveur ou encore SqueeZie seraient-ils les nouveaux maîtres du désir mimétique ? Au moins sont-ils d’indéniables révélateurs de sa persistante actualité et de sa pertinence. Jean-Marc Bourdin
René Girard (1923–2015) was one of the last of that race of Titans who dominated the human sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with their grand, synthetic theories about history, society, psychology, and aesthetics. That race has since given way to a more cautious breed of “researchers” who prefer to look at things up close, to see their fine grain rather than their larger patterns. Yet the times certainly seem to attest to the enduring relevance of Girard’s thought to our social and political realities. Not only are his ideas about mimetic desire and human violence as far-reaching as Marx’s theories of political economy or Freud’s claims about the Oedipus complex, but the explosion of social media, the resurgence of populism, and the increasing virulence of reciprocal violence all suggest that the contemporary world is becoming more and more recognizably “Girardian” in its behavior. (…) Somewhat like Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered the site of ancient Troy by assuming that the Homeric epics contained a substrate of historical truth, Girard approached literary works as coffers containing the most fundamental truths about human desire, conflict, and self-deception. (…) For Girard there is no such thing as fullness of being among mortals. All of us—including the rich, the famous, the powerful, and the glamorous—have our mimetic models and suffer from a deficiency of being. That deficiency nourishes our desires, physical or metaphysical. (…)The common currency of mimetic desire is envy. Envy is a form of hostile worship. It turns admiration into resentment. Dante considered it radix malorum, the root of all evil, and Girard agreed. He claimed that envy is the one taboo that is alive and well in contemporary society—the vice that few will ever talk about or confess to (…) Since then social media has brought “the universalization of internal mediation” to a new level, while at the same time dramatically narrowing the “areas of life that would keep people apart from each other.” Social media is the miasma of mimetic desire. If you post pictures of your summer vacation in Greece, you can expect your “friends” to post pictures from some other desirable destination. The photos of your dinner party will be matched or outmatched by theirs. If you assure me through social media that you love your life, I will find a way to profess how much I love mine. When I post my pleasures, activities, and family news on a Facebook page, I am seeking to arouse my mediators’ desires. In that sense social media provides a hyperbolic platform for the promiscuous circulation of mediator-oriented desire. As it burrows into every aspect of everyday life, Facebook insinuates itself precisely into those areas of life that would keep people apart. Certainly the enormous market potential of Facebook was not lost on Girard’s student Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who studied with him at Stanford in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A devoted Girardian who founded and funds an institute called Imitatio, whose goal is to “pursue research and application of mimetic theory across the social sciences and critical areas of human behavior,” Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook, selling most of his shares in 2012 for over a billion dollars (they cost him $500,000 in 2004). It took a highly intelligent Girardian, well schooled in mimetic theory, to intuit early on that Facebook was about to open a worldwide theater of imitative desire on people’s personal computers. Robert Pogue Harrison
After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life…When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders. Paul Butler
Depuis lors, les médias sociaux ont porté « l’universalisation de la médiation interne » à un nouveau niveau, tout en réduisant considérablement les « domaines de la vie qui séparaient les gens les uns des autres ». Les médias sociaux sont le miasme du désir mimétique. Si vous publiez des photos de vos vacances d’été en Grèce, vous pouvez vous attendre à ce que vos « amis » publient des photos d’une autre destination attrayante. Les photos de votre dîner seront égalées ou surpassées par les leurs. Si vous m’assurez, par le biais des médias sociaux, que vous aimez votre vie, je trouverai un moyen de dire à quel point j’aime la mienne. Lorsque je publie mes plaisirs, mes activités et mes nouvelles familiales sur une page Facebook, je cherche à susciter le désir de mes médiateurs. En ce sens, les médias sociaux fournissent une plate-forme hyperbolique pour la circulation imprudente du désir axé sur le médiateur. Alors qu’il se cache dans tous les aspects de la vie quotidienne, Facebook s’insinue précisément dans les domaines de la vie qui sépareraient les gens. Très certainement, l’énorme potentiel commercial de Facebook n’a pas échappé à Peter Thiel, l’investisseur en capital-risque et l’un de ses étudiants à Stanford à la fin des années 80 et au début des années 90. Girardien dévoué qui a fondé et financé un institut appelé Imitatio, dont le but est de « poursuivre la recherche et l’application de la théorie mimétique dans les sciences sociales et les domaines critiques du comportement humain », Thiel a été le premier investisseur extérieur de Facebook, vendant la plupart de ses actions. en 2012 pour plus d’un milliard de dollars (elles lui avaient coûté 500 000 dollars en 2004). Seul un girardien très intelligent, bien initié à la théorie mimétique, pouvait comprendre aussi tôt que Facebook était sur le point d’ouvrir un théâtre mondial de désir mimétique sur les ordinateurs personnels de ses utilisateurs. Robert Pogue Harrison

Après la neuroscience et les djihadistesHarry Potter et Superman, devinez qui confirme René Girard ?

En ce nouveau et dernier réveillon de l’année 2018 …

Dont les meilleures photos ne devraient pas manquer pour bon nombre d’entre nous …

De faire les meilleures pages et les beaux jours de la formidable invention du docteur Frankenstein-Zuckerberg

Comme hélas depuis bientôt deux mois le déchainement auto-entretenu de la violence et de l’envie des casseurs aux gilets jaunes

Comment ne pas repenser avec la NY Review of books

Ou le girardien Jean-Marc Bourdin

 

Aux découvertes et analyses de René Girard sur « l’universalisation de la médiation interne » dont est faite notre modernité même …

Avec la réduction toujours plus implacable qu’elle implique …

Des « domaines de la vie qui séparaient les gens les uns des autres » …

Et qui avec les réseaux sociaux et ses « influenceurs » et « suiveurs » trouve sa confirmation la plus éclatante …

Ouvrant littéralement à la planète entière

Et pour le meilleur comme pour le pire

La scène sur laquelle chacun peut désormais s’exposer …

Au déchainement quasiment sans frein des « feux de l’envie »  ?

The Prophet of Envy
Robert Pogue Harrison
NY Review of Books
December 20, 2018

Violence and the Sacred

by René Girard, translated from the French by Patrick Gregory
Johns Hopkins University Press (1977)

Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre

by René Girard, translated from the French by Mary Baker
Michigan State University Press (2010)

René Girard (1923–2015) was one of the last of that race of Titans who dominated the human sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with their grand, synthetic theories about history, society, psychology, and aesthetics. That race has since given way to a more cautious breed of “researchers” who prefer to look at things up close, to see their fine grain rather than their larger patterns. Yet the times certainly seem to attest to the enduring relevance of Girard’s thought to our social and political realities. Not only are his ideas about mimetic desire and human violence as far-reaching as Marx’s theories of political economy or Freud’s claims about the Oedipus complex, but the explosion of social media, the resurgence of populism, and the increasing virulence of reciprocal violence all suggest that the contemporary world is becoming more and more recognizably “Girardian” in its behavior.

In Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard, Cynthia Haven—a literary journalist and the author of books on Joseph Brodsky and Czesław Miłosz—offers a lively, well-documented, highly readable account of how Girard built up his grand “mimetic theory,” as it’s sometimes called, over time. Her decision to introduce his thought to a broader public by way of an intellectual biography was a good one. Girard was not a man of action—the most important events of his life took place inside his head—so for the most part she follows the winding path of his academic career, from its beginnings in France, where he studied medieval history at the École des Chartes, to his migration to the United States in 1947, to the various American universities at which he taught over the years: Indiana, Duke, Bryn Mawr, Johns Hopkins, SUNY Buffalo, and finally Stanford, where he retired in 1997.

Girard began and ended his career as a professor of French and comparative literature. That was as it should have been. Although he was never formally trained in literary studies (he received a Ph.D. in history from Indiana University in 1950), he effectively built his theory of mimetic desire, in all its expansive anthropological aspects, on literary foundations. Somewhat like Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered the site of ancient Troy by assuming that the Homeric epics contained a substrate of historical truth, Girard approached literary works as coffers containing the most fundamental truths about human desire, conflict, and self-deception.

His first book, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, published in French in 1961 when he was a professor at Johns Hopkins, treated the novels of Cervantes, Stendhal, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, and Proust as forensic evidence of the essential structures of desire, not just of literary characters but of those who find themselves reflected in them. The prevailing modern belief that my desires are my own, that they arise from my autonomous inner self, is a “Romantic” falsehood that the novelistic tradition, according to Girard, exposes as a delusion (I’m echoing here the French title of the book: Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque, literally “Romantic falsehood and novelistic truth”). Instead, he argues, my desires are mimetic: I want what others seem to want. Whether I am conscious of it or not (mostly not), I imitate their desires to such a degree that the object itself becomes secondary, and in some cases superfluous, to the rivalries that form around it.

Girard postulated that between a desiring subject and its object there is usually a “model” or “mediator,” who can be either “external” or “internal.” External mediators exist outside of my time and place, like Amadís de Gaule’s chivalric heroes, who impel Don Quixote’s desire to become a knight-errant; or Lancelot and Guinevere, whose adulterous kiss is imitated by Paolo and Francesca in Dante’s account in canto 5 of the Inferno; or the celebrities whom advertisers enlist to sell us products. The external mediator often figures as a hero or ego ideal, and there is typically no rivalry involved.

With internal mediators, however, we are in the realm of what Girard calls “interdividuals,” or people who interact with one another in the same social world. The internal mediator is my neighbor, so to speak, and is often a rival who arouses hatred or envy, or both at once. In the novels Girard dealt with, internal mediation often involves “triangulated desire” between three characters, two of whom vie for the other: Mathilde and Mme de Fervacques vying for Julien in Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, for instance, or Julien and Valenod vying for Mme de Rênal. Even when a character views the mediator as an enemy, the former often secretly envies and idolizes the latter, as in the case of Proust’s Mme Verdurin, who loathed the Guermantes family until she married into it.

A crucial concept in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel is that of “metaphysical desire,” a somewhat misleading term for a common sentiment. We tend to attribute to the mediator a “fullness of being” that he or she does not in fact enjoy. For Girard there is no such thing as fullness of being among mortals. All of us—including the rich, the famous, the powerful, and the glamorous—have our mimetic models and suffer from a deficiency of being. That deficiency nourishes our desires, physical or metaphysical.

The English translation of Deceit, Desire, and the Novel came out in 1965, two years before V.S. Naipaul published The Mimic Men, which seems like a ringing endorsement of Girard’s claims about deficiency. (I don’t know if he ever read Girard.) In the novel Naipaul probes the psychology of elite ex-colonial “mimic men” who, after decolonization, model their desires on their former British masters. The mimic man will never enjoy the “fullness of being” he ascribes to his model, who, in Girard’s words, “shows the disciple the gate of paradise and forbids him to enter with one and the same gesture.” Naipaul’s narrator, Ralph Singh, knows this, yet such knowledge does not alleviate his unhappy consciousness. “We become what we see of ourselves in the eyes of others,” he declares. Girard would most likely deny Singh his one consolation, namely his belief that he is different from, and superior to, the mimic men who lack his own heightened self-awareness.

Girard might go even further and ask whether Naipaul’s mimic men in fact imitate one another more than the British models they share. The whole business gets altogether murkier—and more Girardian—when one considers that Naipaul himself was the perfect expression of the mimic man he defined and despised. The writer’s bearing, speech, racism, and invectives betray an ex-colonial subject mimicking the habits of his masters and the class to which he desperately wanted to belong. In this Naipaul falls well short of the novelists Girard dealt with in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, all of whom, Girard claims, ended up forswearing the mimetic mechanisms they so insightfully depicted in their work.

The common currency of mimetic desire is envy. Envy is a form of hostile worship. It turns admiration into resentment. Dante considered it radix malorum, the root of all evil, and Girard agreed. He claimed that envy is the one taboo that is alive and well in contemporary society—the vice that few will ever talk about or confess to:

Our supposedly insatiable appetite for the forbidden stops short of envy. Primitive cultures fear and repress envy so much that they have no word for it; we hardly use the one we have, and this fact must be significant. We no longer prohibit many actions that generate envy, but silently ostracize whatever can remind us of its presence in our midst. Psychic phenomena, we are told, are important in proportion to the resistance they generate toward revelation. If we apply this yardstick to envy as well as to what psychoanalysis designates as repressed, which of the two will make the more plausible candidate for the role of best-defended secret?

These sentences come from the introduction to the only book that Girard wrote in English, A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare (1991), which is full of insights into the envy and imitative behavior of Shakespeare’s characters. Proceeding as incautiously as Schliemann did in his excavations, Girard bores through Shakespeare’s corpus to arrive at the substrate of mediated desire that he believed lies at its foundation. Girard plays by none of the rules of the tradition of commentary on Shakespeare, so it is not surprising that the book remains largely neglected, yet one day A Theater of Envy will likely be acknowledged as one of the most original, illuminating books on Shakespeare of its time, despite its speculative recklessness and relative ignorance of the vast body of secondary literature on Shakespeare’s works.

Speaking of “a theater of envy,” in Evolution and Conversion (in French, Les origines de la culture, 2004; the English translation was recently republished by Bloomsbury)—his conversations with Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, which took place a couple of years before Facebook launched its website in 2004—Girard made some remarks that seem particularly resonant today:

In the affluent West, we live in a world where there is less and less need therefore and more and more desire…. One has today real possibilities of true autonomy, of individual judgments. However, those possibilities are more commonly sold down the river in favour of false individuality, of negative mimesis…. The only way modernity can be defined is the universalization of internal mediation, for one doesn’t have areas of life that would keep people apart from each other, and that would mean that the construction of our beliefs and identity cannot but have strong mimetic components.

Since then social media has brought “the universalization of internal mediation” to a new level, while at the same time dramatically narrowing the “areas of life that would keep people apart from each other.”

Social media is the miasma of mimetic desire. If you post pictures of your summer vacation in Greece, you can expect your “friends” to post pictures from some other desirable destination. The photos of your dinner party will be matched or outmatched by theirs. If you assure me through social media that you love your life, I will find a way to profess how much I love mine. When I post my pleasures, activities, and family news on a Facebook page, I am seeking to arouse my mediators’ desires. In that sense social media provides a hyperbolic platform for the promiscuous circulation of mediator-oriented desire. As it burrows into every aspect of everyday life, Facebook insinuates itself precisely into those areas of life that would keep people apart.

Certainly the enormous market potential of Facebook was not lost on Girard’s student Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who studied with him at Stanford in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A devoted Girardian who founded and funds an institute called Imitatio, whose goal is to “pursue research and application of mimetic theory across the social sciences and critical areas of human behavior,” Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook, selling most of his shares in 2012 for over a billion dollars (they cost him $500,000 in 2004). It took a highly intelligent Girardian, well schooled in mimetic theory, to intuit early on that Facebook was about to open a worldwide theater of imitative desire on people’s personal computers.

In 1972, eleven years after Deceit, Desire, and the Novel appeared, Girard published Violence and the Sacred. It came as a shock to those familiar with his previous work. Here the literary critic assumed the mantle of cultural anthropologist, moving from the triangular desire of fictional bourgeois characters to the group behavior of primitive societies. Having immersed himself during the intervening decade in the work of Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Bronisław Malinowski, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Émile Durkheim, Gabriel Tarde, and Walter Burkert, Girard offered in Violence and the Sacred nothing less than an anthropogenic theory of mimetic violence.

I will not attempt to describe the theory in all its speculative complexity. Suffice it to say that the only thing more contagious than desire is violence. Girard postulates that, prior to the establishment of laws, prohibitions, and taboos, prehistoric societies would periodically succumb to “mimetic crises.” Usually brought on by a destabilizing event—be it drought, pestilence, or some other adversity—mimetic crises amount to mass panics in which communities become unnerved, impassioned, and crazed, as people imitate one another’s violence and hysteria rather than responding directly to the event itself. Distinctions disappear, members of the group become identical to one another in their vehemence, and a mob psychology takes over. In such moments the community’s very survival is threated by internecine strife and a Hobbesian war of all against all.

Girard interpreted archaic rituals, sacrifices, and myth as the symbolic traces or aftermath of prehistoric traumas brought on by mimetic crises. Those societies that saved themselves from self-immolation did so through what he called the scapegoat mechanism. Scapegoating begins with accusation and ends in collective murder. Singling out a random individual or subgroup of individuals as being responsible for the crisis, the community turns against the “guilty” victim (guilty in the eyes of the persecutors, that is, since according to Girard the victim is in fact innocent and chosen quite at random, although is frequently slightly different or distinct in some regard). A unanimous act of violence against the scapegoat miraculously restores peace and social cohesion (unum pro multis, “one for the sake of many,” as the Roman saying puts it).

The scapegoat’s murder has such healing power over the community that the victim retroactively assumes an aura of sacredness, and is sometimes even deified. Behind the practice of sacrifice in ancient societies Girard saw the spasmodic, scapegoat-directed violence of communities in the throes of mimetic crises—a primal murder, as it were, for which there exists no hard evidence but plenty of indirect evidence in ancient sacrificial practices, which he viewed as ritualized reenactments of the scapegoat mechanism that everywhere founded the archaic religions of humanity. (“Every observation suggests that, in human culture, sacrificial rites and the immolation of victims come first.”)

Violence and the Sacred deals almost exclusively with archaic religion. Its argument is more hypothetical and abstract, more remote and less intuitive, than what Girard put forward in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel. The same can be said for the main claims of his next major book, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978; the title comes from Matthew 13:35). There he argued that the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Gospels expose the “scandal” of the violent foundations of archaic religions. By revealing the inherent innocence of the victim—Jesus—as well as the inherent guilt of those who persecute and put him to death, “Christianity truly demystifies religion because it points out the error on which archaic religion is based.”*

Girard’s anthropological interpretation of Christianity in Things Hidden is as original as it is unorthodox. It views the Crucifixion as a revelation in the profane sense, namely a bringing to light of the arbitrary nature of the scapegoat mechanism that underlies sacrificial religions. After publishing Things Hidden, Girard gained a devoted following among various Christian scholars, some of whom lobbied him hard to open his theory to a more traditional theological interpretation of the Cross as the crux of man’s deliverance from sin. Girard eventually (and somewhat reluctantly) made room for a redemptive understanding of the Crucifixion, yet in principle his theory posits only its revelatory, demystifying, and scandalous aspect.

Orthodox Girardians insist that his corpusfrom Deceit, Desire, and the Novel to his last worksforms a coherent, integrated system that must be accepted or rejected as a whole. In my view, that is far from the case. One need not buy into the entire système Girard to recognize that his most fundamental insights can stand on their own.

Some of Girard’s most acute ideas come from his psychology of accusation. He championed legal systems that protect the rights of the accused because he believed that impassioned accusation, especially when it gains momentum by wrapping itself in the mantle of indignation, has a potential for mimetic diffusion that disregards any considered distinction between guilt and innocence. The word “Satan” in Hebrew means “adversary” or “accuser,” and Girard insisted in his later work that there is a distinctly satanic element at work in the zeal for accusation and prosecution.

Girard’s most valuable insight is that rivalry and violence arise from sameness rather than difference. Where conflicts erupt between neighbors or ethnic groups, or even among nations, more often than not it’s because of what they have in common rather than what distinguishes them. In Girard’s words: “The error is always to reason within categories of ‘difference’ when the root of all conflicts is rather ‘competition,’ mimetic rivalry between persons, countries, cultures.” Often we fight or go to war to prove our difference from an enemy who in fact resembles us in ways we are all too eager to deny.

A related insight of equal importance concerns the deadly cycles of revenge and reciprocal violence. Girard taught that retaliation hardly ever limits itself to “an eye for an eye” but almost always escalates the level of violence. Every escalation is imitated in turn by the other party:

Clausewitz sees very clearly that modern wars are as violent as they are only because they are “reciprocal”: mobilization involves more and more people until it is “total,” as Ernst Junger wrote of the 1914 war…. It was because he was “responding” to the humiliations inflicted by the Treaty of Versailles and the occupation of the Rhineland that Hitler was able to mobilize a whole people. Likewise, it was because he was “responding” to the German invasion that Stalin achieved a decisive victory over Hitler. It was because he was “responding” to the United States that Bin Laden planned 9/11…. The one who believes he can control violence by setting up defenses is in fact controlled by violence.

Those remarks come from the last book Girard wrote, Battling to the End (2010). It is in many ways one of his most interesting, for here he leaves behind speculations about archaic origins and turns his attention to modern history. The book’s conversations with Benoît Chantre, an eminent French Girardian, feature a major discussion of the war theorist Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), whose ideas about the “escalation to extremes” in modern warfare converge uncannily with Girard’s ideas about the acceleration of mimetic violence.

Toward the end of his life, Girard did not harbor much hope for history in the short term. In the past, politics was able to restrain mass violence and prevent its tendency to escalate to extremes, but in our time, he believed, politics had lost its power of containment. “Violence is a terrible adversary,” he wrote in Battling to the End, “especially since it always wins.” Yet it is necessary to battle violence with a new “heroic attitude,” for “it alone can link violence and reconciliation…[and] make tangible both the possibility of the end of the world and reconciliation among all members of humanity.” To that statement he felt compelled to add: “More than ever, I am convinced that history has meaning, and that its meaning is terrifying.” That meaning has to do with the primacy of violence in human relations. And to that statement, in turn, he added some verses of Friedrich Hölderlin: “But where danger threatens/that which saves from it also grows.”

  • *Girard goes so far as to argue that “Christianity is not only one of the destroyed religions but it is the destroyer of all religions. The death of God is a Christian phenomenon. In its modern sense, atheism is a Christian invention.” The Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo was very drawn to Girard’s understanding of Christianity as a secularizing religion, and the two collaborated on a fine book on the topic, Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue (Columbia University Press, 2010). 

Voir aussi:

Influenceurs et «followers» : les nouveaux maîtres du désir mimétique

Jean-Marc Bourdin

Iphilo

17/12/2018

BILLET : Sur Instagram ou sur leur chaîne YouTube, les influenceurs médiatisent nos désirs dans une relation triangulaire qui est au cœur de la thèse du désir mimétique de René Girard, analyse Jean-Marc Bourdin dans iPhilo. 


Ancien élève de l’ENA, inspecteur général de la ville de Paris, Jean-Marc Bourdin a également soutenu en 2016 une thèse de doctorat en philosophie sur René Girard à l’Université Paris-VIII. Créateur du blog L’Emissaire et membre de l’Association Recherche Mimétique (ARM), il a publié René Girard philosophe malgré lui et René Girard promoteur d’une science des rapports humains chez L’Harmattan en 2018.


René Girard affirme en 1961 dans Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesqueque seuls les plus grands romanciers, à la liste desquels il ajoutera par la suite quelques dramaturges, ont la faculté de comprendre les mécanismes du désir mimétique. Ceux-ci resteraient inconnus non seulement du commun des mortels mais aussi d’écrivains moins doués qui se laissent duper par la prétention du désir à l’autonomie.

Cette affirmation radicale souffrirait-elle désormais d’au moins une exception de taille ? Dans notre époque où il n’est plus indécent de se vanter de manipulations en tous genres, le marketing a franchi un pas décisif grâce à Internet et aux réseaux sociaux. Il avait compris depuis longtemps les mécanismes du mimétisme et le rôle des modèles dans les décisions d’achat : la publicité n’a cessé d’en jouer. Mais délibérément ou en suivant un mouvement dont il n’a pas eu l’initiative, le marketing vient de révéler le pot aux roses. Des modèles de consommation officiels ont désormais un nom : influenceuses ou influenceurs. Et les victimes du désir mimétique sont des « followers », autrement dit des suiveurs ou des suiveuses des conseils ainsi dispensés.

Ces modèles ont le plus souvent des comptes Instagram ou des chaînes YouTube. Ils parlent de beauté, de mode, de voyages, de sport, de culture… bref interviennent dans autant de marchés sur lesquels ils sont susceptibles d’orienter des comportements de consommation.

Du point de vue de la théorie mimétique, ils sont plutôt des médiateurs externes, insusceptibles d’entrer en rivalité avec la plupart de leurs suiveurs, si ce n’est certains d’entre eux mus par leur ressentiment et qui sont dénommés « haters », donc haineux. Nous retrouvons ici les passions stendhaliennes de l’envie, de la jalousie et de la haine impuissante ou encore la figure du narrateur des Carnets du sous-sol de Dostoïevski, cet homme du ressentiment par excellence.

La puissance des influenceurs se mesure au volume et à la croissance du nombre de leurs suiveurs. En découle une valeur économique qui se traduit par les rémunérations que leur servent les marques promues. Mais la relation n’est pas si simple : elle suppose aussi que l’influenceur donne des gages d’indépendance à ceux qui suivent leurs conseils.

L’influenceur ne peut étendre et maintenir son influence qu’en apparaissant comme souverain vis-à-vis de ses suiveurs mais aussi des marques qu’il promeut. Sinon, il serait lui-même considéré comme influençable par les entreprises dont il vante les qualités, du moins celles de leurs produits et services. Cette suprématie est obtenue par sa capacité à modeler les goûts de ses suiveurs. Il est en effet beaucoup plus efficace, efficient et pertinent qu’une campagne de publicité par voie de presse – écrite, radiophonique ou télévisuelle. Il regroupe une population rendue homogène par l’attraction commune que ses membres ressentent pour son «charisme».

Des jeunes gens de moins de vingt peuvent ainsi devenir ce qu’on appelait autrefois des leaders d’opinion. Sans avoir fait autre chose que s’enregistrer en vidéo dans leur appartement en tenant des propos persuasifs, ils peuvent être suivis par des millions d’admirateurs qui attendent leurs avis pour faire leurs choix.

Enjoy Phenix, Cyprien, Natoo, Caroline Receveur ou encore SqueeZie seraient-ils les nouveaux maîtres du désir mimétique ? Au moins sont-ils d’indéniables révélateurs de sa persistante actualité et de sa pertinence.

Voir encore:

Visualizing Friendships
Paul Butler
Facebook
December 14, 2010

Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle.

When the data is the social graph of 500 million people, there are a lot of lenses through which you can view it. One that piqued my curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.

I began by taking a sample of about ten million pairs of friends from Apache Hive, our data warehouse. I combined that data with each user’s current city and summed the number of friends between each pair of cities. Then I merged the data with the longitude and latitude of each city.

At that point, I began exploring it in R, an open-source statistics environment. As a sanity check, I plotted points at some of the latitude and longitude coordinates. To my relief, what I saw was roughly an outline of the world. Next I erased the dots and plotted lines between the points. After a few minutes of rendering, a big white blob appeared in the center of the map. Some of the outer edges of the blob vaguely resembled the continents, but it was clear that I had too much data to get interesting results just by drawing lines. I thought that making the lines semi-transparent would do the trick, but I quickly realized that my graphing environment couldn’t handle enough shades of color for it to work the way I wanted.

Instead I found a way to simulate the effect I wanted. I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others. I used a color ramp from black to blue to white, with each line’s color depending on its weight. I also transformed some of the lines to wrap around the image, rather than spanning more than halfway around the world.

After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

Later I replaced the lines with great circle arcs, which are the shortest routes between two points on the Earth. Because the Earth is a sphere, these are often not straight lines on the projection.

When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.

Paul is an intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team.

Voir également:

Check out this stunning Facebook world map

Jeffrey Van Camp

Digital trends

12.14.10

Have you ever wondered what 10 million friendships would look like on a world map? Well, a Facebook engineer has the answer for you. The map below was made by Paul Butler, an engineering intern at Facebook. In a blog post, he explains how he created this visualized representation of friendships. His quest began when he became curious as to whether country or physical location had a big impact on friendships. In other words, he wondered if people had a lot of friends who live far away from them, perhaps around the world. So he took a sample of 10 million friendship pairs from the Facebook database and made this image.

The results are fairly evident and we recommend you check it out in high resolution to fully understand what you’re looking at. This data was not graphed onto a map, by the way. Every lit up dot of land is the geo-location of a friend. The map formed itself by the sheer number of connections. The most lit areas–Europe and the United States–are bright because of the density of smaller range friendships inside them.

“After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw,” said Butler. “The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life…When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.”

As much as we dog Facebook here and there, this perfectly shows the great qualities of social networking. With only 10 million of the 500 million connections, we are able to build a map of the world solely from our own personal connections. Very cool.

Publicités

Biographie de René Girard: Nul n’est prophète en son pays (Written on the subway walls and tenement halls: Who will finally listen as the signs multiply from fashion fads to mass shootings of Girard’s masterful rediscovery of the Biblical truth of mimetic desire and conflict ?)

29 octobre, 2018

KKK graffiti and swastika on Pittsburgh building
Nul n’est prophète en son pays. Jésus
En ce moment, apparurent les doigts d’une main d’homme et ils écrivirent, en face du chandelier, sur la chaux de la muraille du palais royal (…) [Et] Daniel (…) [ayant] un esprit supérieur, de la science et de l’intelligence, la faculté d’interpréter les songes, d’expliquer les énigmes et de résoudre les questions difficiles (…) répondit en présence du roi: (…) Compté, compté, pesé et divisé. Daniel 5: 5-25
S’ils se taisent, les pierres crieront! Jésus (Luc 19 : 40)
Je te loue, Père, Seigneur du ciel et de la terre, de ce que tu as caché ces choses aux sages et aux intelligents, et de ce que tu les as révélées aux enfants. Jésus (Matthieu 11: 25)
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Vous entendrez parler de guerres et de bruits de guerres: gardez-vous d’être troublés, car il faut que ces choses arrivent. Mais ce ne sera pas encore la fin. Une nation s’élèvera contre une nation, et un royaume contre un royaume, et il y aura, en divers lieux, des famines et des tremblements de terre. Tout cela ne sera que le commencement des douleurs. Alors on vous livrera aux tourments, et l’on vous fera mourir; et vous serez haïs de toutes les nations, à cause de mon nom. Jésus (Matthieu 24: 6-9)
Nous prêchons la sagesse de Dieu, mystérieuse et cachée, que Dieu, avant les siècles, avait destinée pour notre gloire, sagesse qu’aucun des chefs de ce siècle n’a connue, car, s’ils l’eussent connue, ils n’auraient pas crucifié le Seigneur de gloire. Paul (1 Corinthiens 2, 6-8)
Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus Christ. Paul (Galates 3: 28)
L’acte surréaliste le plus simple consiste, revolvers au poing, à descendre dans la rue et à tirer, au hasard, tant qu’on peut dans la foule. André Breton
Il faut avoir le courage de vouloir le mal et pour cela il faut commencer par rompre avec le comportement grossièrement humanitaire qui fait partie de l’héritage chrétien. (..) Nous sommes avec ceux qui tuent. Breton
Bien avant qu’un intellectuel nazi ait annoncé ‘quand j’entends le mot culture je sors mon revolver’, les poètes avaient proclamé leur dégoût pour cette saleté de culture et politiquement invité Barbares, Scythes, Nègres, Indiens, ô vous tous, à la piétiner. Hannah Arendt (1949)
la mort des individus. (…) Pourquoi l’avant-garde a-t-elle été fascinée par le meurtre et a fait des criminels ses héros , de Sade aux sœurs Papin, et de l’horreur ses délices, du supplice des Cent morceaux en Chine à l’apologie du crime rituel chez Bataille, alors que dans l’Ancien Monde, ces choses là étaient tenues en horreur? (…) Il en résulte que la fascination des surréalistes ne s’est jamais éteinte dans le petit milieu de l’ intelligentsia parisienne de mai 1968 au maoïsme des années 1970. De l’admiration de Michel Foucault pour ‘l’ermite de Neauphle-le-Château’ et pour la ‘révolution’ iranienne à… Jean Baudrillard et à son trouble devant les talibans, trois générations d’intellectuels ont été élevées au lait surréaliste. De là notre silence et notre embarras. Jean Clair
Nous avons offert des sacrifices humains à vos dieux du sport et de la télévision et ils ont répondu à nos prières. Terroriste palestinien (Jeux olympiques de Munich, 1972)
Que des cerveaux puissent réaliser quelque chose en un seul acte, dont nous en musique ne puissions même pas rêver, que des gens répètent comme des fous pendant dix années, totalement fanatiquement pour un seul concert, et puis meurent. C’est le plus grand acte artistique de tous les temps. Imaginez ce qui s’est produit là. Il y a des gens qui sont ainsi concentrés sur une exécution, et alors 5 000 personnes sont chassées dans l’Au-delà, en un seul moment. Ca, je ne pourrais le faire. A côté, nous ne sommes rien, nous les compositeurs… Imaginez ceci, que je puisse créer une oeuvre d’art maintenant et que vous tous soyez non seulement étonnés, mais que vous tombiez morts immédiatement, vous seriez morts et vous seriez nés à nouveau, parce que c’est tout simplement trop fou. Certains artistes essayent aussi de franchir les limites du possible ou de l’imaginable, pour nous réveiller, pour nous ouvrir un autre monde. Karlheinz Stockhausen (19.09. 01)
More ink equals more blood,  newspaper coverage of terrorist incidents leads directly to more attacks. It’s a macabre example of win-win in what economists call a « common-interest game. Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents. Terrorists get free publicity for themselves and their cause. The media, meanwhile, make money « as reports of terror attacks increase newspaper sales and the number of television viewers. Bruno S. Frey et Dominic Rohner
Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen and keep your eyes wide the chance won’t come again and don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin and there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’. For the loser now will be later to win for the times they are a-changin’… Robert Zimmerman
And the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made And the sign flashed out its warning In the words that it was forming and the sign said, « The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls » And whispered in the sounds of silence … Paul Simon
I tried very hard not to be influenced by him, and that was hard. ‘The Sound Of Silence’, which I wrote when I was 21, I never would have written it were it not for Bob Dylan. Never, he was the first guy to come along in a serious way that wasn’t a teen language song. I saw him as a major guy whose work I didn’t want to imitate in the least. Paul Simon
From the terrible opening line, in which darkness is addressed as “my old friend,” the lyrics of “The Sounds of Silence” sound like a vicious parody of a pompous and pretentious mid-’60s folk singer. But it’s no joke: While a rock band twangs aimlessly in the middle distance, Simon & Garfunkel thunder away in voices that suggest they’re scowling and wagging their fingers as they sing. The overall experience is like being lectured on the meaning of life by a jumped-up freshman.  Worst Moment “Hear my words that I might teach you”: Officially the most self-important line in rock history! Blender magazine
Si l’expulsion de 1306 a pu faire l’objet d’une très discrète mention au titre de commémoration nationale en 2006, la présence juive dans la France médiévale est presque absente des synthèses historiques sur le Moyen Age. Du « Petit Lavisse » aux manuels scolaires des années 1980, le judaïsme médiéval n’appartient pas au « roman national », comme l’a montré l’historienne Suzanne Citron. (…) Les découvertes récentes signalent donc, comme par effraction, que les « archives du sol » recèlent les traces d’une histoire ignorée. La connaissance de la présence juive y gagne en profondeur : chaque site exhumé témoigne d’une terre où, au Moyen Age, les juifs ont vécu, produit, reçu, pensé, échangé mais aussi été persécutés et chassés. Laurence Sigal-Klagsbald et Paul Salmona
I think it’s just about the design. People may be aware of the English but they don’t know the deeper meaning or that it’s meant to be political. The word ‘Jesse’ is just cute. It’s nothing more serious than that. Korean trends mostly start in the country’s underground markets, where everything is on sale for about $10 and the quality isn’t so bad. Even foreign fast-fashion brands like Zara can be too expensive for Koreans, so teenage girls and 20-somethings tends to buy these cheaper underground brands. Han Yoo Ra
This truth of globalization is easier to see in these absurd examples, when something incongruous takes off, such as an old campaign T-shirt from a failed primary run. In this particular example, the “Jesse Jackson ’88” part of the T-shirt may have its origin in the annals of American history, but the shirt caught on because of its exalted position within the Korean casual fashion system. Jesse Jackson, or even America, has little to do with why Jesse Jackson ’88 campaign T-shirts are popular. Instead, it’s South Korea’s incredible cultural power that makes things cool in Asia — even American political nostalgia. Vox
Could it be that in these frighteningly uncertain times, a classic brand such as Levi’s feels reassuring? Historically, Levi’s was workwear. It stands for old-school tradition, but it also has ties with rebellion and counterculture; like Oreos and Oprah, it brings together both sides of the American political spectrum. It is cool without being pretentious, and widely available: John Lewis, Debenhams, Topman, Asos and Amazon all stock the classic Levi’s tee, as well as Levi’s shops themselves. It might also be that it serves as a substitute for the pricier/trendier Supreme box logo shirt, but at a pocket-patting £20. Advertising has probably played a part in its recent popularity, even if it feels as if this trend started on the street. In August last year, the company released Circles, an ad showing people from different cultures dancing, from Bhangra to hora, dabke to dancehall, with the tagline: “Men, women, young, old, rich, poor, straight, gay: let’s live how we dance.” With 22m views, it was one of the top 10 most-watched ads on YouTube in 2017. The Guardian
Mais pourquoi un tel succès pour un vêtement qui n’a rien de nouveau? Levi’s vend après tout des tee-shirts depuis des décennies. Une des raisons du succès pourrait être la prolifération qui s’auto-entraîne. Plus on en voit, plus on a envie d’en acheter. Un style vintage années 90, un prix relativement accessible pour un produit de marque alors qu’il faut compter minimum 80 euros pour un jean, et un mimétisme générationnel… Voilà quelques ingrédients de la recette miracle qui fait essaimer le tee-shirt Levi’s. Mais ce n’est peut-être pas le seul. Il semblerait en effet que Levi’s ait savamment orchestré ce buzz autour de la marque. Tout serait parti de trois photos postées par Kylie Jenner sur son compte Instagram en janvier 2016. La starlette américaine, d’ordinaire portée sur les tenues légères, y porte non pas un tee-shirt mais un simple jean vintage à l’étiquette rouge Levi’s bien mise en valeur. Trois simples photos, mais likées des millions des fois. « C’est ce qui a allumé le pétard, estime Laurent Thoumine, spécialiste de la mode chez Massive Details. Vu son nombre de followers (115 millions d’abonnés, l’un des plus gros comptes de la plateforme), ça a créé le buzz. » Et si Levi’s ne semble pas avoir rémunéré la starlette pour ce post, la marque a rapidement décidé de surfer sur le buzz. « Elle a commencé à demander à des influenceurs de poser avec le tee-shirt, très vite après le post de Kylie », explique Laurent Thoumine. Effectivement, si on remonte les posts Instagram qui sont légendées avec le hashtag #Levisshirt, on remarque que certains portent la mention « post sponsorisé » (« Werbung », en allemand, ci-dessous). Autrement dit, Levi’s a payé des influenceurs pour qu’ils portent son tee-shirt. Et pas n’importe lesquels: des « micro-influenceurs ». Plutôt que de miser sur des comptes au plus grand nombre d’abonnés possible, Levi’s s’est associé à des Instagrameurs qui comptent quelques centaines à quelques milliers d’abonnés. Ainsi, « la marque a capitalisé sur des personnes qui ont une réelle proximité avec leurs followers, donc une réelle influence sur eux », explique David Dubois, professeur de marketing à l’Insead. D’autant plus efficace que, avec le même budget que pour un seul post sponsorisé d’une star du réseau, « Levi’s a pu s’offrir des dizaines de milliers de posts », ajoute le spécialiste des campagnes sur les réseaux sociaux. Dans la foulée, la marque a lancé une nouvelle vidéo publicitaire à l’été 2017. Un carton: la pub qui met en scène des danseurs de tous horizons qui se déhanchent sur la chanson Makeba de la française Jain, a été vue plus de 25 millions de fois sur YouTube. Le tee-shirt Levi’s y fait une brève apparition mais le succès de la vidéo suffit à donner un lustre « cool » à la marque auprès des millenials. Et à mesure que les ventes de tee-shirts explosent, les contrefaçons ont rapidement fait leur apparition. Rien de plus facile à copier. Un tee-shirt blanc, un logo Levi’s et vous pouvez inonder le marché. « Une large proportion de ces tee-shirts sont des faux », assurent des spécialistes d’Accenture. Et leurs acheteurs, loin d’être dupes, seraient même séduits à l’idée de porter du logo faux. « Ils font écho à une sous culture du tee-shirt de marché portés sous une veste de marque lancée par des trend-setters comme les rappeurs PNL ou The Blaze », précise le consultant. Si c’est un manque à gagner pour Levi’s, la marque apprécie aussi d’avoir enfin réussi à séduire cette nouvelle génération. Au sommet à la fin des années 90 avec 7,1 milliards de dollars de ventes en 1996, la marque a été boudée par les jeunes de la génération suivante, ceux du début des années 2000. Cette « génération perdue » qui lui a préféré les jeans moins chers du japonais Uniqlo ou ceux de H&M a fait plonger Levi’s. En 2009, le chiffre d’affaires de la marque américaine avait fondu de plus de 40% par rapport au pic des années 90 à 4,1 milliards de dollars. Et si les ventes s’étaient stabilisées depuis, elles ont enfin bondi à 4,9 milliards de dollars en 2017, la plus forte croissance du groupe depuis 10 ans. Et avec des ventes attendues en hausse de 20% en 2018, vous n’êtes sans doute pas prêts d’arrêter d’en voir, des tee-shirts Levi’s. BFMtv
Dans un groupe de n individus, la tendance observée par l’individu numéro i à l’instant t dépend du poids de l’influence de chacun des autres membres du groupe sur lui (ce sont les Jij), mais également du type de hipsters présents (ils peuvent être plus ou moins modérés, ce qu’expriment les vecteurs sj) et du temps mis par le hipster i avant de réaliser que chacun des hipsters qui l’entoure est en train de commencer à lui ressembler sur tel ou tel point. La principale conclusion de l’étude est la suivante: seul le hipster qui parviendra à lire dans les pensées des autres hipsters afin d’avoir toujours un coup d’avance parviendra réellement à se démarquer. Les autres sont condamnés à rester les moutons qu’ils rêvent de ne pas être, allant tous dans la même direction à force de vouloir être uniques. Ce modèle mathématique complexe, Jonathan Touboul propose de le transposer au monde de la finance, arguant qu’un bon trader est un trader qui anticipe à la vitesse de la lumière, tandis que ses congénères plus lents prennent tous la même décision géniale au même moment, ce qui a pour effet de désamorcer les résultats de leur démarche. Pour finir, il imagine également un univers composé de hipsters et de non hipsters à parts égales: d’après son modèle, dans ce petit monde, chaque individu irait tour à tour et aléatoirement vers chaque tendance. Autrement dit, chaque sujet basculerait alternativement du mainstream au non-mainstream comme une boule de flipper, condamnant le monde des hipsters à faire bientôt tilt. Slate
Many observers have expressed concern for the excessive attention given to mass shooters of today and the deadliest of yesteryear. CNN’s Anderson Cooper has campaigned against naming names of mass shooters, and 147 criminologists, sociologists, psychologists and other human-behavior experts recently signed on to an open letter urging the media not to identify mass shooters or display their photos. While I appreciate the concern for name and visual identification of mass shooters for fear of inspiring copycats as well as to avoid insult to the memory of those they slaughtered, names and faces are not the problem. It is the excessive detail — too much information — about the killers, their writings, and their backgrounds that unnecessarily humanizes them. We come to know more about them — their interests and their disappointments — than we do about our next door neighbors. Too often the line is crossed between news reporting and celebrity watch. At the same time, we focus far too much on records. We constantly are reminded that some shooting is the largest in a particular state over a given number of years, as if that really matters. Would the massacre be any less tragic if it didn’t exceed the death toll of some prior incident? Moreover, we are treated to published lists of the largest mass shootings in modern US history. For whatever purpose we maintain records, they are there to be broken and can challenge a bitter and suicidal assailant to outgun his violent role models. Although the spirited advocacy of students around the country regarding gun control is to be applauded, we need to keep some perspective about the risk. Slogans like, “I want to go to my graduation, not to my grave,” are powerful, yet hyperbolic. James Alan Fox (Northeastern University)
En 2014 à l’aube d’une crise économique les Nouveaux Pères Fondateurs prennent le pouvoir aux États-Unis. Le Dr May Updale propose alors une idée : une Purge. Durant une période de douze heures consécutives toute activité criminelle est permise. Au cours de cette nuit chacun peut ainsi évacuer ses émotions négatives en se vengeant ou plus simplement en s’adonnant à la violence gratuite. Pour le Dr Updale c’est le moyen idéal d’évacuer la violence et la haine et donc de résoudre le problème de la criminalité durant le reste de l’année. En 2017, les Nouveaux Pères Fondateurs décident de tester l’idée. Une Purge est lancée sur l’île de Staten Island à New York sur la base du volontariat. Les habitants de l’île qui accepteront de rester chez eux durant la nuit seront payés et ceux qui sortiront commettre des meurtres toucheront un bonus. Cependant l’expérience est un échec, alors que des petits groupes tuent, la plupart des participants font la fête et commettent de simples délits. Les Nouveaux Pères Fondateurs décident alors, afin de contrer cet échec, d’envoyer un commando sur place pour tuer et permettre à l’expérience d’être un succès. Peu à peu le projet échappe au Dr Updale et les véritables intentions des Nouveaux Pères Fondateurs se révèlent. Wikipedia
La menace a été prise au sérieux. Depuis plusieurs jours, un appel à « la purge » visant les policiers circule sur les réseaux sociaux. Ce week-end, cette incitation à s’attaquer aux forces de l’ordre a gagné l’Essonne. Sur la publication bourrée de fautes d’orthographe appelant à « la purge de Corbeil-Essonnes », les auteurs demandent « de s’habiller en noir, avec un masque si possible ». La suite du message est une description précise du mode opératoire : « toutes les armes sont autorisées, brûlez tout ce que vous voyez, les forces de l’ordre devront être attaquées au mortier, feux d’artifice, pétards, pierres ». (…) Ce message, décliné dans différents lieux, « dépasse largement l’Essonne, précise le directeur départemental de la sécurité publique de l’Essonne, Jean-François Papineau. Nous recevons une grande vigilance sur l’ensemble du territoire relevant de la compétence de la Police nationale. Le Parisien
Il ne faut pas dissimuler que les institutions démocratiques développent à un très haut niveau le sentiment de l’envie dans le coeur humain. Ce n’est point tant parce qu’elle offrent à chacun les moyens de s’égaler aux autres, mais parce que ces moyens défaillent sans cesse à ceux qui les emploient. Les institutions démocratiques réveillent et flattent la passion de l’égalité sans pouvoir jamais la satisfaire entièrement. Cette égalité complète s’échappe tous les jours des mains du peuples au moment où il croit la saisir, et fuit, comme dit Pascal, d’une fuite éternelle; le peuple s’échauffe à la recherche de ce bien d’autant plus précieux qu’il est assez proche pour être connu et assez loin pour ne pas être goûté. Tout ce qui le dépasse par quelque endroit lui paraît un obstacle à ses désirs, et il n’y a pas de supériorité si légitime dont la vue ne fatigue sas yeux. Tocqueville
Il y a en effet une passion mâle et légitime pour l’égalité qui excite les hommes à vouloir être tous forts et estimés. Cette passion tend à élever les petits au rang des grands ; mais il se rencontre aussi dans le cœur humain un goût dépravé pour l’égalité, qui porte les faibles à vouloir attirer les forts à leur niveau, et qui réduit les hommes à préférer l’égalité dans la servitude à l’inégalité dans la liberté. Tocqueville
L’apprenti sorcier qui prend le risque de s’intéresser à la sorcellerie indigène et à ses fétiches, au lieu d’aller chercher sous de lointains tropiques les charmes rassurants d’une magie exotique, doit s’attendre à voir se retourner contre lui la violence qu’il a déchaînée. Pierre Bourdieu
Des millions de Faisal Shahzad sont déstabilisés par un monde moderne qu’ils ne peuvent ni maîtriser ni rejeter. (…) Le jeune homme qui avait fait tous ses efforts pour acquérir la meilleure éducation que pouvait lui offrir l’Amérique avant de succomber à l’appel du jihad a fait place au plus atteint des schizophrènes. Les villes surpeuplées de l’Islam – de Karachi et Casablanca au Caire – et ces villes d’Europe et d’Amérique du Nord où la diaspora islamique est maintenant présente en force ont des multitudes incalculables d’hommes comme Faisal Shahzad. C’est une longue guerre crépusculaire, la lutte contre l’Islamisme radical. Nul vœu pieu, nulle stratégie de « gain des coeurs et des esprits », nulle grande campagne d’information n’en viendront facilement à bout. L’Amérique ne peut apaiser cette fureur accumulée. Ces hommes de nulle part – Shahzad Faisal, Malik Nidal Hasan, l’émir renégat né en Amérique Anwar Awlaki qui se terre actuellement au Yémen et ceux qui leur ressemblent – sont une race de combattants particulièrement dangereux dans ce nouveau genre de guerre. La modernité les attire et les ébranle à la fois. L’Amérique est tout en même temps l’objet de leurs rêves et le bouc émissaire sur lequel ils projettent leurs malignités les plus profondes. Fouad Ajami
La même force culturelle et spirituelle qui a joué un rôle si décisif dans la disparition du sacrifice humain est aujourd’hui en train de provoquer la disparition des rituels de sacrifice humain qui l’ont jadis remplacé. Tout cela semble être une bonne nouvelle, mais à condition que ceux qui comptaient sur ces ressources rituelles soient en mesure de les remplacer par des ressources religieuses durables d’un autre genre. Priver une société des ressources sacrificielles rudimentaires dont elle dépend sans lui proposer d’alternatives, c’est la plonger dans une crise qui la conduira presque certainement à la violence. Gil Bailie
Je peux dire sans exagération que, pendant un demi-siècle, la seule institution française qui m’ait persuadé que je n’étais pas oublié en France, dans mon propre pays, en tant que chercheur et en tant que penseur, c’est l’Académie française. René Girard
Quand les riches s’habituent à leur richesse, la simple consommation ostentatoire perd de son attrait et les nouveaux riches se métamorphosent en anciens riches. Ils considèrent ce changement comme le summum du raffinement culturel et font de leur mieux pour le rendre aussi visible que la consommation qu’ils pratiquaient auparavant. C’est à ce moment-là qu’ils inventent la non-consommation ostentatoire, qui paraît, en surface, rompre avec l’attitude qu’elle supplante mais qui n’est, au fond, qu’une surenchère mimétique du même processus. Dans notre société la non-consommation ostentatoire est présente dans bien des domaines, dans l’habillement par exemple. Les jeans déchirés, le blouson trop large, le pantalon baggy, le refus de s’apprêter sont des formes de non-consommation ostentatoire. La lecture politiquement correcte de ce phénomène est que les jeunes gens riches se sentent coupables en raison de leur pouvoir d’achat supérieur ; ils désirent, si ce n’est être pauvres, du moins le paraitre. Cette interprétation est trop idéaliste. Le vrai but est une indifférence calculée à l’égard des vêtements, un rejet ostentatoire de l’ostentation. Le message est: « Je suis au-delà d’un certain type de consommation. Je cultive des plaisirs plus ésotériques que la foule. » S’abstenir volontairement de quelque chose, quoi que ce soit, est la démonstration ultime qu’on est supérieur à quelque chose et à ceux qui la convoitent. Plus nous sommes riches en fait, moins nous pouvons nous permettre de nous montrer grossièrement matérialistes car nous entrons dans une hiérarchie de jeux compétitifs qui deviennent toujours plus subtils à mesure que l’escalade progresse. A la fin, ce processus peut aboutir à un rejet total de la compétition, ce qui peut être, même si ce n’est pas toujours le cas, la plus intense des compétitions. (…) Ainsi, il existe des rivalités de renoncement plutôt que d’acquisition, de privation plutôt que de jouissance. (…) Dans toute société, la compétition peut assumer des formes paradoxales parce qu’elle peut contaminer les activités qui lui sont en principe les plus étrangères, en particulier le don. Dans le potlatch, comme dans notre société, la course au toujours moins peut se substituer à la course au toujours plus, et signifier en définitive la même chose. René Girard
Nous sommes encore proches de cette période des grandes expositions internationales qui regardait de façon utopique la mondialisation comme l’Exposition de Londres – la « Fameuse » dont parle Dostoievski, les expositions de Paris… Plus on s’approche de la vraie mondialisation plus on s’aperçoit que la non-différence ce n’est pas du tout la paix parmi les hommes mais ce peut être la rivalité mimétique la plus extravagante. On était encore dans cette idée selon laquelle on vivait dans le même monde: on n’est plus séparé par rien de ce qui séparait les hommes auparavant donc c’est forcément le paradis. Ce que voulait la Révolution française. Après la nuit du 4 août, plus de problème ! René Girard
L’inauguration majestueuse de l’ère « post-chrétienne » est une plaisanterie. Nous sommes dans un ultra-christianisme caricatural qui essaie d’échapper à l’orbite judéo-chrétienne en « radicalisant » le souci des victimes dans un sens antichrétien. (…) Jusqu’au nazisme, le judaïsme était la victime préférentielle de ce système de bouc émissaire. Le christianisme ne venait qu’en second lieu. Depuis l’Holocauste, en revanche, on n’ose plus s’en prendre au judaïsme, et le christianisme est promu au rang de bouc émissaire numéro un. René Girard
La soumission à l’Autre n’en est pas moins étroite lorsqu’elle prend des formes négatives. Le pantin n’est pas moins pantin lorsque les ficelles sont croisées. René Girard
L’erreur est toujours de raisonner dans les catégories de la « différence », alors que la racine de tous les conflits, c’est plutôt la « concurrence », la rivalité mimétique entre des êtres, des pays, des cultures. La concurrence, c’est-à-dire le désir d’imiter l’autre pour obtenir la même chose que lui, au besoin par la violence. Sans doute le terrorisme est-il lié à un monde « différent » du nôtre, mais ce qui suscite le terrorisme n’est pas dans cette « différence » qui l’éloigne le plus de nous et nous le rend inconcevable. Il est au contraire dans un désir exacerbé de convergence et de ressemblance. (…) Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme.Ce sentiment n’est pas vrai des masses, mais des dirigeants. Sur le plan de la fortune personnelle, on sait qu’un homme comme Ben Laden n’a rien à envier à personne. Et combien de chefs de parti ou de faction sont dans cette situation intermédiaire, identique à la sienne. Regardez un Mirabeau au début de la Révolution française : il a un pied dans un camp et un pied dans l’autre, et il n’en vit que de manière plus aiguë son ressentiment. Aux Etats-Unis, des immigrés s’intègrent avec facilité, alors que d’autres, même si leur réussite est éclatante, vivent aussi dans un déchirement et un ressentiment permanents. Parce qu’ils sont ramenés à leur enfance, à des frustrations et des humiliations héritées du passé. Cette dimension est essentielle, en particulier chez des musulmans qui ont des traditions de fierté et un style de rapports individuels encore proche de la féodalité. (…) Cette concurrence mimétique, quand elle est malheureuse, ressort toujours, à un moment donné, sous une forme violente. A cet égard, c’est l’islam qui fournit aujourd’hui le ciment qu’on trouvait autrefois dans le marxisme.  René Girard
By preaching against anorexia while keeping her own weight dangerously low, Isabelle Caro was telling her followers, « Take me as your guide, but don’t imitate me! » The paradox behind this type of mixed message was precisely diagnosed by Stanford’s René Girard, who names it the « mimetic double bind. » Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, anyone is happy to attract followers, but if they imitate too successfully, they soon become a threat to the very person they took as their model. No one likes to be beaten at their own game. Hence the contradictory message: « Do as I do… just don’t outdo me! » Imitation morphs imperceptibly into rivalry – this is Girard’s great insight, and he applies it brilliantly to competitive dieting. There’s no use searching for some mysterious, deep-seated psychological explanation, Girard writes: « The man in the street understands a truth that most specialists prefer not to confront. Our eating disorders are caused by our compulsive desire to lose weight. » We all want to lose weight because we know that’s what everyone else wants – and the more others succeed in shedding pounds, the more we feel the need to do so, too. Girard is not the first to highlight the imitative or mimetic dimension of eating disorders and their link to the fashion for being thin, but he emphasizes an aspect others miss: the built-in tendency to escalation that accompanies any fashion trend: « Everybody tries to outdo everybody else in the desired quality, here slenderness, and the weight regarded as most desirable in a young woman is bound to keep going down. » Mark Anspach
Le phénomène est déjà fabuleux en soi. Imaginez un peu : il suffit que vous me regardiez faire une série de gestes simples – remplir un verre d’eau, le porter à mes lèvres, boire -, pour que dans votre cerveau les mêmes zones s’allument, de la même façon que dans mon cerveau à moi, qui accomplis réellement l’action. C’est d’une importance fondamentale pour la psychologie. D’abord, cela rend compte du fait que vous m’avez identifié comme un être humain : si un bras de levier mécanique avait soulevé le verre, votre cerveau n’aurait pas bougé. Il a reflété ce que j’étais en train de faire uniquement parce que je suis humain. Ensuite, cela explique l’empathie. Comme vous comprenez ce que je fais, vous pouvez entrer en empathie avec moi. Vous vous dites : « S’il se sert de l’eau et qu’il boit, c’est qu’il a soif. » Vous comprenez mon intention, donc mon désir. Plus encore : que vous le vouliez ou pas, votre cerveau se met en état de vous faire faire la même chose, de vous donner la même envie. Si je baille, il est très probable que vos neurones miroir vont vous faire bailler – parce que ça n’entraîne aucune conséquence – et que vous allez rire avec moi si je ris, parce que l’empathie va vous y pousser. Cette disposition du cerveau à imiter ce qu’il voit faire explique ainsi l’apprentissage. Mais aussi… la rivalité. Car si ce qu’il voit faire consiste à s’approprier un objet, il souhaite immédiatement faire la même chose, et donc, il devient rival de celui qui s’est approprié l’objet avant lui ! (…) C’est la vérification expérimentale de la théorie du « désir mimétique » de René Girard ! Voilà une théorie basée au départ sur l’analyse de grands textes romanesques, émise par un chercheur en littérature comparée, qui trouve une confirmation neuroscientifique parfaitement objective, du vivant même de celui qui l’a conçue. Un cas unique dans l’histoire des sciences ! (…) Notre désir est toujours mimétique, c’est-à-dire inspiré par, ou copié sur, le désir de l’autre. L’autre me désigne l’objet de mon désir, il devient donc à la fois mon modèle et mon rival. De cette rivalité naît la violence, évacuée collectivement dans le sacré, par le biais de la victime émissaire. À partir de ces hypothèses, Girard et moi avons travaillé pendant des décennies à élargir le champ du désir mimétique à ses applications en psychologie et en psychiatrie. En 1981, dans Un mime nommé désir, je montrais que cette théorie permet de comprendre des phénomènes étranges tels que la possession – négative ou positive -, l’envoûtement, l’hystérie, l’hypnose… L’hypnotiseur, par exemple, en prenant possession, par la suggestion, du désir de l’autre, fait disparaître le moi, qui s’évanouit littéralement. Et surgit un nouveau moi, un nouveau désir qui est celui de l’hypnotiseur. (…)  et ce qui est formidable, c’est que ce nouveau « moi » apparaît avec tous ses attributs : une nouvelle conscience, une nouvelle mémoire, un nouveau langage et des nouvelles sensations. Si l’hypnotiseur dit : « Il fait chaud » bien qu’il fasse frais, le nouveau moi prend ces sensations suggérées au pied de la lettre : il sent vraiment la chaleur et se déshabille. (…) On comprend que la théorie du désir mimétique ait suscité de nombreux détracteurs : difficile d’accepter que notre désir ne soit pas original, mais copié sur celui d’un autre. Pr Jean-Michel Oughourlian
“Evolution of Desire” is the portrait of a provocative and engaging figure who was not afraid of pursuing his own line of inquiry. His legacy is not so much a grand theory as it is a flexible interpretive framework with useful social, cultural and historical applications. At a time when religious fundamentalism, violent extremism and societal division dominates the headlines, Haven’s book is a call to revisit and reclaim one of the 20th century’s most important thinkers. Rhys Trante
René Girard, who died three years ago, was a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His sprawling oeuvre might be called anthropological philosophy. His books make connections through theology, literary criticism, critical theory, anthropology, psychology, mythology, sociology, cultural studies, and philosophy. His core theory is that our human motivations are rooted in “mimetic desire”—a form of envy which is not simply desiring what another has, but also desiring to be like them. This competitive drive then sparks all other human conflict on both the micro- and macroscopic levels. He explained how mimetic desire leads us to blame others when our desire is frustrated, which then leads to blaming others and ultimately to the mechanism of scapegoating on the societal level, which forms the basis for ritual sacrifice. An accomplished academic, journalist, and author, Cynthia Haven was not only a colleague of Girard but also a close friend to him and his wife. Her biography is a warm, personal memoir while also providing an introduction to his thought and the historical context for the development of his ideas. (…)  Brought up in a conventional French Catholic home, by the time he was at university he had adopted the fashionable atheism of the day. Witnessing the treatment of the Jews and the scapegoating of French collaborators in the aftermath of the Second World War no doubt had an impact on the development of Girard’s thought. The academic vigor and enthusiasm in postwar United States provided the perfect setting for a philosopher and historian who was constantly thinking outside the boundaries of strict academic territories. He would come to interact with the avant-garde writers and philosophers of his day—Camus, Sartre, Foucault, Derrida—and yet rise above them and their frequent rivalries and needy egos. In a world of narrowing academia, in which professors knew more and more about less and less, Girard was one who transcended the blinkered biases, the bureaucratic boundaries, and artificially defined territories. As T.S. Eliot’s entire life’s work must be understood through the lens of his 1927 conversion to Christianity, so I believe Girard is also best understood through his profound reversion to his Catholic faith. (…) Girard’s own awakening began in the winter of 1958-59 as he was working on his book about the novel. (…) His intellectual awareness was combined later with a series of profound mystical experiences as he rode on the train from Baltimore to Bryn Mawr. (…) A bit later he had a health scare which pushed the intellectual and the subjective mystical experiences into a firm commitment to religion. (…) For those who like to spot little signs of a providential plan, it might be noted that René Girard (also called Noël) who was born on Christmas Day, dated his conversion to March 25—the feast of the Annunciation—traditionally the date for the beginning of God’s redemptive work in the world, and in medieval times the date for the celebration of the New Year. Girard’s conversion and subsequent practice of his Catholic faith was an act of great courage. His huge leonine profile with his contemplative gaze grants him a kind of heroic stature that reflects the heroism of his witness. As post-modern academia drifted further and further into Marxist ideologies, fashionable atheism, and nihilistic post-structuralism, Girard was able to put forward an intellectual explication for age-old Christian themes using a fresh vocabulary and perspective. (…) What Girard did was to provide a fresh synthesis and applications of old truths within non-religious disciplines. He also re-vivified the concept of sacrifice, explaining its underlying dynamic rather than simply writing it off as a barbaric superstition. In an age where atheism is all the rage and all religions (especially Catholicism) are suspect, Girard does a great service in refreshing the language of the tribe and giving the intellectual universe a way of seeing old truths in a new way and new truths through an old lens. As a result, his work has already been hugely influential in a range of disciplines, both academic and cultural. (…) Ms. Haven is not much of a name-dropper, but when she describes, for example, The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man symposium held at John Hopkins in 1966, the pomposity of the whole affair is comedic. I sensed a touch of sarcasm as she reports the competing egos of famous French philosophers and the rivalry between intellectuals trying to see whose presentations can be the most incomprehensible, while they are also comparing notes on the luxury of their accommodations and the numbers of young women they are able to lure into philosophical discussions between the sheets. Dwight Longenecker
Girard’s mimetic theory— majestic in its simplicity, sweeping in its scope — has a way of gathering up stray anecdotes and incidents into its collective force, like a hurricane that swallows up every bit of moisture within range. Cynthia Haven’s Evolution of Desire offers the first of two long-awaited bibliographies of Girard (the other, which has the official sanction of the Girard family, is by Benoît Chantre). Rather than providing a biographer’s biography— full of footnotes, every stone overturned, weighty enough to ensure nobody else tries to write one — Haven has instead provided a portrait of sorts, bringing to life the Girard she came to know in the winter of his life. This is not to say that Evolution of Desire reads as a kind of “ last days and sayings ” of René Girard; Chantre has already provided that in Les derniers jours de René Girard (Grasset, 2016). Haven prefers the early Girard, providing remarkable insights into his childhood, and underscoring the importance of his birthplace, Avignon, for his intellectual development. Of his intellectual collaborators, Haven favors those from Girard’s first stint at Hopkins, rather than later figures. By doing so, she downplays the interactions between theological interlocutors like Raymund Schwager and James Alison, perhaps the most important current translator of mimetic theory into Christian theology. Schwager receives some attention, but Alison’s name does not grace the book. Even those familiar with the brazen and iconoclastic interdisciplinary style of Girard can forget what an autodidact he was. Girard’s training, both in France and in the United States, was in history. The École des Chartes formed students into librarians and archivists. From there Girard went to the United States, where his forgettable dissertation at the University of Indiana covered American opinions on France during the Second World War. When Girard came to literature in the 1950s and 60s, he did so as an outsider. And he continued this pattern of butting into adjacent fields, among them anthropology, ethnology, and eventually theology. Haven ’s recounting of Girard’s early years highlights the panache that would mark Girard. Whether as a prankster in school, or as the organizer of an exhibit that brought Picasso to Avignon in 1947 — this event initiated the world-renowned Avignon Festival — Girard displayed winning qualities before becoming an immortel in the Académie Française. For those who’ve tracked Girard for the past three decades, it is easy to start with Girard’s occupancy of the Hammond Chair at Stanford, beginning in 1981. Haven points out the importance of the earlier academic posts, especially his first stint at Johns Hopkins from 1957 – 68. There Girard made his reputation and also experienced a two-fold conversion, first with the help of great literature, and then through a cancer scare in 1959. During this period Girard published Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1961) and rose to full professor, hardly an anticipated development given his failure to publish at Indiana. Girard enthusiasts know these details, mostly from his interview with James Williams at the end of The Girard Reader. Haven embellishes them through corroborating witnesses from these years. In perhaps the most enjoyable chapter, “The French Invasion,” she recalls Girard’s role in a monumental conference at Hopkins: “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man.” This event marked the American emergence of Derrida, and decisively shifted Johns Hopkins as well as many other departments toward post-structuralism, or postmodernism. Although Girard had helped organize the conference, it led indirectly to his departure for Buffalo, as he could not bring himself to accept what he understood to be the anti-realist impulse of postmodern theory, which would become all the rage in literature departments. In his first stint at Hopkins, Girard became Girard. He trained his first graduate students there, including Andrew McKenna and Eric Gans. Girard also found important companions in Baltimore, including Richard Macksey, described as “a legendary polymath” (84), and a rising Dante scholar, John Freccero. Girard’s former chair at Hopkins, Nathan Edelman, recalls, “I thought of him as fearless. He had a tremendous self- confidence, in the best sense […] He never felt threatened by people who had different ideas […] We were enthralled by him. We desperately wanted his approval” (85). These sentiments arose well before Girard became a pied piper to Christian intellectuals. The strongest personal accusation from these years was that Girard could overgeneralize and dismiss too easily. (…) During these years Girard also met Jean-Michel Oughourlian, the first of many collaborators who would help Girard develop his distinctive interview-book. (…) Things Hidden signaled Girard’s coming out as a Christian, nearly twenty years after re-conversion in 1959. North Americans have developed a domesticated portrait of Girard: an interesting and important intellectual in the thrall of certain theologians. Yet in France, where the intellectual appetite is greater, Girard made an impact difficult to fathom. Haven notes that Things Hidden sold 35,000 copies in the first six months, which put it #2 on French non-fiction lists at the time. Eventually it sold 100,000 copies. That type of volume puts its somewhere between Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind in terms of immediate impact, and Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or Alistair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, in terms of longevity. In France, if you had not read Things Hidden, you at least needed to fake it. Girard credited his publisher for the success, but Haven brings out Girard’s penchant for melding social critique with self-examination, which often produced the experience of realizing, while reading his books, that they were reading you. Haven describes Girard’s conversion and attends to his practice of Christianity, but does not make it the central thread of her biography. Although she relies on exchanges with friends of Girard, she pays less mind than some would to the encounter with Schwager, the Swiss Jesuit, despite the fact that their letters have recently been published and translated into English. Schwager first wrote Girard in 1974, and at that time saw what had only been a plan in Girard’s mind: the connection between the Bible and Girard’s theory of the sacred. When Schwager wrote Must There Be Scapegoats? , it actually appeared a few months prior to Things Hidden. As their letters make clear, despite a great debt to Girard, Schwager was an original thinker in his own right, and eventually helped Girard to change his mind about the relationship between sacrifice and Christianity. Haven credits Schwager with encouraging Girard’s desire to be theologically orthodox, although this had mixed results. By becoming a sort of defender of the Catholic faith, it “took him one large step farther away from fashionable intellectual circles and their feverish pursuit of novelty” (228). Haven also passes over The Scapegoat (1982), and I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (2001), which provide perhaps the richest sources for understanding Girard as a Christian thinker. This decision is somewhat remedied by Haven’s attention to Girard’s final major work, Battling to the End (2007). Haven was close to Girard at the time, and provides several first-hand anecdotes important for his readers. The pessimism and apocalyptic tone in the book really was Girard’s, and not Chantre’s. She also relays that Girard and Chantre had plans for an additional book on Paul. Although Battling to the End made a minor splash in the United States, it sold 20,000 copies in the first three months in France, was reviewed in all of the major newspapers, and was even cited by then-president Sarkozy. While Girard was in Paris, reporters waited outside his doorstep, whereas at Stanford, “Girard walked the campus virtually unnoticed and unrecognized” (254). Haven’s account focuses more on Girard than on the expansions of his influence. For many Girardians, the story of Girard’s intellectual journey should culminate in the Colloquium on Violence & Religion, founded in 1990 with Girard’s blessing, and faithfully attended by Girard until ill-health prevented him. The Colloquium continues to draw between one and two hundred attendees to its annual meeting. Although not all attendees are theologians or Christians, the attendees who work in literature tend to study figures like Tolkien, and many of the invited plenary speakers are major theologians or Christian intellectuals like Jean-Luc Marion or Charles Taylor. It will take some recalibration for these kinds of readers to understand that Girard’s interests cannot simply be distilled into a Christian apologetic, however subtly one might want to apply that term to Girard. Still, those invested in carrying on Girard’s legacy should welcome a book that traces Girard’s appeal so broadly. (…) The man claimed on more than one occasion that his theory sought to give Christianity and Christian theologians the anthropology that it deserved. Haven has provided a warm and magnanimous biography that Girard most certainly deserves. Grant Kaplan
On the occasion of the induction of the Franco-American intellectual René Girard (1923–2015) into the Académie Française in Paris in 2005, Girard articulated an abhorrence of what he called the modern descent into “the anti-Christian nihilism that has spread everywhere in our time.” One might well say that over a 60-year period, after his arrival from France as a graduate student at Indiana University in 1947, the literary critic and eventual anthropologist Girard found himself increasingly exposing, analyzing, and challenging this nihilism, and in fact progressively purging its residual effects in himself as a legatee of the histrionic, skeptical French literary-cultural tradition since the mid 18th century, deplored in the mid 19th century by Alexis de Tocqueville, one of whose chief facets Girard characterized as “decadent aestheticism.” Cynthia L. Haven’s outstanding new biographical and critical study, Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard, is a brilliant survey of his life and thought, but also a document of high importance for understanding what has happened to the conception and teaching of the humanities in the United States and elsewhere since the 1960s, and why Lionel Trilling was right to worry about “the uncertain future of humanistic education,” the title of a 1975 essay. (…) Girard in Mensonge romantique grants that competitive envy is the very social-psychological motor that drives “enlightened,” atheistic modern personal and social life. “At the heart of the book,” Cynthia Haven writes, “is our endless imitation of each other. Imitation is inescapable.” And she continues: “When it comes to metaphysical desire — which Girard describes as desires beyond simple needs and appetites — what we imitate is vital, and why.” We are inevitably afflicted with “mimetic desires,” first of parents and siblings, then of peers, rivals, and chosen role models, and these desires endlessly drive and agitate us, consciously and unconsciously, causing anxiety and “ontological sickness.” (…) Girard’s argument is that Rousseau’s ideal of completely autonomous personal authenticity, with its explosive social-political effects, is an initially alluring but ultimately and utterly false Narcissistic idol. Our free will is always (and always has been) constrained and conditioned, though not necessarily determined, by the very facts of human childhood, parenting, and linguistic, cognitive, conceptual, and cultural development (…) In 1958–59, before and while writing the “Romantic falsehood” volume, Girard went through internal, personal experiences corresponding to the implications of his own analysis of the “canker vice, envy,” and they amounted to an unexpected Christian conversion, about which Haven writes very well. Still nominally very much part of an atheistic, anti-foundational, French academic avant-garde in the United States, and now increasingly prominent in his position at Johns Hopkins, Girard was even one of the chief organizers of “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” the enormously influential conference, in Baltimore in October 1966, that brought to America from France skeptical celebrity intellectuals including Jacques Lacan, Lucien Goldmann, Roland Barthes, and, most consequentially, the most agile of Nietzschean nihilists, Jacques Derrida, still obscure in 1966 (and always bamboozlingly obscurantist) but propelled to fame by the conference and his subsequent literary productivity and travels in America: another glamorous, revolutionary “Citizen Genet,” like the original Jacobin visitor of 1793–94. After this standing-room-only conference, Derrida and “deconstructionism,” left-wing Nietzscheanism in the high French intellectual mode, took America by storm, which is perhaps the crucial story in the subsequent unintelligibility, decline, and fall of the humanities in American universities, in terms both of enrollments and of course content. The long-term effect can be illustrated in declining enrollments: at Stanford, for example, in 2014 alone “humanities majors plummeted from 20 percent to 7 percent,” according to Ms. Haven. The Anglo-American liberal-humanistic curricular and didactic tradition of Matthew Arnold (defending “the old but true Socratic thesis of the interdependence of knowledge and virtue”), Columbia’s Arnoldian John Erskine (“The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent,” 1913), Chicago’s R. M. Hutchins and Mortimer Adler (the “Great Books”), and English figures such as Basil Willey (e.g., The English Moralists, 1964) and F. R. Leavis (e.g., The Living Principle: “English” as a Discipline of Thought, 1975) at Cambridge, and their successor there and at Boston University, Sir Christopher Ricks, was rapidly mocked, demoted, and defenestrated, with Stanford students eventually shouting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho! / Western civ has got to go!” The fundamental paradox of a relativistic but left-wing, Francophile Nietzscheanism married to a moralistic neo-Marxist analysis of cultural traditions and power structures — insane conjunction! — is now the very “gas we breathe” on university campuses throughout the West (…). Girard quietly repented his role in introducing what he later called “the French plague” to the United States, with Derrida, Foucault, and Paul DeMan exalting ludicrous irrationalism to spectacular new heights. His own efforts turned increasingly to anthropology and religious studies. Rousseau, Romantic primitivism, Nietzsche, and French aestheticism, diabolism (“flowers of evil”), and atheistic existentialism — Sade, Baudelaire, Gide, Sartre, Jean Genet, Foucault, Derrida, de Man, Bataille — had drowned the residually Christian, Platonist, Arnoldian liberal-humanistic tradition, which proved to be an unstable halfway house between religion and naturalism. Yet the repentant Girard resisted the deluge and critiqued it, initially from within (Stendhal, Flaubert, Proust), but increasingly relying on the longer and larger literary tradition, drawing particularly on Dante and Dostoyevsky as well as the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures. Like other close readers of Dostoyevsky, such as Berdyaev, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, other anti-Communist dissidents including Czesław Miłosz, Malcolm Muggeridge, and numerous Slavic scholars such as Joseph Frank, Girard came to see Dostoyevsky as the greatest social-psychological analyst of and antidote to the invidious “amour propre” and restless revolutionary resentments of modern life, themselves comprising and confirming an original sin of egotism and covetousness. Like Dostoyevsky, Girard became an increasingly orthodox Christian, seeing in the imitation of Christ the divinely appointed way out of the otherwise endless, invidious, simian hall-of-mirrors of “mimetic desires.” Girard argued that these competitive, comparative “mimetic desires” had geopolitical and not only personal and social effects, from the 18th century onward: siblings versus siblings, generations versus generations, nations versus nations (e.g., French versus Germans, 1789–1945, about which he wrote poignantly at the end of his life), cultures versus cultures (Islam versus the West today). (…) At Girard’s induction into the Académie Française in Paris in 2005, his fellow French Academician (and friend and Stanford colleague) Michel Serres also spoke and passionately deplored the violent and perverse world of contemporary audiovisual media, representing and exulting in human degradation “and multiplying it with a frenzy such that these repetitions return our culture to melancholic barbarism” and cause “huge” cultural “regression.” Rousseau’s idyllic Romantic dream has been transmogrified into Nietzsche’s exultant criminal vision of a world “beyond good and evil.” (…) Despite his enormous general audience and success in France, and the amazingly successful, disintegrative, Franco-Nietzschean “deconstructionist” invasion of American and British universities, publishing houses, and elite mentalities, he “marveled at the stability of the United States and its institutions,” Girard’s biographer tells. Let us hope Girard is right. Another Franco-American immigrant-intellectual of great integrity, intelligence, and influence, Jacques Barzun (1907–2012), wrote in his magisterial final work of cultural history, From Dawn to Decadence (2000), that modernism is “at once the mirror of disintegration and an incitement to extending it.” Cynthia Haven’s fine book on Girard is both brilliant cultural criticism and exquisite intellectual history, and an edifying biographical and ethical tale, providing a philosophical vision of a world beyond monkey-like mimicries and manias that demoralize, dispirit, and dehumanize the contemporary human person. It deserves wide notice and careful reading in a time of massive and pervasive attention-deficit disorder. M. D. Aeschliman
René Girard (1923- 2015) (…) is now the subject of a comprehensive biography by Cynthia Haven called “Evolution of Desire.” The title is apt. A key concept in Girard’s philosophy is what he called “mimetic desire.” All desire, he argued, is imitation of another person’s desire. Mimetic desire gives rise to rivalries and violence and eventually to the scapegoating of individuals and groups—a process that unites the community against an outsider and temporarily restores peace. Girard believes that the scapegoat mechanism has been intrinsic to civilization from its beginning to our own time. (…) Ms. Haven calls mimetic desire the linchpin of Girard’s work, equivalent to Freud’s fixation on sexuality and Marx’s focus on economics. In her discussion of Girard’s 1972 book “Violence and the Sacred,” she traces a trajectory from desire to conflict and ultimately to the scapegoating of entire groups. Think of the lynching of African-Americans, the systematic extinction of Jews in Nazi Germany, the murder of Christians in Muslim countries, and the current animus toward immigrants in Europe and America. Ms. Haven credits the French psychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian with bringing Girard’s mimetic ideas into the social sciences. (…) When Mr. Oughourlian and Girard finally met in Paris, they experienced a mutual sympathy that led to collaboration on “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World,” first published in French in 1978. The title, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, reflected Girard’s increasing concern with Christianity, which he saw as a source for ending history’s perpetual cycles of violence. (…) Even as Girard negotiated the politics of American academe and international rivalries, he drew strength from his Catholic faith. Ms. Haven sympathetically recounts his conversion experiences in 1958 and 1959. At a time when atheism was practically de rigueur among French intellectuals, Girard came out not only as a believer but also as a spokesman for what he called the “truths of Christianity.” Among them, nonviolence headed the list, for he believed that Jesus, unlike earlier scapegoats and sacrificial victims, offered a path to lasting peace. Ms. Haven adds her own eloquent words: “The way to break the cycle of violent imitation is a process of imitatio Christi, imitating Christ’s renunciation of violence. Turn the other cheek, love one’s enemies and pray for those who persecute you, even unto death.” This message is as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago. Marilyn Yalom

Qules signes sur les murs de nos métros et de nos HLM ?

A l’heure où du plus dérisoire et du plus futile ….

Cette soudaine omniprésence savamment orchestrée de tee-shirts à la gloire de Levi’s sur nos plages et dans nos rues cet été …

Ou ce brusque hommage inconscient à la campagne de 1988 du pasteur américain Jessie Jackson dans les rues des métropoles coréennes et asiatiques …

Au plus grave et au plus inquiétant …

Cette véritable semaine en enfer de nouvelles lettres piégées aux domiciles des puissants …

Ou ces nouvelles fusillade ou tentative de fusillade dans les lieux de culte des plus faibles dans les communautés noire ou juive …

Pendant que du côté de Hollywood après nos anciennes avant-gardes et avant peut-être la réalité elle-même, on joue à « purger » par la violence son propre quartier …

Et que pour réussir son suicide, le premier dépressif venu peut entrainer avec lui une centaine d’nconnus …

Sans compter, entre une « fake news » et une commande de nouvelles appelant à l’assassinat de leur propre président, nos pompiers-pyromanes des médias

Les signes, des murs de nos métros et HLM ou des vêtements ou comptes instagram de nos ados, sont littéralement partout …

Comme pouvait déjà nous le rappeler dès les années 60 le premier apprenti-prophète venu

Ou aujourd’hui encore les modélisations et formules mathématiques de nos savants …

Tant de l’incroyable capacité d’imitation et de mimétisme de notre espèce humaine …

Que, montée aux extrêmes et mondialisation obligent, des conséquences potentiellement dévastatrices que celle-ci peut aussi avoir …

Comment ne pas s’étonner …

Qu’il ait fallu trois ans pour que sorte – et aux Etats-Unis seuls – la première biographie …

De ce nouveau Tocqueville qui sa vie durant en avait si magistralement démonté les mécanismes

Et qui – péché capital des péchés capitaux – avait osé révéler les sources proprement bibliques de ses (re)découvertes ?

Mais comment surtout ne pas s’inquiéter …

Devant la colère qui gronde et qui monte des peuples irrémédiablement privés de leurs racines et de leurs identités …

De l’étrange cécité et surdité de nos dirigeants actuels

Enfermés dans leur proprement suicidaire fuite en avant mondialisatrice ?

‘Evolution of Desire’ Review: Who Was René Girard?

A comprehensive new biography on the life of a French intellectual of international prominence who crossed the boundaries of literature, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology and religion.

René Girard (1923- 2015) was inducted into the French Academy in 2005. Many of us felt this honor was long overdue, given his international prominence as a French intellectual whose works had crossed the boundaries of literature, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology and religion. Today his theories continue to be debated among “Girardians” on both sides of the Atlantic. He is now the subject of a comprehensive biography by Cynthia Haven called “Evolution of Desire.”

The title is apt. A key concept in Girard’s philosophy is what he called “mimetic desire.” All desire, he argued, is imitation of another person’s desire. Mimetic desire gives rise to rivalries and violence and eventually to the scapegoating of individuals and groups—a process that unites the community against an outsider and temporarily restores peace. Girard believes that the scapegoat mechanism has been intrinsic to civilization from its beginning to our own time.

My personal acquaintance with René Girard began in 1957, when I entered Johns Hopkins as a graduate student in comparative literature at the same time that he arrived as a professor in the department of Romance languages. With his thick dark hair and leonine head, he was an imposing figure whose brilliance intimidated us all. Yet he proved to be generous and tolerant, even when I announced that I was to have another child—my third in five years of marriage.

Whatever his private feelings about maternal obligations—he and his wife, Martha, had children roughly the same age as ours—he always showed respect for my perseverance in the dual role of mother and scholar. Under his direction, I managed to finish my doctorate in 1963 and commenced a career as a professor of French.

Evolution of Desire

By Cynthia L. Haven

Michigan State, 317 pages, $29.95

Fast forward to 1981, when Girard came to Stanford University. I had been a member of the Stanford community for two decades, first through my husband, then on my own as a director of the Center for Research on Women. On campus, Girard quickly became a hallowed presence, a status he maintained long after his official retirement.

Among the people drawn into his life at Stanford was Ms. Haven, who formed a close friendship with Girard that eventually inspired her to write “Evolution of Desire.” Having already written books on the Nobel Prize-winning poets Czeslaw Milosz and Joseph Brodsky, Ms. Haven is no stranger to the challenges of presenting a great man’s life and ideas to the public. Her carefully researched biography is a fitting tribute to her late friend and one that will enlighten both specialists and non-specialists alike.

Ms. Haven rightly advises readers unfamiliar with Girard’s work to begin by reading his 1961 opus “Deceit, Desire, and the Novel.” This book demonstrates how the “romantic lie” underlying the belief in an autonomous self is punctured by the “fictional truth” found in such writers as Cervantes, Stendhal, Flaubert, Dostoevsky and Proust. In their novels, the protagonist comes to realize that his dominating passion is what Girard alternately calls “mimetic,” “mediated” or “metaphysical.” The fictive hero’s mimetic desire leads to social conflict and personal despair until he renounces the romantic lie and seeks some form of self-transcendence. Readers of Proust may remember Swann’s ultimate reflection: “To think that I ruined years of my life . . . for a woman who wasn’t even my type.”

Ms. Haven calls mimetic desire the linchpin of Girard’s work, equivalent to Freud’s fixation on sexuality and Marx’s focus on economics. In her discussion of Girard’s 1972 book “Violence and the Sacred,” she traces a trajectory from desire to conflict and ultimately to the scapegoating of entire groups. Think of the lynching of African-Americans, the systematic extinction of Jews in Nazi Germany, the murder of Christians in Muslim countries, and the current animus toward immigrants in Europe and America.

Ms. Haven credits the French psychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian with bringing Girard’s mimetic ideas into the social sciences. She relates the amusing story of how Mr. Oughourlian crossed the Atlantic impulsively in 1973 so as to find the author of “Violence and the Sacred” in New York. He was dismayed to discover that Girard was not in New York City but in far-away Buffalo at the State University of New York, where the former Hopkins professor of French had accepted a position in the English Department. When Mr. Oughourlian and Girard finally met in Paris, they experienced a mutual sympathy that led to collaboration on “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World,” first published in French in 1978. The title, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, reflected Girard’s increasing concern with Christianity, which he saw as a source for ending history’s perpetual cycles of violence.

Ms. Haven’s ability to interweave Girard’s life with his publications keeps her narrative flowing at a lively pace. For a man who woke every day at 3:30 a.m. and wrote until his professorial duties took over, it would be enough for any biographer to focus on his intellectual life, without linking his thoughts to a person ambulating in the world. Fortunately, Ms. Haven portrays Girard as he interacted with colleagues, students, friends and family.

The list of his close associates throughout his long career at Hopkins, Buffalo and Stanford is impressive. It includes such distinguished scholars and critics as John Freccero, Richard Macksey, Eugenio Donato, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Michel Serres, Hans Gumbrecht and Robert Harrison. A complete list would run close to 40 or 50 men.

Yes, all men. I can’t refrain from noting the exclusively male nature of Girard’s intellectual network, as well as the predominance of men in competing movements, like structuralism and deconstructionism. The chapter Ms. Haven devotes to a major conference organized by Girard and his Hopkins associates in 1966 reads like an uproarious movie script featuring the oversize egos of the all-male cast, most notably the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

Even as Girard negotiated the politics of American academe and international rivalries, he drew strength from his Catholic faith. Ms. Haven sympathetically recounts his conversion experiences in 1958 and 1959. At a time when atheism was practically de rigueur among French intellectuals, Girard came out not only as a believer but also as a spokesman for what he called the “truths of Christianity.” Among them, nonviolence headed the list, for he believed that Jesus, unlike earlier scapegoats and sacrificial victims, offered a path to lasting peace. Ms. Haven adds her own eloquent words: “The way to break the cycle of violent imitation is a process of imitatio Christi, imitating Christ’s renunciation of violence. Turn the other cheek, love one’s enemies and pray for those who persecute you, even unto death.” This message is as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago.

Voir aussi:

Mimicry, Mania, and Memory: René Girard Remembered

In a new biography of the anthropologist and literary critic, we glimpse the personal experiences that corresponded to his analysis of competitive envy. Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard, by Cynthia L. Haven (Michigan State University Press, 346 pages, $29.95)

On the occasion of the induction of the Franco-American intellectual René Girard (1923–2015) into the Académie Française in Paris in 2005, Girard articulated an abhorrence of what he called the modern descent into “the anti-Christian nihilism that has spread everywhere in our time.” One might well say that over a 60-year period, after his arrival from France as a graduate student at Indiana University in 1947, the literary critic and eventual anthropologist Girard found himself increasingly exposing, analyzing, and challenging this nihilism, and in fact progressively purging its residual effects in himself as a legatee of the histrionic, skeptical French literary-cultural tradition since the mid 18th century, deplored in the mid 19th century by Alexis de Tocqueville, one of whose chief facets Girard characterized as “decadent aestheticism.”

Cynthia L. Haven’s outstanding new biographical and critical study, Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard, is a brilliant survey of his life and thought, but also a document of high importance for understanding what has happened to the conception and teaching of the humanities in the United States and elsewhere since the 1960s, and why Lionel Trilling was right to worry about “the uncertain future of humanistic education,” the title of a 1975 essay. Starting out as a literary critic writing mainly about the 19th-century novel, Girard developed into a wide-ranging cultural critic and anthropologist at Johns Hopkins (1957–68, 1976–80) and then at Stanford (1981–2015). His thinking has had a vast effect throughout the Western world on literary studies, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, theology, and even the writing of history, influencing numerous scholars in these fields, as well as novelists (Milan Kundera, J. M. Coetzee), and leading to associations and journals for the study and application of his thought. Evolution of Desire is itself a distinguished, judicious work of interdisciplinary cultural analysis and synthesis in the current of Girard.

Most of Girard’s books were published first in French in France, some of them best-sellers, leading ultimately to his election to the Académie Française. The first, Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (1961; with a pun on “roman,” which also means the novel) was translated into English and published as Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (1965), and it introduced the theme, which he called “mimetic desire,” that would make Girard famous and influential in the world of the humanities.

The “romantic falsehood” of Girard’s title derives ultimately from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s conception of personal authenticity, portrayed in his fiction, his autobiographical Confessions (1781), and especially in his tendentious, tiresome, heartlessly long and repetitive educational novel Emile (1762), perhaps the single most influential book on education published in the last 250 years. Rousseau argued that in the aboriginal state of nature (or in childhood itself) the human person had a necessary and good kind of self-love (amour de soi-même) but that in the formation of human societies (and adulthood itself) men fell into endless, anxious, comparative, competitive, invidious self-love (amour propre). Rousseau said that his main principle was that “nature makes man happy and good, but that society depraves him and renders him miserable.” Life in existing society is fallen, alienated, insincere, inevitably inauthentic; so too is modern adulthood. The revolutionary implications of this conception found their first political heroes in Robespierre and the Jacobins, and the first of their many explosive modern political outbursts came in the sanguinary French Revolution. Burke saw and said that Rousseau’s alluring concepts and words came first: The catastrophic French Revolution was their sequel.

Girard in Mensonge romantique grants that competitive envy is the very social-psychological motor that drives “enlightened,” atheistic modern personal and social life. “At the heart of the book,” Cynthia Haven writes, “is our endless imitation of each other. Imitation is inescapable.” And she continues: “When it comes to metaphysical desire — which Girard describes as desires beyond simple needs and appetites — what we imitate is vital, and why.” We are inevitably afflicted with “mimetic desires,” first of parents and siblings, then of peers, rivals, and chosen role models, and these desires endlessly drive and agitate us, consciously and unconsciously, causing anxiety and “ontological sickness.”

An example is given in a recent essay by Ross Douthat about Ivy League American education: “The eliter-than-elite kids . . . help create a provisional inside-the-Ivy hierarchy that lets all the other privileged kids, the ones who are merely upper-upper middle class, feel the spur of resentment and ambition that keeps us running, keeps us competing, keeps us sharp and awful in all the ways that meritocracy requires.” Tom Wolfe’s satirical college-campus novel I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004) illustrates these dismal, malignant dynamics in ways that must depress and even nauseate those of us who are professional educators, shocked by the accuracy of its representation of campus degradation, where facilities improve and character deteriorates.

Girard’s argument is that Rousseau’s ideal of completely autonomous personal authenticity, with its explosive social-political effects, is an initially alluring but ultimately and utterly false Narcissistic idol. Our free will is always (and always has been) constrained and conditioned, though not necessarily determined, by the very facts of human childhood, parenting, and linguistic, cognitive, conceptual, and cultural development (see my “Mother, Child, and Language” at NRO). There have always been powerful critics of Rousseau: from H. S. Gerdil (The Anti-Emile, 1763; English translation, 2011), Samuel Johnson, Burke, and Hamilton in Rousseau’s own time, to Irving Babbitt (Rousseau and Romanticism, 1919), Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, and Lionel Trilling in the mid 20th century, and, more recently, E. D. Hirsch (see chapter 4 of The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, 1996). They have argued persuasively against Rousseau’s anarchic, antinomian, seductive Romantic vision, and Cynthia Haven’s account of Girard’s thought and psychological-emotional development effectively and movingly extends and amplifies their critique.

In 1958–59, before and while writing the “Romantic falsehood” volume, Girard went through internal, personal experiences corresponding to the implications of his own analysis of the “canker vice, envy,” and they amounted to an unexpected Christian conversion, about which Haven writes very well. Still nominally very much part of an atheistic, anti-foundational, French academic avant-garde in the United States, and now increasingly prominent in his position at Johns Hopkins, Girard was even one of the chief organizers of “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” the enormously influential conference, in Baltimore in October 1966, that brought to America from France skeptical celebrity intellectuals including Jacques Lacan, Lucien Goldmann, Roland Barthes, and, most consequentially, the most agile of Nietzschean nihilists, Jacques Derrida, still obscure in 1966 (and always bamboozlingly obscurantist) but propelled to fame by the conference and his subsequent literary productivity and travels in America: another glamorous, revolutionary “Citizen Genet,” like the original Jacobin visitor of 1793–94.

After this standing-room-only conference, Derrida and “deconstructionism,” left-wing Nietzscheanism in the high French intellectual mode, took America by storm, which is perhaps the crucial story in the subsequent unintelligibility, decline, and fall of the humanities in American universities, in terms both of enrollments and of course content. The long-term effect can be illustrated in declining enrollments: at Stanford, for example, in 2014 alone “humanities majors plummeted from 20 percent to 7 percent,” according to Ms. Haven. The Anglo-American liberal-humanistic curricular and didactic tradition of Matthew Arnold (defending “the old but true Socratic thesis of the interdependence of knowledge and virtue”), Columbia’s Arnoldian John Erskine (“The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent,” 1913), Chicago’s R. M. Hutchins and Mortimer Adler (the “Great Books”), and English figures such as Basil Willey (e.g., The English Moralists, 1964) and F. R. Leavis (e.g., The Living Principle: “English” as a Discipline of Thought, 1975) at Cambridge, and their successor there and at Boston University, Sir Christopher Ricks, was rapidly mocked, demoted, and defenestrated, with Stanford students eventually shouting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho! / Western civ has got to go!”

The fundamental paradox of a relativistic but left-wing, Francophile Nietzscheanism married to a moralistic neo-Marxist analysis of cultural traditions and power structures — insane conjunction! — is now the very “gas we breathe” on university campuses throughout the West (see my “Lincoln and Leo XIII against the Nietzscheans” at NRO).

Girard quietly repented his role in introducing what he later called “the French plague” to the United States, with Derrida, Foucault, and Paul DeMan exalting ludicrous irrationalism to spectacular new heights. His own efforts turned increasingly to anthropology and religious studies. Rousseau, Romantic primitivism, Nietzsche, and French aestheticism, diabolism (“flowers of evil”), and atheistic existentialism — Sade, Baudelaire, Gide, Sartre, Jean Genet, Foucault, Derrida, de Man, Bataille — had drowned the residually Christian, Platonist, Arnoldian liberal-humanistic tradition, which proved to be an unstable halfway house between religion and naturalism. Yet the repentant Girard resisted the deluge and critiqued it, initially from within (Stendhal, Flaubert, Proust), but increasingly relying on the longer and larger literary tradition, drawing particularly on Dante and Dostoyevsky as well as the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures. Like other close readers of Dostoyevsky, such as Berdyaev, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, other anti-Communist dissidents including Czesław Miłosz, Malcolm Muggeridge, and numerous Slavic scholars such as Joseph Frank, Girard came to see Dostoyevsky as the greatest social-psychological analyst of and antidote to the invidious “amour propre” and restless revolutionary resentments of modern life, themselves comprising and confirming an original sin of egotism and covetousness. Like Dostoyevsky, Girard became an increasingly orthodox Christian, seeing in the imitation of Christ the divinely appointed way out of the otherwise endless, invidious, simian hall-of-mirrors of “mimetic desires.”

Girard argued that these competitive, comparative “mimetic desires” had geopolitical and not only personal and social effects, from the 18th century onward: siblings versus siblings, generations versus generations, nations versus nations (e.g., French versus Germans, 1789–1945, about which he wrote poignantly at the end of his life), cultures versus cultures (Islam versus the West today). Girard’s later work, and that of his allies and disciples, has ranged widely over these issues and themes of rivalry, imitation, envy, and scapegoating, as Cynthia Haven shows.

At Girard’s induction into the Académie Française in Paris in 2005, his fellow French Academician (and friend and Stanford colleague) Michel Serres also spoke and passionately deplored the violent and perverse world of contemporary audiovisual media, representing and exulting in human degradation “and multiplying it with a frenzy such that these repetitions return our culture to melancholic barbarism” and cause “huge” cultural “regression.” Rousseau’s idyllic Romantic dream has been transmogrified into Nietzsche’s exultant criminal vision of a world “beyond good and evil.”

Girard’s long odyssey began with an idyllic childhood and youth (1923–42) in Avignon, in the beautiful lower Rhône valley of France, Christianized in the second century, location of the Palace of the Popes, where his anti-clerical father worked as an archivist. His mother was an unusually highly educated woman for that time and a devout Catholic who read her children Manzoni’s great providential novel The Betrothed. Wartime study in Paris during the German occupation, 1942–44, and then after the Liberation, 1944–47, preceded Girard’s emigration to the United States in 1947, and his happy and enduring marriage to the American Martha McCullough in 1951. His subsequent professional trajectory took him from Indiana to Duke (where segregation left him with a lasting impression of scapegoating evil), then to Bryn Mawr and Johns Hopkins, Buffalo, Johns Hopkins again, and then to Stanford and well-merited world eminence. Despite his enormous general audience and success in France, and the amazingly successful, disintegrative, Franco-Nietzschean “deconstructionist” invasion of American and British universities, publishing houses, and elite mentalities, he “marveled at the stability of the United States and its institutions,” Girard’s biographer tells. Let us hope Girard is right.

Another Franco-American immigrant-intellectual of great integrity, intelligence, and influence, Jacques Barzun (1907–2012), wrote in his magisterial final work of cultural history, From Dawn to Decadence (2000), that modernism is “at once the mirror of disintegration and an incitement to extending it.”

Cynthia Haven’s fine book on Girard is both brilliant cultural criticism and exquisite intellectual history, and an edifying biographical and ethical tale, providing a philosophical vision of a world beyond monkey-like mimicries and manias that demoralize, dispirit, and dehumanize the contemporary human person. It deserves wide notice and careful reading in a time of massive and pervasive attention-deficit disorder.

M. D. Aeschliman — M. D. Aeschliman is professor of Anglophone culture at the University of Italian Switzerland (Lugano), professor emeritus of education at Boston University, and the author of The Restitution of Man: C. S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism, forthcoming in French translation (Paris: Pierre Tèqui).Voir également:

‘Evolution of Desire,’ by Cynthia L. Haven

Cynthia L. Haven’s “Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard” is the first full-length biography of the acclaimed French thinker. Girard’s “mimetic theory” saw imitation at the heart of individual desire and motivation, accounting for the competition and violence that galvanize cultures and societies. “Girard claimed that mimetic desire is not only the way we love, it’s the reason we fight. Two hands that reach towards the same object will ultimately clench into fists.”Often a controversial figure, Girard trespassed into many different fields — he was, by turns, a literary critic, an anthropologist, a sociologist, a psychologist, a theologian and much else besides. Haven’s biography is the first book to contextualize Girard’s work within its proper historical, cultural and philosophical context. The book presumes no prior knowledge, and includes several useful primers of the texts that established his reputation: “Deceit, Desire, and the Novel” (1961), “Violence and the Sacred” (1972), “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” (1978), and his study of Shakespeare, “A Theater of Envy” (1991). But it is the author’s closeness to the man once described as the new Darwin of the human sciences” that brings this fascinating biography to life. Haven was a friend of Girard’s until his death in 2015, and met with family members, friends and colleagues closest to him to prepare for the book. She recalls a calm and patient man who was generous with his time. “I came to his work through his kindness, generosity, and his personal friendship, not the other way around.”He lived with his wife, Martha, on the Stanford University campus, and followed a strict working routine: “Certainly his schedule would have made him at home in one of the more austere orders of monks. His working hours were systematic and adamantly maintained.” He began his day at his desk at roughly 3:30 in the morning, broke for a walk and relaxation sometime around noon, and spent his afternoons either continuing what he had begun that day or meeting his responsibilities to students.

One of the abiding questions that drives the book is how a man who appeared to lead such a quiet and ordered life was animated by some of the most troubling themes in human history.

Adopting the lively and accessible style of an investigative reporter, Haven looks to Girard’s formative experiences for an answer. The reader is along for the ride as she drives a rented Citroën through southern France, or pores over archival images and family photographs. Her research is rich in important and surprising details, and there are entertaining tidbits of juicy academic gossip along the way.

Evolution of Desire

A Life of René Girard

By Cynthia L. Haven

(Michigan State University Press; 317 pages; $29.95)

The biographer uncovers Girard’s early life as a talented but mischievous student in Avignon, his years in Nazi-occupied France (including a brush with near-death at the hands of the Gestapo), and his troubling experiences in the racially segregated American South. These careful excavations present Girard as a witness to some of the darkest chapters of the 20th century, and help to explain his interest in the figure of the scapegoat or forced sacrifice, where wider society becomes complicit in communal acts of violence.

In an academic world that favored detached skepticism, Girard’s private convictions and idiosyncratic approach contributed to his outsider image. Haven catalogs Girard’s unique intellectual engagement with a host of writers and philosophers, from Dostoevsky, Stendhal and Proust to Sartre, Camus and Derrida.

Yet there are also mystical and ambiguous influences at play. One of the highlights of the book is its treatment of Girard’s religious conversion on the Pennsylvania Railroad. These later directions in Girard’s life left their mark on his work: reading the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Girard observed within the texts a strong identification with the victims of the scapegoating mechanism, rather than with its perpetrators. For Girard, these representations of the scapegoat as innocent victim offer the potential to break the cycle of violence.

Girard received the honor of being inducted into the Académie Française in 2005, and his influence echoes through the work of writers and thinkers that include Milan Kundera, Roberto Calasso, Karen Armstrong, Simon Schama and Elif Batuman. Haven also identifies deep affinities between Girard’s key ideas and the work of Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee, whose novels “Dusklands” and “Disgrace” bear strong marks of influence.

But while Girard continues to enjoy a strong and ardent following, Haven charts how his devotion to grand narratives stood against the prevailing fads and fashions of the 1960s and beyond: “Clearly, Girard is tenaciously loyal to a heritage that has been abandoned in the last century and a half: the grand récit — that is, a meta-narrative that offers a sweeping, teleological worldview.”

“Evolution of Desire” is the portrait of a provocative and engaging figure who was not afraid of pursuing his own line of inquiry. His legacy is not so much a grand theory as it is a flexible interpretive framework with useful social, cultural and historical applications. At a time when religious fundamentalism, violent extremism and societal division dominates the headlines, Haven’s book is a call to revisit and reclaim one of the 20th century’s most important thinkers.

Rhys Tranter is the author of “Beckett’s Late Stage: Trauma, Language, and Subjectivity.” His writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement.

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Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard

The Imaginative conservative

René Girard gave the intellectual universe a way of seeing old truths in a new way and new truths through an old lens. As a result, his work has already been hugely influential in a range of disciplines, both academic and cultural…

Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard by Cynthia L. Haven (346 pages, Michigan State University Press, 2018)

Around twenty years ago I was an oblate at Downside Abbey in England, and while there on retreat, the theologian Dom Sebastian Moore would knock on my door after Compline with a bottle of contraband whisky. It was supposed to be the great silence, but he was eager to talk theology and wanted especially to discuss a French thinker I had never heard of: René Girard.

Moore was one of the first theologians to interact with Girard’s thought, and only later did I move on with Dom Sebastian’s encouragement to read Girard’s work myself. The interface among literature, theology, and psychology was my cup of tea, and therefore it was with some anticipation that I asked for a review copy of Cynthia Haven’s new biography of Girard.

For those who are unfamiliar with René Girard and his work, a brief overview will set the stage: René Girard, who died three years ago, was a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His sprawling oeuvre might be called anthropological philosophy. His books make connections through theology, literary criticism, critical theory, anthropology, psychology, mythology, sociology, cultural studies, and philosophy.

His core theory is that our human motivations are rooted in “mimetic desire”—a form of envy which is not simply desiring what another has, but also desiring to be like them. This competitive drive then sparks all other human conflict on both the micro- and macroscopic levels. He explained how mimetic desire leads us to blame others when our desire is frustrated, which then leads to blaming others and ultimately to the mechanism of scapegoating on the societal level, which forms the basis for ritual sacrifice.

An accomplished academic, journalist, and author, Cynthia Haven was not only a colleague of Girard but also a close friend to him and his wife. Her biography is a warm, personal memoir while also providing an introduction to his thought and the historical context for the development of his ideas.

René Girard’s second name “Noël” signals his birth on Christmas Day in 1923 in Avignon, France. His father was an archivist in the local museum, and his mother from a more upper- class family proud of having a martyr-saint in their ancestry.

In 1947, with a degree in medieval history, he went on a one-year fellowship to study at Indiana University. Although his subject was history, he took a post teaching French literature. He married and settled in the United States, holding posts at Duke, Bryn Mawr, John Hopkins, and New York State at Buffalo before concluding his academic career at Stanford. Girard’s academic breakthrough was with the book Deceit, Desire and the Novel, but his most influential works are Violence and the Sacred and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.

Ms. Haven’s biography paints a portrait of a man who, from boyhood, was introspective, intellectual, and somewhat of a mystic. Brought up in a conventional French Catholic home, by the time he was at university he had adopted the fashionable atheism of the day. Witnessing the treatment of the Jews and the scapegoating of French collaborators in the aftermath of the Second World War no doubt had an impact on the development of Girard’s thought.

The academic vigor and enthusiasm in postwar United States provided the perfect setting for a philosopher and historian who was constantly thinking outside the boundaries of strict academic territories. He would come to interact with the avant-garde writers and philosophers of his day—Camus, Sartre, Foucault, Derrida—and yet rise above them and their frequent rivalries and needy egos. In a world of narrowing academia, in which professors knew more and more about less and less, Girard was one who transcended the blinkered biases, the bureaucratic boundaries, and artificially defined territories.

As T.S. Eliot’s entire life’s work must be understood through the lens of his 1927 conversion to Christianity, so I believe Girard is also best understood through his profound reversion to his Catholic faith. In commenting on the interaction between religious awakening and the work of literature, Girard wrote, “So the career of the great novelist is dependent upon a conversion, and even if it is not made completely explicit, there are symbolic allusions to it at the end of the novel. These allusions are at least implicitly religious.”

Girard’s own awakening began in the winter of 1958-59 as he was working on his book about the novel. He recounted later, “I was thinking about the analogies between religious experience and the experience of a novelist who discovers that he’s been consistently lying, lying for the benefit of his Ego, which in fact is made up of nothing but a thousand lies that have accumulated over a long period, sometimes built up over an entire lifetime.”

His intellectual awareness was combined later with a series of profound mystical experiences as he rode on the train from Baltimore to Bryn Mawr. “I remember quasi-mystical experiences on the train as I read, contemplated the scenery… The sights were little more than scrap iron and the vacant lots in an old industrial region, but my mental state transfigured everything, and on the way back, the slightest ray from the setting sun produced veritable ecstasies within me.” A bit later he had a health scare which pushed the intellectual and the subjective mystical experiences into a firm commitment to religion.

Ms. Haven recounts, “It was Lent. He was thirty-five years old. He had never been a practicing Catholic. ‘I will never forget that day. It was Holy Wednesday, the Wednesday before Easter.’ March 25, 1959. Everything was fine, completely benign, no return of the cancer… I felt that God liberated me just in time for me to have a real Easter experience, a death and resurrection experience.’”

For those who like to spot little signs of a providential plan, it might be noted that René Girard (also called Noël) who was born on Christmas Day, dated his conversion to March 25—the feast of the Annunciation—traditionally the date for the beginning of God’s redemptive work in the world, and in medieval times the date for the celebration of the New Year.

Girard’s conversion and subsequent practice of his Catholic faith was an act of great courage. His huge leonine profile with his contemplative gaze grants him a kind of heroic stature that reflects the heroism of his witness. As post-modern academia drifted further and further into Marxist ideologies, fashionable atheism, and nihilistic post-structuralism, Girard was able to put forward an intellectual explication for age-old Christian themes using a fresh vocabulary and perspective.

Ms. Haven’s biography is beautifully and sensitively written. It carries plenty of intellectual heft without being overly weighty and inaccessible. Her enthusiasm for Girard’s thought does leave some areas untouched, however. While his work is hailed in intellectual circles as being revolutionary, for theologians it is more a case of looking at old truths from a new angle.

The critic might point out that the concept of “mimetic desire” is simply good old-fashioned envy, and that theologians have explored the complications of that original sin already in many ways. Likewise, the relationship between sacrifice and the scapegoat is as old as Leviticus. What Girard did was to provide a fresh synthesis and applications of old truths within non-religious disciplines. He also re-vivified the concept of sacrifice, explaining its underlying dynamic rather than simply writing it off as a barbaric superstition.

In an age where atheism is all the rage and all religions (especially Catholicism) are suspect, Girard does a great service in refreshing the language of the tribe and giving the intellectual universe a way of seeing old truths in a new way and new truths through an old lens. As a result, his work has already been hugely influential in a range of disciplines, both academic and cultural.

A reviewer must grumble a little, and my only niggle was the somewhat humid atmosphere of the hoity-toity and the haute academe. Of course, Girard was a thinker—and a French one at that, but at times the lofty airs and intense and dense overthinking become a bit wearing.

Ms. Haven is not much of a name-dropper, but when she describes, for example, The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man symposium held at John Hopkins in 1966, the pomposity of the whole affair is comedic. I sensed a touch of sarcasm as she reports the competing egos of famous French philosophers and the rivalry between intellectuals trying to see whose presentations can be the most incomprehensible, while they are also comparing notes on the luxury of their accommodations and the numbers of young women they are able to lure into philosophical discussions between the sheets.

For those who chuckle at the snooty name-dropping of what Flannery O’Conner called “them innerleckshuls,” here is a passage in which Ms. Haven quotes one of Girard’s colleagues, the Scotsman Lionel Gossman on a visit to John Hopkins:

I remember in particular Sir Nicholas Pevsner’s delight when I showed him the elegant industrial design of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s round house and the silence that came over the poet Yves Bonnefoy as we stood before the modest grave of Edgar Allen Poe on which the famous verses of Mallarmé are inscribed.

To be fair, these famous names and “high-falutin’” footnotes provide a nice counterpoint to Girard’s seriousness and modesty. The rest of them may have been egotistical, competitive, and status-hungry, but Ms. Haven portrays Girard as a man whose gravity and intimidating demeanor was undergirded by a genuine modesty that was always ready with a warm welcome, a listening ear, and an engaged and interested mind. While those around him may have been climbing the academic ladder, seeking fame and fortune, Girard comes across as a sincere seeker and a master of wisdom.

Critics will say that his theory is incomplete, that he has not connected all the dots and that there are inconsistencies between his theory and orthodox Catholic theology. Ms. Haven points out that Girard never suggested that his work was “an answer to everything,” but that he was only planting seeds so that others might continue the work and bring more understandings of Truth to the harvest.

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Review of Cynthia Haven’s Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard
Grant Kaplan

As a graduate student I remember asking one of my most respected mentors, Michael Buckley, about a rift between two larger-than-life professors at the University of Chicago: Leo Strauss and Richard McKeon —“Was the root of the dispute intellectual or personal?” My mentor responded, “In these matt ers it’s always personal.” Perhaps due to its sweeping nature, the statement stuck with me. Buckley was no Girardian, but neither was Shakespeare or Proust. Yet Girard’s mimetic theory— majestic in its simplicity, sweeping in its scope — has a way of gathering up stray anecdotes and incidents into its collective force, like a hurricane that swallows up every bit of moisture within range.

Cynthia Haven’s Evolution of Desire offers the first of two long-awaited bibliographies of Girard (the other, which has the official sanction of the Girard family, is by Benoît Chantre). Rather than providing a biographer’s biography— full of footnotes, every stone overturned, weighty enough to ensure nobody else tries to write one — Haven has instead provided a portrait of sorts, bringing to life the Girard she came to know in the winter of his life. This is not to say that Evolution of Desire reads as a kind of “ last days and sayings ” of René Girard; Chantre has already provided that in Les derniers jours de René Girard (Grasset, 2016). Haven prefers the early Girard, providing remarkable insights into his childhood, and underscoring the importance of his birthplace, Avignon, for his intellectual development. Of his intellectual collaborators, Haven favors those from Girard’s first stint at Hopkins, rather than later figures. By doing so, she downplays the interactions between theological interlocutors like Raymund Schwager and James Alison, perhaps the most important current translator of mimetic theory into Christian theology. Schwager receives some attention, but Alison’s name does not grace the book.

Even those familiar with the brazen and iconoclastic interdisciplinary style of Girard can forget what an autodidact he was. Girard’s training, both in France and in the United States, was in history. The École des Chartes formed students into librarians and archivists. From there Girard went to
the United States, where his forgettable dissertation at the University of Indiana covered American opinions on France during the Second World War. When Girard came to literature in the 1950s and 60s, he did so as an outsider. And he continued this pattern of butting into adjacent fields, among them anthropology, ethnology, and eventually theology. Haven ’s recounting of Girard’s early years highlights the panache that would mark Girard. Whether as a prankster in school, or as the organizer of an exhibit that brought Picasso to Avignon in 1947 — this event initiated the world-renowned Avignon Festival — Girard displayed winning qualities before becoming an immortel in the Académie Française.

For those who’ve tracked Girard for the past three decades, it is easy t o start with Girard’s occupancy of the Hammond Chair at Stanford, beginning in 1981. Haven points out the importance of the earlier academic posts, especially his first stint at Johns Hopkins from 1957 – 68. There Girard made his reputation and also experienced a two-fold conversion, first with the help of great literature, and then through a cancer scare in 1959. During this period Girard published Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1961) and rose to full professor, hardly an anticipated development given his failure to publish at Indiana. Girard enthusiasts know these details, mostly from his interview with James Williams at the end of The Girard Reader. Haven embellishes them through corroborating witnesses from these years. In perhaps the most enjoyable chapter, “The French Invasion,” she recalls Girard’s role in a monumental conference at Hopkins: “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man.” This event marked the American emergence of Derrida, and decisively shifted Johns Hopkins as well as many other departments toward post-structuralism, or postmodernism. Although Girard had helped organize the conference, it led indirectly to his departure for Buffalo, as he could not bring himself to accept what he understood to be the anti-realist impulse of postmodern theory, which would become all the rage in literature departments
In his first stint at Hopkins, Girard became Girard. He trained his first graduate students there, including Andrew McKenna and Eric Gans. Girard also found important companions in Baltimore, including Richard Macksey, described as “a legendary polymath” (84), and a rising Dante scholar, John Freccero. Girard’s former chair at Hopkins, Nathan Edelman, recalls, “I thought of him as fearless. He had a tremendous self- confidence, in the best sense […] He never felt threatened by people who had different ideas […] We were enthralled by him. We desperately wanted his approval” (85). These sentiments arose well before Girard before he became a pied piper to Christian intellectuals. The strongest personal accusation from these years was that Girard could overgeneralize and dismiss too easily.

Most would consider a move from Hopkins to the State University of Buffalo, especially for a man from southern France, as a kind of exile. But Girard loved Buffalo, and it is where he wrote Violence and the Sacred and also where he laid the groundwork for Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World . One colleague called Buffalo “the most interesting English department in the country” (149). During these years Girard also met Jean-Michel Oughourlian, the first of many collaborators who would help Girard develop his distinctive interview-book. After an initial false start, in which Oughourlian flew to New York on a whim and had no idea how to find Buffalo, the two eventually met in Paris. Oughourlian became perhaps Girard’s closest friend, and their collaboration continued when Girard returned to Hopkins in 1976. Oughourlian describes an idyllic exchange; not only did they work every day, from morning to evening, but, in his words, “I have never laughed so much during the preparation of Things Hidden , nor have I ever learned so much” (177). In this work Girard completed what he considered the unfinished account in Violence and the Sacred by bringing Biblical interpretation into conversation with his theory of archaic religion and sacrifice. Published eight years after the former book, Things Hidden signaled Girard’s coming out as a Christian, nearly twenty years after re-conversion in 1959.

North Americans have developed a domesticated portrait of Girard: an interesting and important intellectual in the thrall of certain theologians. Yet in France, where the intellectual appetite is greater, Girard made an impact difficult to fathom. Haven notes that Things Hidden sold 35,000 copies in the first six months, which put it #2 on French non-fiction lists at the time. Eventually it sold 100,000 copies. That type of volume puts its somewhere between Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind in terms of immediate impact, and Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or Alistair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, in terms of longevity. In France, if you had not read Things Hidden, you at least needed to fake it. Girard credited his publisher for the success, but Haven brings out Girard’s penchant for melding social critique with self-examination, which often produced the experience of realizing, while reading his books, that they were reading you.

Haven describes Girard’s conversion and attends to his practice of Christianity, but does not make it the central thread of her biography. Although she relies on exchanges with friends of Girard, she pays less mind than some would to the encounter with Schwager, the Swiss Jesuit, despite the fact that their letters have recently been published and translated into English. Schwager first wrote Girard in 1974, and at that time saw what had only been a plan in Girard’s mind: the connection between the Bible and Girard’s theory of the sacred. When Schwager wrote Must There Be Scapegoats? , it actually appeared a few months prior to Things Hidden. As their letters make clear, despite a great debt to Girard, Schwager was an original thinker in his own right, and eventually helped Girard to change his mind about the relationship between sacrifice and Christianity. Haven credits Schwager with encouraging Girard’s desire to be theologically orthodox, although this had mixed results. By becoming a sort of defender of the Catholic faith, it “took him one large step farther away from fashionable intellectual circles and their feverish pursuit of novelty” (228). Haven also passes over The Scapegoat (1982), and I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (2001), which provide perhaps the richest sources for understanding Girard as a Christian thinker.

This decision is somewhat remedied by Haven’s attention to Girard’s final major work, Battling to the End (2007). Haven was close to Girard at the time, and provides several first-hand anecdotes important for his readers. The pessimism and apocalyptic tone in the book really was Girard’s, and not Chantre’s. She also relays that Girard and Chantre had plans for an additional book on Paul. Although Battling to the End made a minor splash in the United States, it sold 20,000 copies in the first three months in France, was reviewed in all of the major newspapers, and was even cited by then-president Sarkosy. While Girard was in Paris, reporters waited outside his doorstep, whereas at St anford, “Girard walked the campus virtually unnoticed and unrecognized” (254).

Haven’s account focuses more on Girard than on the expansions of his influence. For many Girardians, the story of Girard’s intellectual journey should culminate in the Colloquium on Violence & Religion, founded in 1990 with Girard’s blessing, and faithfully attended by Girard until ill-health prevented him. The Colloquium continues to draw between one and two hundred attendees to its annual meeting. Although not all attendees are theologians or Christians, the attendees who work in literature tend to study figures like Tolkien, and many of the invited plenary speakers are major theologians or Christian intellectuals like Jean-Luc Marion or Charles Taylor. It will take some recalibration for these kinds of readers to understand that Girard’s interests cannot simply be distilled into a Christian apologetic, however subtly one might want to apply that term to Girard. Still, those invested in carrying on Girard’s lega cy should welcome a book that traces Girard’s appeal so broadly.

It would be hard to exaggerate the accessibility of Evolution of Desire. Anyone who writes or talks about Girard has to do the three-step dance: first, explaining how mimetic desire works for good and for ill; second, positing the invention of the scapegoat mechanism as the foundation for society; third, the emergence of biblical religion as the unveiling of the mythic cover up. Haven does this dance with remarkable deftness. In addition, her brief accounts of post-structuralism and other intellectual movements display almost Platonic distillation. It is also a personal book.

Haven talks about herself, at times frankly, and it sometimes reads as “ Girard As I Knew Him. ” These features do not detract in any way. As Haven portrays him, Girard was a man of decency and humility, who loved his wife and displayed almost none of the unattractive qualities that mark so many academics.

Anybody interested in Girard will want to read this work. The book is so readable , meant in the most complimentary sense, that one might even hope that it renews interest in Girard. The man claimed on more than one occasion that his theory sought to give Christianity and Christian theologians the anthropology that it deserved. Haven has provided a warm and magnanimous biography that Girard most certainly deserves.

Voir par encore:

René Girard, Church Father

Bishop Robert Barron
Word on fire
November 10, 2015

René Girard, one of the most influential Catholic philosophers in the world, died last week at the age of 91. Born in Avignon and a member of the illustrious Academie Francaise, Girard nevertheless made his academic reputation in the United States, as a professor at Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, and Stanford University.

There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power. Drawing inspiration from some of the greatest literary masters of the West—Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Proust among others—Girard opined that desire is both mimetic and triangular. He meant that we rarely desire objects straightforwardly; rather, we desire them because others desire them: as we imitate (mimesis) another’s desire, we establish a triangulation between self, other, and object. If this sounds too rarefied, think of the manner in which practically all of advertising works: I come to want those gym shoes, not because of their intrinsic value, but because the hottest NBA star wants them. Now what mimetic desire leads to, almost inevitably, is conflict. If you want to see this dynamic in the concrete, watch what happens when toddler A imitates the desire of toddler B for the same toy, or when dictator A mimics the desire of dictator B for the same route of access to the sea.

The tension that arises from mimetic desire is dealt with through what Girard called the scapegoating mechanism. A society, large or small, that finds itself in conflict comes together through a common act of blaming an individual or group purportedly responsible for the conflict. So for instance, a group of people in a coffee klatch will speak in an anodyne way for a time, but in relatively short order, they will commence to gossip, and they will find, customarily, a real fellow feeling in the process. What they are accomplishing, on Girard’s reading, is a discharging of the tension of their mimetic rivalry onto a third party. The same dynamic obtains among intellectuals. When I was doing my post-graduate study, I heard the decidedly Girardian remark: “the only thing that two academics can agree upon is how poor the work of a third academic is!” Hitler was one of the shrewdest manipulators of the scapegoating mechanism. He brought the deeply divided German nation of the 1930’s together precisely by assigning the Jews as a scapegoat for the country’s economic, political, and cultural woes. Watch a video of one of the Nuremberg rallies of the mid-thirties to see the Girardian theory on vivid display.

Now precisely because this mechanism produces a kind of peace, however ersatz and unstable, it has been revered by the great mythologies and religions of the world and interpreted as something that God or the gods smile upon. Perhaps the most ingenious aspect of Girard’s theorizing is his identification of this tendency. In the founding myths of most societies, we find some act of primal violence that actually establishes the order of the community, and in the rituals of those societies, we discover a repeated acting out of the original scapegoating. For a literary presentation of this ritualization of society-creating violence, look no further than Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece “The Lottery.”

The main features of this theory were in place when Girard turned for the first time in a serious way to the Christian Scriptures. What he found astonished him and changed his life. He discovered that the Bible knew all about mimetic desire and scapegoating violence but it also contained something altogether new, namely, the de-sacralizing of the process that is revered in all of the myths and religions of the world. The crucifixion of Jesus is a classic instance of the old pattern. It is utterly consistent with the Girardian theory that Caiaphas, the leading religious figure of the time, could say to his colleagues, “Is it not better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to perish?” In any other religious context, this sort of rationalization would be valorized. But in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, this stunning truth is revealed: God is not on the side of the scapegoaters but rather on the side of the scapegoated victim. The true God in fact does not sanction a community created through violence; rather, he sanctions what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, a society grounded in forgiveness, love, and identification with the victim. Once Girard saw this pattern, he found it everywhere in the Gospels and in Christian literature. For a particularly clear example of the unveiling process, take a hard look at the story of the woman caught in adultery.

In the second half of the twentieth century, academics tended to characterize Christianity—if they took it seriously at all—as one more iteration of the mythic story that can be found in practically every culture. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars, the “mono-myth,” to use Joseph Campbell’s formula, is told over and again. What Girard saw was that this tired theorizing has it precisely wrong. In point of fact, Christianity is the revelation (the unveiling) of what the myths want to veil; it is the deconstruction of the mono-myth, not a reiteration of it—which is exactly why so many within academe want to domesticate and de-fang it.

The recovery of Christianity as revelation, as an unmasking of what all the other religions are saying, is René Girard’s permanent and unsettling contribution.

Voir par ailleurs:

America’s week from hell: Three pipe bombs sent to two former Presidents, a racist shoots two African-Americans after trying to enter a Kentucky black church and a gunman kills eight at a Pittsburgh synagogue

  • A white gunman opened fire on the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning 
  • The synagogue was packed for a Sabbath service and had no security
  • Earlier this week a man was arrested in Florida for mailing 14 pipe bombs to high-profile liberals including President Clinton and Obama
  • In another incident a man in Louisville attempted to break into a black church but upon finding it was locked he shot dead two people at a supermarket

The past week has been one of extraordinary violence in the United States.

It has been one in which an alleged white supremacist sent 14 pipe bombs to prominent democratic supporters including two former Presidents; a man who killed two people at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky tried to enter a black church minutes before the fatal shooting; and on Saturday, a gunman appears to have killed at least eight people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Some commentators have suggested such news had ‘an air of inevitability’- the result of the culmination of what has is a violent time in political culture.

With a nation divided, violence seems to permeates political dialogue and sometimes erupts at political events.

The synagogue in a leafy suburb of Pittsburgh was packed for a Sabbath service and had no security

President Trump repeatedly invites his supporters to beat up protesters at his rallies, and then implies that the protesters bring such violence on themselves by disrupting him.

New York philanthropist and major Democratic donor George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN all received letter bombs in the mail.

New York mayor Bill De Blasio called the pipe bombs an ‘act of terror’.

With FBI investigations just starting, it’s impossible to say whether the perpetrator or perpetrators were rightwing nationalists, but their intended victims suggest the possibility of such markings.

On Wednesday two African-Americans were shot dead in the parking lot of a grocery store in the Louisville suburb of Jeffersontown.

The suspect, believed to be Gregory A. Bush, 51, had tried to enter the First Baptist Church in just 15 minutes earlier but could not get inside.

When Bush was unable to enter the church, he went to the store and opened fire, killing two.

One of 14 pipe bombs that were sent in the mail this week to prominent democrats and vocal opponents of Donald Trump. This one was addressed to former CIA head John Brennan at CNN

It may come as no more of a surprisethat Jewish people were the target of Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the leafy, middle-class neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh.

The areas is where most of the city’s Jewish residents live making up 40% of the demographics and the shooter will have known that Saturday morning Sabbath services would have commanded a larger presence than during the week.

At the time of the shooting, three different congregations were holding services at the Tree of Life facility.

Situated five miles away from downtown Pittsburgh the community would have felt safe and secure in their enclave with the possibility of a shooting or acts of violence far from anyone’s mind.

Although the community are often on ‘alert’ during Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, many synagogues across the U.S. reduce their levels of security throughout the rest of the year.

Gregory Bush, left, was arraigned on two counts of murder after fatally shooting two African-American customers at a grocery store Wednesday, meanwhile Cesar Sayoc, right, was arrested on allegations that he was the person that mailed pipe bomb devices to Trump critics

Yet violence has now spread to leafy, tree-lined suburbia.

Squirrel Hill North is home to the charming, leafy campuses of Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University.

The surrounding streets feature a cluster of indie clothing boutiques, chic decor shops and bookstores.

There are also an eclectic mix of Thai and Indian eateries, pizza joints and delis along Forbes Avenue which runs through the neighborhood.

The synagogue was founded more than 150 years ago when two Pittsburgh congregations merged to form the Tree of Life.

The congregation describes itself as a conservative Jewish congregation which remains true to traditional teachings, yet is also ‘progressive and relevant to the way  modern day life.’

‘From our warm, inviting and intellectually stimulating atmosphere to our fun adult, children and family programs, it’s the perfect environment to grow a strong faith rooted in tradition,’ the synagogue promote on their website.

Voir aussi:


US Open/50e: Reviens, Arthur, ils sont devenus fous ! (Contrary to Ali or Kaepernick, the Jackie Robinson of tennis stayed committed to respectful dialogue knowing real change came from rational advocacy and hard work not emotional self-indulgence)

9 septembre, 2018

Arthur Ashe participates in a hearing on apartheid, at the United Nations in New York.

Segregation and racism had made me loathe aspects of the white South, but had scarcely left me less of a patriot. In fact, to me and my family, winning a place on our national team would mark my ultimate triumph over all those people who had opposed my career in the South in the name of segregation. (…) Despite segregation, I loved the United States. It thrilled me beyond measure to hear the umpire announce not my name but that of my country: ‘Game, United States,’ ‘Set, United States,’ ‘Game, Set, and Match, United States.’ (…) There were times when I felt a burning sense of shame that I was not with blacks—and whites—standing up to the fire hoses and police dogs. (…) I never went along with the pronouncements of Elijah Muhammad that the white man was the devil and that blacks should be striving for separate development—a sort of American apartheid. That never made sense to me. (…) Jesse, I’m just not arrogant, and I ain’t never going to be arrogant. I’m just going to do it my way. Arthur Ashe
I’ve always believed that every man is my brother. Clay will earn the public’s hatred because of his connections with the Black Muslims. Joe Louis
I’ve been told that Clay has every right to follow any religion he chooses and I agree. But, by the same token, I have every right to call the Black Muslims a menace to the United States and a menace to the Negro race. I do not believe God put us here to hate one another. Cassius Clay is disgracing himself and the Negro race. Floyd Patterson
Clay is so young and has been misled by the wrong people. He might as well have joined the Ku Klux Klan. Floyd Patterson
Bluebirds with bluebirds, red birds with red birds, pigeons with pigeons, eagles with eagles. God didn’t make no mistake! (…) I don’t hate rattlesnakes, I don’t hate tigers — I just know I can’t get along with them. I don’t want to try to eat with them or sleep with them. (…)  I know whites and blacks cannot get along; this is nature. (…) I like what he [George Wallace] says. He says Negroes shouldn’t force themselves in white neighborhoods, and white people shouldn’t have to move out of the neighborhood just because one Negro comes. Now that makes sense. Muhammed Ali
A black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman. (…) We’ll kill anybody who tries to mess around with our women. Muhammed Ali
Long before he died, Muhammad Ali had been extolled by many as the greatest boxer in history. Some called him the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Still others, like George W. Bush, when he bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, endorsed Ali’s description of himself as “the greatest of all time.” Ali’s death Friday night sent the paeans and panegyrics to even more exalted heights. Fox Sports went so far as to proclaim Muhammad Ali nothing less than “the greatest athlete the world will ever see.” As a champion in the ring, Ali may have been without equal. But when his idolizers go beyond boxing and sports, exalting him as a champion of civil rights and tolerance, they spout pernicious nonsense. There have been spouters aplenty in the last few days — everyone from the NBA commissioner (“Ali transcended sports with his outsized personality and dedication to civil rights”) to the British prime minister (“a champion of civil rights”) to the junior senator from Massachusetts (“Muhammad Ali fought for civil rights . . . for human rights . . . for peace”). Time for a reality check. It is true that in his later years, Ali lent his name and prestige to altruistic activities and worthy public appeals. By then he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a cruel affliction that robbed him of his mental and physical keenness and increasingly forced him to rely on aides to make decisions on his behalf. But when Ali was in his prime, the uninhibited “king of the world,” he was no expounder of brotherhood and racial broad-mindedness. On the contrary, he was an unabashed bigot and racial separatist and wasn’t shy about saying so. In a wide-ranging 1968 interview with Bud Collins, the storied Boston Globe sports reporter, Ali insisted that it was as unnatural to expect blacks and whites to live together as it would be to expect humans to live with wild animals. “I don’t hate rattlesnakes, I don’t hate tigers — I just know I can’t get along with them,” he said. “I don’t want to try to eat with them or sleep with them.” Collins asked: “You don’t think that we can ever get along?” “I know whites and blacks cannot get along; this is nature,” Ali replied. That was why he liked George Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor who was then running for president. Collins wasn’t sure he’d heard right. “You like George Wallace?” “Yes, sir,” said Ali. “I like what he says. He says Negroes shouldn’t force themselves in white neighborhoods, and white people shouldn’t have to move out of the neighborhood just because one Negro comes. Now that makes sense.” This was not some inexplicable aberration. It reflected a hateful worldview that Ali, as a devotee of Elijah Muhammad and the segregationist Nation of Islam, espoused for years. At one point, he even appeared before a Ku Klux Klan rally. It was “a hell of a scene,” he later boasted — Klansmen with hoods, a burning cross, “and me on the platform,” preaching strict racial separation. “Black people should marry their own women,” Ali declaimed. “Bluebirds with bluebirds, red birds with red birds, pigeons with pigeons, eagles with eagles. God didn’t make no mistake!” In 1975, amid the frenzy over the impending “Thrilla in Manila,” his third title fight with Joe Frazier, Ali argued vehemently in a Playboy interview that interracial couples ought to be lynched. “A black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman,” he said. And it was the same for a white man making a pass at a black woman. “We’ll kill anybody who tries to mess around with our women.” But suppose the black woman wanted to be with the white man, the interviewer asked. “Then she dies,” Ali answered. “Kill her too.” Jeff Jacoby
Muhammad Ali was the most controversial boxer in the history of the sport, arguably the most gifted and certainly the best known. His ring glories and his life on the political and racial frontline combine to make him one of the most famous, infamous and discussed figures in modern history. During his life he stood next to Malcolm X at a fiery pulpit, dined with tyrants, kings, crooks, vagabonds, billionaires and from the shell of his awful stumbling silence during the last decade his deification was complete as he struggled with his troubled smile at each rich compliment. (…) He was a one-man revolution and that means he made enemies faster than any boy-fighter – which is what he was when he first became world heavyweight champion – could handle. (…) but (…) His best years as a prize-fighter were denied him and denied us by his refusal to be drafted into the American military system in 1967. At that time he was boxing’s finest fighter, a man so gifted with skills that he knew very little about what his body did in the ring; his instincts, his speed and his developing power at that point of his exile would have ended all arguments over his greatness forever had he been allowed to continue fighting. Ali was out of the ring for three years and seven months and the forced exile took away enough of his skills to deny us the Greatest at his greatest, but it made him the icon he became. “We never saw the best of my guy,” Angelo Dundee told me in Mexico City in 1993. Dundee should know. He had been collecting the fighter’s sweat as the chief trainer from 1960 and would until the ring end in 1981. (…) He had gained universal respect during the break because of his refusal to endorse the bloody conflict in Vietnam, but he often walked a thin line in the 70s with the very people that had been happy to back his cause. He was not as loved then as he is now, and there are some obvious reasons for that. In 1970 there were still papers in Britain that called him Cassius Clay, the birth name he had started to shred the day after beating Sonny Liston for the world title in 1964. In America he still divided the boxing press and the people. In the 70s he attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting, accepted their awards and talked openly and disturbingly about mixed race marriages and a stance he shared with the extremists. His harshest opinions are always overlooked, discarded like his excessive cruelty in the ring, and explained by a misguided concept that everything he said and did, that was either uncomfortable or just wrong, was justifiable under some type of Ali law that insisted there was a twinkle in his eye. There probably was a twinkle in his eye but he had some misguided racist ideas back then and celebrated them. In the ring he had hurt and made people suffer during one-sided fights and spat at the feet of one opponent. He was mean and there is nothing wrong with that in boxing, but he was also cruel to honest fighters, men that had very little of his talent and certainly none of his wealth. The way he treated Joe Frazier before and after their three fights remains a shameful blot on Ali’s legacy. I sat once in dwindling light with Frazier in Philadelphia at the end of three days of talking and listened to his words and watched his tears of hate and utter frustration as he outlined the harm Ali’s words had caused him and his family. Big soft Joe had no problem with the damage Ali’s fists had caused him, that was a fair fight but the verbal slaughter had been a mismatch and recordings of that still make me feel sick. I don’t laugh at that type of abuse. (…) Away from the ring excellence he went to cities in the Middle East to negotiate for the release of hostages and smiled easily when men in masks, carrying AK47s, put blindfolds on him and drove like the lunatics they were through bombed streets. “Hey man, you sure you know where you’re going?” he asked one driver. “I hope you do, coz I can’t see a thing.” He went on too many missions to too many countries for too long, his drive draining his life as he handed out Islamic leaflets. He was often exploited on his many trips, pulled every way and never refusing a request. On a trip to Britain in 2009 he was bussed all over the country for a series of bad-taste dinners that ended with people squatting down next to his wheelchair; Ali’s gaze was off in another realm, but the punters, who had paid hundreds for the sickening pleasure, stuck up their thumbs or made fists for the picture. The great twist in the abhorrent venture was that Ali’s face looked so bad that his head was photo-shopped for a more acceptable Ali face. Who could have possibly sanctioned that atrocity? During his fighting days he had men to protect him, men like Gene Kilroy, the man with the perm, that loved him and helped form a protective guard at his feet to keep the jackals from the meat. When he left the sport and was alone for the first time in the real world, there were people that fought each other to get close, close enough to insert their invisible transfusion tubes deep into his open heart. His daughters started to resurrect their own wall of protection the older they got, switching duties from sitting on Daddy’s lap to watching his back like the devoted sentinels they became. In the end it felt like the whole world was watching his back, watching the last moments under the neon of the King of the World. Steve Bunce
I think Ali is being done a disservice by the way in which he’s these days cast as benign. He was always a lot more complicated than that. (…) Ali has been post-rationalised as a champion of the civil rights movement. But far from promoting the idea of black and white together, his was a much more tricky, divisive politics. John Dower
Far from being embarrassed about sharing jaw-time with the Grand Chief Bigot or whatever the loon in the sheet called himself, Ali boasted about it. The revelation of his cosy chats with white supremacists comes in a television documentary screened on More4. As Ali finds himself overtaken as the most celebrated black American in history, True Stories: Thrilla In Manila provides a timely re-assessment of his politics. (…) Before his third fight with Frazier, Ali was at his most elevated, symbolically as well as in the ring. Hard to imagine when these days he elicits universal reverence, back then he was a figure who divided America, as loathed as he was admired. At the time he was taking his lead from the Nation of Islam, which, in its espousal of a black separatism, found its politics dovetailing with the cross-burning lynch mob out on the political boondocks. Ali was by far the organisation’s most prominent cipher. The film reminds us why. Back then, black sporting prowess reinforced many a prejudiced theory about the black man being good for nothing beyond physical activity. But here was Ali, as quick with his mind as with his fists. When he held court the world listened. Intriguingly, the film reveals, many of his better lines were scripted for him by his Nation of Islam minders. Ferdie Pacheco, the man who converted Ali to the bizarre cause which insisted that a spaceship would imminently arrive in the United States to take the black man to a better place, tells Dower’s cameras that it was he who came up with the line, « No Viet Cong ever called me nigger ». There was never a more succinct summary of America’s hypocrisy in forcing its beleaguered black citizenry to fight in Vietnam. (…) The film suggests it was his opponent who got the blunt end of Ali’s political bludgeon. The pair were once friends and Frazier had supported Ali’s stance on refusing the draft. But leading up to the fight Ali turned on his old mate with a ferocity which makes uncomfortable viewing even 30 years on. Viciously disparaging of Frazier, he calls him an Uncle Tom, a white man’s puppet. Ali riled Frazier to the point where he entered the ring so infuriated that he abandoned his game plan and blindly struck out. So distracted was he by Ali’s politically motivated jibes, he lost. Indeed, what we might be watching in Dower’s film is not so much the apex of Ali’s political potency as the birth of sporting mind games. Jim White
In 1974, in the middle of a Michael Parkinson interview, Muhammad Ali decided to dispense with all the safe conventions of chat show etiquette. “You say I got white friends,” he declared, “I say they are associates.” When his host dared to suggest that the boxer’s trainer of 14 years standing, Angelo Dundee, might be a friend, Ali insisted, gruffly: “He is an associate.” Within seconds, with Parkinson failing to get a word in edgeways, Ali had provided a detailed account of his reasoning. “Elijah Muhammad,” he told the TV viewers of 1970s Middle England, “Is the one who preached that the white man of America, number one, is the Devil!” The whites of America, said Ali, had “lynched us, raped us, castrated us, tarred and feathered us … Elijah Muhammad has been preaching that the white man of America – God taught him – is the blue-eyed, blond-headed Devil!  No good in him, no justice, he’s gonna be destroyed! “The white man is the Devil.  We do believe that.  We know it!” In one explosive, virtuoso performance, Ali had turned “this little TV show” into an exposition of his beliefs, and the beliefs of “two million five hundred” other followers of the radically – to some white minds, dangerously – black separatist religious movement, the Nation of Islam. At the height of his tirade, Ali drew slightly nervous laughter from the studio when he told Parkinson “You are too small mentally to tackle me on anything I represent.” (…) By the time he met Ali in 1962, Malcolm X was Elijah Muhammad’s chief spokesman and most prominent apostle. His belief that violence was sometimes necessary, and the Nation of Islam’s insistence that followers remain separate from and avoid participation in American politics meant that not every civil rights leader welcomed Muhammad Ali joining the movement. “When Cassius Clay joined the Black Muslims [The Nation of Islam],” said Martin Luther King, “he became a champion of racial segregation, and that is what we are fighting against.” The bitter irony is that soon after providing the Nation of Islam with its most famous convert, Malcolm X became disillusioned with the movement.  A trip to Mecca exposed him to white Muslims, shattering his belief that whites were inherently evil.  He broke from the Nation of Islam and toned down his speeches. Ali, though, remained faithful to Elijah Muhammad.  “Turning my back on Malcolm,” he admitted years later, “Was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life.” (…) By then, though, Ali’s own attitudes to the « blue-eyed devils” had long since mellowed.  In 1975 he converted to the far more conventional Sunni Islam – possibly prompted by the fact that Elijah Muhammad had died of congestive heart failure in the same year, and his son Warith Deen Mohammad had moved the Nation of Islam towards inclusion in the mainstream Islamic community. He rebranded the movement the “World Community of Islam in the West”, only for Farrakhan to break away in 1978 and create a new Nation of Islam, which he claimed remained true to the teachings of “the Master” [Fard]. “The Nation of Islam taught that white people were devils,” he wrote in 2004.  “I don’t believe that now; in fact, I never really believed that. But when I was young, I had seen and heard so many horrible stories about the white man that this made me stop and listen. » The attentive listener to the 1974 interview, might, in fact, have sensed that even then Ali wasn’t entirely convinced about white men being blue-eyed devils. He had, after all, set the bar pretty high for “associates” like Angelo Dundee to become friends. “I don’t have one black friend hardly,” he had said.  “A friend is one who will not even consider [before] giving his life for you.” And, despite calling Parky “the biggest hypocrite in the world” and “a joke”, he could also get a laugh by reassuring the chat show host: “I know you [are] all right.” Adam Lusher
[want police to back off] No. That represented our progressive, our activists, our liberal journalists, our politicians. But it did not represent the overall community because we know for a fact that around the time that Freddie Gray was killed, we start to see homicides increase. We had five homicides in that neighborhood while we were protesting. What I wanted to see happen was that people would build a trust relationship with our police department so that they would feel more comfortable with having conversations with the police about crime in their neighborhood because they would feel safer. So we wanted the police there. We wanted them engaging the community. We didn’t want them there beating the hell out of us. We didn’t want that. (…) We’ve not seen any changes in those relationships. What we have seen was that the police has distanced themselves, and the community has distanced themselves even further. So there is – the divide has really intensified. It hasn’t decreased. And of course, we want to delineate the whole concept of the culture of bad policing that exists. Nobody denies that. But as a result of this, we don’t see the policing – the level of policing we need in our community to keep the crime down in these cities that we’re seeing bleed to death. Reverend Kinji Scott (Baltimore)
The crime victories of the last two decades, and the moral support on which law and order depends, are now in jeopardy thanks to the falsehoods of the Black Lives Matter movement. Police operating in inner-city neighborhoods now find themselves routinely surrounded by cursing, jeering crowds when they make a pedestrian stop or try to arrest a suspect. Sometimes bottles and rocks are thrown. Bystanders stick cell phones in the officers’ faces, daring them to proceed with their duties. Officers are worried about becoming the next racist cop of the week and possibly losing their livelihood thanks to an incomplete cell phone video that inevitably fails to show the antecedents to their use of force.  (…) As a result of the anti-cop campaign of the last two years and the resulting push-back in the streets, officers in urban areas are cutting back on precisely the kind of policing that led to the crime decline of the 1990s and 2000s. (…) On the other hand, the people demanding that the police back off are by no means representative of the entire black community. Go to any police-neighborhood meeting in Harlem, the South Bronx, or South Central Los Angeles, and you will invariably hear variants of the following: “We want the dealers off the corner.” “You arrest them and they’re back the next day.” “There are kids hanging out on my stoop. Why can’t you arrest them for loitering?” “I smell weed in my hallway. Can’t you do something?” I met an elderly cancer amputee in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx who was terrified to go to her lobby mailbox because of the young men trespassing there and selling drugs. The only time she felt safe was when the police were there. “Please, Jesus,” she said to me, “send more police!” The irony is that the police cannot respond to these heartfelt requests for order without generating the racially disproportionate statistics that will be used against them in an ACLU or Justice Department lawsuit. Unfortunately, when officers back off in high crime neighborhoods, crime shoots through the roof. Our country is in the midst of the first sustained violent crime spike in two decades. Murders rose nearly 17 percent in the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2015, and it was in cities with large black populations where the violence increased the most. (…) I first identified the increase in violent crime in May 2015 and dubbed it “the Ferguson effect.” (…) The number of police officers killed in shootings more than doubled during the first three months of 2016. In fact, officers are at much greater risk from blacks than unarmed blacks are from the police. Over the last decade, an officer’s chance of getting killed by a black has been 18.5 times higher than the chance of an unarmed black getting killed by a cop. (…) We have been here before. In the 1960s and early 1970s, black and white radicals directed hatred and occasional violence against the police. The difference today is that anti-cop ideology is embraced at the highest reaches of the establishment: by the President, by his Attorney General, by college presidents, by foundation heads, and by the press. The presidential candidates of one party are competing to see who can out-demagogue President Obama’s persistent race-based calumnies against the criminal justice system, while those of the other party have not emphasized the issue as they might have. I don’t know what will end the current frenzy against the police. What I do know is that we are playing with fire, and if it keeps spreading, it will be hard to put out. Heather Mac Donald
It’s ironic that Jerry’s longest-lasting legacy is that the big shoe company co-opted his slogan. Nike has Just Do It in all of their ad campaigns.
Sam Leff (Yippie, close friend of Hoffman’s)
Je ne vais pas afficher de fierté pour le drapeau d’un pays qui opprime les Noirs. Il y a des cadavres dans les rues et des meurtriers qui s’en tirent avec leurs congés payés. Colin Kaepernick
Je pense que tous les athlètes, tous les humains et tous les Afro-Américains devraient être totalement reconnaissants et honorés [par les manifestations lancées par les anciens joueurs de la NFL Colin Kaepernick et Eric Reid]. Serena Williams
Je ne suis pas une tricheuse! Vous me devez des excuses! (…) Je ne suis pas une tricheuse! Je suis mère de famille, je n’ai jamais triché de ma vie ! Serena Williams
For her country, Osaka has already succeeded in a major milestone: She is the first Japanese woman to reach the final of any Grand Slam. And she’s currently her country’s top-ranked player. Yet in Japan, where racial homogeneity is prized and ethnic background comprises a big part of cultural belonging, Osaka is considered hafu or half Japanese. Born to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, Osaka grew up in New York. She holds dual American and Japanese passports, but plays under Japan’s flag. Some hafu, like Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto, have spoken publicly about the discrimination the term can confer. “I wonder how a hafu can represent Japan,” one Facebook user wrote of Miyamoto, according to Al Jazeera America’s translation. For her part, Osaka has spoken repeatedly about being proud to represent Japan, as well as Haiti. But in a 2016 USA Today interview she also noted, “When I go to Japan people are confused. From my name, they don’t expect to see a black girl.” On the court, Osaka has largely been embraced as one of her country’s rising stars. Off court, she says she’s still trying to learn the language. “I can understand way more Japanese than I can speak,” she said. (…) Earlier this year, Osaka reveled a four-word mantra keeps her steady through tough matches: “What would Serena do?” Her idolization of the 23 Grand Slam-winning titan is well-known. “She’s the main reason why I started playing tennis,” Osaka told the New York Times. Time
Des sportifs semblent désormais plus facilement se mettre en avant pour évoquer leurs convictions, que ce soient des championnes de tennis ou des footballeurs. Mais ces athlètes activistes restent encore minoritaires. Peu ont suivi Kaepernick lorsqu’il s’est agenouillé pendant l’hymne national. La plupart se focalisent sur leur sport, ils ne sont pas vraiment désireux de jouer les trouble-fête. Dans notre culture, ces sportifs sont des dieux, qui peuvent exercer une influence positive. Ils peuvent être un bon exemple d’engagement civique pour des jeunes. Et puis une bonne controverse comme l’affaire Kaepernick permet de pimenter un peu le sport et d’élargir le débat au-delà du jeu. Orin Starn (anthropologue)
Son genou droit posé à terre le 1er septembre 2016 a fait de lui un paria. Ce jour-là, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback des San Francisco 49ers, avait une nouvelle fois décidé de ne pas se lever pour l’hymne national. Coupe afro et regard grave, il était resté dans cette position pour protester contre les violences raciales et les bavures policières qui embrasaient les Etats-Unis. Plus d’un an après, la polémique reste vive. Son boycott lui vaut toujours d’être marginalisé et tenu à l’écart par la Ligue nationale de football américain (NFL). L’affaire rebondit ces jours, à l’occasion des débuts de la saison de la NFL. Sans contrat depuis mars, Colin Kaepernick est de facto un joueur sans équipe, à la recherche d’un nouvel employeur. (…) Plus surprenant, une centaine de policiers new-yorkais ont manifesté ensemble fin août à Brooklyn, tous affublés d’un t-shirt noir avec le hashtag #imwithkap. Le célèbre policier Frank Serpico, 81 ans, qui a dénoncé la corruption généralisée de la police dans les années 1960 et inspiré Al Pacino pour le film Serpico (1973), en faisait partie. Les sportifs américains sont nombreux à afficher leur soutien à Colin Kaepernick. C’est le cas notamment des basketteurs Kevin Durant ou Stephen Curry, des Golden State Warriors. (…) La légende du baseball Hank Aaron fait également partie des soutiens inconditionnels de Colin Kaepernick. Sans oublier Tommie Smith, qui lors des Jeux olympiques de Mexico en 1968 avait, sur le podium du 200 mètres, levé son poing ganté de noir contre la ségrégation raciale, avec son comparse John Carlos. Le geste militant à répétition de Colin Kaepernick, d’abord assis puis agenouillé, a eu un effet domino. Son coéquipier Eric Reid l’avait immédiatement imité la première fois qu’il a mis le genou à terre. Une partie des joueurs des Cleveland Browns continuent, en guise de solidarité, de boycotter l’hymne des Etats-Unis, joué avant chaque rencontre sportive professionnelle. La footballeuse homosexuelle Megan Rapinoe, championne olympique en 2012 et championne du monde en 2015, avait elle aussi suivi la voie de Colin Kaepernick et posé son genou à terre. Mais depuis que la Fédération américaine de football (US Soccer) a édicté un nouveau règlement, en mars 2017, qui oblige les internationaux à se tenir debout pendant l’hymne, elle est rentrée dans le rang. Colin Kaepernick lui-même s’était engagé à se lever pour l’hymne pour la saison 2017. Une promesse qui n’a pas pour autant convaincu la NFL de le réintégrer. Barack Obama avait pris sa défense; Donald Trump l’a enfoncé. En pleine campagne, le milliardaire new-yorkais avait qualifié son geste d’«exécrable», l’hymne et le drapeau étant sacro-saints aux Etats-Unis. Il a été jusqu’à lui conseiller de «chercher un pays mieux adapté». Les chaussettes à motifs de cochons habillés en policiers que Colin Kaepernick a portées pendant plusieurs entraînements – elles ont été très remarquées – n’ont visiblement pas contribué à le rendre plus sympathique à ses yeux. Mais ni les menaces de mort ni ses maillots brûlés n’ont calmé le militantisme de Colin Kaepernick. Un militantisme d’ailleurs un peu surprenant et parfois taxé d’opportunisme: métis, de mère blanche et élevé par des parents adoptifs blancs, Colin Kaepernick n’a rallié la cause noire, et le mouvement Black Lives Matter, que relativement tardivement. Avant Kaepernick, la star de la NBA LeBron James avait défrayé la chronique en portant un t-shirt noir avec en lettres blanches «Je ne peux pas respirer». Ce sont les derniers mots d’un jeune Noir américain asthmatique tué par un policier blanc. Par ailleurs, il avait ouvertement soutenu Hillary Clinton dans sa course à l’élection présidentielle. Timidement, d’autres ont affiché leurs convictions politiques sur des t-shirts, mais sans aller jusqu’au boycott de l’hymne national, un geste très contesté. L’élection de Donald Trump et le drame de Charlottesville provoqué par des suprémacistes blancs ont contribué à favoriser l’émergence de ce genre de protestations. Ces comportements signent un retour du sportif engagé, une espèce presque en voie de disparition depuis les années 1960-1970, où de grands noms comme Mohamed Ali, Billie Jean King ou John Carlos ont porté leur militantisme à bras-le-corps. Au cours des dernières décennies, l’heure n’était pas vraiment à la revendication politique, confirme Orin Starn, professeur d’anthropologie culturelle à l’Université Duke en Caroline du Nord. A partir des années 1980, c’est plutôt l’image du sportif businessman qui a primé, celui qui s’intéresse à ses sponsors, à devenir le meilleur possible, soucieux de ne déclencher aucune polémique. Un sportif lisse avant tout motivé par ses performances et sa carrière. Comme le basketteur Michael Jordan ou le golfeur Tiger Woods. Le Temps
It was an incredible match. I mean, Arthur was an innovator. It was the first time he sort of sat down at the side of the court in between — they didn’t have chairs at the side of the court for a long time; we sort of had to towel off and go on — but he would sit and cover his head with the towel and just think. It was the first time you were conscious of the mental side of tennis. Arthur was instrumental in that. . . . Arthur was a thinker. Virginia Wade
Arthur didn’t need Vietnam. Arthur had his own Vietnam right there in the United States in those days, and some of the things that I saw while I was there — he didn’t need that. The thing that I always think about, and this was always the most important thing in my mind, was that Arthur represented so many possibilities. Arthur was the first to do so much so often that those of us who knew him would say: ‘What’s next? What mountain was he going to climb next?’ Arthur was always different. (…) Growing up, Arthur was a sponge. . . . That was just his nature. He was a voracious reader, and he had to satisfy his intellect. I tell people if Arthur had concentrated on just tennis, he would have been the best in the world. But tennis was a vehicle. . . . He wanted to be able to take kids outside of their environs, outside of their element for a little while and expose them to what they can be. . . . And, let’s face it, most parents don’t have the wherewithal to do that. It’s not easy. What happens is you get somebody like Arthur — and following Arthur, LeBron James is starting to do things — to expose kids. It’s so important that that happens. (…) “Until Arthur came along and Althea came along, tennis was a sport of the elites. Then you get two playground children — one from Harlem, one from Richmond — to break into the bigs. People had to stop and think about that. It opened the doors for other people, and that’s what it was all about. That’s what it was all about for him. Johnnie Ashe
The Apollo program was a national effort that depended on American derring-do and sacrifice. History is usually airbrushed to remove a figure who has fallen out of favor with a dictatorship, or to hide away an episode of national shame. Leave it to Hollywood to erase from a national triumph its most iconic moment. The new movie First Man, a biopic about the Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, omits the planting of the American flag during his historic walk on the surface of the moon. Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong in the film, tried to explain the strange editing of his moonwalk: “This was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement. I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero.” Armstrong was a reticent man, but he surely considered himself an American, and everyone else considered him a hero. (“You’re a hero whether you like it or not,” one newspaper admonished him on the 10th anniversary of the landing.) Gosling added that Armstrong’s walk “transcended countries and borders,” which is literally true, since it occurred roughly 238,900 miles from Earth, although Armstrong got there on an American rocket, walked in an American spacesuit, and returned home to America. (…) It was a chapter in a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union that involved national prestige and the perceived worth of our respective economic and political systems. The Apollo program wasn’t about the brotherhood of man, but rather about achieving a national objective before a hated and feared adversary did. The mission of Apollo 11 was, appropriately, soaked in American symbolism. The lunar module was called Eagle, and the command module Columbia. There had been some consideration to putting up a U.N. flag, but it was scotched — it would be an American flag and only an American flag. (…) There may be a crass commercial motive in the omission — the Chinese, whose market is so important to big films, might not like overt American patriotic fanfare. Neither does much of our cultural elite. They may prefer not to plant the flag — but the heroes of Apollo 11 had no such compunction. National Review
Billed as being based on “a crazy, outrageous incredible true story” about how a black cop infiltrated the KKK, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman would be more accurately described as the story of how a black cop in 1970s Colorado Springs spoke to the Klan on the phone. He pretended to be a white supremacist . . . on the phone. That isn’t infiltration, that’s prank-calling. A poster for the movie shows a black guy wearing a Klan hood. Great starting point for a comedy, but it didn’t happen. The cop who actually attended KKK meetings undercover was a white guy (played by Adam Driver). These led . . . well, nowhere in particular. No plot was foiled. Those meetups mainly revealed that Klansmen behave exactly how you’d expect Klansmen to behave. The movie is a typical Spike Lee joint: A thin story is told in painfully didactic style and runs on far too long. (…)  Washington (son of Denzel) has an easygoing charisma as the unflappable Ron Stallworth, a rookie cop in Colorado Springs who volunteers to go undercover as a detective in 1972, near the height of the Black Power movement and a moment when law enforcement was closely tracking the activities of radicals such as Stokely Carmichael, a.k.a. Kwame Ture, a speech of whose Stallworth says he attended while posing as an ordinary citizen. In the movie, Stallworth experiences an awakening of black pride and falls for a student leader, Patrice (a luminous Laura Harrier, who also played Peter Parker’s girlfriend in Spider-Man: Homecoming), inspiring in him the need to do something for his people. (…) The Klan also turn out to be grandstanders and blowhards given to Carmichael-style paranoid prophecies and seem to hope to troll their enemies into attacking them. When Lee realizes he needs something to actually happen besides racist talk, he turns to a subplot featuring a white-supremacist lady running around with a purse full of C-4 explosive with which she intends to blow up the black radicals. It’s so unconvincing that you watch it thinking, “I really doubt this happened.” It didn’t. The only other tense moment in the film, in which Driver’s undercover cop (who is Jewish) is nearly subjected to a lie-detector test about his religion by a suspicious Klansman, is also fabricated. Lee frames his two camps as opposites, but whether we’re with the black-power types or the white-power yokels, they’re equally wrong about the race war they seem to yearn for. The two sides are equally far from the stable center, the color-blind institution holding society together, which turns out to be . . . the police! After some talk from the radical Patrice (whose character is also a fabrication) about how the whole system is corrupt and she could never date a “pig,” and a scene in which Stallworth implies the police’s code of covering for one another reminds him of the Klan, Lee winds up having the police unite to fight racism, with one bad apple expunged and everybody else on the otherwise all-white force supporting Ron. That Spike Lee has turned in a pro-cop film has to be counted one of the stranger cultural developments of 2018, but Lee seems to have accidentally aligned with cops in the course of issuing an anti-Trump broadside. (…) (See also: an introduction in which Alec Baldwin plays a Southern cracker called Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard who rants about desegregation for several minutes, then is never seen again.) Lee’s other major goal is to link Stallworth’s story to Trumpism using David Duke. Duke, like Trump, said awful things at the time of the Charlottesville murder and played a part in the Stallworth story when the cop was assigned to protect the Klan leader (played by Topher Grace) on a visit to Colorado Springs and later threw his arm around him while posing for a picture. Saying Duke presaged Trump seems like a stretch, though. After all the nudge-nudge MAGA lines uttered by the Klansmen throughout the film, the let-me-spell-it-out-for-you finale, with footage from the Charlottesville white-supremacist rally, seems de trop. BlacKkKlansman was timed to hit theaters one year after the anniversary of the horror in Virginia. That Charlottesville II attracted only two dozen pathetic dorks to the cause of white supremacy would seem to undermine the coda. The Klan’s would-be successors, far from being more emboldened than they have been since Stallworth’s time, appear to be nearly extinct. National review
The all-seeing social-justice eye penetrates every aspect of our lives: sports, movies, public monuments, social media, funerals . . .A definition of totalitarianism might be the saturation of every facet of daily life by political agendas and social-justice messaging. At the present rate, America will soon resemble the dystopias of novels such as 1984 and Brave New World in which all aspects of life are warped by an all-encompassing ideology of coerced sameness. Or rather, the prevailing orthodoxy in America is the omnipresent attempt of an elite — exempt from the consequences of its own ideology thanks to its supposed superior virtue and intelligence — to mandate an equality of result. We expect their 24/7 political messaging on cable-channel news networks, talk radio, or print and online media. And we concede that long ago an NPR, CNN, MSNBC, or New York Times ceased being journalistic entities as much as obsequious megaphones of the progressive itinerary. But increasingly we cannot escape anywhere the lidless gaze of our progressive lords, all-seeing, all-knowing from high up in their dark towers. (…) Americans have long accepted that Hollywood movies no longer seek just to entertain or inform, but to indoctrinate audiences by pushing progressive agendas. That commandment also demands that America be portrayed negatively — or better yet simply written out of history. Take the new film First Man, about the first moon landing. Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong became famous when he emerged from The Eagle, the two-man lunar module, and planted an American flag on the moon’s surface. Yet that iconic act disappears from the movie version. (At least Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, does not walk out of the space capsule to string up a U.N. banner.) Gosling claimed that the moon landing should not be seen as an American effort. Instead, he advised, it should be “widely regarded as a human achievement” — as if any nation’s efforts or the work of the United Nations in 1969 could have pulled off such an astounding and dangerous enterprise. I suppose we are to believe that Gosling’s Canada might just as well have built a Saturn V rocket. (…) Sports offers no relief. It is now no more a refuge from political indoctrination than is Hollywood. Yet it is about as difficult to find a jock who can pontificate about politics as it is to encounter a Ph.D. or politico who can pass or pitch. The National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and sports channels are now politicalized in a variety of ways, from not standing up or saluting the flag during the National Anthem to pushing social-justice issues as part of televised sports analysis. What a strange sight to see tough sportsmen of our Roman-style gladiatorial arenas become delicate souls who wilt on seeing a dreaded hand across the heart during the playing of the National Anthem. Even when we die, we do not escape politicization. At a recent eight-hour, televised funeral service for singer Aretha Franklin, politicos such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton went well beyond their homages into political harangues. Pericles or Lincoln they were not. (…) Politics likewise absorbed Senator John McCain’s funeral the next day. (…) Even the long-ago dead are fair game. Dark Age iconoclasm has returned to us with a fury. Any statue at any time might be toppled — if it is deemed to represent an idea or belief from the distant past now considered racist, sexist, or somehow illiberal. Representations of Columbus, the Founding Fathers, and Confederate soldiers have all been defaced, knocked down, or removed. The images of mass murderers on the left are exempt, on the theory that good ends always allow a few excessive means. So are the images and names of robber barons and old bad white guys, whose venerable eponymous institutions offer valuable brands that can be monetized. At least so far, we are not rebranding Stanford and Yale with indigenous names. Victor Davis Hanson
Johnnie Ashe, like Wade, remembers his brother as an intellectual and an innovator, as someone who was meant to change the world. That’s why, when Johnnie came to understand that the military wouldn’t send two brothers into active duty in a war zone at the same time, he volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam. He was three months away from coming home.Since Johnnie stayed on active duty, Arthur could compete for both the U.S. amateur and U.S. Open championships in 1968. He is the only person to have won both. Ashe had many projects that helped extend his legacy beyond that of a pioneering tennis player who won 33 career singles championships; ever the thinker, bringing tennis and educational opportunities to youths was Ashe’s passion. He helped found the National Junior Tennis & Learning network in 1968, a grass-roots organization designed to make tennis more accessible. Today, the NJTL receives significant funding from the USTA. The Washington Post
Arthur Ashe always had an exquisite sense of timing, whether he was striking a topspin backhand or choosing when to speak out for liberty and justice for all. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the 50th anniversary of his victory at the first U.S. Open — a milestone to be celebrated on Saturday at the grand stadium bearing his name — coincides with a national conversation on the First Amendment rights and responsibilities of professional athletes. Mr. Ashe has been gone for 25 years, struck down at the age of 49 by AIDS, inflicted by an H.I.V.-tainted blood transfusion. But the example he set as a champion on and off the court has never been more relevant. As Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and others strive to use their athletic stardom as a platform for social justice activism, they might want to look back at what this soft-spoken African-American tennis star accomplished during the age of Jim Crow and apartheid. (…) He began his career as the Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis — a vulnerable and insecure racial pioneer instructed by his coaches to hold his tongue during a period when the success of desegregation was still in doubt. At the same time, Mr. Ashe’s natural shyness and deferential attitude toward his elders and other authority figures all but precluded involvement in the civil rights struggle and other political activities during his high school and college years. The calculus of risk and responsibility soon changed, however, as Mr. Ashe reinvented himself as a 25-year-old activist-in-training during the tumultuous year of 1968. With his stunning victory in September at the U.S. Open, where he overcame the best pros in the world as a fifth-seeded amateur, he gained a new confidence that affected all aspects of his life. Mr. Ashe’s political transformation had begun six months earlier when he gave his first public speech, a discourse on the potential importance of black athletes as community leaders, delivered at a Washington forum hosted by the Rev. Jefferson Rogers, a prominent black civil rights leader Mr. Ashe had known since childhood. Mr. Rogers had been urging Mr. Ashe to speak out on civil rights issues for some time, and when he finally did so, it released a spirit of civic engagement that enveloped his life. “This is the new Arthur Ashe,” the reporter Neil Amdur observed in this paper, “articulate, mature, no longer content to sit back and let his tennis racket do the talking.” In part, Mr. Ashe’s new attitude reflected a determination to make amends for his earlier inaction. “There were times, in fact,” he recalled years later, “when I felt a burning sense of shame that I was not with other blacks — and whites — standing up to the fire hoses and the police dogs, the truncheons, bullets and bombs.” He added: “As my fame increased, so did my anguish.” During the violent spring of 1968, the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Mr. Ashe had come to admire above all other black leaders, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, whom he had supported as a presidential candidate, shook Mr. Ashe’s faith in America. But he refused to surrender to disillusionment. Instead he dedicated himself to active citizenship on a level rarely seen in the world of sports. His activism began with an effort to expand economic and educational opportunities for young urban blacks, but his primary focus soon turned to the liberation of black South Africans suffering under apartheid. Later he supported a wide variety of causes, playing an active role in campaigns for black political power, high educational standards for college athletes, criminal justice reform, equality of the sexes and AIDS awareness. He also became involved in numerous philanthropic enterprises. By the end of his life, Mr. Ashe’s success on the court was no longer the primary source of his celebrity. He had become, along with Muhammad Ali, a prime example of an athlete who transcended the world of sports. In 2016, President Barack Obama identified Mr. Ali and Mr. Ashe as the sports figures he admired above all others. While noting the sharp contrast in their personalities, he argued that both men were “transformational” activists who pushed the nation down the same path to freedom and democracy. Mr. Ashe practiced his own distinctive brand of activism, one based on unemotional appeals to common sense and enlightened philosophical principles as simple as the Golden Rule. He had no facility for, and little interest in, using agitation and drama to draw attention to causes, no matter how worthy they might be. A champion of civility, he always kept his cool and never raised his voice in anger or frustration. Viewing emotional appeals as self-defeating and even dangerous, he relied on reasoned persuasion derived from careful preparation and research. Mr. Ashe preferred to make a case in written form, or as a speaker on the college lecture circuit or as a witness before the United Nations. His periodic opinion pieces in The Washington Post and other newspapers tackled a number of thorny issues related to sports and the broader society, including upholding high academic standards for college athletic eligibility and the expulsion of South Africa from international athletic competition. In the 1980s, he devoted several years to researching and writing “A Hard Road to Glory,” a groundbreaking three-volume history of African-American athletes. In retirement Mr. Ashe became a popular tennis broadcaster known for his clever quips, yet as an activist he never resorted to sound bites that excited audiences with reductionist slogans. Often working behind the scenes, he engaged in high-profile public debate only when he felt there was no other way to advance his point of view. Suspicious of quick fixes, he advocated incremental and gradual change as the best guarantor of true progress. Yet he did not let this commitment to long-term solutions interfere with his determination to give voice to the voiceless. Known as a risk taker on the court, he was no less bold off the court, where he never shied away from speaking truth to power. He was arrested twice, in 1985 while participating in an anti-apartheid demonstration in front of the South African Embassy and in 1992 while picketing the White House in protest of the George H.W. Bush administration’s discriminatory policies toward Haitian refugees. The first arrest embarrassed the American tennis establishment, which soon removed him from his position as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, and the second occurred during the final months of his life as he struggled with the ravages of AIDS. In both cases he accepted the consequences of his principled activism with dignity. Mr. Ashe was a class act in every way, a man who practiced what he preached without being diverted by the temptations of power, fame or fortune. When we place his approach to dissent and public debate in a contemporary frame, it becomes obvious that his legacy is the antithesis of the scorched-earth politics of Trumpism. If Mr. Ashe were alive today, he would no doubt be appalled by the bullying tactics and insulting rhetoric of a president determined to punish athletes who have the courage and audacity to speak out against police brutality toward African-Americans. And yet we can be equally sure that Mr. Ashe would honor his commitment to respectful dialogue, refusing to lower himself to the president’s level of unrestrained invective. (…) Mr. Ashe would surely be gratified that to date, this high road has led to more protest, not less, confirming his belief that real change comes from rational advocacy and hard work, not emotional self-indulgence. As we celebrate his remarkable life and legacy a quarter-century after his death, we can be confident that Mr. Ashe would rush to join today’s activists in spirit and solidarity, solemnly but firmly taking a knee for social justice. Raymond Arsenault

Reviens, Arthur, Ils sont devenus fous !

En ces temps devenus fous …

Où après les médias et, enterrements compris, la haute fonction publique

Et, entre le négationnisme (pas de drapeau américain sur la lune) et la réécriture de l’histoire (les quelques mois d’infiltration du KKK par une équipe de policiers noir et blanc dans une petite ville du Colrado au début des années 70 transformés en film blaxploitation avec toute l’explosive subtilité d’un Spike Lee), Hollywood …

Comme au niveau des grosses multinationales du matériel de sport à l’occasion du 30e anniversaire d’un slogan de toute évidence fauché au yippie Jerry Rubin

Mais faussement attribué (droits obligent ?) aux dernière paroles du tristement célèbre premier exécuté (volontaire et déjà gratifié par Norman Mailer de son panégyrique littéraire) du retour de la peine de mort aux Etats-Unis …

La marchandisation d’un joueur (métis multimillionnaire abandonné par son père noir et adopté par des parents blancs) dont le seul titre de gloire est, outre ses chaussettes anti-policiers et ses tee-shirts à la gloire de Castro, son refus d’honorer le drapeau de son pays pour prétendument dénoncer les brutalités policières contre les noirs …

Tout semble dorénavant permis pour dénigrer l’actuel président américain et les forces de police …

Comment ne pas repenser …

En ce 50e anniversaire …

De la première victoire, dès la création du premier tournoi professionnel, d’un joueur de tennis noir à une épreuve de Grand chelem …

A la figure hélas oubliée d’un Arthur Ashe

Qui, de l’apartheid sud-africain à la défense des réfugiés haïtiens ou des enfants atteints du SIDA jusqu’à l’ONU …

Et loin des outrances racistes à l’époque d’un Mohamed Ali …

Ou de la violence actuelle (et surtout de ses conséquences sur les plus démunis quoi qu’en dise son biographe) du collectif Black lives matter que prétend défendre un Colin Kaeperinck …

Et sans parler du lamentable scandale, au nom d’un prétendu sexisme et face à une improbable nippo-haïtienne élevée aux Etats-Unis mais ne parlant pas japonais, de Serena Williams en finale du même US Open hier …

Avait toujours su joindre l’intelligence et le respect des autres comme de son propre pays à la plus redoutable des efficacités ?

What Arthur Ashe Knew About Protest

The tennis great was committed to respectful dialogue, refusing to lower himself to the level of invective

Raymond Arsenault
Mr. Arsenault is a biographer of Arthur Ashe.
The New York Times
Sept. 8, 2018

Arthur Ashe always had an exquisite sense of timing, whether he was striking a topspin backhand or choosing when to speak out for liberty and justice for all. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the 50th anniversary of his victory at the first U.S. Open — a milestone to be celebrated on Saturday at the grand stadium bearing his name — coincides with a national conversation on the First Amendment rights and responsibilities of professional athletes.

Mr. Ashe has been gone for 25 years, struck down at the age of 49 by AIDS, inflicted by an H.I.V.-tainted blood transfusion. But the example he set as a champion on and off the court has never been more relevant. As Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and others strive to use their athletic stardom as a platform for social justice activism, they might want to look back at what this soft-spoken African-American tennis star accomplished during the age of Jim Crow and apartheid.

The first thing they will discover is that, like most politically motivated athletes, Mr. Ashe turned to activism only after his formative years as an emerging sports celebrity. He began his career as the Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis — a vulnerable and insecure racial pioneer instructed by his coaches to hold his tongue during a period when the success of desegregation was still in doubt. At the same time, Mr. Ashe’s natural shyness and deferential attitude toward his elders and other authority figures all but precluded involvement in the civil rights struggle and other political activities during his high school and college years.

The calculus of risk and responsibility soon changed, however, as Mr. Ashe reinvented himself as a 25-year-old activist-in-training during the tumultuous year of 1968. With his stunning victory in September at the U.S. Open, where he overcame the best pros in the world as a fifth-seeded amateur, he gained a new confidence that affected all aspects of his life.

Mr. Ashe’s political transformation had begun six months earlier when he gave his first public speech, a discourse on the potential importance of black athletes as community leaders, delivered at a Washington forum hosted by the Rev. Jefferson Rogers, a prominent black civil rights leader Mr. Ashe had known since childhood. Mr. Rogers had been urging Mr. Ashe to speak out on civil rights issues for some time, and when he finally did so, it released a spirit of civic engagement that enveloped his life. “This is the new Arthur Ashe,” the reporter Neil Amdur observed in this paper, “articulate, mature, no longer content to sit back and let his tennis racket do the talking.”

In part, Mr. Ashe’s new attitude reflected a determination to make amends for his earlier inaction. “There were times, in fact,” he recalled years later, “when I felt a burning sense of shame that I was not with other blacks — and whites — standing up to the fire hoses and the police dogs, the truncheons, bullets and bombs.” He added: “As my fame increased, so did my anguish.”

During the violent spring of 1968, the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Mr. Ashe had come to admire above all other black leaders, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, whom he had supported as a presidential candidate, shook Mr. Ashe’s faith in America. But he refused to surrender to disillusionment. Instead he dedicated himself to active citizenship on a level rarely seen in the world of sports.

His activism began with an effort to expand economic and educational opportunities for young urban blacks, but his primary focus soon turned to the liberation of black South Africans suffering under apartheid. Later he supported a wide variety of causes, playing an active role in campaigns for black political power, high educational standards for college athletes, criminal justice reform, equality of the sexes and AIDS awareness. He also became involved in numerous philanthropic enterprises.

By the end of his life, Mr. Ashe’s success on the court was no longer the primary source of his celebrity. He had become, along with Muhammad Ali, a prime example of an athlete who transcended the world of sports. In 2016, President Barack Obama identified Mr. Ali and Mr. Ashe as the sports figures he admired above all others. While noting the sharp contrast in their personalities, he argued that both men were “transformational” activists who pushed the nation down the same path to freedom and democracy.

Mr. Ashe practiced his own distinctive brand of activism, one based on unemotional appeals to common sense and enlightened philosophical principles as simple as the Golden Rule. He had no facility for, and little interest in, using agitation and drama to draw attention to causes, no matter how worthy they might be. A champion of civility, he always kept his cool and never raised his voice in anger or frustration. Viewing emotional appeals as self-defeating and even dangerous, he relied on reasoned persuasion derived from careful preparation and research.

Mr. Ashe preferred to make a case in written form, or as a speaker on the college lecture circuit or as a witness before the United Nations. His periodic opinion pieces in The Washington Post and other newspapers tackled a number of thorny issues related to sports and the broader society, including upholding high academic standards for college athletic eligibility and the expulsion of South Africa from international athletic competition. In the 1980s, he devoted several years to researching and writing “A Hard Road to Glory,” a groundbreaking three-volume history of African-American athletes.

In retirement Mr. Ashe became a popular tennis broadcaster known for his clever quips, yet as an activist he never resorted to sound bites that excited audiences with reductionist slogans. Often working behind the scenes, he engaged in high-profile public debate only when he felt there was no other way to advance his point of view. Suspicious of quick fixes, he advocated incremental and gradual change as the best guarantor of true progress.

Yet he did not let this commitment to long-term solutions interfere with his determination to give voice to the voiceless. Known as a risk taker on the court, he was no less bold off the court, where he never shied away from speaking truth to power.

He was arrested twice, in 1985 while participating in an anti-apartheid demonstration in front of the South African Embassy and in 1992 while picketing the White House in protest of the George H.W. Bush administration’s discriminatory policies toward Haitian refugees. The first arrest embarrassed the American tennis establishment, which soon removed him from his position as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, and the second occurred during the final months of his life as he struggled with the ravages of AIDS. In both cases he accepted the consequences of his principled activism with dignity.

Mr. Ashe was a class act in every way, a man who practiced what he preached without being diverted by the temptations of power, fame or fortune. When we place his approach to dissent and public debate in a contemporary frame, it becomes obvious that his legacy is the antithesis of the scorched-earth politics of Trumpism. If Mr. Ashe were alive today, he would no doubt be appalled by the bullying tactics and insulting rhetoric of a president determined to punish athletes who have the courage and audacity to speak out against police brutality toward African-Americans. And yet we can be equally sure that Mr. Ashe would honor his commitment to respectful dialogue, refusing to lower himself to the president’s level of unrestrained invective.

Not all of the activist athletes involved in public protests during the past two years have followed Mr. Ashe’s model of restraint and civility. But many have made a good-faith effort to do so, resisting the temptation to respond in kind to Mr. Trump’s intemperate attacks on their personal integrity and patriotism. In particular, several of the most visible activists — including Mr. Kaepernick, Stephen Curry and Mr. James — have kept their composure and dignity even as they have borne the brunt of Mr. Trump’s racially charged Twitter storms and stump speeches. By and large, they have wisely taken the same high road that Mr. Ashe took two generations ago, eschewing the politics of character assassination while keeping their eyes on the prize.

Mr. Ashe would surely be gratified that to date, this high road has led to more protest, not less, confirming his belief that real change comes from rational advocacy and hard work, not emotional self-indulgence. As we celebrate his remarkable life and legacy a quarter-century after his death, we can be confident that Mr. Ashe would rush to join today’s activists in spirit and solidarity, solemnly but firmly taking a knee for social justice.

Raymond Arsenault is the author of “Arthur Ashe: A Life.”

Voir aussi:

Arthur Ashe’s real legacy was his activism, not his tennis
We remember Ashe for his electrifying talent. But he had a social conscience that was way ahead of its time
Raymond Arsenault
The Guardian
9 Sep 2018

No one had expected a fifth-seeded, 25-year-old amateur on temporary leave from the army to come out on top in a field that included the world’s best pro players. The era of Open tennis, in which both amateurs and professionals competed, was only four months old. Many feared that mixing the two groups was a mistake. Yet Ashe, with help from a string of upsets that eliminated the top four seeds, defeated the Dutchman Tom Okker in the championship match – in the process becoming the first black man to reach the highest echelon of amateur tennis.

As an amateur, Ashe could not accept the champion’s prize money of $14,000. But the lost income proved inconsequential in light of the other benefits that came in the wake of his historic performance. He became not only as a bona fide sports star but also a citizen activist with important things to contribute to society and a platform to do so. Ashe began to speak out on questions of social and economic justice.

Earlier in the year, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had shocked Ashe out of his youthful reticence to become involved in the struggle for civil rights. Over the next 25 years, he worked tirelessly as an advocate for civil and human rights, a role model for athletes interested in more than fame and fortune.

“From what we get, we can make a living,” he counseled. “What we give, however, makes a life.”

Ashe’s 1968 win was truly impressive but his finest moment at the Open came, arguably, in 1992, four and a half months after the public disclosure that he had Aids and nearly a decade after he contracted HIV during a blood transfusion. If we apply Ashe’s professed standard of success, which placed social and political reform well above athletic achievement, the 25th US Open, not the first, is the tournament most deserving of commemoration. Without picking up a racket, he managed to demonstrate a moral leadership that far transcended the world of sports.

On 30 August, on the eve of the first round, a substantial portion of the professional tennis community rallied behind the stricken champion’s effort to raise funds for the new Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of Aids (AAFDA). The celebrity-studded event, the Arthur Ashe Aids Tennis Challenge, drew a huge crowd and nine of the game’s biggest stars. The support was unprecedented, leading one reporter to marvel: “The tennis world is known by and large as a selfish, privileged world, one crammed with factions and egos. So what is happening at the Open is unthinkable: gender and nationality and politics will take a back seat to a full-fledged effort to support Ashe.”

Participants included CBS correspondent Mike Wallace, then New York City mayor David Dinkins and two of tennis’s biggest celebrities, the up-and-coming star Andre Agassi and the four-time Open champion John McEnroe, who entertained the crowd by clowning their way through a long set. To Ashe’s delight, McEnroe, once known as the “Superbrat” of tennis, even put on a joke tantrum against the umpire.

Several days earlier, on a more serious note, McEnroe had spoken for many of his peers in explaining why he felt passionate about Ashe’s cause.

“It’s not something you can even think twice about when you’re asked to help,” he insisted. “The fact that the disease has happened to a tennis player certainly strikes home with all of us. I’m just glad someone finally organized the tennis community like this, and obviously it took someone like Arthur to do it.”

Ashe was thrilled with the response to the Aids Challenge, which raised $114,000 for the AAFDA. One man walked up and casually handed him a personal check for $25,000. Later in the week the foundation received $30,000 from an anonymous donor in North Carolina. Such generosity was what Ashe had hoped to inspire, and when virtually all of the US Open players complied with the foundation’s request to attach a special patch – “a red ribbon centered by a tiny yellow tennis ball” – to their outfits as a symbolic show of support for Aids victims, he knew he had started something important.

This awakening of social responsibility – among a group of athletes not typically known for political courage – was deeply gratifying to a man whose previous calls to action had been largely ignored. Seven years earlier he was fired as captain of the US Davis Cup team in part because leaders were uncomfortable with his growing political activism, especially his arrest during an anti-apartheid demonstration outside a South African embassy. This rebuke did not shake his belief in active citizenship as a bedrock principle, however, and as the 1992 Open drew to a close he demonstrated just how seriously he regarded personal commitment to social justice.

When his lifelong friend and anti-apartheid ally Randall Robinson asked Ashe to come to Washington for a protest march he immediately said yes, even though the march was scheduled four days before the end of the Open. The march concerned an issue that had become deeply important to Ashe: the Bush administration’s discriminatory treatment of Haitian refugees seeking asylum in the US. With more than 2,000 other protesters, Ashe gathered in front of the White House to seek justice for the growing mass of Haitian “boat people” being forcibly repatriated without a hearing.

In stark contrast to the warm reception accorded Cuban refugees fleeing Castro’s communist regime, the dark-skinned boat people were denied refuge due to a blanket ruling that Haitians, unlike Cubans, were economic migrants undeserving of political asylum. To Ashe and the organizers of the White House protest, this double standard – which flew in the face of the political realities of both islands – smacked of racism.

“The argument incensed me,” Ashe wrote. “Undoubtedly, many of the people picked up were economic refugees, but many were not.”

Ashe knew a great deal about Haiti: he had read widely and deeply about the island’s troubled past; he had visited on several occasions; he and his wife had even honeymooned there in 1977. More recently, he had monitored the truncated career of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a self-styled champion of the poor whose regime was toppled by a military coup with the tacit support of the Bush administration. Ashe felt compelled to speak out.

“I was prepared to be arrested to protest this injustice,” he said.

Considering his medical condition, he had no business being at a protest; certainly no one would have blamed him if he had begged off. No one, that is, but himself. At the appointed hour, he arrived at the protest site in jeans, T-shirt and straw hat, a human scarecrow reduced to 128lbs on his 6ft 1in frame, but resolute as ever. Big, bold letters on his shirt read: “Haitians Locked Out Because They’re Black.”

The throng included a handful of celebrities, but Ashe alone represented the sports world. He didn’t want to be treated as a celebrity, of course; he simply wanted to make a statement about the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. While he knew his presence was largely symbolic, he hoped to set an example.

Putting oneself at risk for a good cause, he assured one reporter, “does wonders for your outlook … Marching in a protest is a liberating experience. It’s cathartic. It’s one of the great moments you can have in your life.”

Since federal law prohibited large demonstrations close to the White House, the organizers expected arrests. The police did not disappoint: nearly 100 demonstrators, including Ashe, were arrested, handcuffed and carted away. Ashe, despite his physical condition, asked for and received no favors. After paying his fine and calling his wife Jeanne to assure her he was all right, he took the late afternoon train back to New York.

The next night, while sitting on his couch watching the nightly news, he felt a sharp pain in his sternum. Tests revealed he had suffered a mild heart attack, the second of his life. Prior to the trip to Washington, Jeanne had worried something like this might happen. But she knew her husband was never one to play it safe when something important was on the line.

On the tennis court, he had always been prone to fits of reckless play, going for broke with shots that defied logic or sense. Off the court, particularly in his later years, Arthur Ashe almost always went full-out. He did so not because he craved activity for its own sake but rather because he wanted to live a virtuous and productive life. Even near the end, weakened by disease, he still wanted to make a difference. And he did, as he always did.

      • Raymond Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin professor of southern history at the University of South Florida, St Petersburg, is the author of Arthur Ashe: A Life, recently published by Simon & Schuster

    Voir également:

    ‘Arthur was always different’: Reflecting on Ashe’s legacy, 50 years after U.S. Open win
    Ava Wallace
    The Washington Post
    September 3, 2018

    Virginia Wade has many memories of Arthur Ashe, but the one that sticks in her mind isn’t from 50 years ago in New York, when in 1968 they won the first U.S. Open singles titles and Ashe became the first African American man to win a Grand Slam championship. Her favorite memory is from seven years later at Wimbledon.

    Ashe claimed the last of his three major titles in England in 1975 in a match against heavy favorite Jimmy Connors. Wade remembers cool, unruffled Ashe’s daring tennis against the 22-year-old Connors, who hollered back at the crowd when it shouted encouragement. She also remembers the changeovers.

    “It was an incredible match. I mean, Arthur was an innovator,” Wade, 73, said last week. “It was the first time he sort of sat down at the side of the court in between — they didn’t have chairs at the side of the court for a long time; we sort of had to towel off and go on — but he would sit and cover his head with the towel and just think. It was the first time you were conscious of the mental side of tennis. Arthur was instrumental in that. . . . Arthur was a thinker.”

    As the U.S. Open celebrates its 50th anniversary, the U.S. Tennis Association is also honoring Ashe for all that he was: thinker, pioneer, activist, champion.

    The 1968 winner already has a significant presence at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — the facility’s biggest and most prestigious stage is named for him — but this fortnight, his visage is inescapable. There is a special photo exhibit on the walkway between Court 17 and the Grandstand, and a special “Arthur Ashe legacy booth” decked out in the colors of UCLA, his alma mater. Fans can be seen walking around sporting white T-shirts featuring a picture of Ashe wearing sunglasses, cool as can be.

    At the start of Monday’s evening session, Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams gave Ashe’s younger brother Johnnie a folded American flag in honor of his brother, who died in 1993 from AIDS-related pneumonia after contracting the disease from a tainted blood transfusion. Ashe was an Army lieutenant when he won the U.S. Open as an amateur in 1968; Johnnie, 70, was in the Marine Corps for 20 years.

    Johnnie Ashe, like Wade, remembers his brother as an intellectual and an innovator, as someone who was meant to change the world. That’s why, when Johnnie came to understand that the military wouldn’t send two brothers into active duty in a war zone at the same time, he volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam. He was three months away from coming home.

    “Arthur didn’t need Vietnam. Arthur had his own Vietnam right there in the United States in those days, and some of the things that I saw while I was there — he didn’t need that,” Johnnie said Monday night. “The thing that I always think about, and this was always the most important thing in my mind, was that Arthur represented so many possibilities. Arthur was the first to do so much so often that those of us who knew him would say: ‘What’s next? What mountain was he going to climb next?’ Arthur was always different.”

    Since Johnnie stayed on active duty, Arthur could compete for both the U.S. amateur and U.S. Open championships in 1968. He is the only person to have won both.

    Ashe had many projects that helped extend his legacy beyond that of a pioneering tennis player who won 33 career singles championships; ever the thinker, bringing tennis and educational opportunities to youths was Ashe’s passion. He helped found the National Junior Tennis & Learning network in 1968, a grass-roots organization designed to make tennis more accessible. Today, the NJTL receives significant funding from the USTA.

    “Growing up, Arthur was a sponge. . . . That was just his nature,” Johnnie Ashe said. “He was a voracious reader, and he had to satisfy his intellect. I tell people if Arthur had concentrated on just tennis, he would have been the best in the world. But tennis was a vehicle. . . . He wanted to be able to take kids outside of their environs, outside of their element for a little while and expose them to what they can be. . . . And, let’s face it, most parents don’t have the wherewithal to do that. It’s not easy. What happens is you get somebody like Arthur — and following Arthur, LeBron James is starting to do things — to expose kids. It’s so important that that happens.”

    Billie Jean King called the NJTL one of the best things that ever happened to the sport.

    “Arthur and I had many conversations over the years about how to we make tennis better — for the players, the fans and the sport,” King said in an email Monday. “We both thought tennis needed to be more hospitable, and for Arthur a big part of that was improving access and opportunity to our sport for everyone. Arthur, and Althea Gibson before him, opened doors for people of color in our sport. And, from Venus and Serena [Williams] to Naomi Osaka and Frances Tiafoe, we are seeing the results of his efforts today.”

    Ashe’s efforts as a humanitarian inspired James Blake, who now chairs the USTA Foundation. Blake was growing up when Ashe’s humanitarian career was front and center, both as the leader of the group Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid and as a figure who spoke out to educate the nation about AIDS.

    “He never looked for sympathy,” Blake said. “Instead, he looked for a way to make life better for others that were struggling.”

    Blake counts himself as one who benefited from Ashe’s barrier-breaking career. It’s a legacy not lost on the USTA; Katrina Adams, its president and chief executive, is a black woman.

    But before Maria Sharapova lost in the fourth round to Carla Suarez Navarro and the riveted crowd turned its attention to Roger Federer’s match, Monday night was about Arthur Ashe. Johnnie’s flag came wrapped in a wooden display case.

    “I was thinking what I was going to design to keep it in, but I don’t have to. This is nice,” Johnnie said.

    “Until Arthur came along and Althea came along, tennis was a sport of the elites. Then you get two playground children — one from Harlem, one from Richmond — to break into the bigs. People had to stop and think about that. It opened the doors for other people, and that’s what it was all about. That’s what it was all about for him.”

    Voir de même:

    Waiting for the Next Arthur Ashe
    Harvey Araton
    NYT
    Sept. 7, 2018

    On the second of two occasions when he had the privilege of a conversation with Arthur Ashe, MaliVai Washington, having just become the country’s No. 1 college player as a Michigan sophomore in 1989, happened to mention that he was thinking of turning pro.

    Ashe did not exactly tell him what he wanted to hear.

    “I don’t think he thought it was a very good idea,” Washington said.

    Ashe won the first United States Open at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills 50 years ago to the day of Sunday’s men’s final, to be played in a stadium named for him. He also won the 1970 Australian Open and a third and final major in 1975 at Wimbledon.

    After all these years there are the formidable but not mutually exclusive legacies of Ashe: as the only African-American man to win a Grand Slam tournament and as a venerated humanitarian. Washington came tantalizingly close to living up to the former and has found a contextual purpose in the latter.

    Washington, who made it to the Wimbledon final in 1996, can recall some self-imposed pressure to hoist the trophy Ashe had claimed there 21 years earlier because “when you’re the No. 1 black player, you feel a sense of responsibility.”

    That said, Washington was admittedly more focused on the biggest payday of his career, potential lifetime membership in the All England Club and a permanent engraving on its champions wall.

    “I’m honestly not thinking then that much about history and social issues, about how this is going to impact on America, what impact is it going to have on kids,” he said of the final, which he lost to Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands in straight sets. “But at 35, 45, O.K., I can think more intelligently about it and understand the impact.”

    Washington is now 49, the age at which Ashe died in 1993 of AIDS after getting H.I.V. through a blood transfusion. Family life in northern Florida is good for Washington, with a wife, two teenage children, a real estate business and an eponymous foundation in an impoverished area of Jacksonville that for 22 years has provided a tennis introduction for children unlikely to find a private pathway into the sport.

    Washington’s program is affiliated with the National Junior Tennis League, which Ashe co-founded in 1969 to promote discipline and character through tennis among under-resourced youth. If, in the process, another Ashe happened to emerge, so much the better. But that was not the primary function, or point.

    “We’re not a pathway to pro tennis by any stretch of the imagination,” Washington said. “At my foundation, we don’t have that ability, that capacity, never had an interest in going in that direction. We highly encourage kids to play on their high school team, go on to play or try out for their college team.

    “But our biggest bang for our buck is teaching life skills. Stay in our program, and you’ll have a focus on high school education, be on a good track when you leave high school. You’re not going to leave high school with a criminal record, or with a son or daughter.”

    Why there was no African-American male Grand Slam champion successor to Ashe in the years soon after his trailblazing is no great mystery, Washington said.

    Fifty years ago, tennis was largely the province of the wealthy and white, lacking a foundational structure to facilitate such an occurrence. Which doesn’t mean that Ashe didn’t influence the rise of a Yannick Noah, the French Grand Slam champion whom Ashe himself discovered in Cameroon. Or the likes of Richard Williams and Oracene Price, whose parental vision birthed the careers of Venus and Serena Williams. They in turn have been followed by a raft of African-American female players, including the 2017 U.S. Open women’s champion, Sloane Stephens, and the runner-up, Madison Keys.

    This year’s women’s final, on Saturday afternoon, will feature Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, a half-Japanese, half-Haitian player whose father used the Williams family as a model for his own daughters’ tennis ambitions.

    Looming over the lack of an African-American Grand Slam successor to Ashe is the vexing question of why the United States hasn’t produced a male champion since Andy Roddick won his only major title in New York in 2003. That most of the men’s titles have been claimed by a small handful of European players might be more of a tribute to them than a defining failure of the United States Tennis Association’s development capabilities.

    But on the home front, the issue is a pressing one, especially during America’s Grand Slam tournament, year after year.

    Washington retired in 1999 with four tour victories and a 1994 quarterfinal Australian Open result in addition to his Wimbledon run. He was followed by James Blake, who rose to No. 4 in the world during a 14-year career that included 10 tour titles and three Grand Slam quarterfinals, including two at the U.S. Open.

    Martin Blackman, the U.S.T.A.’s general manager for player development, agreed that a breakthrough by one or two young Americans — white or black — in the foreseeable future could help trigger a wave of next-generation stars from an expanding landscape of prospects at a time when African-American participation has significantly declined in baseball, and football is confronted with health concerns.

    “With tennis starting to be recognized as a really athletic sport, I think we do have a unique opportunity to pull some better athletes into the game,” said Blackman, an African-American man who played briefly on tour and once partnered with Washington to make the junior doubles semifinals of the 1986 Open. “So now it comes down to what can we do at the base to recruit and retain as many great young players as possible, make the game accessible and then get them into the system to stay.”

    Even with better intentions, and greater investment, it still took a set of circumstances worthy of a Disney script to land Frances Tiafoe, one of the more promising young American players, on tour.

    The son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, Tiafoe, 20, was introduced to the sport at a club in College Park, Md., where his father, Frances Sr., had found custodial work. Talent and a noticeable work ethic attracted well-heeled benefactors and helped Tiafoe climb to his current ranking of No. 44.

    He gained his first victory at the U.S. Open over France’s Adrian Mannarino, the 29th seed, in the first round before losing next time out. His father watched from the player’s box on the Grandstand court, high-fiving Frances’ coaches and trainer when the Mannarino match ended, and soon after contended that his son wasn’t all that unique.

    “There have to be thousands of kids like Frances out there, thousands who don’t have the same opportunities,” Frances Sr. said. “I’m not just talking about going to college, but going to the pro level, or just to have that chance, see if it’s possible.”

    This is where Washington holds up a metaphorical sign for caution, if not for an outright stop. Most people, he said, have little understanding of just how forbidding the odds are of becoming a pro, much less a champion.

    Like the Williams sisters, Washington — who was born in Glen Cove, N.Y., but grew up in Michigan — had the benefit of a tennis-driven father, William, who saw four of his five children play professionally. MaliVai, who typically goes by Mal, had by far the most success.

    “When I was a junior player, I was playing seven days a week and there were times when I was in high school where I was playing before school and after school,” he said. “It is so very difficult to win a major. I tried to win one, came close.”

    Then, speaking of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, he added: “Federer and Nadal, they’ve won 20 and 17. What makes them so great is hard to understand. You just can’t throw money at kids and think it’s going to happen.”

    So how is it done? Where does one start?

    With smaller social achievements, Washington said. With helping young people love the game recreationally, while pursuing a better life than those in less affluent African-American communities have been dealt.

    He talked of a young female graduate of his program who recently finished college without any debt, thanks to a tennis scholarship. And for the foundation’s head tennis pro, he hired Marc Atkinson, who began playing at Washington’s facility in sixth grade and walked onto the Florida A&M tennis team.

    “He’s married with three kids, and at some point, I imagine he’s going to introduce the sport to his kids,” Washington said. “You know, I often think back to my ancestors and the challenges they had, whether it’s my parents growing up in the Deep South in the 1940s and 1950s, or my great-great-grandpa who was born a slave. I can trace my lineage back to people who were getting up and getting after it, who were trying to make a better life for themselves and their kids.

    “So with the thousands of kids that we’re helping, that tennis champion may be part of that next generation, or the one after that. You don’t know, but maybe 20 years from now, or 50 years from now, you’ll be able to look at a kid and track back a lineage to my youth foundation and that would be really cool.”

    Told that he sounded more like Ashe the humanitarian than Ashe the Grand Slam champion, Washington nodded with approval. His two meetings with Ashe produced “no deep conversations,” he said, and he did not heed Ashe’s advice on staying in school, though he eventually earned a degree in finance from the University of North Florida.

    A voice was nonetheless heard, and still resounds.

    Voir encore:

    Etats-Unis
    Frédéric Potet

La Croix
28/04/1997

A trois reprises, et par la plus pure des coïncidences, la question du sportif noir dans la société américaine s’est retrouvée sur le devant de l’actualité, ces trois dernières semaines. Il y eut d’abord, le 25 mars à Hollywood, l’attribution de l’Oscar du meilleur documentaire à When we were kings, le film de Leon Gast, sorti en France depuis mercredi, et dont le personnage central est le boxeur Mohammed Ali. Vint ensuite, le 13 avril, la victoire au Master d’Augusta (Géorgie, Etats-Unis) de la nouvelle étoile du golf mondial, le jeune Tiger Woods. Deux jours plus tard, enfin, l’Amérique célébrait le 50e anniversaire de l’intégration du premier joueur noir dans une équipe de base-ball professionnel, Jackie Robinson.

Robinson-Ali-Woods. Ces trois noms résumeraient presque la longue marche de l’émancipation du sportif noir aux Etats-Unis. Chacun d’entre eux représente une période, elle-même synonyme d’idéaux et de quête vers la reconnaissance. Si le film de Leon Gast nous montre bien quel incomparable combattant de la cause black fut Mohammed Ali, gageons qu’Ali ne serait pas devenu Ali à l’époque de Woods et que Robinson serait resté un modeste anonyme s’il avait joué dans les années 60.

Nul ne l’ignore plus aujourd’hui : si Jackie Robinson a pu trouver place au sein des Brooklyn Dodgers en cette année 1947, ce fut principalement pour des raisons extrasportives. Ce petit-fils d’esclave était en effet d’un tempérament suffisamment doux et détaché pour ne pas répondre aux concerts d’insultes dont il allait être la cible durant toute sa carrière. A l’instar de son aîné Jesse Owens, sprinter quatre fois médaillé d’or à qui Hitler refusa de serrer la main aux Jeux Olympiques de 1936 à Berlin, Jackie Robinson ne devait jamais rejoindre d’organisation militante. Sa présence au sein d’une équipe de la Major League (première division) allait pouvoir permettre, sans heurt, l’arrivée d’une nouvelle population dans les stades : le public noir.

Le roi dollar fait taire les langues

Autre contexte et autre façon de voir les choses, vingt ans plus tard. En 1964, quelques jours après son premier titre mondial, Cassius Clay intègre le mouvement politico-religieux des Blacks Muslims et devient Mohammed Ali. Trois ans plus tard, il refuse de partir au Vietnam, arguant qu’aucun Vietcong ne l’a « jamais traité de négro ». Rien d’étonnant lorsqu’en 1974, sur une idée du promoteur Don King, il part affronter George Foreman au Zaïre. L’africanisme possède son meilleur apôtre. Dans le film de Leon Gast, le boxeur incarne une sorte de roi-sorcier revenant au pays après plusieurs siècles d’exil. Ali ne fait alors rien d’autre que de la politique. Comme en ont fait les sprinteurs Tommie Smith, John Carlos et Lee Evans (qui deviendra entraîneur en Afrique) le jour où ils brandirent leur poing sur le podium des Jeux de Mexico de 1968.

De cette corporation de champions engagés, Arthur Ashe, décédé en 1993 après une vie passée à lutter contre diverses injustices (apartheid, sida, sort des réfugiés haïtiens), sera le dernier. Les années 80 et 90 sont un tournant. Le basketteur Michael Jordan devient le sportif le mieux payé au monde. Le sprinteur Carl Lewis, le boxeur Mike Tyson et aujourd’hui le très politiquement correct Tiger Woods vont répéter tour à tour qu’« on ne mélange pas sport et politique ». Le roi dollar fait taire les langues alors que, curieusement, le militantisme noir connaît un regain d’intérêt aux Etats-Unis.

Le paradoxe est même total le 16 octobre 1995 quand Louis Farrakhan, leader de la Nation of Islam, réunit un million de personnes à Washington. Ce jour-là, des slogans proclamant l’innocence d’O.J. Simpson reviennent souvent dans la foule. L’ancienne vedette de football américain est suspecté d’avoir tué sa femme. L’affaire a rendu l’Amérique totalement zinzin. A telle enseigne qu’O.J. est devenu une icône pour la population noire. Plus personne, alors, ne se rappelle que du temps de sa splendeur au coeur de la jet-set de Los Angeles, Simpson s’était appliqué à faire oublier aux Blancs qu’il était noir, allant jusqu’à prendre des cours de diction pour changer son accent. La politique, lui aussi, O.J. le disait déjà : ce n’était pas son job.

Voir par ailleurs:

Neil Armstrong Didn’t Forget the Flag
Rich Lowry
National review
September 5, 2018

The Apollo program was a national effort that depended on American derring-do and sacrifice. History is usually airbrushed to remove a figure who has fallen out of favor with a dictatorship, or to hide away an episode of national shame. Leave it to Hollywood to erase from a national triumph its most iconic moment.

The new movie First Man, a biopic about the Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, omits the planting of the American flag during his historic walk on the surface of the moon.

Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong in the film, tried to explain the strange editing of his moonwalk: “This was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement. I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero.” Armstrong was a reticent man, but he surely considered himself an American, and everyone else considered him a hero. (“You’re a hero whether you like it or not,” one newspaper admonished him on the 10th anniversary of the landing.)

Gosling added that Armstrong’s walk “transcended countries and borders,” which is literally true, since it occurred roughly 238,900 miles from Earth, although Armstrong got there on an American rocket, walked in an American spacesuit, and returned home to America.

Apollo 11 was, without doubt, an extraordinary human achievement. Armstrong’s famous words upon descending the ladder to the moon were apt: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A plaque left behind read: “HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON, JULY 1969 A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND.”

But this was a national effort that depended on American derring-do, sacrifice, and treasure. It was a chapter in a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union that involved national prestige and the perceived worth of our respective economic and political systems. The Apollo program wasn’t about the brotherhood of man, but rather about achieving a national objective before a hated and feared adversary did.

The Soviets’ putting a satellite, Sputnik, into orbit first was a profound political and psychological shock. The historian Walter A. McDougall writes in his book on the space race, . . . The Heavens and the Earth:

In the weeks and months to come, Khrushchev and lesser spokesmen would point to the first Sputnik, “companion” or “fellow traveller,” as proof of the Soviet ability to deliver hydrogen bombs at will, proof of the inevitability of Soviet scientific and technological leadership, proof of the superiority of communism as a model for backwards nations, proof of the dynamic leadership of the Soviet premier.

The U.S. felt it had to rise to the challenge. As Vice President Lyndon Johnson put it, “Failure to master space means being second best in every aspect, in the crucial arena of our Cold War world. In the eyes of the world first in space means first, period; second in space is second in everything.”

VIEW SLIDESHOW: Apollo 11

The mission of Apollo 11 was, appropriately, soaked in American symbolism. The lunar module was called Eagle, and the command module Columbia. There had been some consideration to putting up a U.N. flag, but it was scotched — it would be an American flag and only an American flag.

The video of Armstrong and his partner Buzz Aldrin carefully working to set up the flag — fully extend it and sink the pole firmly enough in the lunar surface to stand — after their awe-inspiring journey hasn’t lost any of its power.

The director of First Man, Damien Chazelle, argues that the flag planting isn’t part of the movie because he wanted to focus on the inner Armstrong. But, surely, Armstrong, a former Eagle Scout, had feelings about putting the flag someplace it had never gone before?

There may be a crass commercial motive in the omission — the Chinese, whose market is so important to big films, might not like overt American patriotic fanfare. Neither does much of our cultural elite. They may prefer not to plant the flag — but the heroes of Apollo 11 had no such compunction.

Voir de plus:

What BlacKkKlansman Gets Wrong

It’s a slow, didactic film about a minor episode.

Kyle Smith
National Review
August 28, 2018

Billed as being based on “a crazy, outrageous incredible true story” about how a black cop infiltrated the KKK, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman would be more accurately described as the story of how a black cop in 1970s Colorado Springs spoke to the Klan on the phone. He pretended to be a white supremacist . . . on the phone. That isn’t infiltration, that’s prank-calling. A poster for the movie shows a black guy wearing a Klan hood. Great starting point for a comedy, but it didn’t happen. The cop who actually attended KKK meetings undercover was a white guy (played by Adam Driver). These led . . . well, nowhere in particular. No plot was foiled. Those meetups mainly revealed that Klansmen behave exactly how you’d expect Klansmen to behave.The movie is a typical Spike Lee joint: A thin story is told in painfully didactic style and runs on far too long. Screenwriters ordinarily try to start every scene as late as possible and end it as early as possible; Lee just lets things roll. If the point is made, he keeps making it. If the plot tends toward inertia, that’s just Lee saying, “Don’t get distracted by the story, pay attention to the message I’m sending.” He’s a rule-breaker all right. The rules he breaks are “Don’t be boring,” “Don’t be obvious,” and “Don’t ramble.”

But! BlacKkKlansman keeps getting called spot-on, and (as Quentin Tarantino showed in Django Unchained) the moronic nature of the Klan and its beliefs makes it an excellent target for comedy. Lee doesn’t exactly wield an épée as a satirist, though: His idea of a top joke is having the redneck Klansman think “gooder” is a word. Most of the movie isn’t even attempted comedy.

Lee’s principal achievement here is in showcasing the talents of John David Washington, in the first of what promise to be many starring roles in movies. Washington (son of Denzel) has an easygoing charisma as the unflappable Ron Stallworth, a rookie cop in Colorado Springs who volunteers to go undercover as a detective in 1972, near the height of the Black Power movement and a moment when law enforcement was closely tracking the activities of radicals such as Stokely Carmichael, a.k.a. Kwame Ture, a speech of whose Stallworth says he attended while posing as an ordinary citizen. In the movie, Stallworth experiences an awakening of black pride and falls for a student leader, Patrice (a luminous Laura Harrier, who also played Peter Parker’s girlfriend in Spider-Man: Homecoming), inspiring in him the need to do something for his people. He dismisses Carmichael’s call for armed revolution as mere grandstanding, really just a means for drawing black people together. After the speech, the audience goes to a party instead of a riot.

The Klan also turn out to be grandstanders and blowhards given to Carmichael-style paranoid prophecies and seem to hope to troll their enemies into attacking them. When Lee realizes he needs something to actually happen besides racist talk, he turns to a subplot featuring a white-supremacist lady running around with a purse full of C-4 explosive with which she intends to blow up the black radicals. It’s so unconvincing that you watch it thinking, “I really doubt this happened.” It didn’t. The only other tense moment in the film, in which Driver’s undercover cop (who is Jewish) is nearly subjected to a lie-detector test about his religion by a suspicious Klansman, is also fabricated.

Lee frames his two camps as opposites, but whether we’re with the black-power types or the white-power yokels, they’re equally wrong about the race war they seem to yearn for. The two sides are equally far from the stable center, the color-blind institution holding society together, which turns out to be . . . the police! After some talk from the radical Patrice (whose character is also a fabrication) about how the whole system is corrupt and she could never date a “pig,” and a scene in which Stallworth implies the police’s code of covering for one another reminds him of the Klan, Lee winds up having the police unite to fight racism, with one bad apple expunged and everybody else on the otherwise all-white force supporting Ron.

That Spike Lee has turned in a pro-cop film has to be counted one of the stranger cultural developments of 2018, but Lee seems to have accidentally aligned with cops in the course of issuing an anti-Trump broadside. He has one cop tell us that anti-immigration rhetoric, opposition to affirmative action, “and tax reform” are the kinds of issues that white supremacists will use to snake their way into high office. Tax reform! If there has ever been a president, or indeed a politician, who failed to advocate “tax reform,” I guess I missed it. What candidate has ever said on the stump, “My fellow Americans, I propose no change to tax policy whatsoever!” If Lee grabbed us by the lapels just once per movie, it might be forgivable, but he does it all the time. (See also: an introduction in which Alec Baldwin plays a Southern cracker called Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard who rants about desegregation for several minutes, then is never seen again.)

Lee’s other major goal is to link Stallworth’s story to Trumpism using David Duke. Duke, like Trump, said awful things at the time of the Charlottesville murder and played a part in the Stallworth story when the cop was assigned to protect the Klan leader (played by Topher Grace) on a visit to Colorado Springs and later threw his arm around him while posing for a picture. Saying Duke presaged Trump seems like a stretch, though.

After all the nudge-nudge MAGA lines uttered by the Klansmen throughout the film, the let-me-spell-it-out-for-you finale, with footage from the Charlottesville white-supremacist rally, seems de trop. BlacKkKlansman was timed to hit theaters one year after the anniversary of the horror in Virginia. That Charlottesville II attracted only two dozen pathetic dorks to the cause of white supremacy would seem to undermine the coda. The Klan’s would-be successors, far from being more emboldened than they have been since Stallworth’s time, appear to be nearly extinct.

Voir encore:

US Open: furieuse, Serena Williams crie au scandale et se dit volée par l’arbitre

Cette finale en forme de choc des générations face à la Japonaise Naomi Osaka s’est transformée en véritable psychodrame ce samedi à l’US Open. Jamais entrée dans ce match qui était pour elle une vraie page d’histoire, Serena Williams a sombré dans la chasse à l’arbitre, s’estimant volée.
RMC
09/09/2018

« Je ne suis pas une tricheuse! Vous me devez des excuses! »: des phrases répétées à plusieurs reprises par Serena Williams à l’arbitre, soudainement propulsé en pleine lumière. C’est bien ce qui restera dans les livres d’histoire à propos de cette finale de l’US Open. Tant pis pour Naomi Osaka, impeccable pour remporter, en deux sets, ce choc face à son idole et le premier Grand Chelem de sa carrière (6-2, 6-4).

En cas de victoire ce samedi, l’Américaine pouvait entrer définitivement dans l’histoire en égalant le record de Margaret Court, détentrice de 24 Majeurs, record absolu. La géante de 36 ans a toujours eu du mal avec les moments d’histoire… Pour égaler Steffi Graf et ses 22 sacres en Grand Chelem, Serena Williams en était déjà passée par une demi-finale perdue à Flushing Meadows, deux finales perdues à Melbourne puis Roland-Garros avant le soulagement de Wimbledon 2016. Désillusion encore en demie de l’US Open la même année pour repousser d’un Majeur ce record de l’ère Open qu’elle détient désormais seule.

Williams et l’US Open, c’est compliqué…

Idole de tout un pays, l’Américaine aura également toujours eu du mal à jouer sur son sol. Pour des raisons diverses. Son boycott du tournoi d’Indian Wells durant 14 ans était dû à ces insultes racistes dont elle avait été victime. A l’US Open, où elle a conquis six trophées, la joueuse de 36 ans a connu des émotions contraires, entre ses sacres et ses désillusions. En 2011, face à Samantha Stosur, elle avait écopé d’une amende pour avoir explosé de colère contre l’arbitre, qui lui avait annulé un point pour cause de « come on » lâché avant la fin de l’échange.

Tiens, tiens, des problèmes avec l’arbitre… comme ce samedi. Rattrapée par la pression, Serena Williams a fini par exploser. La faute à son tennis, pas en place, malmené par une Naomi Osaka sans complexe et remarquable, qu’elle a d’ailleurs chaudement félicité à l’issue du match. La faute aussi à ce que l’Américaine a ressenti comme une injustice.

Après un premier set à sens unique, la joueuse de 36 ans a écopé d’un avertissement de la part de l’arbitre. Motif? Coaching. « Je ne suis pas une tricheuse! Je suis mère de famille, je n’ai jamais triché de ma vie », a-t-elle lancé, pleine de colère. Est-ce un quiproquo? Si son entraîneur a bien semblé lui faire un signe, la cadette des soeurs Williams assure ne pas avoir reçu de coaching. Difficile de trancher.

« Ai-je coaché? Oui, je l’ai coachée avec des gestes, a expliqué Patrick Mouratoglou sur Eurosport après la rencontre. Elle ne m’a pas vu. J’ajoute que dans 100% des cas, les joueuses bénéficient de coaching et normalement, surtout en finale d’un Grand Chelem, l’arbitre prévient la joueuse avant un éventuel avertissement. »

Raquette cassée et point perdu

La situation s’est envenimée tandis que la recordwoman de titre en Grand Chelem dans l’ère Open venait de se faire débreaker alors qu’elle semblait pourtant reprendre l’ascendant. Serena Williams en a fracassé sa raquette de rage – chose d’une extrême rareté pour elle – et a donc pris… un nouvel avertissement et un point de pénalité. Fureur.

Au changement de côté, l’arbitre en a fait les frais. « Vous m’avez volé un point! Je ne suis pas une tricheuse », a répété l’Américaine. Estimant que la joueuse était allée trop loin, l’arbitre a donc enchaîné avec un troisième avertissement, synonyme de jeu de pénalité. Derrière, après un jeu de service façon parpaings de Williams, Naomi Osaka a servi pour le match. Pour s’imposer.

Son coach crie au scandale

Pas de poignée de main à l’arbitre pour Serena Williams, qui avait bien tenté d’invoquer le superviseur pour faire annuler son jeu de pénalité… sans succès. « Une fois de plus, la star du show a été l’arbitre de chaise. Pour la deuxième fois dans cet US Open et la troisième fois pour Serena Williams en finale de l’US Open, s’est insurgé son coach Patrick Mouratoglou sur Twitter. Devraient-ils être autorisés à avoir une influence sur le résultat d’un match? Quand déciderons-nous que cela ne doit plus jamais arriver? » Une allusion à ce « coaching par l’arbitre » dont avait bénéficié Nick Kyrgios contre Pierre-Hugues Herbert au deuxième tour.

Une accolade chaleureuse avec son adversaire, des appels à la foule pour applaudir la Japonaise… Serena Williams, en larmes, aura tenté de faire bonne figure sur le podium, avant de s’éclipser. Dur pour son adversaire, presque honteuse d’avoir battu son idole dans de telles conditions. Avec le superviseur, l’Américaine estimait que les hommes n’étaient pas traités de la même manière qu’elle le fut ce samedi. Le débat est ouvert. Sans doute à raison.

Voir enfin:

Serena has mother of all meltdowns in US Open final loss
Brian Lewis
New York Post
September 8, 2018

What was supposed to be history descended into histrionics.

Serena Williams came into Saturday’s U.S. Open final looking for a record-setting title. What she got was a game penalty and an emotional meltdown.

It overshadowed Naomi Osaka’s 6-2, 6-4 win over her idol for her first Grand Slam title, and put a mark on the Open’s golden anniversary.

Though Williams repeatedly demanded an apology from chair umpire Carlos Ramos and got a game penalty after calling him a “liar” and a “thief,” she ended the match in tears. And Osaka — who sat in the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium when she was 5, watching Williams play — was in tears herself as the pro-Williams crowd rained boos upon the victor’s stand, which included USTA officials.

All in all it was a pitiful scene, Williams actually getting her apology from Osaka instead of Ramos.

“I know everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this,” said a tearful Osaka, 20, so shaken she nearly dropped her trophy. Meanwhile, Williams — who’d regained her composure — put her arm around her young foe and implored the crowd to stop booing.

“I felt bad because I’m crying and she’s crying,” said Williams. “She just won. I’m not sure if they were happy tears or they were sad tears because of the moment. I felt like, wow, this isn’t how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam. I was like, wow, I definitely don’t want her to feel like that. Maybe it was the mom in me that was like, ‘Listen, we got to pull ourselves together here.’ ”

Williams had come in seeking a milestone win, one that would’ve tied Margaret Court’s all-time record for Grand Slams (24). But Osaka — and Williams’ own temper tantrum — scuttled those plans.

In the second game of the second set, Ramos hit Williams with a code violation for receiving coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou from her player’s box.

“You owe me an apology,” Williams said. “I’ve never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and stand for what’s right for her.”

Still, Mouratoglou admitted he’d given her advice, though threw in the disclaimer she may not have seen it from the other end of the court.

“I just texted Patrick, like, what is he talking about? Because we don’t have signals, we’ve never discussed signals. I don’t even call for on-court coaching,” Williams said. “I’m trying to figure out why he would say that. I don’t understand. Maybe he said, ‘You can do it.’ I was on the far other end, so I’m not sure. I want to clarify myself what he’s talking about.”

Williams got a second code violation four games later, up 3-2. After Osaka broke her serve, Williams broke her racket in frustration and was assessed a point penalty.

“You will never, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You’re the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? Say it! Say you’re sorry!” Williams ranted, before ending with, “You’re a thief, too.”

That was the last straw, and Ramos hit her with a third code violation for verbal abuse, which cost Williams a game to put Osaka up 5-3. An irate Williams argued in vain to tournament referee Brian Earley and got closed out two games later.

The U.S. Open released a statement saying “the chair umpire’s decision was final and not reviewable by the Tournament Referee or the Grand Slam Supervisor who were called to the court at that time.” Williams contends that letter of the law wouldn’t have been followed if she’d been male.

“I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was sexist,” Williams said. “He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’. For me it blows my mind.”

Voir de plus:

Colin Kaepernick, ou le difficile retour du sportif engagé

L’ancien quarterback des San Francisco 49ers est toujours sans équipe, ostracisé pour avoir osé boycotter l’hymne national des Etats-Unis. D’autres sportifs le soutiennent dans son activisme politique

Valérie de Graffenried
Le Temps
15 septembre 2017

Son genou droit posé à terre le 1er septembre 2016 a fait de lui un paria. Ce jour-là, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback des San Francisco 49ers, avait une nouvelle fois décidé de ne pas se lever pour l’hymne national. Coupe afro et regard grave, il était resté dans cette position pour protester contre les violences raciales et les bavures policières qui embrasaient les Etats-Unis. «Je ne vais pas afficher de fierté pour le drapeau d’un pays qui opprime les Noirs. Il y a des cadavres dans les rues et des meurtriers qui s’en tirent avec leurs congés payés», avait-il déclaré.

Plus d’un an après, la polémique reste vive. Son boycott lui vaut toujours d’être marginalisé et tenu à l’écart par la Ligue nationale de football américain (NFL).

Des manifestations en sa faveur

L’affaire rebondit ces jours, à l’occasion des débuts de la saison de la NFL. Sans contrat depuis mars, Colin Kaepernick est de facto un joueur sans équipe, à la recherche d’un nouvel employeur. Un agent libre. Plusieurs manifestations de soutien ont eu lieu ces dernières semaines. Le 24 août dernier, c’est devant le siège de la NFL, à New York, que plusieurs centaines de personnes ont manifesté contre son ostracisme. La NAACP, une organisation de défense des Noirs américains, en était à l’origine. Le 10 septembre, une mobilisation similaire a eu lieu du côté de Chicago.

Plus surprenant, une centaine de policiers new-yorkais ont manifesté ensemble fin août à Brooklyn, tous affublés d’un t-shirt noir avec le hashtag #imwithkap. Le célèbre policier Frank Serpico, 81 ans, qui a dénoncé la corruption généralisée de la police dans les années 1960 et inspiré Al Pacino pour le film Serpico (1973), en faisait partie.

Le soutien de Tommie SmithLes sportifs américains sont nombreux à afficher leur soutien à Colin Kaepernick. C’est le cas notamment des basketteurs Kevin Durant ou Stephen Curry, des Golden State Warriors. «Sa posture et sa protestation ont secoué le pays dans le bon sens du terme. J’espère qu’il reviendra en NFL parce qu’il mérite d’y jouer. Il est au sommet de sa forme et peut rendre une équipe meilleure», vient de souligner Stephen Curry au Charlotte Observer.

La légende du baseball Hank Aaron fait également partie des soutiens inconditionnels de Colin Kaepernick. Sans oublier Tommie Smith, qui lors des Jeux olympiques de Mexico en 1968 avait, sur le podium du 200 mètres, levé son poing ganté de noir contre la ségrégation raciale, avec son comparse John Carlos.

Effet domino

Le geste militant à répétition de Colin Kaepernick, d’abord assis puis agenouillé, a eu un effet domino. Son coéquipier Eric Reid l’avait immédiatement imité la première fois qu’il a mis le genou à terre. Une partie des joueurs des Cleveland Browns continuent, en guise de solidarité, de boycotter l’hymne des Etats-Unis, joué avant chaque rencontre sportive professionnelle.

La footballeuse homosexuelle Megan Rapinoe, championne olympique en 2012 et championne du monde en 2015, avait elle aussi suivi la voie de Colin Kaepernick et posé son genou à terre. Mais depuis que la Fédération américaine de football (US Soccer) a édicté un nouveau règlement, en mars 2017, qui oblige les internationaux à se tenir debout pendant l’hymne, elle est rentrée dans le rang.

Colin Kaepernick lui-même s’était engagé à se lever pour l’hymne pour la saison 2017. Une promesse qui n’a pas pour autant convaincu la NFL de le réintégrer.

Des cochons habillés en policiers

Barack Obama avait pris sa défense; Donald Trump l’a enfoncé. En pleine campagne, le milliardaire new-yorkais avait qualifié son geste d’«exécrable», l’hymne et le drapeau étant sacro-saints aux Etats-Unis. Il a été jusqu’à lui conseiller de «chercher un pays mieux adapté». Les chaussettes à motifs de cochons habillés en policiers que Colin Kaepernick a portées pendant plusieurs entraînements – elles ont été très remarquées – n’ont visiblement pas contribué à le rendre plus sympathique à ses yeux.

Mais ni les menaces de mort ni ses maillots brûlés n’ont calmé le militantisme de Colin Kaepernick. Un militantisme d’ailleurs un peu surprenant et parfois taxé d’opportunisme: métis, de mère blanche et élevé par des parents adoptifs blancs, Colin Kaepernick n’a rallié la cause noire, et le mouvement Black Lives Matter, que relativement tardivement.

Avant Kaepernick, la star de la NBA LeBron James avait défrayé la chronique en portant un t-shirt noir avec en lettres blanches «Je ne peux pas respirer». Ce sont les derniers mots d’un jeune Noir américain asthmatique tué par un policier blanc. Par ailleurs, il avait ouvertement soutenu Hillary Clinton dans sa course à l’élection présidentielle. Timidement, d’autres ont affiché leurs convictions politiques sur des t-shirts, mais sans aller jusqu’au boycott de l’hymne national, un geste très contesté. L’élection de Donald Trump et le drame de Charlottesville provoqué par des suprémacistes blancs ont contribué à favoriser l’émergence de ce genre de protestations.

Le retour des athlètes activistes

Ces comportements signent un retour du sportif engagé, une espèce presque en voie de disparition depuis les années 1960-1970, où de grands noms comme Mohamed Ali, Billie Jean King ou John Carlos ont porté leur militantisme à bras-le-corps.

Au cours des dernières décennies, l’heure n’était pas vraiment à la revendication politique, confirme Orin Starn, professeur d’anthropologie culturelle à l’Université Duke en Caroline du Nord. A partir des années 1980, c’est plutôt l’image du sportif businessman qui a primé, celui qui s’intéresse à ses sponsors, à devenir le meilleur possible, soucieux de ne déclencher aucune polémique. Un sportif lisse avant tout motivé par ses performances et sa carrière. Comme le basketteur Michael Jordan ou le golfeur Tiger Woods.

Élargir le débat au-delà du jeu

«Des sportifs semblent désormais plus facilement se mettre en avant pour évoquer leurs convictions, que ce soient des championnes de tennis ou des footballeurs. Mais ces athlètes activistes restent encore minoritaires. Peu ont suivi Kaepernick lorsqu’il s’est agenouillé pendant l’hymne national. La plupart se focalisent sur leur sport, ils ne sont pas vraiment désireux de jouer les trouble-fête», précise l’anthropologue. Pour lui, ce nouvel activisme reste néanmoins réjouissant.

«Dans notre culture, ces sportifs sont des dieux, qui peuvent exercer une influence positive. Ils peuvent être un bon exemple d’engagement civique pour des jeunes.» Et puis, ajoute Orin Starn, une bonne controverse comme l’affaire Kaepernick permet de pimenter un peu le sport et d’élargir le débat au-delà du jeu. Colin Kaepernick ne commentera pas: il refuse les interviews. Mais il continue, sur Twitter, de faire vivre son militantisme et ses convictions. Egal à lui-même.

Voir de même:

Colin Kaepernick, le footballeur américain militant contre les violences policières, devient l’un des visages de Nike

En choisissant le joueur pour sa campagne publicitaire, l’équipementier prend parti dans la mobilisation contre les violences policières infligées aux Noirs américains, qui irrite au plus haut point Donald Trump.

Le Monde

Le joueur de football américain Colin Kaepernick, à l’origine en 2016 du mouvement de boycott de l’hymne américain, est devenu l’un des visages de la dernière campagne de publicité de l’équipementier sportif Nike. Il apparaît aux côtés de la reine du tennis féminin Serena Williams et de la mégastar de la NBA LeBron James dans cette campagne, qui coïncide avec le 30e anniversaire du célèbre slogan « Just do it » de la marque à la virgule.

Sur son compte Twitter, Colin Kaepernick a publié lundi 3 septembre le visuel montrant en gros plan son visage en noir et blanc avec le message « Croyez en quelque chose. Même si cela signifie tout sacrifier ».

Depuis qu’il a lancé son mouvement pour protester contre les violences policières exercées à l’encontre des Noirs américains en posant un genou à terre lors de l’hymne américain, Colin Kaepernick est devenu une personnalité controversée aux Etats-Unis, célébrée par les uns et détestée par les autres, notamment par le président américain Donald Trump, entré en guerre ouverte à l’automne dernier contre les joueurs protestataires.

Lire aussi :   La révolution Kaepernick, ou comment Black Lives Matter a fait école dans les stades américains

Entrée sur le terrain politique pour Nike

Colin Kaepernick n’a pas retrouvé d’équipe depuis l’expiration de son contrat avec San Francisco au début de 2017 et a attaqué en justice la Ligue nationale de football américain (NFL), qu’il accuse de collusion pour l’empêcher de poursuivre sa carrière.

Il est sous contrat depuis 2011 avec Nike qui, à la différence de la plupart de ses autres partenaires, n’a pas résilié son contrat de sponsoring. A trois jours du coup d’envoi de la saison 2018 de NFL, Nike frappe fort en termes de marketing. L’équipementier prend surtout clairement parti – et c’est une première pour une entreprise de cette taille – sur une question qui divise le pays depuis près de deux ans et qui irrite au plus haut point Donald Trump.

Sur le site Internet de la chaîne ESPN, Gino Fisanotti, dirigeant de Nike, a lancé :

« Nous croyons que Colin est l’un des sportifs les plus charismatiques de sa génération, qui utilise la puissance du sport pour faire bouger le monde. »

Le grand groupe américain qui fournit les équipements et les tenues des 32 équipes engagées en NFL et a renouvelé au mois de mars son partenariat pour huit ans avec l’association d’équipes professionnelles de football américain va encore plus loin. Il a prolongé son contrat de partenariat avec Colin Kaepernick et s’est engagé à créer une basket à son nom, honneur suprême pour un sportif professionnel, tout en finançant sa fondation d’aide à l’enfance.

Trump face à la fronde des sportifs

La marque connue pour ses campagnes de publicité novatrices s’expose aussi au courroux de Donald Trump. S’il n’a pas encore envoyé l’un de ses tweets assassins, le président américain mène depuis l’automne dernier une bataille personnelle contre ces joueurs de football américain qui, inspirés par Colin Kaepernick, posent un genou à terre ou lèvent un poing, tête baissée, durant l’hymne américain joué avant chaque match.

Pour Donald Trump et une partie de l’opinion publique américaine, ces gestes sont antipatriotiques, une insulte aux militaires qui ont servi et trouvé la mort sous le drapeau américain. Le président avait demandé aux propriétaires d’équipes de les sanctionner, voire de les licencier.

Lire aussi :   Après le boycott de l’hymne américain, la NFL décide d’obliger les joueurs à rester debout

La NFL pensait avoir désamorcé une réédition de la crise de 2017, qui a pénalisé ses recettes publicitaires et les audiences TV, en édictant au printemps dernier une réglementation autorisant les joueurs à protester à condition qu’ils restent dans les vestiaires pendant l’hymne. Mais cette réglementation a depuis été suspendue pour éviter les recours en justice. C’était avant que Nike ne fasse resurgir Kaepernick et son combat sur le devant de la scène et ne relance de plus belle la polémique.

« Je pense que tous les athlètes, tous les humains et tous les Afro-Américains devraient être totalement reconnaissants et honorés » par les manifestations lancées par les anciens joueurs de la NFL Colin Kaepernick et Eric Reid, a déclaré Serena Williams.

Lire aussi :   Donald Trump ouvre un nouveau front intérieur, cette fois-ci contre le monde du sport

Réplique sur les réseaux sociaux

Les réseaux sociaux n’ont pas tardé à réagir, les partisans de Donald Trump lançant une campagne appelant au boycottage ou à la destruction des produits de l’équipementier, avec l’apparition des hashtags #BoycottNike #JustBurnIt. L’ingénieur du son de John Rich, du duo de musique country Big and Rich, aurait ainsi découpé ses chaussettes Nike, alors qu’un certain Sean Clancy postait sur Twitter la vidéo de l’immolation par le feu d’une paire de chaussures de sport. « D’abord la NFL me force à choisir entre mon sport préféré et mon pays. J’ai choisi mon pays. Puis Nike me force à choisir entre mes chaussures préférées et mon pays », a-t-il écrit. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle invite, elle, à mettre à la poubelle les vêtements de la marque.

Des prises de position aussitôt tournées en ridicule par d’autres internautes, qui se moquent notamment du fait que les partisans du président détruisent des équipements qu’ils ont payés – souvent au prix fort. Ainsi Adolph Joseph DeLaGarza, joueur de football (soccer) du Dynamo de Houston, relève le manque de logique de la démarche : « Donc, en ne voulant pas soutenir ou promouvoir @Nike, vous découpez des chaussettes déjà payées et PUIS vous tweetez @Nike. Logique ! »

Voir enfin:

Nike’s « Just do it » slogan is based on a murderer’s last words, says Dan Wieden

Marcus Fairs
Deezen|
Design Indaba 2015: the advertising executive behind Nike‘s « Just do it » slogan has told Dezeen how he based one of the world’s most recognisable taglines on the words of a convict facing a firing squad (+ interview).Dan Wieden, co-founder of advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, described the surprising genesis of the slogan in an interview at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town last month. »I was recalling a man in Portland, » Wieden told Dezeen, remembering how in 1988 he was struggling to come up with a line that would tie together a number of different TV commercials the fledgling agency had created for the sportswear brand. »He grew up in Portland, and ran around doing criminal acts in the country, and was in Utah where he murdered a man and a woman, and was sent to jail and put before a firing squad. »Wieden continued: « They asked him if he had any final thoughts and he said: ‘Let’s do it’. I didn’t like ‘Let’s do it’ so I just changed it to ‘Just do it’. »The murderer was Gary Gilmore, who had grown up in Portland, Oregan – the city that is home to both Nike and Wieden+Kennedy. In 1976 Gilmore robbed and murdered two men in Utah and was executed by firing squad the following year (by some accounts Gilmore actually said « Let’s do this » just before he was shot).

Nike’s first commercial featuring the « Just do it » slogan

Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who was sceptical about the need for advertising, initially rejected the idea. « Phil Knight said, ‘We don’t need that shit’, » Wieden said. « I said ‘Just trust me on this one.’ So they trusted me and it went big pretty quickly. »

The slogan, together with Nike’s « Swoosh » logo, helped propel the sportswear brand into a global giant, overtaking then-rival Reebok, and is still in use almost three decades after it was coined.

Campaign magazine described it as « arguably the best tagline of the 20th century, » saying it « cut across age and class barriers, linked Nike with success – and made consumers believe they could be successful too just by wearing its products. »

The magazine continued: « Like all great taglines, it was both simple and memorable. It also suggested something more than its literal meaning, allowing people to interpret it as they wished and, in doing so, establish a personal connection with the brand. »

Dan Wieden

Born in 1945, Wieden formed Wieden+Kennedy in Portaland with co-founder David Kennedy in 1982. The company now has offices around the world and has « billings in excess of $3 billion, » Wieden said.

Wieden revealed in his lecture at Design Indaba that shares in the privately owned agency had recently been put into a trust, making it « impossible » for the firm to be sold.

« I’ve sworn in private and in public that we will never, ever sell the agency, » Wieden said. « It just isn’t fair that once sold, a handful of people will walk off with great gobs of money and those left behind will face salary cuts or be fired, and the culture will be destroyed. »

He added: « The partners and I got together a couple of years ago and put our shares in a trust, whose only obligation is to never ever, under no circumstances, sell the agency.”

Here is an edited transcript of our interview with Dan Wieden:


Marcus Fairs: You’re probably bored to death of this question but tell me how the Nike slogan came about.

Dan Wieden: So, it was the first television campaign we’d done with some money behind, so we actually came up with five different 30 second spots. The night before I got a little concerned because there were five different teams working, so there wasn’t an overlying sensibility to them all. Some were funny, some were solemn. So I thought you know, we need a tagline to pull this stuff together, which we didn’t really believe in at the time but I just felt it was going to be too fragmented.

So I stayed up that night before and I think I wrote about four or five ideas. I narrowed it down to the last one, which was « Just do it ». The reason I did that one was funny because I was recalling a man in Portland.

He grew up in Portland, and ran around doing criminal acts in the country, and was in Utah where he murdered a man and a woman, and was sent to jail and put before a firing squad. And they asked him if he had any final thoughts and he said: « Let’s do it ».

And for some reason I went: « Now damn. How do you do that? How do you ask for an ultimate challenge that you are probably going to lose, but you call it in? » So I thought, well, I didn’t like « Let’s do it » so I just changed it to « Just do it ».

I showed it to some of the folks in the agency before we went to present to Nike and they said « We don’t need that shit ». I went to Nike and [Nike co-founder] Phil Knight said, « We don’t need that shit ». I said « Just trust me on this one. » So they trusted me and it went big pretty quickly.

Marcus Fairs: Most of Dezeen’s audience is involved in making products, whether it’s trainers or cars or whatever. What is the relationship between what you do and the product?

Dan Wieden: Well if you notice in all the Nike work – I mean there is work that shows individual shoes, but a lot of the work that we do is more talking about the role of sports or athletics. And Nike became strong because it wasn’t just trying to peddle products; it was trying to peddle ideas and the mental and physical options you can take. So it was really unusual and it worked very well.

Marcus Fairs: And what about other clients? What do you do if the client just wants you to show the product?

Dan Wieden: Well, it depends on the client as well. But you have to be adding something to a product that is beyond just taste, or fit, or any of that kind of stuff. You have to have a sensibility about the product, a sort of spirit of the product almost.

Marcus Fairs: And do you turn down brands that have product which you don’t think is good enough?

Dan Wieden: Oh sure. And we fire clients!

Voir enfin:

September 7, 2018

Last year, Naomi Osaka commanded the world’s attention when she bested the U.S. Open’s defending champion Angelique Kerber in a stunning upset in the very first round. This year, the 20-year-old upstart has a shot at claiming the title herself as she challenges six-time champion Serena Williams in a historic final on Saturday.

In what Osaka termed her “dream match” against her idol, Saturday’s game pits tennis’ rising star against one of the game’s ultimate greats — if Williams wins she would tie Margaret Court for the overall record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

The two have competed only once before, and it’s the newcomer who holds the upper hand. As Serena herself put it, Osaka is “a really good, talented player. Very dangerous.”

Ahead of Saturday’s face off, here’s what to know about the new kid on the block.

A first for Japan

For her country, Osaka has already succeeded in a major milestone: She is the first Japanese woman to reach the final of any Grand Slam. And she’s currently her country’s top-ranked player.

Yet in Japan, where racial homogeneity is prized and ethnic background comprises a big part of cultural belonging, Osaka is considered hafu or half Japanese. Born to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, Osaka grew up in New York. She holds dual American and Japanese passports, but plays under Japan’s flag.

Some hafu, like Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto, have spoken publicly about the discrimination the term can confer. “I wonder how a hafu can represent Japan,” one Facebook user wrote of Miyamoto, according to Al Jazeera America’s translation.

For her part, Osaka has spoken repeatedly about being proud to represent Japan, as well as Haiti. But in a 2016 USA Today interview she also noted, “When I go to Japan people are confused. From my name, they don’t expect to see a black girl.”

On the court, Osaka has largely been embraced as one of her country’s rising stars. Off court, she says she’s still trying to learn the language.

“I can understand way more Japanese than I can speak,” she said.

‘Like no one ever was’

In her press conferences, which for now are English only, Osaka has earned a reputation for her youthful candor and nerdy sense of humor.

In response to a reporter asking about her ambitions, she said, “to be the very best, like no one ever was.” After an awkward pause, she clarified, “I’m sorry; that’s the Pokémon theme song. But, yeah, to be the very best, and go as far as I can go.”

At Indian Wells this year, where Osaka stunned her higher-ranked opponents and claimed victory after searing past the world’s number one Simona Halep in the semis and besting Daria Kasatkina in the finals, she proved herself no longer just the underdog. She then proceeded to give what she described as “the worst acceptance speech of all time.”

“Hello, hi, I am—okay never mind,” it began, before a litany of thank you’s petered out into giggles.

But don’t let her soft-spoken persona or goofy interviews fool you. On court, Osaka brings the heat, uncorking both ferocious power and an aggressive baseline game.

W.W.S.D.

Earlier this year, Osaka reveled a four-word mantra keeps her steady through tough matches: “What would Serena do?”

Her idolization of the 23 Grand Slam-winning titan is well-known.

“She’s the main reason why I started playing tennis,” Osaka told the New York Times.

When the two played in Miami in March, six months after Serena nearly died giving birth, Osaka won. Then she Instagrammed a photo of her shaking hands with her idol, captioned only, “Omg.”

After Osaka cleared the U.S. Open semis on Thursday and it became clear she was not only headed to her first Grand Slam final but was also about to face her hero once more, she was asked if she had anything to say to Serena. Her message? “I love you.”

Voir par ailleurs:

Baltimore Residents Blame Record-High Murder Rate On Lower Police Presence
NPR
December 31, 2017

LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:

This year, Baltimore has had well over 300 murders for the third year in a row. Some activists say the high murder rate is because police have backed off and relaxed patrols in neighborhoods like the one where Freddie Gray was arrested. Gray was a black man who died while he was in the back of a Baltimore police van in 2015. Reverend Kenji Scott lives in Baltimore. He’s held positions in local city government and is a pastor and community activist.

KINJI SCOTT: When you think about young people who are out here facing these economic challenges and are homeless and live in places that are uncertain and you’re a parent, you’re scared, not just for yourself really but for your children. I mean, the average age of a homicide victim in Baltimore City right now is 31 years old. We had a young man who attended one of the prime high schools, Poly. His name was Jonathan Tobash, and he was 19 years old, was a Morgan student. And he was killed on his way to the store. That’s the state of Baltimore right now.

FRAYER: What do you see? Is this something that happens in the middle of the night, or is this something that when you live there you see this?

SCOTT: You see this all the time. You’re talking about homicides in the middle of the night. No. The average homicide in Baltimore happens during the day. We have broad daylight shootings all over the city. You’ve had shootings and people have been shot, gunned down and killed in front of the police station.

FRAYER: After the death of Freddie Gray, yourself, families of victims, didn’t you want police to back off?

SCOTT: No. That represented our progressive, our activists, our liberal journalists, our politicians. But it did not represent the overall community because we know for a fact that around the time that Freddie Gray was killed, we start to see homicides increase. We had five homicides in that neighborhood while we were protesting. What I wanted to see happen was that people would build a trust relationship with our police department so that they would feel more comfortable with having conversations with the police about crime in their neighborhood because they would feel safer. So we wanted the police there. We wanted them engaging the community. We didn’t want them there beating the hell out of us. We didn’t want that.

FRAYER: Do you think your experience with high murder rate in Baltimore is unique?

SCOTT: No, it’s not. It’s not. I lost my brother in St. Louis in 2004. I just lost my cousin in Chicago. No, it’s not unique, and that’s the horrible thing.

FRAYER: It’s been three and a half years since Ferguson, Mo., since the killing of Michael Brown, since the Black Lives Matter movement was born to demand reforms to policing. What did they put on the table, and has it worked?

SCOTT: The primary thrust nationwide is what President Obama wanted to do – focus on building relationships with police departments in major cities where there has been a history of conflict. That hasn’t happened. We don’t see that. I don’t know a city that I’ve heard of – Baltimore for certain. We’ve not seen any changes in those relationships. What we have seen was that the police has distanced themselves, and the community has distanced themselves even further. So there is – the divide has really intensified. It hasn’t decreased. And of course, we want to delineate the whole concept of the culture of bad policing that exists. Nobody denies that. But as a result of this, we don’t see the policing – the level of policing we need in our community to keep the crime down in these cities that we’re seeing bleed to death.

FRAYER: Are you optimistic for 2018?

SCOTT: I’m not because as I look at the conclusion of 2017, these same cities – St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Chicago – these same chocolate (ph), these same black cities are still bleeding to death, and we’re still burying young men in these cities. I want to be hopeful. I’m a preacher. I want to be hopeful. But as it stands, no, not until we really have a real conversation with our frontline officers in the heart of our black communities that does not involve people who are, quote, unquote, « leaders. » We need the frontline police officers, and we need the heart of the black community to step to the forefront of this discussion. That’s what’s important. And that’s when we’re going to see a decrease in crime.

FRAYER: Reverend Kinji Scott in Baltimore, thank you very much.

SCOTT: Thank you.


14 juillet/229e: De la Bastille au goulag (Looking back at Charles Krauthammer’s reflections on the revolution in France)

14 juillet, 2018

The Whore of Babylon (Hans Burgkmair the Elder, 1523)The Fireside angel (Max Ernst, 1937)

Liberty leading the people (Yue Minjun, 1996)
Puis je vis monter de la mer une bête qui avait dix cornes et sept têtes, et sur ses cornes dix diadèmes, et sur ses têtes des noms de blasphème. La bête que je vis était semblable à un léopard; ses pieds étaient comme ceux d’un ours, et sa gueule comme une gueule de lion. Le dragon lui donna sa puissance, et son trône, et une grande autorité. Et je vis l’une de ses têtes comme blessée à mort; mais sa blessure mortelle fut guérie. Et toute la terre était dans l’admiration derrière la bête. Et ils adorèrent le dragon, parce qu’il avait donné l’autorité à la bête; ils adorèrent la bête, en disant: Qui est semblable à la bête, et qui peut combattre contre elle? Et il lui fut donné une bouche qui proférait des paroles arrogantes et des blasphèmes; et il lui fut donné le pouvoir d’agir pendant quarante-deux mois. Et elle ouvrit sa bouche pour proférer des blasphèmes contre Dieu, pour blasphémer son nom, et son tabernacle, et ceux qui habitent dans le ciel. Et il lui fut donné de faire la guerre aux saints, et de les vaincre. Et il lui fut donné autorité sur toute tribu, tout peuple, toute langue, et toute nation. Et tous les habitants de la terre l’adoreront, ceux dont le nom n’a pas été écrit dès la fondation du monde dans le livre de vie de l’agneau qui a été immolé. Si quelqu’un a des oreilles, qu’il entende! Apocalypse 13: 1-7
Et je vis une femme assise sur une bête écarlate, pleine de noms de blasphème, ayant sept têtes et dix cornes. Cette femme était vêtue de pourpre et d’écarlate, et parée d’or, de pierres précieuses et de perles. Elle tenait dans sa main une coupe d’or, remplie d’abominations et des impuretés de sa prostitution. Sur son front était écrit un nom, un mystère: Babylone la grande, la mère des impudiques et des abominations de la terre. Et je vis cette femme ivre du sang des saints et du sang des témoins de Jésus. Apocalypse 17: 2-6
Une nation ne se régénère que dans un bain de sang. Saint Just
L’arbre de la liberté doit être revivifié de temps en temps par le sang des patriotes et des tyrans. Jefferson
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons … La Marseillaise
La guillotine n’était qu’un épouvantail qui brisait la résistance active. Cela ne nous suffit pas. (…) Nous ne devons pas seulement « épouvanter » les capitalistes, c’est-à-dire leur faire sentir la toute-puissance de l’Etat prolétarien et leur faire oublier l’idée d’une résistance active contre lui. Nous devons briser aussi leur résistance passive, incontestablement plus dangereuse et plus nuisible encore. Nous ne devons pas seulement briser toute résistance, quelle qu’elle soit. Nous devons encore obliger les gens à travailler dans le cadre de la nouvelle organisation de l’Etat. Lénine
La reine appartient à plusieurs catégories victimaires préférentielles; elle n’est pas seulement reine mais étrangère. Son origine autrichienne revient sans cesse dans les accusations populaires. Le tribunal qui la condamne est très fortement influencé par la foule parisienne. Notre premier stéréotype est également présent: on retrouve dans la révolution tous les traits caractéristiques des grandes crises qui favorisent les persécutions collectives. (…) Je ne prétends pas que cette façon de penser doive se substituer partout à nos idées sur la Révolution française. Elle n’en éclaire pas moins d’un jour intéressant une accusation souvent passée sous silence mais qui figure explicitement au procès de la reine, celui d’avoir commis un inceste avec son fils. René Girard
Le communisme, c’est le nazisme, le mensonge en plus. Jean-François Revel
Il est malheureux que le Moyen-Orient ait rencontré pour la première fois la modernité occidentale à travers les échos de la Révolution française. Progressistes, égalitaristes et opposés à l’Eglise, Robespierre et les jacobins étaient des héros à même d’inspirer les radicaux arabes. Les modèles ultérieurs — Italie mussolinienne, Allemagne nazie, Union soviétique — furent encore plus désastreux. Ce qui rend l’entreprise terroriste des islamistes aussi dangereuse, ce n’est pas tant la haine religieuse qu’ils puisent dans des textes anciens — souvent au prix de distorsions grossières —, mais la synthèse qu’ils font entre fanatisme religieux et idéologie moderne. Ian Buruma et Avishai Margalit
En dépit du fait que tous les historiens sérieux, fussent-ils ardemment républicains, conviennent que la Révolution française pose un problème, l’imagerie officielle, celle des manuels scolaires du primaire et du secondaire, celle de la télévision, montre les événements de 1789 et des années suivantes comme le moment fondateur de notre société, en gommant tout ce qu’on veut cacher : la Terreur, la persécution religieuse, la dictature d’une minorité, le vandalisme artistique, etc. Aujourd’hui, on loue 1789 en reniant 1793. On veut bien de la Déclaration des Droits de l’homme, mais pas de la Loi des suspects. Mais comment démêler 1789 de 1793, quand on sait que le phénomène terroriste commence dès 1789 ? (…) L’idée de base du Livre noir de la Révolution est de montrer cette face de la réalité qui n’est jamais montrée, et rappeler qu’il y a toujours eu une opposition à la Révolution française, mais sans trahir l’Histoire. Qu’on le veuille ou non, qu’on l’aime ou non, la Révolution, c’est un pan de l’Histoire de la France et des Français. On ne l’effacera pas: au moins faut-il la comprendre. Jean Sévillia
The painting which I did after the defeat of the Republicans was L’ange du foyer (Fireside angel). This is, of course, an ironic title for a clumsy figure devastating everything that gets in its way. At the time, this was my impression of what was happening in the world, and I think I was right. Max Ernst (1948)
The war began in July 1936, when General Francisco- Franco led a revolt against the Spanish Republic. The Spanish Left had won a parliamentary majority but was unable to restrain those among them who were deter-mined that their turn in power should be used to destroy the Right. Franco’s revolt became a civil war, and Franco received the support of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, which went so far as to send troops — using the Spanish war to try out new weapons and tactics. The Republicans were supported by volunteers from all over the world, as well as by Stalin’s Soviet Union. Horrifying and sadistic atrocities were committed by both sides After Franco’s victory the German painter Max Ernst created his spectral L’ange du foyer (Fireside angel), an apocalyptic monster bursting with destructive energy, a King-Kong-like Angel of Death spreading fear and terror. All art
The people now armed themselves with such weapons as they could find in armourer shops & privated houses, and with bludgeons, & were roaming all night through all parts of the city without any decided & practicable object. The next day the states press on the King to send away the troops, to permit the Bourgeois of Paris to arm for the preservation of order in the city, & offer to send a deputation from their body to tranquilize them. He refuses all their propositions. A committee of magistrates & electors of the city are appointed, by their bodies, to take upon them its government. The mob, now openly joined by the French guards, force the prisons of St. Lazare, release all the prisoners, & take a great store of corn, which they carry to the corn market. Here they get some arms, & the French guards begin to to form & train them. The City committee determine to raise 48,000 Bourgeois, or rather to restrain their numbers to 48,000, On the 16th they send one of their numbers (Monsieur de Corny whom we knew in America) to the Hotel des Invalides to ask arms for their Garde Bourgeoise. He was followed by, or he found there, a great mob. The Governor of the Invalids came out & represented the impossibility of his delivering arms without the orders of those from whom he received them. De Corny advised the people then to retire, retired himself, & the people took possession of the arms. It was remarkable that not only the invalids themselves made no opposition, but that a body of 5000 foreign troops, encamped with 400 yards, never stirred. Monsieur De Corny and five others were then sent to ask arms of Monsieur de Launai, Governor of the Bastille. They found a great collection of people already before the place, & they immediately planted a flag of truce, which was answered by a like flag hoisted on the parapet. The depositition prevailed on the people to fall back a little, advanced themselves to make their demand of the Governor. & in that instant a discharge from the Bastille killed 4 people of those nearest to the deputies. The deputies retired, the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by 100 men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges & had never been taken. How they got in, has as yet been impossible to discover. Those, who pretend to have been of the party tell so many different stories as to destroy the credit of them all. They took all the arms, discharged the prisoners & such of the garrison as were not killed in the first moment of fury, carried the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to the Greve (the place of public execution) cut off their heads, & sent them through the city in triumph to the Palais royal… I have the honor to be with great esteem & respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant. Thomas Jefferson (lettre à John Jay, 19 juillet 1789)
Les journées les plus décisives de la Révolution française sont contenues, sont impliquées dans ce premier fait qui les enveloppe : le 14 juillet 1789. Et voilà pourquoi aussi c’est la vraie date révolutionnaire, celle qui fait tressaillir la France ! On comprend que ce jour-là notre Nouveau Testament nous a été donné et que tout doit en découler. Léon Gambetta (14 juillet 1872)
Les légitimistes s’évertuent alors à démonter le mythe du 14 Juillet, à le réduire à l’expression violente d’une foule (pas du peuple) assoiffée de sang (les meurtres des derniers défenseurs de la Bastille malgré la promesse de protection) allant jusqu’au sacrilège du cadavre (des têtes dont celle du gouverneur Launay parcourant Paris plantée au bout d’une pique) (…) la Bastille n’était pas un bagne, occupée qu’elle était par quelques prisonniers sans envergure, elle n’était pas la forteresse du pouvoir royal absolu tourné contre le peuple à travers l’instrumentalisation des canons, elle n’était pas la forteresse à partir de laquelle la reconquête de la ville pouvait être envisagée puisqu’elle n’était défendue que par quelques soldats qui du reste se sont rendus en fin d’après-midi. Le mythe de la prise de la Bastille tombe de lui-même pour les monarchistes et même plus il est une création politique construisant artificiellement le mythe du peuple s’émancipant, plus encore il apparaît comme annonciateur de la Terreur, justifiant les surnoms de « saturnales républicaines », de « fête de l’assassinat »… Pierrick Hervé
Dans les grandes démocraties du monde, la Grande-Bretagne, l’Allemagne, les Etats-unis, le Canada, les fêtes nationales se fêtent sans défilé militaire. Ce sont les dictatures qui font les défilés militaires. C’est l’URSS, c’est la Chine, c’est l’Iran; ce sont des pays non démocratiques. Et la France est l’une des seules démocraties à organiser sa fête nationale autour d’un défilé militaire: ça n’a aucune justification même historique. Sylvain Garel (élu vert de Paris, 02.07.10)
Le défilé du 14 Juillet tel que nous le connaissons aujourd’hui n’a été instauré qu’en 1880, grâce à un vote de l’Assemblée nationale faisant du 14 juillet le jour de la Fête nationale française. La jeune IIIe République cherche à créer un imaginaire républicain commun pour souder le régime, après des décennies d’instabilité (Directoire, Consulat, premier et second Empire, IIe République …). C’est dans la même période que la Marseillaise sera adoptée comme hymne national. La date a pourtant fait polémique au sein de l’hémicycle. Pouvait-on adopter comme acte fondateur de la Nation la sanglante prise de la Bastille? Les conservateurs s’y opposent. Le rapporteur de la loi, Benjamin Raspail, propose alors une autre date : le 14 juillet 1790, jour de la Fête de la Fédération. Le premier anniversaire de la prise de la Bastille avait été célébré à Paris par le défilé sur le Champ-de-Mars de milliers de «fédérés», députés et délégués venus de toute la France. Louis XVI avait prêté serment à la Nation, et avait juré de protéger la Constitution. (…) Convaincue, l’Assemblée nationale a donc adopté le 14 Juillet comme Fête nationale, mais sans préciser si elle se réfèrait à 1789 ou 1790. (…) La IIIe République est née en 1870 après la défaite de l’Empereur Napoléon III à Sedan contre la Prusse. La France y a perdu l’Alsace et la Lorraine, ce qui sera vécu comme un traumatisme national. Dix ans après la défaite, le régime veut montrer que le pays s’est redressé. Jules Ferry, Léon Gambetta et Léon Say remettent aux militaires défilant à Longchamp de nouveaux drapeaux et étendards, remplaçant ceux de 1870. L’armée est valorisée comme protectrice de la Nation et de la République. Hautement symbolique, ce premier défilé du 14 Juillet permet également de montrer à l’opinion nationale et internationale le redressement militaire de la France, qui compte bien reconquérir les territoires perdus. Le caractère militaire du 14 Juillet est définitivement acquis lors du «Défilé de la victoire» de 1919 sur les Champs-Elysées. Le Figaro (16.07.11)
The line from from the Bastille to the gulag is not straight, but the connection is unmistakable. Modern totalitarianism has its roots in 1789. Indeed, the French Revolution was such a model for future revolutions that it redefined the word. That is why 1776 has long been treated as a kind of pseudo-revolution, as Irving Kristol pointed out in a prescient essay written during America’s confused and embarrassed bicentennial celebration of 1776. The American Revolution was utterly lacking in the messianic, bloody-minded idealism of the French. It rearranged the constitutional furniture. Its revolutionary leaders died in their own beds. What kind of a revolution was that?” The French Revolution failed …. because it tried to create the impossible: a regime both of liberty and of “patriotic” state power. The history of the revolution is proof that these goals are incompatible. The American Revolution succeeded because it chose one, liberty. The Russian Revolution became deranged when it chose the other, state power. The French Revolution, to its credit and sorrow, wanted both. (T)heir revolution, with its glamour and influence, did not only popularize, it deified revolution. There are large parts of the world where even today the worst brutality and arbitrariness are justified by the mere invocation of the word revolution – without reference to any other human value. For the Chinese authorities to shoot a dissident in the back of the head, they have only to show that he is a “counterrevolutionary.” The fate then, of all messianic revolution – revolution, that is, on the French model – is that in the end it can justify itself and its crimes only by reference to itself. In Saint-Just’s famous formulation: “The Republic consists in the extermination of everything that opposes it.” This brutal circularity of logic is properly called not revolution but nihilism. Charles Krauthammer (1989)
Attention: une fête peut en cacher une autre !
En ces temps désormais dits post-modernes et post-historiques …
Où sous le poids du progressisme le plus échevelé et d’une réalité migratoire proprement apocalyptique …
Les idées de nation et de patriotisme sont passés de gros mots à fictions objectives …
Et en ce jour où entre défilé militaire soviétique et débauche de drapeaux nationaux en d’autres temps proscrits …
Nous Français ne savons plus très bien ce que nous sommes censés fêter …
Comment ne pas repenser …
A ces fortes paroles du chroniqueur américain qui vient tout juste de disparaitre Charles Krauthammer
Rappelant lors du bicentenaire de la Révolution française …
La longue filiation pressentie dès 1937 par le peintre allemand Marx Ernst
Mais déjà prophétisée 2 000 ans plus tôt par l’Apocalypse …
Et hélas bien confirmée par l’histoire depuis …
Entre la Bastille et le goulag ?

A FAILED REVOLUTION
Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
July 14, 1989

Two hundred years ago today a mob stormed the Bastille and freed its seven prisoners: four forgers, two lunatics and an aristocrat imprisoned at his family’s request for « libertinism. » It might have been eight had not the Marquis de Sade — whose cell contained a desk, a wardrobe, a dressing table, tapestries, mattresses, velvet cushions, a collection of hats, three kinds of fragrances, night lamps and 133 books — left a week earlier.

When the battle was lost, the governor of the Bastille, a minor functionary named Bernard-Rene’ de Launay, could have detonated a mountain of gunpowder, destroying himself, the mob, and much of the surrounding faubourg Saint-Antoine. He chose instead to surrender. His reward was to be paraded through the street and cut down with knives and pistol shots. A pastry cook named Desnot, declining a sword, sawed off his head with a pocket knife. For the French Revolution, it was downhill from there on.

Now, after 200 years, the French themselves seem finally to be coming to terms with that reality. There is a tentativeness to this week’s bicentennial celebration that suggests that French enthusiasm for the revolution has tempered. This circumspection stems from two decades of revisionist scholarship that stresses the reformist impulses of the ancien regime and the murderous impulses of the revolutionary regime that followed.

Simon Schama’s « Citizens » is but the culmination of this trend. But the receptivity to such revisionism stems from something deeper: the death of doctrinaire socialism, which in France had long claimed direct descent from the revolution. Disillusion at the savage failure of the revolutions in our time — Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese — has allowed reconsideration of the event that was father to them all. One might say that romance with revolution died with Solzhenitsyn.

The line from the Bastille to the gulag is not straight, but the connection is unmistakable. Modern totalitarianism has its roots in 1789. « The spirit of the French Revolution has always been present in the social life of our country, » said Gorbachev during his visit to France last week. Few attempts at ingratiation have been more true or more damning.

Indeed, the French Revolution was such a model for future revolutions that it redefined the word. That is why 1776 has long been treated as a kind of pseudo-revolution, as Irving Kristol pointed out in a prescient essay written during America’s confused and embarrassed bicentennial celebration of 1976. The American Revolution was utterly lacking in the messianic, bloody-minded idealism of the French. It rearranged the constitutional furniture. Its revolutionary leaders died in their own beds. What kind of revolution was that? Thirteen years later, Kristol’s answer has become conventional wisdom: a successful revolution, perhaps the only successful revolution of our time.

The French Revolution failed, argues Schama, because it tried to create the impossible: a regime both of liberty and of « patriotic » state power. The history of the revolution is proof that these goals are incompatible. The American Revolution succeeded because it chose one, liberty. The Russian Revolution became deranged when it chose the other, state power. The French Revolution, to its credit and sorrow, wanted both.

Its great virtue was to have loosed the idea of liberty upon Europe. Its great vice was to have created the model, the monster, of the mobilized militarized state — revolutionary France invented universal conscription, that scourge of the 20th century only now beginning to wither away.

The French cannot be blamed for everything, alas, but their revolution, with its glamour and influence, did not only popularize, it deified revolution. There are large parts of the world where even today the worst brutality and arbitrariness are justified by the mere invocation of the word revolution — without reference to any other human value. For the Chinese authorities to shoot a dissident in the back of the head, they have only to show that he is a « counterrevolutionary. » In Cuba, Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, erstwhile hero of the revolution, is condemned to death in a show trial and upon receiving his sentence confesses his sins and declares that at his execution his « last thought would be of Fidel and of the great revolution. »

The fate, then, of all messianic revolution — revolution, that is, on the French model — is that in the end it can justify itself and its crimes only by reference to itself. In Saint-Just’s famous formulation: « The Republic consists in the extermination of everything that opposes it. » This brutal circularity of logic is properly called not revolution but nihilism.

Voir par ailleurs:

The French Revolution

Quartz

July 14, 2018

Bloody beginnings and a long legacy


July 14 marks the 229th anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille and the symbolic start of the French Revolution. The bloody revolt toppled the 200-year-old Bourbon dynasty, and ushered in a radical new government, reshaping European history forever.

The French Revolution brought the world the terror of the guillotine and the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars. But in its radical reimagining of society, it swept away the conventions and structures that had governed France since the end of the Roman era, and introduced systems based on the enlightenment principles of reason and science.

Some of those ideas persist to this day—like the metric system, which emerged from the National Assembly’s desire to standardize weights and measures. Other, equally ambitious ideas, like the Republican calendar—with 10 months and 10-day weeks—somehow failed to catch on. More enduring were the radical concepts of the innate rights of men and women that run throughout western systems of law, philosophy, and political theory.

So on this Bastille Day, pop open the champagne, spread the brie thick, and run a kilometer or deux to celebrate two centuries of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

By the digits

693: Deputies, out of the 745 in the National Assembly, who voted to convict King Louis XVI of treason on January 15, 1793. None voted to acquit. He was beheaded six days later.

16,594: Death sentences given to counter-revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror of 1793-94.

300,000: Estimated total number of French aristocrats, or 1% of the population, in 1789.

800: Estimated different standards for weights and measures in France before the introduction of the metric system.

100: Seconds in the metric minute, used for 17 months during the French Revolution.

7: Countries that don’t use the metric system as the official system of weights and measures. (Myanmar, Liberia, Palau, Micronesia, Samoa, the Marshall Islands, and the United States.)

fun fact!

Interstate 19 in Arizona is the only stretch of federal highway in the US to use kilometers exclusively. The signs, initially part of a pilot program by the Carter Administration to introduce the metric system, have been kept in place in part because the local tourism industry wants them to greet visitors from Mexico.

Brief history

The metric system


1215: The Magna Carta declares that there should be national standards for the measurement of wine, beer, and cloth.

1678: Anglican clergyman and philosopher John Wilkins publishes An Essay towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language, which proposes a universal language and system of measurement, based on units of 10.

1790: The National Assembly of France drafts a committee to establish a new standard for weights and measures that would be valid “for all people, for all time,” in the words of mathematician (and revolutionary) Marquis de Condorcet.

1799: The distance of the meter—named after metron, the Greek word for measure—is fixed at 1/10,000,000 of the length between the North Pole and the Equator, arrived at after two French surveyors spent six years measuring the distance between Dunkirk and Barcelona, which was used to calculate the longer distance. A platinum bar officially one meter long is cast.

1840: The metric system becomes compulsory in France.

1875: Seventeen nations (including the US) sign the Treaty of the Meter, creating international bodies to standardize weights and measurements worldwide, according to the metric system.

1975: US president Gerald Ford signs the Metric Conversion Act, declaring the metric system the preferred (but voluntary) system and establishing the US Metric Board, to speed America’s conversion.

1982: US president Ronald Reagan dismantles the Metric Board.

1999: Mars Climate Orbiter, a $328 million satellite, disintegrates over Mars because software produced by Lockheed Martin, the contractor, generated numbers in the English system instead of the metric system, as specified by its agreement with NASA.

The rights of women


When the revolutionaries of France wrote about égalité, few, if any, extended that right to women. One observer across the English Channel, however, saw that the principles of the revolution applied to women as well as men.

Mary Wollstonecraft—a British author who established herself when few women earned a living by writing—wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1791 in response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution. While Burke argued the revolution would fail because society was inherently traditional and hierarchical, Wollstonecraft made the case not only for the rights of men, but for women as well—a radical position at the end of the 18th century.

In his book Emile, or On Education, Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that women should be educated only to the extent they could serve men. But Wollstonecraft argued that women “ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect.” Women, she wrote, deserved the same opportunities as men, and should be able to earn a living and support themselves with dignity.

Wollstonecraft, the mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, had a messy personal life, which was used to discredit her ideas in the 19th century. But her ideas inspired writers from Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf, and suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. By the 20th century, Wollstonecraft was rightly regarded as a pioneering feminist.

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How to make time


The Republican Calendar was one of the more radical innovations of the revolution. Born out of a desire to wipe the slate of clean of aristocratic and religious references and start history afresh, the new calendar began on the autumn solstice of September 22, 1792, or 1 Vendemiaire I, the day the new Republic was proclaimed.

Instead of the seven-day week of the Bible, the Republican Calendar was based on the 10-day week, with the tenth day, decadi, devoted to rest and play. There were 10 months, each three weeks long, with five special days (or six, in a leap year) devoted to celebrations used to round out the year to 365 days. Those days bore names such as the Fête de la Vertu (Celebration of Virtues) and Fête de l’Opinion (Celebration of Convictions).

The calendar was designed by a committee that included mathematicians, astronomers, and poets, who based the naming of days and months after the agricultural cycle, and borrowed heavily from Latin. The winter months, for example, became Nivôse (snowy), Pluviôse (rainy), and Ventôse (windy). Each day also got a name—360 in all—replacing the Catholic convention of each day bearing the name of a saint. The fifth, 15th, and 25th days of each month were named after farm animals (bull, ram, duck), the 10th and 20th were named after farm implements (rakes, spades), while the rest were named after trees, fruits, vegetables and herbs. According to one modern calculation, today is 25 Messidor CCXXVI, named for the Guinea hen. (There’s a Twitter account that will help you keep up.)

As you might expect, there were problems. Starting each year on the autumnal equinox proved tricky, since the timing of astronomical events can vary and leap days had to be inserted to even things up, confusing everyone. Farm workers, the ostensible heroes the calendar celebrated, hated having a day off every 10 days instead of every seven. So 12 years after its introduction, it was abolished by Napoleon in 1806.

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Quotable

“Long usage of the Gregorian calendar has filled the people’s memory with a considerable number of images that they have long revered, and which today remain the source of their religious errors. It is therefore necessary to replace these visions of ignorance with the realities of reason, and this sacerdotal prestige with nature’s truth.”

— Committee to draft a new calendar

Watch this!

The French Revolution’s decimal time wasn’t the last attempt to rationalize timekeeping. A more recent effort was Swatch Internet Time in 1998. Part of a (not very successful) marketing campaign for a new line of watches, the system divided the 24-hour day into 1,000 “.beats” (yes, with a period—trés moderne).

The time, which was displayed on Swatches alongside boring old Gregorian time, was given as @416, which would be read as 416 beats after midnight, or 4am. Since it was the same all over the world, it was touted as being a new way of telling time that negated the need for translating pesky time zones.


Disparition de Claude Lanzmann: La preuve, c’est justement qu’il n’y en a pas ! (The proof is not the corpses; the proof is the absence of corpses)

11 juillet, 2018
L’ignorance volontaire du passé entraîne la falsification du présent. (…) Lanzmann parle avec un scepticisme opiniâtre de crimes “imputés” à Staline par la “propagande nazie”. Se rend-il même compte qu’il se laisse ainsi envahir par une obsession de nier ce qui lui déplaît identique à celle qui pousse un Robert Faurisson et les “révisionnistes” à mettre en doute les preuves de l’existence des camps de la mort ? Ses faux camps de la mort à lui, mais soviétiques ceux-là, sont ceux où avant juin 1941 furent de surcroît déportés 2 millions de Polonais dont la moitié au moins périrent de mauvais traitements. Jean-François Revel
Jamais la France n’acceptera les solutions de facilité que d’aucuns aujourd’hui proposent qui consisteraient à organiser des déportations, à travers l’Europe, pour aller mettre dans je ne sais quel camp, à ses frontières ou en son sein ou ailleurs, les étrangers. Emmanuel Macron
La question du négationnisme demande tout autre chose qu’une halte rue Geoffroy L’Asnier pour mobiliser l’électorat juif contre Marine Le Pen car ce ne sont pas des jeunes militants du FN qui rendent impossible l’enseignement de la Shoah dans les écoles ou qui vont chercher des faits alternatifs aux camps de la mort. De cette terrible réalité, je ne vois guère d’écho dans la campagne d’Emmanuel Macron. Il ne cesse de faire des clins d’œil aux jeunes de banlieues et réserve ses coups à la bonne vieille bête immonde. Alain Finkielkraut
Shoah (…) is a documentary of absences. There is no newsreel footage, there are no old photos, no corpses. Sometimes Lanzmann trains his camera on an empty field for several minutes. We see a seeming bucolic idyll – just the place for a picnic. Only the caption – Treblinka – tells us something intolerable happened here. For a long time, Lanzmann tells me, he resisted going to Poland. « Why would I want to? What would I see? » Instead, he toured the world interviewing Holocaust survivors for his film, pushing them hard to recall their experiences. Interviewees such as Abraham Bomba, whom Lanzmann filmed cutting hair in his Tel Aviv salon. As Bomba worked, he told Lanzmann how he was forced to cut women’s hair at Treblinka just before they were gassed. At one point in the interview, Bomba recalled how a fellow barber was working when his wife and sister came into the gas chamber. Bomba broke down and pleaded with Lanzmann that he be allowed to stop telling the story. Lanzmann said: « You have to do it. I know it’s very hard. » This was his principal method on Shoah: to incarnate the truth of what happened through survivors’ testimonies, even at the cost of reopening old wounds. With testimonies such as these, Lanzmann initially thought, he needn’t go to the scene of the crimes – to death camps such as Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor or Auschwitz-Birkenau. But, four years into his work on Shoah, Lanzmann changed his mind. « Finally, I realised I was meeting people, but couldn’t understand what they were telling me. I had to go there. I arrived in Poland loaded like a bomb with knowledge. But the fuse was missing – Poland was the fuse. » What astounded him when he arrived in villages near the death camps was that life carried on regardless – as though the tragedy of the Holocaust had been erased. « When I saw the village of Treblinka still existed, that people who were witnesses to everything still existed, that there was a normal train station, the bomb that I was exploded. I started to shoot. » What he started to shoot were testimonies of non-Jewish Polish bystanders. Were they oblivious to what was happening? Overwhelmingly not: Lanzmann interviews Jewish victims and bystanders who recalled that non-Jewish Poles made throat-cutting gestures to Jews as they arrived at the death camps on trains – to alert them to what was about to happen, perhaps, or maybe to revel in their looming murders. Lanzmann found evidence of Polish antisemitism in the villages around the death camps: a male interviewee relates how he’s happy the Jews are gone, but would rather they had gone to Israel voluntarily than be exterminated. In an interview outside a Catholic church, with Simon Srebnik present, bystanders alleged the Holocaust was just retribution for the killing of Jesus. While inculpating Poles in Shoah, Lanzmann in this interview exculpates the Allies from the charge of doing nothing to save the Jews. « Could the Jews have been saved? My answer is no. I’m very deeply convinced of this. Everybody talks about the bombing of Birkenau. Some in the War Refugee Board [created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943] were for bombing, and there were others who were against for reasons that cannot be despised. » What reasons? « Some pilots asked, ‘What is the meaning of this, to bomb the people we’re meant to rescue?’ A terrible contradiction. « Money, not bombs, would have helped the Jews, because the Germans were running out of money. But in wartime you can’t send money because there are rules. But some religious Jews did send money to Slovakia that got into German hands, and for a while the deportations stopped. » The question of whether the allies could have saved the lives of the Jews goes to the heart of one of the most important interviews Lanzmann conducted for Shoah, namely the one with the Polish spy and diplomat Jan Karski. In 1943, Karski was commissioned by the exiled Polish government to tell allied leaders about the fate of Poland, and by two Jewish leaders in Warsaw to do the same about the fate of the Jews. « They asked him to mobilise the conscience of the world, » says Lanzmann. In Shoah, Karski recounts what he saw in the ghetto and in camps. At the end of that interview, Karski says of his visit to Washington and London: « I made my report. » Why end the interview there? « Everybody knows that the Jews were not rescued. He didn’t need to say more. It was very strong to end that way. » But last year, Lanzmann changed his mind. He decided to release a film of the rest of the 33-year-old Karski interview, in which he told Lanzmann in detail of his mission to brief allied leaders. In this new film, The Karski Report, the Polish spy tells us that he met Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, a Jew, who, upon hearing Karski’s description of the horrors befalling Jews in Poland, said: « I do not believe you. » But Frankfurter was not calling Karski a liar. Indeed, at the same meeting, Frankfurter clarified what he meant: « I did not say that he was lying, I said that I could not believe him. There is a difference. » Human inability to believe in the intolerable is what The Karski Report is about. At the start of the film, Lanzmann quotes the French philosopher Raymond Aron, who, when asked about the Holocaust, said: « I knew, but I didn’t believe it, and because I didn’t believe it, I didn’t know. » No wonder Lanzmann, a friend of Jean-Paul Sartre and lover of Simone de Beauvoir, is concerned with such philosophical issues. « The human brain is not prepared to understand this – even on the steps of the gas chamber. Karski says this very clearly. » Hence, for Lanzmann, the primacy of oral testimony as a mode of representation and understanding at the heart of Shoah. But that primacy is paradoxical: the tragedy of Karski’s mission, if it was a tragedy, was to have witnessed something of such unprecedented horror that no mere report could convey its import, still less move the allies to action. Why release this film now? Lanzmann released The Karski Report after the publication in 2009 of a novel called Jan Karski by the French writer Yannick Haenel. The novel became a French bestseller, but Lanzmann attacked it as « a falsification of history and of its protagonists ». « It’s a scandal about Karski, because he tries to make Karski into a man obsessed with the rescue of the Jews. He was not. » So Karski was not, as Haenel’s novel implies, the man who tried and failed to stop the Holocaust? « No! He says: ‘The Jews were not the centre of my mission. Poland was the centre of my mission.’ He says that very clearly. » « I said to myself, ‘You are an idiot, because you have the film of the second day’s interview to show that Karski was not as he is depicted in this novel.’ So I released The Karski Report to re-establish the truth. » Haenel, for his part, argues Lanzmann does not understand his novel. But what is the truth? Is truth only what emerges from oral testimony such as that given by Shoah’s interviewees? Sometimes, just as Adorno injuncted writing poetry after Auschwitz, so Lanzmann seems to be prohibiting – or at least reserving the right to slur – art about the Holocaust that is not based on oral testimony. Isn’t something to be said for artists who, in an act of creative empathy, try to imagine the lives of others embroiled in the Holocaust and legacy (consider, say, Nicole Kraus’s recent novel Great House, steeped as it is in creatively imagining the lives of Holocausts survivors)? « Of course one can make art about the Holocaust after my film, » Lanzmann says. « All I do say is that great literature always adds to reality. » The implication is clear: Haenel’s literary imagining of Karski’s inner world distorts and subtracts from reality, while Lanzmann clearly believes Shoah, does otherwise. He wrote in the French newspaper Libération recently that when one watches Shoah, « one bears witness for nine hours 30 minutes to the incarnation of the truth, the contrary of the sanitisation of historical science. » « That, » he says, « is why it remains important to see my film. » The Guardian
L’agence de presse officielle Fars a dénoncé la diffusion de Shoah, l’accusant d’être une tentative faite par Israël pour prendre le peuple iranien comme cible « de sa propagande pour contrer les efforts déployés par l’Iran dans les organisations internationales pour réfuter ses allégations concernant le mythe de l’holocauste. » Des dizaines de sites pro-gouvernementaux en Iran se sont joints au chœur des protestations, attaquant la chaîne Pars et l’accusant de « lécher les bottes des Sionistes ». Des médias en langue persane à l’étranger, qui ont un large public en Iran, comme la Télévision la Voix de l’Amérique en persan, Manoto TV, Radio France Internationale (en persan) et la Voix d’Israël (en persan), ont diffusé de longs reportages sur « Shoah » en persan et ont interviewé des intellectuels iraniens soulignant qu’il fallait que les Iraniens puissent avoir accès à ce type de film. De nombreux sites Internet en langue persane, représentant tout un éventail d’opinions, ont rapporté l’événement. Le film de neuf heures et demie a été sous-titré en persan, en turc et en arabe par le Projet Aladin. Cette organisation internationale, basée à Paris, s’attache à promouvoir le rapprochement interculturel, en particulier entre Juifs et Musulmans. (…) Le Projet Aladin prévoit d’organiser des avant-premières de « Shoah » dans plusieurs capitales du monde musulman, en commençant par Istanbul et Ankara le mois prochain. « Shoah, » sous-titré en turc, sera présenté au Festival International du Film d’Istanbul et ensuite diffusé à la télévision nationale turque. Crif
Pour reprendre un mot de Marcel Ophuls, on ne réalise pas un film comme Shoah en respectant les règles de fair-play d’un joueur de cricket d’Eton. J’ai piégé beaucoup de monde, à commencer par la bureaucratie communiste polonaise pour obtenir la possibilité de tourner librement en Pologne. J’ai piégé des nazis, j’ai eu un faux nom, des faux papiers, et je n’ai reculé devant rien pour percer la muraille d’ignorance et de silence qui enfermait alors la Shoah. J’ai en effet répété à Karski ce que j’avais dit à Varsovie : que la question du sauvetage des juifs serait importante dans mon film, celle de la responsabilité des Alliés aussi. Cela, c’était au début de mon travail. Je me suis ensuite convaincu que tout cela était infiniment plus complexe que je ne l’avais pensé. Avoir « piégé » Karski ne nous a pas empêchés d’être très proches l’un de l’autre à Washington et d’entretenir ensuite une longue correspondance. « Shoah, écrivit-il en 1985, est sans aucun doute le plus grand film qui ait été fait sur la tragédie des juifs. » Il fit preuve de beaucoup de courage en écrivant cela à un moment où Shoah était attaqué tous azimuts en Pologne, et où le gouvernement polonais demandait à la France de l’interdire. Ce petit jeune homme décrète que je ne comprends pas la littérature. Et il ose écrire : « Contrairement à ce tribunal de l’Histoire, d’où parle Lanzmann, la littérature est un espace libre, où la « vérité » n’existe pas. » Il n’est pas de phrase plus sotte. La littérature n’a affaire qu’à la vérité ; si celle-ci n’est pas l’affaire de Yannick Haenel, c’est que Jan Karski, roman, et quoi qu’en dise Sollers, n’est pas de la littérature. Claude Lanzmann
J’ai payé. Une somme pas mince. Je les ai tous payés, les Allemands. Claude Lanzmann
Je considère que le peuple iranien est un grand peuple, une haute et ancienne civilisation. Un peuple opprimé aujourd’hui par une dictature cléricale de fer, mais qui est en train de protester, de se révolter d’une certaine façon. De nombreuses manifestations y ont eu lieu bien avant celles dont on parle aujourd’hui dans le reste du monde arabe. Concernant la Shoah, la position officielle défendue par le président, M. Ahmadinejad, est qu’elle n’a non seulement jamais existé mais qu’elle est une invention des Juifs et des sionistes. Fatalement, cela a des effets. Contrer ce négationnisme est donc un pas important, et Shoah est le meilleur moyen pour cela. (…) Shoah est un film sans cadavre. Pourquoi il n’y en a pas ? Parce qu’il n’y a pas de trace. L’extermination des juifs voulue par les nazis était le crime parfait. Les fourgons arrivaient, les gens étaient gazés, asphyxiés dans les deux ou trois heures qui suivaient leur arrivée et les corps étaient brûlés. Les gros os qui n’avaient pas été brûlés étaient réduits en cendres à coups de maillet et de marteau et cette poussière d’os était jetée dans les rivières et dans les lacs. Les nazis non seulement détruisaient les Juifs, mais détruisaient la destruction elle-même. Pas de trace. Et dire aujourd’hui « cela n’a pas existé », c’est souscrire pleinement au désir hitlérien. Shoah est la construction d’une mémoire, ce n’est pas une preuve que cela a existé, car pour Ahmadinejad et les autres, la preuve ce seraient des cadavres. Mais la preuve, c’est justement qu’il n’y en a pas ! C’est ça la Shoah, c’est la disparition totale. Claude Lanzmann

Attention: une disparition peut en cacher une autre !

Au lendemain de la disparition de Claude Lanzmann

Et à l’heure où, dans l’indifférence générale, le peuple iranien se lève contre le joug khomeniste qui l’opprime depuis près de 40 ans …

Pendant que d’autres, par démagogie et électoralisme faciles, mélangent tout et nous rejouent à tout bout de champ « les heures les plus noires notre histoire« …

Comment ne pas repenser à la magistrale leçon …

Que l’auteur de « Shoah » et lui-même victime en son temps, à l’instar de son maitre à penser Sartre, de négationnisme pro-communiste

Avait donnée il y a sept ans à l’occasion de la diffusion sur deux chaînes satellitaires à direction de l’Iran d’une version sous-titrée en farsi de son oeuvre …

Où il expliquait justement contre le négationnisme du régime iranien …

Que la disparition de toute trace faisait justement partie de la Solution finale …

Et en était donc de ce fait même la preuve ultime !

Claude Lanzmann : « Shoah est le meilleur moyen de lutter contre le négationnisme d’Ahmadinejad »

Le grand film du cinéaste-écrivain sera diffusé pour la première fois en Iran le 7 mars.

Propos recueillis par Marion Cocquet

Le Point
Voir aussi:

Shoah de Claude Lanzmann diffusé en Iran par une chaine satellite : Les réactions des iraniens en cascade

Des centaines de mails et d’appels téléphoniques de téléspectateurs à Téhéran, Ispahan, Chiraz, Machad et d’autres villes en Iran ont été largement positifs après que la chaîne satellitaire Pars, basée à Los Angeles, ait commencé à diffuser pour la première fois ce lundi « Shoah » de Claude Lanzmann en persan, selon le présentateur chevronné de la chaîne, Alireza Meybodi qui présentait le film.
Crif
11 Mars 2011

Le mercredi, l’agence de presse officielle Fars a dénoncé la diffusion de Shoah, l’accusant d’être une tentative faite par Israël pour prendre le peuple iranien comme cible « de sa propagande pour contrer les efforts déployés par l’Iran dans les organisations internationales pour réfuter ses allégations concernant le mythe de l’holocauste. »

Des dizaines de sites pro-gouvernementaux en Iran se sont joints au chœur des protestations, attaquant la chaîne Pars et l’accusant de « lécher les bottes des Sionistes. » (Voir l’annexe A).

Des médias en langue persane à l’étranger, qui ont un large public en Iran, comme la Télévision la Voix de l’Amérique en persan, Manoto TV, Radio France Internationale (en persan) et la Voix d’Israël (en persan), ont diffusé de longs reportages sur « Shoah » en persan et ont interviewé des intellectuels iraniens soulignant qu’il fallait que les Iraniens puissent avoir accès à ce type de film. De nombreux sites Internet en langue persane, représentant tout un éventail d’opinions, ont rapporté l’événement (voir l’annexe B).

Le film de neuf heures et demie a été sous-titré en persan, en turc et en arabe par le Projet Aladin. Cette organisation internationale, basée à Paris, s’attache à promouvoir le rapprochement interculturel, en particulier entre Juifs et Musulmans.

Les Iraniens, en Iran et partout dans le monde, ont pu voir le premier épisode de « Shoah, » sous-titré en persan, ce lundi. Et des épisodes d’une heure seront diffusés quotidiennement au cours des quinze jours à venir.

Dans une interview réalisée avant la diffusion du film, Claude Lanzmann a déclaré : « Niez la Shoah autant que vous le voulez, Président Ahmadinejad ; aujourd’hui, ce n’est pas vous qui décidez, mais ce sont les téléspectateurs à Téhéran et Chiraz, à qui le projet Aladin a donné l’occasion de forger leur propre jugement sur ce sujet. »

En présentant le film sur la chaîne Pars, Alireza Meybodi a décrit la négation de la Shoah comme un « fléau qui n’a rien à voir avec la grande culture et la civilisation de l’Iran. » Il a qualifié la diffusion du film de Lanzmann en persan de « moment historique. »

Après la diffusion, Alireza Meybodi a déclaré aux journalistes qu’il avait été agréablement surpris par l’ampleur des réactions des téléspectateurs en Iran même, ou en Europe et en Amérique du Nord. « Nous avons reçu beaucoup d’appels et de courriels positifs de téléspectateurs après la diffusion de ce lundi. » Il a précisé que la station de télévision a décidé de consacrer un programme d’appels téléphoniques en direct pour recevoir les réactions de téléspectateurs vivant en Iran et partout dans le monde.

Le lancement de « Shoah » en persan a été marqué à Paris par une manifestation organisée à l’UNESCO ce lundi. Elle a réuni quatre cents personnalités, dont des intellectuels, des écrivains, des ambassadeurs, de hauts fonctionnaires, des cinéastes, des éditeurs et des journalistes qui ont regardé le premier épisode du film en direct.

Décrivant le film « Shoah » comme « monument dans l’histoire de la Shoah et chef-d’œuvre du cinéma, » la Directrice générale de l’UNESCO, Irina Bokova, a déclaré que la traduction du film en persan a été « une étape décisive faite pour partager la vérité sur la Shoah dans le monde. » Elle ajoutait que l’UNESCO a joué un rôle actif dans les activités du Projet Aladin dès le départ et continuera à le faire à l’avenir.

Le ministre de la Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, a qualifié « Shoah » de « chef-d’œuvre cinématographique et historique », affirmant qu’ « il y a un avant et un après ‘Shoah’. » Il a salué le projet Aladin pour son travail si nécessaire, fait pour rapprocher les cultures.
La Présidente du Projet Aladin, Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, a remercié les milliers d’Iraniens qui ont consulté le site internet d’Aladin en persan (www.projetaladin.org) ou ont téléchargé des livres traduits en persan sur la Bibliothèque numérique d’Aladin (www.aladdinlibrary.org). Elle a annoncé que la version en persan du livre de Lanzmann, « Shoah, » était désormais disponible en téléchargement gratuit à partir de cette bibliothèque. Notant que le Projet Aladin a organisé des conférences et débats sur la Shoah dans dix villes du Moyen-Orient et d’Afrique du Nord en 2010, elle a appelé les autorités iraniennes à autoriser l’organisation d’une conférence similaire à l’Université de Téhéran.

Après la projection du film à l’UNESCO, le journaliste Philippe Dessaint a animé une table ronde qui a réuni Claude Lanzmann, Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, la sociologue et écrivain iranienne Chahla Chafiq, l’Ambassadeur de France aux Droits de l’Homme, François Zimeray, l’Iranienne Ladan Boroumand de la Fondation des Droits de l’Homme, l’historien Alexandre Adler et le journaliste et auteur iranien, Nasser Etemadi.

Le Projet Aladin prévoit d’organiser des avant-premières de « Shoah » dans plusieurs capitales du monde musulman, en commençant par Istanbul et Ankara le mois prochain. « Shoah, » sous-titré en turc, sera présenté au Festival International du Film d’Istanbul et ensuite diffusé à la télévision nationale turque. « J’espère que la diffusion de « Shoah » en Turquie va être un exemple important pour le monde musulman. Seules les œuvres d’art peuvent rapprocher les êtres humains, » a déclaré Claude Lanzmann.

Le projet Aladin tient à remercier les organisations et les fondations qui ont aidé à financer la traduction et le sous-titrage de « Shoah » : la Fondation Edmond J. Safra, la Conférence sur les Revendications matérielles juives contre l’Allemagne (Claims Conference), la Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, la Fondation Evens et le Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), et l’agence Colorado qui s’est occupé des relations presse de l’événement.

Le Projet Aladin
Le Projet Aladin est une organisation internationale basée à Paris. Son objectif est de promouvoir le rapprochement interculturel, en particulier entre juifs et musulmans, par le biais de l’éducation, la connaissance de l’histoire, le dialogue et le respect mutuel.
Lancé sous le patronage de l’UNESCO en 2009, le Projet Aladin est soutenu par de nombreux dirigeants dans le monde, des organisations internationales et plus d’un millier d’intellectuels, d’ universitaires et de personnalités sur les cinq continents. Le 1er Février 2011, le Projet Aladin a organisé la visite à Auschwitz d’une délégation internationale de deux cents personnalités politiques, religieuses et culturelles venues de quarante pays.
Annexe A : Exemples de réactions des médias officiels et pro-gouvernementaux et de sites Web iraniens :
Journalists News Agency à Téhéran: « La télévision Pars TV lèche les bottes des Sionistes”
Mashergh News, un site pro-gouvernemental influent : « Le film « Shoah » est diffusé en persan pour montrer aux iraniens que cela a existé »
L’Agence de presse Fars, organisme étatique : « Des chaines de télévision par satellite de Los Angeles volent à la rescousse d’Israël. »
Quds (journal publié à Machhad ) : « la télévision Pars TV recherche les faveurs des Sionistes »
Yalasarat : site Web proche du Président iranien : « Des chaînes de télévision satellitaires aident Israël »
Tabnak : site info influent proche du gouvernement : « Les sionistes s’engagent sérieusement pour prouver que l’holocauste a eu bien lieu »
Annexe B : Exemples de réactions sur des sites Web iraniens et des sites Web de médias en langue persane
Roozonline: site info populaire iranien
“Shoah de Lanzmann, le meilleur moyen pour lutter contre Ahmadinejad”
Manoto TV: chaine satellite iranienne basée à Londres:
“Shoah diffusé pour la première fois en Iran”
Site des sympathisants du Mouvement vert à l’étranger:
“L’interview du cinéaste Claude Lanzmann avec le Point”
RFI en persan: “Table-ronde à l’UNESCO à l’occasion de la diffusion de Shoah en persan »
Voir également:

Non, Monsieur Haenel, je n’ai en rien censuré le témoignage de Jan Karski, par Claude Lanzmann
L’auteur du film « Shoah » répond aux critiques formulées par le romancier.

Le Monde

30.01.2010

Si Yannick Haenel n’a répondu à aucun des arguments de fond que j’exposais dans mon article de Marianne du 23-29 janvier, c’est bien parce qu’il ne le pouvait pas. Je vais, quant à moi, répondre point par point à ses esquives de la vérité, à ses amalgames, à ses mensonges, ses insultes mêmes.

Pour commencer, Haenel court au plus facile, répliquant à des propos de seconde main et à des interprétations de Pierre Assouline, qui tendent à transformer un enjeu véritable en une guéguerre d’ego (voir « Lanzmann contre-attaque sur Karski », « Le Monde des livres » du 22 janvier).

Selon Assouline, je ne « décolérerais pas  » depuis qu’Haenel a obtenu le prix Interallié, au mois de novembre 2009. Haenel, adossé à cette colère imaginaire, y va encore plus carrément et nous assène « l’immensité de (ma) jalousie ». Foutre ! Quitte à peiner Haenel, j’ai beau me sonder impitoyablement, je ne vois pas ce qui, en sa personne et en son livre, pourrait la susciter.

Mais il faut aller vers l’ignoble. Haenel s’étonne de ce que j’ai mis cinq mois à m’aviser que Jan Karski était un faux roman et une oeuvre malhonnête. Je me suis complètement expliqué là-dessus dans mon article de Marianne. D’un mot, les deux premiers chapitres que j’avais parcourus me déplaisaient, car ils parasitaient mon travail et celui de Karski : la paraphrase ne requiert nul talent et ne m’apprenait rien. Quant au troisième et dernier chapitre (le « roman »), j’avais tout simplement refusé de le lire, tant je pressentais qu’il n’aurait que des rapports très lointains avec la vérité.

Mais surtout, par amitié et respect pour notre éditeur commun, Antoine Gallimard, je ne voulais pas entraver la carrière du livre d’Haenel. Je n’ai lu ces 72 pages que quelques jours avant Noël. Le portrait qui y est brossé du président Roosevelt, le récit de la rencontre Karski-Roosevelt, les pensées prêtées à Karski, etc., ont fait se lever en moi la honte et la colère, honte de m’être tu, semblant ainsi cautionner Haenel, colère devant le culot idéologique et la bassesse d’imagination de l’auteur.

Bassesse qui se retrouve dans la façon dont Haenel interprète ma prise de conscience tardive. C’est mon « agenda » (sic) qui, selon lui, exige ma colère : « Son attaque contre mon livre, dit-il, coïncide en effet avec une rediffusion de Shoah sur Arte et avec la signature d’un contrat, sur la même chaîne, pour un film sur Karski : dans le domaine de la publicité, le hasard fait toujours bien les choses. »

Pareille affirmation est ignominieuse et relève de la paire de gifles. Non, Monsieur Haenel, ce n’est pas mon agenda qui a exigé ma colère, c’est ma colère qui a dicté mon agenda. En ce qui concerne Shoah sur Arte, le contrat était signé depuis bien longtemps.

Ce n’est pas le cas du film intitulé Le Rapport Karski, que je viens de réaliser, en un mois, à partir des rushes tournés en 1978, non intégrés à Shoah, dans lequel Karski, d’une façon dévastatrice pour le « romancier », relate les événements auxquels il a participé et la conception qu’il se faisait de sa mission. J’ai réalisé ce film dans l’intention avouée de rétablir au plus vite la vérité. A ce propos, la « fiction » doit-elle conduire les directeurs littéraires à mentir froidement ? Interrogé par Thomas Wieder (Le Monde du 26 janvier), Philippe Sollers, qui a publié Jan Karski dans sa collection « L’infini » (Gallimard), déclare : « Je trouve étrange que Lanzmann ne réagisse que maintenant, alors que je lui en avais adressé les épreuves avant l’été. » Sollers ment – et c’est triste -, les choses se sont passées comme je le raconte dans Marianne : il m’a averti, un matin, par téléphone, de la publication, par lui, du Karski, « magnifique hommage à Shoah », et a raccroché sans que j’aie pu placer un mot, sans même me dire le nom de l’auteur.

Dans le fatras qu’est son mémoire en défense, Haenel reprend, sans vergogne, la doxa qui fait de moi le grand prêtre de l’Interdit et le propriétaire vindicatif de la Shoah. Je serais donc aussi le « propriétaire de Jan Karski comme on l’est d’une marque » (sic). Vulgarité d’esprit qui transpire dans chaque ligne du livre. « Il (Lanzmann) ignore sans doute que Karski a participé à d’autres films que le sien. » Haenel devrait apprendre à lire : je consacre trois pages du Lièvre de Patagonie (Gallimard) aux assauts que subit Karski lorsque des chaînes de télévision, ayant appris que je l’avais retrouvé et tourné avec lui, voulurent en faire autant.

Dans Shoah, Karski est inoubliable. Son extraordinaire visage, ses soupirs exténués, sa voix qui incarne véritablement ses paroles, ces paroles mêmes, ébranlent le spectateur aux tréfonds. J’ai tourné avec Karski pendant deux jours entiers chez lui, à Washington, en 1978. Je n’ai intégré à Shoah que la première journée, laissant seulement Karski dire à la fin de son récit : « But I reported what I saw » (« Mais j’ai fait mon rapport sur ce que j’avais vu »). Il était clair qu’il avait réussi sa mission, passant de Varsovie à Londres, puis, plus tard, à Washington.

J’ai exposé les raisons de cette décision de créateur, elle n’est en rien une censure, comme ose le dire Haenel, prétendant que j’avais ainsi « rendu impossible qu’on puisse voir dans (mon) film un Polonais qui n’est pas antisémite » (sic). Il faudrait, ici, aller considérablement plus loin que la paire de gifles (rassurons Haenel, la guillotine ne se profile pas) : Karski, pendant tout le temps où on le voit dans Shoah, apparaît comme un homme bouleversé par le sort des juifs, à qui le film rend entièrement et fraternellement justice.

Et Karski n’est pas seul : il y a dans Shoah d’autres Polonais portant encore une blessure qui se rouvre dès qu’on évoque l’extermination. Mais, selon Haenel, j’aurais empêché Karski de « raconter sa mission en faveur des juifs », récit qui aurait montré sa vraie grandeur. Que ce monsieur prenne patience : il saura bientôt ce que Karski a dit le deuxième jour et il rendra gorge des accusations de mensonge et de trahison qu’il porte contre moi. Je respecte Karski bien plus que lui, je l’aime, contrairement à ce qu’il allègue, je l’ai aimé dès le premier instant, le spectateur de Shoah lui aussi ne peut que l’aimer.

Enfin, voici l’estocade, le coup mortel : je me garde, paraît-il, de raconter que j’ai piégé Karski pour le convaincre de se laisser filmer. Pauvre Haenel au moralisme simplet ! Pour reprendre un mot de Marcel Ophuls, on ne réalise pas un film comme Shoah en respectant les règles de fair-play d’un joueur de cricket d’Eton.

J’ai piégé beaucoup de monde, à commencer par la bureaucratie communiste polonaise pour obtenir la possibilité de tourner librement en Pologne. J’ai piégé des nazis, j’ai eu un faux nom, des faux papiers, et je n’ai reculé devant rien pour percer la muraille d’ignorance et de silence qui enfermait alors la Shoah. J’ai en effet répété à Karski ce que j’avais dit à Varsovie : que la question du sauvetage des juifs serait importante dans mon film, celle de la responsabilité des Alliés aussi. Cela, c’était au début de mon travail.

Je me suis ensuite convaincu que tout cela était infiniment plus complexe que je ne l’avais pensé. Avoir « piégé » Karski ne nous a pas empêchés d’être très proches l’un de l’autre à Washington et d’entretenir ensuite une longue correspondance. « Shoah, écrivit-il en 1985, est sans aucun doute le plus grand film qui ait été fait sur la tragédie des juifs. »

Il fit preuve de beaucoup de courage en écrivant cela à un moment où Shoah était attaqué tous azimuts en Pologne, et où le gouvernement polonais demandait à la France de l’interdire.

Ce petit jeune homme décrète que je ne comprends pas la littérature. Et il ose écrire : « Contrairement à ce tribunal de l’Histoire, d’où parle Lanzmann, la littérature est un espace libre, où la « vérité » n’existe pas. » Il n’est pas de phrase plus sotte. La littérature n’a affaire qu’à la vérité ; si celle-ci n’est pas l’affaire de Yannick Haenel, c’est que Jan Karski, roman, et quoi qu’en dise Sollers, n’est pas de la littérature.

Claude Lanzmann est écrivain, cinéaste

Voir de même:

Claude Lanzmann’s Holocaust documentary, Shoah, was meant to be an ‘incarnation of the truth’. His new film responds to a threat to that truth

Claude Lanzmann went to Iran recently. « As you know, » the 85-year-old director, a Jewish Frenchman, tells me in his Paris office, « Ahmadinejad doesn’t believe there was a Holocaust. The Iranians wanted me to prove to them on television that there was. They wanted to see the corpses. »

What did he tell them? The director of the nine-and-a-half hour documentary Shoah (1985) about the mass murder of Jews in Nazi death camps swivels round in his chair and fixes me. « I told them there’s not a single corpse in Shoah. The people who arrived at Treblinka, Belzec or Sobibor were killed within two or three hours and their corpses burned. The proof is not the corpses; the proof is the absence of corpses. There were special details who gathered the dust and threw it into the wind or into the rivers. Nothing of them remained. »

Among the Jews detailed to dispose of human remains was Simon Srebnik, whom Lanzmann lured from his home in Israel to the site of Chelmno, the first camp where Jews were gassed. In Shoah’s opening sequence, we see Srebnik being rowed along the Narew river. As the boat eases through calm waters, Srebnik sings, his lovely voice mingling with the sound of the breeze in the summer trees.

« It is not beautiful, » snaps Lanzmann when I tell him my first impression of this sequence. Only later do we learn that what Srebnik is singing is a Nazi marching song that, during his captivity, he was taught and compelled to sing for his captors’ entertainment. Only later do we learn that Srebnik was one of the Jews compelled by Nazis to daily dump sacks of crushed bones of Holocaust victims into this all-too-calm river. Two days before Chelmno was liberated by Soviet troops, remaining prisoners were shot in the head, among them Srebnik. Amazingly, he survived.

Shoah, which will be screened as part of the London documentary film festival Open City later this month, followed by a Q and A with the director, is a documentary of absences. There is no newsreel footage, there are no old photos, no corpses. Sometimes Lanzmann trains his camera on an empty field for several minutes. We see a seeming bucolic idyll – just the place for a picnic. Only the caption – Treblinka – tells us something intolerable happened here

For a long time, Lanzmann tells me, he resisted going to Poland. « Why would I want to? What would I see? » Instead, he toured the world interviewing Holocaust survivors for his film, pushing them hard to recall their experiences. Interviewees such as Abraham Bomba, whom Lanzmann filmed cutting hair in his Tel Aviv salon. As Bomba worked, he told Lanzmann how he was forced to cut women’s hair at Treblinka just before they were gassed.

At one point in the interview, Bomba recalled how a fellow barber was working when his wife and sister came into the gas chamber. Bomba broke down and pleaded with Lanzmann that he be allowed to stop telling the story. Lanzmann said: « You have to do it. I know it’s very hard. » This was his principal method on Shoah: to incarnate the truth of what happened through survivors’ testimonies, even at the cost of reopening old wounds.

With testimonies such as these, Lanzmann initially thought, he needn’t go to the scene of the crimes – to death camps such as Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor or Auschwitz-Birkenau. But, four years into his work on Shoah, Lanzmann changed his mind. « Finally, I realised I was meeting people, but couldn’t understand what they were telling me. I had to go there. I arrived in Poland loaded like a bomb with knowledge. But the fuse was missing – Poland was the fuse. »

What astounded him when he arrived in villages near the death camps was that life carried on regardless – as though the tragedy of the Holocaust had been erased. « When I saw the village of Treblinka still existed, that people who were witnesses to everything still existed, that there was a normal train station, the bomb that I was exploded. I started to shoot. »

What he started to shoot were testimonies of non-Jewish Polish bystanders. Were they oblivious to what was happening? Overwhelmingly not: Lanzmann interviews Jewish victims and bystanders who recalled that non-Jewish Poles made throat-cutting gestures to Jews as they arrived at the death camps on trains – to alert them to what was about to happen, perhaps, or maybe to revel in their looming murders. Lanzmann found evidence of Polish antisemitism in the villages around the death camps: a male interviewee relates how he’s happy the Jews are gone, but would rather they had gone to Israel voluntarily than be exterminated. In an interview outside a Catholic church, with Simon Srebnik present, bystanders alleged the Holocaust was just retribution for the killing of Jesus.

While inculpating Poles in Shoah, Lanzmann in this interview exculpates the Allies from the charge of doing nothing to save the Jews. « Could the Jews have been saved? My answer is no. I’m very deeply convinced of this. Everybody talks about the bombing of Birkenau. Some in the War Refugee Board [created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943] were for bombing, and there were others who were against for reasons that cannot be despised. » What reasons? « Some pilots asked, ‘What is the meaning of this, to bomb the people we’re meant to rescue?’ A terrible contradiction.

« Money, not bombs, would have helped the Jews, because the Germans were running out of money. But in wartime you can’t send money because there are rules. But some religious Jews did send money to Slovakia that got into German hands, and for a while the deportations stopped. »

The question of whether the allies could have saved the lives of the Jews goes to the heart of one of the most important interviews Lanzmann conducted for Shoah, namely the one with the Polish spy and diplomat Jan Karski. In 1943, Karski was commissioned by the exiled Polish government to tell allied leaders about the fate of Poland, and by two Jewish leaders in Warsaw to do the same about the fate of the Jews. « They asked him to mobilise the conscience of the world, » says Lanzmann. In Shoah, Karski recounts what he saw in the ghetto and in camps. At the end of that interview, Karski says of his visit to Washington and London: « I made my report. »

Why end the interview there? « Everybody knows that the Jews were not rescued. He didn’t need to say more. It was very strong to end that way. »

But last year, Lanzmann changed his mind. He decided to release a film of the rest of the 33-year-old Karski interview, in which he told Lanzmann in detail of his mission to brief allied leaders. In this new film, The Karski Report, the Polish spy tells us that he met Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, a Jew, who, upon hearing Karski’s description of the horrors befalling Jews in Poland, said: « I do not believe you. » But Frankfurter was not calling Karski a liar. Indeed, at the same meeting, Frankfurter clarified what he meant: « I did not say that he was lying, I said that I could not believe him. There is a difference. »

Human inability to believe in the intolerable is what The Karski Report is about. At the start of the film, Lanzmann quotes the French philosopher Raymond Aron, who, when asked about the Holocaust, said: « I knew, but I didn’t believe it, and because I didn’t believe it, I didn’t know. » No wonder Lanzmann, a friend of Jean-Paul Sartre and lover of Simone de Beauvoir, is concerned with such philosophical issues. « The human brain is not prepared to understand this – even on the steps of the gas chamber. Karski says this very clearly. » Hence, for Lanzmann, the primacy of oral testimony as a mode of representation and understanding at the heart of Shoah.

But that primacy is paradoxical: the tragedy of Karski’s mission, if it was a tragedy, was to have witnessed something of such unprecedented horror that no mere report could convey its import, still less move the allies to action.

Why release this film now? Lanzmann released The Karski Report after the publication in 2009 of a novel called Jan Karski by the French writer Yannick Haenel. The novel became a French bestseller, but Lanzmann attacked it as « a falsification of history and of its protagonists ». « It’s a scandal about Karski, because he tries to make Karski into a man obsessed with the rescue of the Jews. He was not. » So Karski was not, as Haenel’s novel implies, the man who tried and failed to stop the Holocaust? « No! He says: ‘The Jews were not the centre of my mission. Poland was the centre of my mission.’ He says that very clearly. »

« I said to myself, ‘You are an idiot, because you have the film of the second day’s interview to show that Karski was not as he is depicted in this novel.’ So I released The Karski Report to re-establish the truth. » Haenel, for his part, argues Lanzmann does not understand his novel.

But what is the truth? Is truth only what emerges from oral testimony such as that given by Shoah’s interviewees? Sometimes, just as Adorno injuncted writing poetry after Auschwitz, so Lanzmann seems to be prohibiting – or at least reserving the right to slur – art about the Holocaust that is not based on oral testimony. Isn’t something to be said for artists who, in an act of creative empathy, try to imagine the lives of others embroiled in the Holocaust and legacy (consider, say, Nicole Kraus’s recent novel Great House, steeped as it is in creatively imagining the lives of Holocausts survivors)? « Of course one can make art about the Holocaust after my film, » Lanzmann says. « All I do say is that great literature always adds to reality. »

The implication is clear: Haenel’s literary imagining of Karski’s inner world distorts and subtracts from reality, while Lanzmann clearly believes Shoah, does otherwise. He wrote in the French newspaper Libération recently that when one watches Shoah, « one bears witness for nine hours 30 minutes to the incarnation of the truth, the contrary of the sanitisation of historical science. »

« That, » he says, « is why it remains important to see my film. »

Shoah and The Karski Report are both being screened at the Open City festival, on 18 and 19 June. Details: opencitylondon.com


Hommage: De la seule nation qui vénère le même Dieu qu’il y a 3 000 ans au seul pays fondé sur une idée (On the Fourth of July, honoring American exceptionalism and an exceptional American, Charles Krauthammer)

4 juillet, 2018
Israël est l’incarnation pure et simple de la continuité juive : c’est la seule nation au monde qui habite la même terre, porte le même nom, parle la même langue et vénère le même Dieu qu’il y a 3000 ans. En creusant le sol, on peut trouver des poteries du temps de David, des pièces de l’époque de Bar Kochba, et des parchemins vieux de 2000 ans, écrits de manière étonnamment semblable à celle qui, aujourd’hui, vante les crèmes glacées de la confiserie du coin. Charles Krauthammer

En ce nouvel anniversaire du « seul pays fondé sur une idée, l’idée de liberté » …

Comment ne pas avoir une pensée …

Pour l’un de ses plus fidèles et regrettés hérauts

Issu justement de la seule nation qui vénère le même Dieu qu’il y a 3 000 ans ?

On the Fourth of July, Honoring American Exceptionalism and an Exceptional American, Charles Krauthammer

Amid all the pomp and parades, the fireworks and other illuminations, the hot dogs and the ice cream, the home runs and the World Cup goals, let us be sure to pause on this Fourth of July holiday and say with grateful hearts and proud voices, “Happy birthday, America!”

This land—our land—is 242 years young today.

Led by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin, our Founding Fathers signed a document that raised high the banner of independence and challenged England, at the time the most powerful nation in the world.

Remarked one delegate as he signed the Declaration of Independence, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

What was the central idea of this revolutionary declaration that Jefferson, its author, called “an expression of the American mind”? Here is what Charles Krauthammer, the TV commentator and syndicated columnist, said: “America is the only country ever founded on an idea … and the idea is liberty.”

Many of us in Washington, D.C., are still lamenting the June 21 death of Krauthammer, who had a commanding grasp of politics, including foreign policy, that sprang from his intellect, his medical training and practice, and his formation in the Jewish tradition.

Krauthammer was very much like a Founder. Whether they agreed with him or not, those who knew him commented on his grace, civility, and humor. He combined the character of George Washington, the prudential mind of James Madison, and the wit of Franklin.

Asked how he could go from being a speechwriter for Walter Mondale to a political commentator on Fox News, he replied, “I was young once.”  He was a happy warrior even though he dealt with more difficulties—he was a quadriplegic from the age of 22—than most of us can imagine.

He could sum up a politician or a historical trend in just a few words. One year into the Obama administration, he wrote, “Fairness through leveling is the essence of Obamaism.” Toward the end of President Barack Obama’s first term, he summed up the four years: “The greatest threat to a robust, autonomous civil society is the ever-growing Leviathan state and those like Obama who see it as the ultimate expression of the collective.”

Krauthammer excelled at explaining our times. He coined the phrase “the Reagan Doctrine” to explain President Ronald Reagan’s support of anti-communist forces in Afghanistan and Nicaragua, and extolled Winston Churchill as the 20th century’s most indispensable leader. Paraphrasing the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, he said, “The free lunch is the essence of modern liberalism.”

He was ever generous toward the rising generation. The co-author of this commentary will be always grateful for his support at the start of her academic career. Krauthammer would meet with her students who learned much about politics from him, although nearly all disagreed with him—at least at the beginning.

On one occasion, she took her students to see the satirical troupe “Capitol Steps,” and Krauthammer was there with his family, laughing at the anti-conservative sallies.

In the introduction to his book “Things That Matter,” Krauthammer referred to Adams and Jefferson and their tempered hopes for the durability of liberty.

He was not pessimistic, but realistic, about the future, writing: “The lesson of our history is that the task of merely maintaining strong and sturdy the structures of a constitutional order is unending, the continuing and ceaseless work of every generation.”

He was a prime example of someone who knows that man does not live by politics alone. His favorite diversion (after chess) was baseball, specifically the up-and-down, in-and-out, always unpredictable Washington Nationals, about whom he would wax poetic.

You get there [to the park], and the twilight’s gleaming, the popcorn’s popping, the kids’re romping, and everyone’s happy. The joy of losing consists in this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment.

But Krauthammer, liberal-turned-conservative, psychiatrist-turned-political commentator, expected good things from the people. He wrote of the tea party revolt, “No matter how far the ideological pendulum swings in the short term, in the end, the bedrock common sense of the American people will prevail.”

In his final column, he wrote: “I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.”

Of course, his was not a small, but rather a leading, role, one that will serve as a model for those with the right ideas who take up the responsibility of keeping this exceptional nation on the road to liberty.

So—along with “Happy Birthday, America!”—we say to Charles Krauthammer, a mentor and an inspiration who will be missed beyond measure: “May God bless you and keep you.”

At Last, Zion

The Weekly Standard

I. A SMALL NATION

Milan Kundera once defined a small nation as « one whose very existence may be put in question at any moment; a small nation can disappear, and it knows it. »

The United States is not a small nation. Neither is Japan. Or France. These nations may suffer defeats. They may even be occupied. But they cannot disappear. Kundera’s Czechoslovakia could — and once did. Prewar Czechoslovakia is the paradigmatic small nation: a liberal democracy created in the ashes of war by a world determined to let little nations live free; threatened by the covetousness and sheer mass of a rising neighbor; compromised fatally by a West grown weary « of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing »; left truncated and defenseless, succumbing finally to conquest. When Hitler entered Prague in March 1939, he declared, « Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist. »

Israel too is a small country. This is not to say that extinction is its fate. Only that it can be.

Moreover, in its vulnerability to extinction, Israel is not just any small country. It is the only small country — the only period, period — whose neighbors publicly declare its very existence an affront to law, morality, and religion and make its extinction an explicit, paramount national goal. Nor is the goal merely declarative. Iran, Libya, and Iraq conduct foreign policies designed for the killing of Israelis and the destruction of their state. They choose their allies (Hamas, Hezbollah) and develop their weapons (suicide bombs, poison gas, anthrax, nuclear missiles) accordingly. Countries as far away as Malaysia will not allow a representative of Israel on their soil nor even permit the showing of Schindler’s List lest it engender sympathy for Zion.

Others are more circumspect in their declarations. No longer is the destruction of Israel the unanimous goal of the Arab League, as it was for the thirty years before Camp David. Syria, for example, no longer explicitly enunciates it. Yet Syria would destroy Israel tomorrow if it had the power. (Its current reticence on the subject is largely due to its post-Cold War need for the American connection.)

Even Egypt, first to make peace with Israel and the presumed model for peacemaking, has built a vast U.S.-equipped army that conducts military exercises obviously designed for fighting Israel. Its huge « Badr ’96 » exercises, for example, Egypt’s largest since the 1973 war, featured simulated crossings of the Suez Canal.

And even the PLO, which was forced into ostensible recognition of Israel in the Oslo Agreements of 1993, is still ruled by a national charter that calls in at least fourteen places for Israel’s eradication. The fact that after five years and four specific promises to amend the charter it remains unamended is a sign of how deeply engraved the dream of eradicating Israel remains in the Arab consciousness.

II. THE STAKES

The contemplation of Israel’s disappearance is very difficult for this generation. For fifty years, Israel has been a fixture. Most people cannot remember living in a world without Israel.

Nonetheless, this feeling of permanence has more than once been rudely interrupted — during the first few days of the Yom Kippur War when it seemed as if Israel might be overrun, or those few weeks in May and early June 1967 when Nasser blockaded the Straits of Tiran and marched 100,000 troops into Sinai to drive the Jews into the sea.

Yet Israel’s stunning victory in 1967, its superiority in conventional weaponry, its success in every war in which its existence was at stake, has bred complacency. Some ridicule the very idea of Israel’s impermanence. Israel, wrote one Diaspora intellectual, « is fundamentally indestructible. Yitzhak Rabin knew this. The Arab leaders on Mount Herzl [at Rabin’s funeral] knew this. Only the land-grabbing, trigger-happy saints of the right do not know this. They are animated by the imagination of catastrophe, by the thrill of attending the end. »

Thrill was not exactly the feeling Israelis had when during the Gulf War they entered sealed rooms and donned gas masks to protect themselves from mass death — in a war in which Israel was not even engaged. The feeling was fear, dread, helplessness — old existential Jewish feelings that post- Zionist fashion today deems anachronistic, if not reactionary. But wish does not overthrow reality. The Gulf War reminded even the most wishful that in an age of nerve gas, missiles, and nukes, an age in which no country is completely safe from weapons of mass destruction, Israel with its compact population and tiny area is particularly vulnerable to extinction.

Israel is not on the edge. It is not on the brink. This is not ’48 or ’67 or ’73. But Israel is a small country. It can disappear. And it knows it.

It may seem odd to begin an examination of the meaning of Israel and the future of the Jews by contemplating the end. But it does concentrate the mind. And it underscores the stakes. The stakes could not be higher. It is my contention that on Israel — on its existence and survival — hangs the very existence and survival of the Jewish people. Or, to put the thesis in the negative, that the end of Israel means the end of the Jewish people. They survived destruction and exile at the hands of Babylon in 586 B.C. They survived destruction and exile at the hands of Rome in 70 A.D., and finally in 132 A.D. They cannot survive another destruction and exile. The Third Commonwealth — modern Israel, born just 50 years ago — is the last.

The return to Zion is now the principal drama of Jewish history. What began as an experiment has become the very heart of the Jewish people — its cultural, spiritual, and psychological center, soon to become its demographic center as well. Israel is the hinge. Upon it rest the hopes — the only hope – – for Jewish continuity and survival.

III. THE DYING DIASPORA

In 1950, there were 5 million Jews in the United States. In 1990, the number was a slightly higher 5.5 million. In the intervening decades, overall U.S. population rose 65 percent. The Jews essentially tread water. In fact, in the last half-century Jews have shrunk from 3 percent to 2 percent of the American population. And now they are headed for not just relative but absolute decline. What sustained the Jewish population at its current level was, first, the postwar baby boom, then the influx of 400,000 Jews, mostly from the Soviet Union.

Well, the baby boom is over. And Russian immigration is drying up. There are only so many Jews where they came from. Take away these historical anomalies, and the American Jewish population would be smaller today than today. In fact, it is now headed for catastrophic decline. Steven Bayme, director of Jewish Communal Affairs at the American Jewish Committee, flatly predicts that in twenty years the Jewish population will be down to four million, a loss of nearly 30 percent. In twenty years! Projecting just a few decades further yields an even more chilling future.

How does a community decimate itself in the benign conditions of the United States? Easy: low fertility and endemic intermarriage.

The fertility rate among American Jews is 1.6 children per woman. The replacement rate (the rate required for the population to remain constant) is 2.1. The current rate is thus 20 percent below what is needed for zero growth. Thus fertility rates alone would cause a 20 percent decline in every generation. In three generations, the population would be cut in half.

The low birth rate does not stem from some peculiar aversion of Jewish women to children. It is merely a striking case of the well-known and universal phenomenon of birth rates declining with rising education and socio- economic class. Educated, successful working women tend to marry late and have fewer babies.

Add now a second factor, intermarriage. In the United States today more Jews marry Christians than marry Jews. The intermarriage rate is 52 percent. (A more conservative calculation yields 47 percent; the demographic effect is basically the same.) In 1970, the rate was 8 percent.

Most important for Jewish continuity, however, is the ultimate identity of the children born to these marriages. Only about one in four is raised Jewish. Thus two-thirds of Jewish marriages are producing children three-quarters of whom are lost to the Jewish people. Intermarriage rates alone would cause a 25 percent decline in population in every generation. (Math available upon request.) In two generations, half the Jews would disappear.

Now combine the effects of fertility and intermarriage and make the overly optimistic assumption that every child raised Jewish will grow up to retain his Jewish identity (i.e., a zero dropout rate). You can start with 100 American Jews; you end up with 60. In one generation, more than a third have disappeared. In just two generations, two out of every three will vanish.

One can reach this same conclusion by a different route (bypassing the intermarriage rates entirely). A Los Angeles Times poll of American Jews conducted in March 1998 asked a simple question: Are you raising your children as Jews? Only 70 percent said yes. A population in which the biological replacement rate is 80 percent and the cultural replacement rate is 70 percent is headed for extinction. By this calculation, every 100 Jews are raising 56 Jewish children. In just two generations, 7 out of every 10 Jews will vanish.

The demographic trends in the rest of the Diaspora are equally unencouraging. In Western Europe, fertility and intermarriage rates mirror those of the United States. Take Britain. Over the last generation, British Jewry has acted as a kind of controlled experiment: a Diaspora community living in an open society, but, unlike that in the United States, not artificially sustained by immigration. What happened? Over the last quarter- century, the number of British Jews declined by over 25 percent.

Over the same interval, France’s Jewish population declined only slightly. The reason for this relative stability, however, is a one-time factor: the influx of North African Jewry. That influx is over. In France today only a minority of Jews between the ages of twenty and forty-four live in a conventional family with two Jewish parents. France, too, will go the way of the rest.

« The dissolution of European Jewry, » observes Bernard Wasserstein in Vanishing Diaspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945, « is not situated at some point in the hypothetical future. The process is taking place before our eyes and is already far advanced. » Under present trends, « the number of Jews in Europe by the year 2000 would then be not much more than one million — the lowest figure since the last Middle Ages. »

In 1990, there were eight million.

The story elsewhere is even more dispiriting. The rest of what was once the Diaspora is now either a museum or a graveyard. Eastern Europe has been effectively emptied of its Jews. In 1939, Poland had 3.2 million Jews. Today it is home to 3,500. The story is much the same in the other capitals of Eastern Europe.

The Islamic world, cradle to the great Sephardic Jewish tradition and home to one-third of world Jewry three centuries ago, is now practically Judenrein. Not a single country in the Islamic world is home to more than 20,000 Jews. After Turkey with 19,000 and Iran with 14,000, the country with the largest Jewish community in the entire Islamic world is Morocco with 6, 100. There are more Jews in Omaha, Nebraska.

These communities do not figure in projections. There is nothing to project. They are fit subjects not for counting but for remembering. Their very sound has vanished. Yiddish and Ladino, the distinctive languages of the European and Sephardic Diasporas, like the communities that invented them, are nearly extinct.

IV. THE DYNAMICS OF ASSIMILATION

Is it not risky to assume that current trends will continue? No. Nothing will revive the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and the Islamic world. And nothing will stop the rapid decline by assimilation of Western Jewry. On the contrary. Projecting current trends — assuming, as I have done, that rates remain constant — is rather conservative: It is risky to assume that assimilation will not accelerate. There is nothing on the horizon to reverse the integration of Jews into Western culture. The attraction of Jews to the larger culture and the level of acceptance of Jews by the larger culture are historically unprecedented. If anything, the trends augur an intensification of assimilation.

It stands to reason. As each generation becomes progressively more assimilated, the ties to tradition grow weaker (as measured, for example, by synagogue attendance and number of children receiving some kind of Jewish education). This dilution of identity, in turn, leads to a greater tendency to intermarriage and assimilation. Why not? What, after all, are they giving up? The circle is complete and self-reinforcing.

Consider two cultural artifacts. With the birth of television a half- century ago, Jewish life in America was represented by The Goldbergs: urban Jews, decidedly ethnic, heavily accented, socially distinct. Forty years later The Goldbergs begat Seinfeld, the most popular entertainment in America today. The Seinfeld character is nominally Jewish. He might cite his Jewish identity on occasion without apology or self- consciousness — but, even more important, without consequence. It has not the slightest influence on any aspect of his life.

Assimilation of this sort is not entirely unprecedented. In some ways, it parallels the pattern in Western Europe after the emancipation of the Jews in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The French Revolution marks the turning point in the granting of civil rights to Jews. As they began to emerge from the ghetto, at first they found resistance to their integration and advancement. They were still excluded from the professions, higher education, and much of society. But as these barriers began gradually to erode and Jews advanced socially, Jews began a remarkable embrace of European culture and, for many, Christianity. In A History of Zionism, Walter Laqueur notes the view of Gabriel Riesser, an eloquent and courageous mid-19th-century advocate of emancipation, that a Jew who preferred the non-existent state and nation of Israel to Germany should be put under police protection not because he was dangerous but because he was obviously insane.

Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) was a harbinger. Cultured, cosmopolitan, though firmly Jewish, he was the quintessence of early emancipation. Yet his story became emblematic of the rapid historical progression from emancipation to assimilation: Four of his six children and eight of his nine grandchildren were baptized.

In that more religious, more Christian age, assimilation took the form of baptism, what Henrich Heine called the admission ticket to European society. In the far more secular late-20th century, assimilation merely means giving up the quaint name, the rituals, and the other accouterments and identifiers of one’s Jewish past. Assimilation today is totally passive. Indeed, apart from the trip to the county courthouse to transform, say, (shmattes by) Ralph Lifshitz into (Polo by) Ralph Lauren, it is marked by an absence of actions rather than the active embrace of some other faith. Unlike Mendelssohn’s children, Seinfeld required no baptism.

We now know, of course, that in Europe, emancipation through assimilation proved a cruel hoax. The rise of anti-Semitism, particularly late-19th- century racial anti-Semitism culminating in Nazism, disabused Jews of the notion that assimilation provided escape from the liabilities and dangers of being Jewish. The saga of the family of Madeleine Albright is emblematic. Of her four Jewish grandparents — highly assimilated, with children some of whom actually converted and erased their Jewish past — three went to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps as Jews.

Nonetheless, the American context is different. There is no American history of anti-Semitism remotely resembling Europe’s. The American tradition of tolerance goes back 200 years to the very founding of the country. Washington’s letter to the synagogue in Newport pledges not tolerance — tolerance bespeaks non-persecution bestowed as a favor by the dominant upon the deviant — but equality. It finds no parallel in the history of Europe. In such a country, assimilation seems a reasonable solution to one’s Jewish problem. One could do worse than merge one’s destiny with that of a great and humane nation dedicated to the proposition of human dignity and equality.

Nonetheless, while assimilation may be a solution for individual Jews, it clearly is a disaster for Jews as a collective with a memory, a language, a tradition, a liturgy, a history, a faith, a patrimony that will all perish as a result.

Whatever value one might assign to assimilation, one cannot deny its reality. The trends, demographic and cultural, are stark. Not just in the long-lost outlands of the Diaspora, not just in its erstwhile European center, but even in its new American heartland, the future will be one of diminution, decline, and virtual disappearance. This will not occur overnight. But it will occur soon — in but two or three generations, a time not much further removed from ours today than the founding of Israel fifty years ago.

V. ISRAELI EXCEPTIONALISM

Israel is different. In Israel the great temptation of modernity — assimilation — simply does not exist. Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.

Because most Israelis are secular, however, some ultra-religious Jews dispute Israel’s claim to carry on an authentically Jewish history. So do some secular Jews. A French critic (sociologist Georges Friedmann) once called Israelis « Hebrew-speaking gentiles. » In fact, there was once a fashion among a group of militantly secular Israeli intellectuals to call themselves  » Canaanites, » i.e., people rooted in the land but entirely denying the religious tradition from which they came.

Well then, call these people what you will. « Jews, » after all, is a relatively recent name for this people. They started out as Hebrews, then became Israelites. « Jew » (derived from the Kingdom of Judah, one of the two successor states to the Davidic and Solomonic Kingdom of Israel) is the post- exilic term for Israelite. It is a latecomer to history.

What to call the Israeli who does not observe the dietary laws, has no use for the synagogue, and regards the Sabbath as the day for a drive to the beach — a fair description, by the way, of most of the prime ministers of Israel? It does not matter. Plant a Jewish people in a country that comes to a standstill on Yom Kippur; speaks the language of the Bible; moves to the rhythms of the Hebrew (lunar) calendar; builds cities with the stones of its ancestors; produces Hebrew poetry and literature, Jewish scholarship and learning unmatched anywhere in the world — and you have continuity.

Israelis could use a new name. Perhaps we will one day relegate the word Jew to the 2,000-year exilic experience and once again call these people Hebrews. The term has a nice historical echo, being the name by which Joseph and Jonah answered the question: « Who are you? »

In the cultural milieu of modern Israel, assimilation is hardly the problem. Of course Israelis eat McDonald’s and watch Dallas reruns. But so do Russians and Chinese and Danes. To say that there are heavy Western (read: American) influences on Israeli culture is to say nothing more than that Israel is as subject to the pressures of globalization as any other country. But that hardly denies its cultural distinctiveness, a fact testified to by the great difficulty immigrants have in adapting to Israel.

In the Israeli context, assimilation means the reattachment of Russian and Romanian, Uzbeki and Iraqi, Algerian and Argentinian Jews to a distinctively Hebraic culture. It means the exact opposite of what it means in the Diaspora: It means giving up alien languages, customs, and traditions. It means giving up Christmas and Easter for Hanukkah and Passover. It means giving up ancestral memories of the steppes and the pampas and the savannas of the world for Galilean hills and Jerusalem stone and Dead Sea desolation. That is what these new Israelis learn. That is what is transmitted to their children. That is why their survival as Jews is secure. Does anyone doubt that the near- million Soviet immigrants to Israel would have been largely lost to the Jewish people had they remained in Russia — and that now they will not be lost?

Some object to the idea of Israel as carrier of Jewish continuity because of the myriad splits and fractures among Israelis: Orthodox versus secular, Ashkenazi versus Sephardi, Russian versus sabra, and so on. Israel is now engaged in bitter debates over the legitimacy of conservative and reform Judaism and the encroachment of Orthodoxy upon the civic and social life of the country.

So what’s new? Israel is simply recapitulating the Jewish norm. There are equally serious divisions in the Diaspora, as there were within the last Jewish Commonwealth: « Before the ascendancy of the Pharisees and the emergence of Rabbinic orthodoxy after the fall of the Second Temple, » writes Harvard Near East scholar Frank Cross, « Judaism was more complex and variegated than we had supposed. » The Dead Sea Scrolls, explains Hershel Shanks, « emphasize a hitherto unappreciated variety in Judaism of the late Second Temple period, so much so that scholars often speak not simply of Judaism but of Judaisms. »

The Second Commonwealth was a riot of Jewish sectarianism: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, apocalyptics of every stripe, sects now lost to history, to say nothing of the early Christians. Those concerned about the secular- religious tensions in Israel might contemplate the centuries-long struggle between Hellenizers and traditionalists during the Second Commonwealth. The Maccabean revolt of 167-4 B.C., now celebrated as Hanukkah, was, among other things, a religious civil war among Jews.

Yes, it is unlikely that Israel will produce a single Jewish identity. But that is unnecessary. The relative monolith of Rabbinic Judaism in the Middle Ages is the exception. Fracture and division is a fact of life during the modern era, as during the First and Second Commonwealths. Indeed, during the period of the First Temple, the people of Israel were actually split into two often warring states. The current divisions within Israel pale in comparison.

Whatever identity or identities are ultimately adopted by Israelis, the fact remains that for them the central problem of Diaspora Jewry — suicide by assimilation — simply does not exist. Blessed with this security of identity, Israel is growing. As a result, Israel is not just the cultural center of the Jewish world, it is rapidly becoming its demographic center as well. The relatively high birth rate yields a natural increase in population. Add a steady net rate of immigration (nearly a million since the late 1980s), and Israel’s numbers rise inexorably even as the Diaspora declines.

Within a decade Israel will pass the United States as the most populous Jewish community on the globe. Within our lifetime a majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. That has not happened since well before Christ.

A century ago, Europe was the center of Jewish life. More than 80 percent of world Jewry lived there. The Second World War destroyed European Jewry and dispersed the survivors to the New World (mainly the United States) and to Israel. Today, 80 percent of world Jewry lives either in the United States or in Israel. Today we have a bipolar Jewish universe with two centers of gravity of approximately equal size. It is a transitional stage, however. One star is gradually dimming, the other brightening.

Soon an inevitably the cosmology of the Jewish people will have been transformed again, turned into a single-star system with a dwindling Diaspora orbiting around. It will be a return to the ancient norm: The Jewish people will be centered — not just spiritually but physically — in their ancient homeland.

VI. THE END OF DISPERSION

The consequences of this transformation are enormous. Israel’s centrality is more than just a question of demography. It represents a bold and dangerous new strategy for Jewish survival.

For two millennia, the Jewish people survived by means of dispersion and isolation. Following the first exile in 586 B.C. and the second exile in 70 A. D. and 132 A.D., Jews spread first throughout Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean Basin, then to northern and eastern Europe and eventually west to the New World, with communities in practically every corner of the earth, even unto India and China.

Throughout this time, the Jewish people survived the immense pressures of persecution, massacre, and forced conversion not just by faith and courage, but by geographic dispersion. Decimated here, they would survive there. The thousands of Jewish villages and towns spread across the face of Europe, the Islamic world, and the New World provided a kind of demographic insurance. However many Jews were massacred in the First Crusade along the Rhine, however many villages were destroyed in the 1648-1649 pogroms in Ukraine, there were always thousands of others spread around the globe to carry on.

This dispersion made for weakness and vulnerability for individual Jewish communities. Paradoxically, however, it made for endurance and strength for the Jewish people as a whole. No tyrant could amass enough power to threaten Jewish survival everywhere.

Until Hitler. The Nazis managed to destroy most everything Jewish from the Pyrenees to the gates of Stalingrad, an entire civilization a thousand years old. There were nine million Jews in Europe when Hitler came to power. He killed two-thirds of them. Fifty years later, the Jews have yet to recover. There were sixteen million Jews in the world in 1939. Today, there are thirteen million.

The effect of the Holocaust was not just demographic, however. It was psychological, indeed ideological, as well. It demonstrated once and for all the catastrophic danger of powerlessness. The solution was self-defense, and that meant a demographic reconcentration in a place endowed with sovereignty, statehood, and arms.

Before World War II there was great debate in the Jewish world over Zionism. Reform Judaism, for example, was for decades anti-Zionist. The Holocaust resolved that debate. Except for those at the extremes — the ultra-Orthodox right and far left — Zionism became the accepted solution to Jewish powerlessness and vulnerability. Amid the ruins, Jews made a collective decision that their future lay in self-defense and territoriality, in the ingathering of the exiles to a place where they could finally acquire the means to defend themselves.

It was the right decision, the only possible decision. But oh so perilous. What a choice of place to make one’s final stand: a dot on the map, a tiny patch of near-desert, a thin ribbon of Jewish habitation behind the flimsiest of natural barriers (which the world demands that Israel relinquish). One determined tank thrust can tear it in half. One small battery of nuclear- tipped Scuds can obliterate it entirely.

To destroy the Jewish people, Hitler needed to conquer the world. All that is needed today is to conquer a territory smaller than Vermont. The terrible irony is that in solving the problem of powerlessness, the Jews have necessarily put all their eggs in one basket, a small basket hard by the waters of the Mediterranean. And on its fate hinges everything Jewish.

VII. THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE

What if the Third Jewish Commonwealth meets the fate of the first two? The scenario is not that far-fetched: A Palestinian state is born, arms itself, concludes alliances with, say, Iraq and Syria. War breaks out between Palestine and Israel (over borders or water or terrorism). Syria and Iraq attack from without. Egypt and Saudi Arabia join the battle. The home front comes under guerilla attack from Palestine. Chemical and biological weapons rain down from Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Israel is overrun.

Why is this the end? Can the Jewish people not survive as they did when their homeland was destroyed and their political independence extinguished twice before? Why not a new exile, a new Diaspora, a new cycle of Jewish history?

First, because the cultural conditions of exile would be vastly different. The first exiles occurred at a time when identity was nearly coterminous with religion. An expulsion two millennia later into a secularized world affords no footing for a reestablished Jewish identity.

But more important: Why retain such an identity? Beyond the dislocation would be the sheer demoralization. Such an event would simply break the spirit. No people could survive it. Not even the Jews. This is a people that miraculously survived two previous destructions and two millennia of persecution in the hope of ultimate return and restoration. Israel is that hope. To see it destroyed, to have Isaiahs and Jeremiahs lamenting the widows of Zion once again amid the ruins of Jerusalem is more than one people could bear.

Particularly coming after the Holocaust, the worst calamity in Jewish history. To have survived it is miracle enough. Then to survive the destruction of that which arose to redeem it — the new Jewish state — is to attribute to Jewish nationhood and survival supernatural power.

Some Jews and some scattered communities would, of course, survive. The most devout, already a minority, would carry on — as an exotic tribe, a picturesque Amish-like anachronism, a dispersed and pitied remnant of a remnant. But the Jews as a people would have retired from history.

We assume that Jewish history is cyclical: Babylonian exile in 586 B.C., followed by return in 538 B.C. Roman exile in 135 A.D., followed by return, somewhat delayed, in 1948. We forget a linear part of Jewish history: There was one other destruction, a century and a half before the fall of the First Temple. It went unrepaired. In 722 B.C., the Assyrians conquered the other, larger Jewish state, the northern kingdom of Israel. (Judah, from which modern Jews are descended, was the southern kingdom.) This is the Israel of the Ten Tribes, exiled and lost forever.

So enduring is their mystery that when Lewis and Clark set off on their expedition, one of the many questions prepared for them by Dr. Benjamin Rush at Jefferson’s behest was this: « What Affinity between their [the Indians’] religious Ceremonies & those of the Jews? » « Jefferson and Lewis had talked at length about these tribes, » explains Stephen Ambrose. « They speculated that the lost tribes of Israel could be out there on the Plains. »

Alas, not. The Ten Tribes had melted away into history. As such, they represent the historical norm. Every other people so conquered and exiled has in time disappeared. Only the Jews defied the norm. Twice. But never, I fear, again.


Disparition de Bernard Lewis: C’est les ressemblances, imbécile ! (What brought Islam and Christendom into conflict was not so much their differences as their resemblances)

9 juin, 2018
61463_468177469892194_1364727104_n Que chacun se tienne en garde contre son ami et qu’on ne se fie à aucun de ses frères car tout frère cherche à tromper et tout ami répand des calomnies. Jérémie 9: 4
C’était une cité fortement convoitée par les ennemis de la foi et c’est pourquoi, par une sorte de syndrome mimétique, elle devint chère également au cœur des Musulmans. Emmanuel Sivan
Le choix du lieu lui-même est extrêmement symbolique : lieu sacré juif, où restent encore des ruines des temples hérodiens, laissé à l’abandon par les chrétiens pour marquer leur triomphe sur cette religion, il est à nouveau utilisé sous l’Islam, marquant alors la victoire sur les Chrétiens et, éventuellement, une continuité avec le judaïsme. (…) Enfin, l’historien Al-Maqdisi, au Xe siècle, écrit que le dôme a été réalisé dans la but de dépasser le Saint-Sépulcre, d’où un plan similaire, mais magnifié. De cette analyse on a pu conclure que le dôme du Rocher peut être considéré comme un message de l’Islam et des Umayyades en direction des chrétiens, des Juifs, mais également des musulmans récemment convertis (attirés par les déploiements de luxe des églises chrétiennes) pour marquer le triomphe de l’Islam. Wikipedia 
Le point intéressant est l’attitude des Palestiniens. Il me semble que ceux-ci sont attirés par deux attitudes extrêmes: l’une est la négation pure et simple de la Shoah, dont il y a divers exemples dans la littérature palestinienne ; l’autre est l’identification de leur propre destin à celui du peuple juif. Tout le monde a pu remarquer, par exemple, que la Déclaration d’indépendance des Palestiniens en novembre 1988 était calquée sur la Déclaration d’indépendance d’Israël en 1948. C’est dans cet esprit qu’il arrive aux dirigeants palestiniens de dire que la Shoah, ils savent ce que c’est, puisque c’est ce qu’ils subissent au quotidien. J’ai entendu M. Arafat dire cela, en 1989, à un groupe d’intellectuels, dont je faisais partie. Pierre Vidal-Naquet
L’erreur est toujours de raisonner dans les catégories de la « différence », alors que la racine de tous les conflits, c’est plutôt la « concurrence », la rivalité mimétique entre des êtres, des pays, des cultures. La concurrence, c’est-à-dire le désir d’imiter l’autre pour obtenir la même chose que lui, au besoin par la violence. Sans doute le terrorisme est-il lié à un monde « différent » du nôtre, mais ce qui suscite le terrorisme n’est pas dans cette « différence » qui l’éloigne le plus de nous et nous le rend inconcevable. Il est au contraire dans un désir exacerbé de convergence et de ressemblance. (…) Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme. Ce sentiment n’est pas vrai des masses, mais des dirigeants. Sur le plan de la fortune personnelle, on sait qu’un homme comme Ben Laden n’a rien à envier à personne. Et combien de chefs de parti ou de faction sont dans cette situation intermédiaire, identique à la sienne. Regardez un Mirabeau au début de la Révolution française : il a un pied dans un camp et un pied dans l’autre, et il n’en vit que de manière plus aiguë son ressentiment. Aux Etats-Unis, des immigrés s’intègrent avec facilité, alors que d’autres, même si leur réussite est éclatante, vivent aussi dans un déchirement et un ressentiment permanents. Parce qu’ils sont ramenés à leur enfance, à des frustrations et des humiliations héritées du passé. Cette dimension est essentielle, en particulier chez des musulmans qui ont des traditions de fierté et un style de rapports individuels encore proche de la féodalité. (…) Cette concurrence mimétique, quand elle est malheureuse, ressort toujours, à un moment donné, sous une forme violente. A cet égard, c’est l’islam qui fournit aujourd’hui le ciment qu’on trouvait autrefois dans le marxismeRené Girard
Il faut se souvenir que le nazisme s’est lui-même présenté comme une lutte contre la violence: c’est en se posant en victime du traité de Versailles que Hitler a gagné son pouvoir. Et le communisme lui aussi s’est présenté comme une défense des victimes. Désormais, c’est donc seulement au nom de la lutte contre la violence qu’on peut commettre la violence. René Girard
La condition préalable à tout dialogue est que chacun soit honnête avec sa tradition. (…) les chrétiens ont repris tel quel le corpus de la Bible hébraïque. Saint Paul parle de  » greffe » du christianisme sur le judaïsme, ce qui est une façon de ne pas nier celui-ci . (…) Dans l’islam, le corpus biblique est, au contraire, totalement remanié pour lui faire dire tout autre chose que son sens initial (…) La récupération sous forme de torsion ne respecte pas le texte originel sur lequel, malgré tout, le Coran s’appuie. René Girard
Dans la foi musulmane, il y a un aspect simple, brut, pratique qui a facilité sa diffusion et transformé la vie d’un grand nombre de peuples à l’état tribal en les ouvrant au monothéisme juif modifié par le christianisme. Mais il lui manque l’essentiel du christianisme : la croix. Comme le christianisme, l’islam réhabilite la victime innocente, mais il le fait de manière guerrière. La croix, c’est le contraire, c’est la fin des mythes violents et archaïques. René Girard
Des millions de Faisal Shahzad sont déstabilisés par un monde moderne qu’ils ne peuvent ni maîtriser ni rejeter. (…) Le jeune homme qui avait fait tous ses efforts pour acquérir la meilleure éducation que pouvait lui offrir l’Amérique avant de succomber à l’appel du jihad a fait place au plus atteint des schizophrènes. Les villes surpeuplées de l’Islam – de Karachi et Casablanca au Caire – et ces villes d’Europe et d’Amérique du Nord où la diaspora islamique est maintenant présente en force ont des multitudes incalculables d’hommes comme Faisal Shahzad. C’est une longue guerre crépusculaire, la lutte contre l’Islamisme radical. Nul vœu pieu, nulle stratégie de « gain des coeurs et des esprits », nulle grande campagne d’information n’en viendront facilement à bout. L’Amérique ne peut apaiser cette fureur accumulée. Ces hommes de nulle part – Shahzad Faisal, Malik Nidal Hasan, l’émir renégat né en Amérique Anwar Awlaki qui se terre actuellement au Yémen et ceux qui leur ressemblent – sont une race de combattants particulièrement dangereux dans ce nouveau genre de guerre. La modernité les attire et les ébranle à la fois. L’Amérique est tout en même temps l’objet de leurs rêves et le bouc émissaire sur lequel ils projettent leurs malignités les plus profondes. Fouad Ajami
For the sake of clarity and decency, one must delineate between (a) genocides (documented attempts to wipe off a race or a nation); (b) non-genocidal mass murders; (c) enslavement of large numbers of people; (d) planned dispossession and expulsion of large numbers of people; and (e) secondary effects of wars and other crises. In that order. The Holocaust qualifies under point (a). So does the starvation program against the Hereros (in German Southwest Africa shortly before WW1), and the further genocidal operations against the Armenians, the Iraqi Chaldeans, the black minority in the Dominican Republic, the Roma/Sinti in Europe, and the Tutsis in Rwanda. The « Nakba » does not compare to most other collective tragedies in the last century. The Soviet, Red Chinese, and Khmer Rouge domestic massacres qualify under point (b), as well as the Nazi treatment of European nations (like the Poles), the Japanese atrocities in China, and many further ethnic and religious massacres in the Balkans, South Asia, and Africa. The African slave trade and the slavery regimes in both Islamic countries and the Christian colonies in the Americas and elsewhere qualify under point (c). So do massive slave work programs in the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, in Maoist China, and in present-day North Korea. Qualifying under point (d): The U.S. treatment of many Native Americans in the 19th century; the French treatment of Kabyles in Algeria in 1871; the alternate expulsion of Turks, Greeks, and Turks again between 1912 and 1923; the expulsion of Poles and French from areas slated for German colonization during WW2; the expulsion of ethnic Germans from East Prussia, Transoderian Germany, and Czechoslovakia in 1945; the mass anti-Christian pogroms in Turkey in 1955; the expulsion of Christians and Jews from Arab or Islamic countries from 1956 on (Egypt, North Africa, the Middle East); and the expulsion of ethnic Greeks from Northern Cyprus. UNRWA has evolved from a temporary relief and works program into a broad social welfare organization. The Nakba should be chiefly considered under point (e): the mass flight of Arab Palestinians was a collateral outcome of the first Arab-Israeli war, which was initiated by the Arab Palestinian leadership of the day and six Arab nations. Even so, Arab Palestinian refugees, while often unwelcome in neighboring Arab countries, were given a privileged status by the United Nations and have been able to retain it on a hereditary basis to this day. As an average, UNRWA — the United Nations agency that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees — has been getting one third of the global United Nations budget for refugees over a period of almost seventy years. It is noteworthy that most Muslim victims come also under point (e), whereas Muslim powers acted criminally in many instances under points (a), (c) and (d). Likewise, it should be stressed that throughout the 1915-2015 period, Christians have been the largest victim group in the Middle East under points (a), (d) and (e), followed by Jews under points (d) and (e). Again, comparison of the Nakba with the Holocaust or with much of the above criminality of the past 100 years is parody rooted in anti-Israeli sentiment. Michel Gurfinkiel
La guerre entre les pays de l’islam et les pays chrétiens sous leurs étendards religieux respectifs dure depuis le début de l’islam, il y a plus de quatorze siècles. Le conflit a même parfois été plus dur qu’aujourd’hui. Prenez les croisades, les guerres coloniales, entre autres… Actuellement, la tendance est à tout réduire au facteur national. Mais c’est une erreur. Un exemple : le film du cinéaste égyptien Youssef Chahine sur l’expédition en Egypte de Bonaparte en 1799. Chahine nous présente les choses avec la vision nationaliste contemporaine : les Arabes qui habitaient l’Egypte se révoltèrent contre l’intrusion des étrangers. En vérité, c’était davantage une indignation de musulmans. De musulmans, plus que d’Arabes… Le fait national agissait de manière complexe, caché, mais les contemporains considéraient les événements d’un point de vue religieux : les infidèles viennent nous attaquer. (…) C’est ainsi depuis le début : l’islam fut considéré dès sa formation au VIIe siècle comme une hérésie chrétienne. Des individus sous la direction d’un faux prophète proclament des faussetés sur la nature de Dieu, les obligations des fidèles, le rôle de Jésus… (…) Quand deux mondes s’affrontent, tout joue. L’argent, le pouvoir, la foi… Quelle motivation l’emporte sur l’autre ? C’est indémêlable. Ce qui s’est passé à New York n’est pas isolable de la lutte Orient-Occident dans sa globalité. (…) Qu’est-ce que l’Occident pour les musulmans ? Un monde chrétien, donc un monde d’infidèles, d’incroyants, de gens qui disent des horreurs sur le prophète Mahomet. Ils doivent être combattus par la parole si c’est possible, et sinon, dans certaines circonstances, par le glaive. Cette haine a aussi une dimension patriotique si l’on peut dire. Tant que l’Occident ne vous dérange pas, ça va. Mais aussitôt qu’il veut ou paraît vouloir imposer ses valeurs… Au nom de ses valeurs à soi, le spectre resurgit. Aujourd’hui, on regarde les choses avec plus de modération, mais depuis une cinquantaine d’années à peine. Le concile Vatican II, en 1965, a considéré qu’il y avait des valeurs précieuses dans l’islam. Mais les papes récents ont eu beaucoup de difficulté à imposer cette version des choses. (…) Le décalage de la prospérité joue évidemment un grand rôle. Les musulmans subissent l’influence des modes et des représentations européennes, non sans humiliation. (…) Cela a commencé bien avant (la colonisation]. Dès le… VIIe siècle. Les musulmans n’en ont pas toujours conscience, mais ils se sont imposés les premiers en Europe comme concurrents, avec des aspirations dominatrices. La plupart des pays musulmans actuels étaient alors chrétiens – l’Egypte, la Syrie, la Turquie… Pendant longtemps, les musulmans ont été les plus forts, les plus riches, les plus civilisés. (…) Au bout de plusieurs siècles, par la force, mais aussi par les idées et le commerce (…) L’Occident chrétien a définitivement emporté la partie quand, à partir des années 1800, sa domination technologique a été écrasante. En fait, quand les canons et les fusils occidentaux se sont mis à tirer plus vite… Maxime Rodinson
Il faut rappeler d’abord que le savoir moderne sur l’Orient est né de la force. L’Europe agit sur la scène théâtrale mondiale. Elle a conscience d’être un acteur qui prend la parole et domine la scène de manière conquérante. Cette conscience de supériorité, nous ne la trouvons pas chez les Orientaux. Aux dix-huitième et dix-neuvième siècles, il y a eu, dans le monde arabo-islamique, une conscience locale concernant les problèmes intérieurs; cette conscience ne se prend pas pour une parole qui se diffuse et s’exporte. Cela ne veut pas dire qu’il n’y avait pas des énergies et des débats internes. Mais en tant que culture et pouvoir du mot qui résistent à la conquête, ces énergies n’existaient pas. Bonaparte a emmené dans ses bagages une équipe de savants et d’intellectuels pour mieux assimiler la logique non évidente, intérieure du peuple et de la société à conquérir. Il y a une conscience de l’identité conquérante nourrie et soutenue par une série de personnages conquérants dans l’histoire occidentale (Alexandre, César, Marc-Antoine, Auguste…). Bonaparte ne fait que poursuivre une tradition bien ancrée dans la conscience et l’histoire occidentales. Il partait en Égypte comme un nouvel Alexandre, un peu pour justifier les observations faites par Talleyrand, à propos  » des avantages à retirer des colonies nouvelles « . (…) Et pour moi cela reste inexplicable. Je ne comprends pas encore comment, pour ne parler que du monde arabe, l’Occident a réussi à le dominer. L’instinct de domination est inscrit dans l’histoire de l’Occident et non dans celle de l’Orient. Je peux l’expliquer, mais en me référant à mon histoire de Palestinien : je revois encore les immigrants juifs venant d’Europe nous repousser et s’infiltrer dans nos terres et foyers. Bien sûr il y avait une forte résistance, mais ce qui a manqué c’était la résistance systématique et dans le détail. Rappelez-vous la phrase de Weizmann :  » Another acre, another goat  » ( » Petit à petit « ). À cette politique du  » petit à petit « , très systématique et très étudiée, les Arabes n’avaient pas de réponse. Ils résistaient de manière générale ; ils ont refusé la conquête et n’ont jamais admis le fait accompli, et nous le voyons encore aujourd’hui chez les Palestiniens. Ce n’est que depuis la guerre de 1967 que la résistance palestinienne s’est adaptée à ce genre de conquête et de politique. (…) Malheureusement, je ne crois pas que j’aurais écrit ce livre si j’étais resté dans le monde arabe. Il fallait, pour en arriver à ce livre, une distance et une désorientation. C’est le livre d’un exilé. Il fallait être entre les cultures et non dans les cultures. J’ai essayé de faire l’inventaire du processus par lequel nous, Orientaux, sommes devenus  » orientaux « , c’est-à-dire image et fantasme de l’Occident. J’ai essayé de reconquérir cette partie de notre identité qui était construite, manipulée et possédée par les autres. En tant qu’universitaire américain qui enseigne la littérature anglaise et comparée, j’ai essayé de faire un travail de critique qui dépasse les limites de la  » littéralité  » pour démontrer l’affiliation entre l’écriture, les institutions de la société et le pouvoir. Donc ce livre est adressé à tous ceux de mes compatriotes, tous ceux qui ont vécu la domination politique et culturelle et qui, peut-être, ignorent les mécanismes cachés ou trop immédiats (invisibles) de la domination. Je vise les intellectuels du monde arabe qui parlent trop globalement et en général de l’Occident… et qui sont aussi fascinés par cet Occident… Je vise aussi les intellectuels occidentaux, qui se mettent à élaborer les idéologies dominantes dans leur spécialité universitaire, qui font l’éloge de la  » science  » sans avoir suffisamment la conscience critique. Je tiens beaucoup plus à ce que Marx appelle  » les armes de la critique  » qu’aux institutions de la science qui me semblent toujours prises dans une complicité mystifiée avec leurs racines sociales. (…) Ce qui est totalement négatif, pour moi, c’est la position de l’orientalisme en tant que science, et l’orientaliste en tant que spectateur d’un objet inerte, qui ne peut aboutir qu’à la situation que j’ai décrite dans mon livre. Mais ce que je veux sauver de l’orientalisme, c’est le travail de collaboration entre les hommes et les cultures, pour aboutir à une découverte collective et non à des résultats privilégiant une race sur une autre. (…) Ceux-là manifestent un esprit anticolonial et antiraciste dans leur travail. J’admire beaucoup l’érudition prodigieuse qui est basée sur un humanisme philologique. D’un autre côté, j’admire l’esprit critique et pertinent des jeunes orientalistes qui, dans leur travail, ont réagi contre les idées reçues de cette discipline. Ce que j’estime le plus, c’est surtout la conscience critique qui se réfléchit et doute. Je pense que le véritable esprit chercheur est celui qui ne cherche pas des absolus, et qui reconnaît le fait que toute interprétation implique des circonstances existentielles de travail scientifique. Il n’y a pas d’interprétation scientifique à la manière d’une science de la nature. Les sciences humaines ne sont pas des sciences naturelles. Il n’y a pas LA science qui concerne toute l’humanité. Il y a des sciences et des interprétations qui luttent entre elles pour des positions d’efficacité dominantes et  » véridiques « . Cela ne veut pas dire que toutes les interprétations sont égales, ni que toutes les interprétations sont intéressées et vulgaires. (…) [la critique de Maxime Rodinson] est une simplification et même une perversion de ce que j’ai écrit. Je suppose que personne ne puisse nier le fait que la  » science  » surgit de la société et que les circonstances (la quotidienneté de la science) sont toujours là. L’histoire de l’orientalisme et les résultats administratifs et coloniaux ont toujours été dissimulés par la rhétorique de la science. Je ne veux pas dire que la science n’est que ces circonstances et sa provenance. Ce que je dis est que la science n’est jamais absolue, mais toujours liée forcément aux besoins de la société et aux désirs de l’individu. Peut-être que Rodinson a une recette pour purger la science de sa gangue sociale. (…) Ce qui caractérise l’intellectuel arabe contemporain, c’est une tendance à traduire la pensée occidentale en des langages locaux. Si vous prenez la carrière des hommes de la Nahda (Renaissance), il y a un effort conscient de moderniser le monde arabo-islamique selon les lois postulées par l’Occident. C’est l’effort de Boustani et de Mohamed Abdou de répondre à l’Occident et de transformer l’islam pour qu’il puisse être perçu dans un rapport d’égalité avec la modernité définie par l’Occident. Je pense que cette tentative est terminée. À présent ce qu’on voit, c’est un islam qui réagit contre l’Occident (Khomeiny) ; c’est la partie la plus dramatique et la plus visible de ce qui se passe. Justement, ce phénomène justifie les craintes traditionnelles et culturelles de l’Occident d’islam militant a toujours fait peur). La notion de Jihad (guerre sainte) a été aussi montée en épingle. Mais, sous cette surface, il y a un islam que j’appellerais investigateur, qui commence à se manifester à travers les efforts de plusieurs penseurs, écrivains et poètes ; il redéfinit la réalité actuelle du monde islamique. Edward Saïd
No one has ever devised a method of detaching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of a society … I doubt that it is controversial, for example, to say that an Englishman in India or Egypt in the later nineteenth century took an interest in those countries that was never far from their status as British colonies. To say this may seem quite different from saying that all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, gross political fact —and yet that is what I am saying in this study of Orientalism. For if it is true that no production of knowledge in the human sciences can ever ignore or disclaim its author’s involvement as a human subject in his own circumstances, then it must also be true that for a European or American studying the Orient there can be no disclaiming the main circumstances of his actuality: that he comes up against the Orient as a European or American first, as an individual second. And to be a European or an American in such a situation is by no means an inert fact. It meant and means being aware, however dimly, that one belongs to a power with definite interests in the Orient, and more important, that one belongs to a part of the earth with a definite history of involvement in the Orient since almost the time of Homer. Edward Said
Said not only taught an entire generation of Arabs the wonderful art of self-pity (if only those wicked Zionists, imperialists and colonialists would leave us alone, we would be great, we would not have been humiliated, we would not be backward) but intimidated feeble Western academics, and even weaker, invariably leftish, intellectuals into accepting that any criticism of Islam was to be dismissed as orientalism, and hence invalid. (…) Relativism, and its illegitimate offspring, multiculturalism, are not conducive to the critical examination of Islam. Said wrote a polemical book, Orientalism (1978), whose pernicious influence is still felt in all departments of Islamic studies, where any critical discussion of Islam is ruled out a priori. For Said, orientalists are involved in an evil conspiracy to denigrate Islam, to maintain its people in a state of permanent subjugation and are a threat to Islam’s future. These orientalists are seeking knowledge of oriental peoples only in order to dominate them; most are in the service of imperialism. Said’s thesis was swallowed whole by Western intellectuals, since it accords well with the deep anti-Westernism of many of them. This anti-Westernism resurfaces regularly in Said’s prose, as it did in his comments in the Guardian after September 11th. The studied moral evasiveness, callousness and plain nastiness of Said’s article, with its refusal to condemn outright the attacks on America or show any sympathy for the victims or Americans, leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth of anyone whose moral sensibilities have not been blunted by political and Islamic correctness. In the face of all evidence, Said still argues that it was US foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere that brought about these attacks. Ibn Warraq
De tous les orientalistes, c’est Bernard Lewis, le plus célèbre, qui fera l’objet de ses plus virulentes attaques. En caricaturant : Lewis, en historien, explique que l’islam, après un millénaire de puissance, est entré dans une phase de déclin inexorable par fermeture sur lui-même et par incapacité à prendre le train de la modernité politique et technologique occidentale. Il porte seul la responsabilité de ce déclin et personne d’autre que lui-même ne l’en sortira, conclut le maître de Princeton. Faux ! rétorque Said en « analyste du discours ». D’abord parce que l’islam comme catégorie sui generis n’existe pas – d’ailleurs, « Orient et Occident ne correspondent à aucune réalité stable en tant que faits naturels » -, ensuite parce que le pseudo-« monde arabo-musulman » est aussi celui que les Occidentaux, en particulier par le colonialisme, en ont fait. La vision biaisée des « orientalistes », conclut-il, ne sert que les intérêts néo-impérialistes des puissances occidentales, Etats-Unis en tête. Le Monde
Il est dommage, pour le public francophone, que l’essai consacré par Simon Leys à l’orientalisme tel qu’Edward Said l’envisageait, n’ait été publié qu’en anglais, en 1984. En résumé, Leys y reprochait à l’auteur palestinien naturalisé américain de ne voir, dans l’orientalisme, qu’une « conspiration colonialo-impérialiste ». Tout en ironisant sur le fait que, si l’on devait un jour découvrir que c’est la CIA qui a financé les meilleures études sur la poésie des Tang et la peinture des Song, cela aurait moins le mérite de rehausser l’image de l’agence de renseignement américaine, Simon Leys demandait plus sérieusement pourquoi l’orientalisme, et plus généralement la curiosité pour une culture « autre », ne pouvaient pas être tout simplement considérés sous l’angle de l’admiration et de l’émerveillement, pour conduire à une meilleure connaissance des autres et de soi, et par conséquent à une prise de conscience des limites de sa propre civilisation. Philippe Paquet 
Edward Said’s main contention is that “no production of knowledge in the human sciences can ever ignore or disclaim the author’s involvement as a human subject in his own circumstances.” Translated into plain English, this would seem to mean simply that no scholar can escape his original condition: his own national, cultural, political, and social prejudices are bound to be reflected in his work. Such a commonsense statement hardly warrants any debate. Actually, Said’s own book is an excellent case in point; Orientalism could obviously have been written by no one but a Palestinian scholar with a huge chip on his shoulder and a very dim understanding of the European academic tradition (here perceived through the distorted prism of a certain type of American university with its brutish hyperspeculization, nonhumanistic approach, and close, unhealthy links with government). Said seems to include “sinology” implicitly in his concept of “orientalism.” (I insist on the word seems; the point remains obscure, like a great many other points in his book.) Said’s contention is that whenever an orientalist makes a statement in his own specialised area, this statement accrues automatically to the broader picture of a mythical “East.” I do not know whether this is true for scholars involved with Near and Middle East studies, but it certainly does not apply to sinologists. The intellectual and physical boundaries of the Chinese world are sharply defined; they encompass a reality that is so autonomous and singular that no sinologist in his right mind would ever dream of extending any sinological statement to the non-Chinese world. For a serious sinologist (or for any thinking person, for that matter) concepts such as “Asia” or “the East” have never contained any useful meaning. No sinologist would ever consider himself an orientalist. (Some sinologists, it is true, may occasionally be seen participating in one of those huge fairs that are periodically held under the name of “International Orientalist Congress,” but this is simply because similar junkets undertaken under the mere auspices of the Club Méditerranée would not be tax-deductible.) Orientalism is a colonialist-imperialist conspiracy. Quite possibly. To some extent, it may also be true for sinology. Who knows? One day it will perhaps be discovered that the best studies on Tang poetry and on Song painting have all been financed by the CIA — a fact that should somehow improve the public image of this much-maligned organisation. Orientalists hate and despise the Orient; they deny its intellectual existence and try to turn it into a vacuum. (…) The notion of an “other” culture is of questionable use, as it seems to end inevitably in self-congratulation, or hostility and aggression. Why could it not equally end in admiration, wonderment, increased self-knowledge, relativisation and readjustment of one’s own values, awareness of the limits of one’s own civilisation? Actually, most of the time, all of these seem to be the natural outcome of our study of China (and it is also the reason why Chinese should be taught in Western countries as a fundamental discipline of the humanities at the secondary-school level, in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, Latin and Greek). Joseph Needham summed up neatly what is the common feeling of most sinologists: “Chinese civilisation presents the irresistible fascination of what is totally ‘other,’ and only what is totally ‘other’ can inspire the deepest love, together with a strong desire to know it.” From the great Jesuit scholars of the sixteenth century down to the best sinologists of today, we can see that there was never a more powerful antidote to the temptation of Western ethnocentrism than the study of Chinese civilisation. (It is not a coincidence that Said, in his denunciation of “illiberal ethnocentrism,” found further ammunition for his good fight in the writings of a sinologist who was attacking the naïve and arrogant statement of a French philosopher describing Thomistic philosophy as “gathering up the whole of human tradition.” Indignant rejection of such crass provincialism will always come most spontaneously to any sinologist).  “Interesting work is more likely to be produced by scholars whose allegiance is to a discipline defined intellectually and not to a field like Orientalism, [which is] defined either canonically, imperially, or geographically.” The sinological field is defined linguistically; for this very reason, the concept of sinology is now being increasingly questioned (in fact, in the John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard, I recently heard it used as a term of abuse). Perhaps we ought to rejoice now as we see more historians, philosophers, students of literature, legal scholars, economists, political scientists and others venturing into the Chinese field, equipped with all the intellectual tools of their original disciplines. Still, this new trend is encountering one stubborn and major obstacle that is not likely ever to disappear: no specialist, whatever his area of expertise, can expect to contribute significantly to our knowledge of China without first mastering the Chinese literary language. To be able to read classical and modern Chinese it is necessary to undergo a fairly long and demanding training that can seldom be combined with the acquisition and cultivation of another discipline. For this reason, sinology is bound to survive, in fact, if not necessarily in name, as one global, multidisciplinary, humanistic undertaking, based solely upon a specific language prerequisite. Actually, this situation, imposed by the nature of things, does have its advantages. Chinese civilisation has an essentially holistic character that condemns all narrowly specialised approaches to grope in the dark and miss their target — as was well illustrated a few years ago by the spectacular blunders of nearly all the “contemporary China” specialists. (In this respect, it is ironic to note that it was precisely the so-called Concerned Asian Scholars — on whom Said set so much store in his book, as he saw in them the only chance of redemption for the orientalist establishment — that failed most scandalously in their moral responsibilities toward China and the Chinese people during the Maoist era.) Simon Leys
AFP : agence de presse chargée de la propagande extérieure de l’Autorité palestinienne. (Voir aussi Reuters). Laurent Murawiec
La mort de Mohammed annule, efface celle de l’enfant juif, les mains en l’air devant les SS, dans le Ghetto de Varsovie. Catherine Nay (Europe 1)
La joie qui entoure le retour des prisonniers est très mal perçue côté israélien. (…) De son côté, le Hezbollah a rendu dans des cercueils noirs deux soldats enlevés en 2006. (…) Les deux soldats avaient été capturés en juillet 2006 par un commando du Hezbollah à sa frontière nord. L’incident avait déclenché la guerre avec le Liban de l’été 2006. 1 200 personnes avaient été tuées côté libanais et 160 côté israélien, lors de cette offensive israélienne longue de 34 jours. AFP
Des manifestants, qualifiés par l’armée de « terroristes », ont lancé des dizaines de cerf-volants et des ballons équipés d’engins explosifs en direction de la barrière. Ces engins ont explosé en l’air. Des manifestants ont également lancé plusieurs grenades ainsi que des pneus enflammés en direction des soldats israéliens. Selon l’armée israélienne, les troupes ont eu recours aux moyens habituels utilisés pour disperser des manifestations « conformément aux règles d’engagement » en vigueur. La bande de Gaza est le théâtre depuis le 30 mars de manifestations accompagnées d’affrontements le long de la clôture frontalière. La mobilisation gazaouie est organisée au nom du droit au retour des Palestiniens sur les terres qu’ils ont fuies ou dont ils ont été chassés à la création d’Israël en 1948. Elle dénonce aussi le blocus imposé à l’enclave palestinienne depuis plus de 10 ans. Pour Israël, cette mobilisation sert de couvert à des activités hostiles du mouvement islamiste Hamas qui dirige l’enclave palestinienne. Au moins 128 Palestiniens ont été tués par des tirs israéliens depuis le 30 mars. Aucun Israélien n’a été tué. AFP
One of the things that fuel terrorism is the expression in some parts of the world of Islamophobic feelings and Islamophobic policies and Islamophobic hate speeches. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
Les ressentiments actuels des peuples du Moyen-Orient se comprennent mieux lorsqu’on s’aperçoit qu’ils résultent non pas d’un conflit entre des Etats ou des nations, mais du choc entre deux civilisations. Commencé avec le déferlement des Arabes musulmans vers l’ouest et leur conquête de la Syrie, de l’Afrique du Nord et de l’Espagne chrétiennes, le  » Grand Débat « , comme l’appelait Gibbon, entre l’Islam et la Chrétienté s’est poursuivi avec la contre-offensive chrétienne des croisades et son échec, puis avec la poussée des Turcs en Europe, leur farouche combat pour y rester et leur repli. Depuis un siècle et demi, le Moyen-Orient musulman subit la domination de l’Occident – domination politique, économique et culturelle, même dans les pays qui n’ont pas connu un régime colonial […]. Je me suis efforcé de hisser les conflits du Moyen-Orient, souvent tenus pour des querelles entre Etats, au niveau d’un choc des civilisations. Cependant, si les civilisations ne peuvent avoir une politique étrangère, les gouvernements, eux, se doivent d’en avoir une. Bernard Lewis
Pour certains, je suis un génie immense. Pour d’autres, je suis le diable incarné. Bernard Lewis
Ce qui a mis l’islam et la chrétienté en conflit, ce n’est pas tant leurs différences que leurs ressemblances. Bernard Lewis
Le conflit persistant entre l’Islam et la Chrétienté tire sa spécificité, non pas de leurs différences, mais de leurs ressemblances. Toutes les religions proclament que leurs vérités sont universelles ; cependant, le christianisme et l’islam sont peut-être les seuls à proclamer que leurs vérités sont non seulement universelles mais aussi exclusives, qu’eux seuls sont les heureux détenteurs de l’ultime révélation divine, qu’il est de leur devoir de la faire connaître au reste de l’humanité et que ceux qui ne s’y rallient pas sont, à des degrés divers, promis à la damnation. […] Entre ces deux religions partageant en commun héritage juif et hellénistique, revendiquant une même autorité et une même vocation universelles, se disputant le Bassin méditerranéen et le continent qui le borde, le choc était inévitable. Cependant, ce choc n’était pas tant entre deux civilisations qu’entre deux rivaux aspirant à prendre le leadership d’une seule et même civilisation. Bernard Lewis
Dès mon plus jeune âge, j’ai toujours voulu connaître « l’histoire » de l’autre camp. (…) « Il y a quelques années, lors d’une interview, on me posa la question suivante : Pourquoi traitez-vous toujours de sujets sensibles ? La réponse, dis-je à mon interlocuteur, est contenue dans la métaphore que vous employez. Un endroit sensible dans le corps d’un individu, ou dans le corps social, est le signe d’un dysfonctionnement. La sensibilité est l’un des moyens dont dispose le corps pour nous avertir et requérir notre attention, et c’est précisément ce que j’essaie de faire. Implicitement, votre question suggère qu’il existerait des sujets tabous. Certes, dans d’autres sociétés, il y a de nombreux sujets tabous, mais pas dans la nôtre – et je m’en félicite -, hormis, bien sûr, cette sorte de politiquement correct qui perdure sous l’effet de la pression sociale, culturelle et professionnelle, mais qui n’est pas réellement imposée. Contrairement aux vrais tabous, le politiquement correct peut être transgressé – c’est fréquent – et, test plus rigoureux encore, tourné en dérision. Pour ce qui me concerne, j’ai accordé quelque attention à deux points effectivement sensibles, le traitement des non-musulmans en général et des juifs en particulier dans les pays musulmans et, questions connexes, le problème des races et de l’esclavage. Mon premier article sur l’Islam et les non-musulmans parut dans la revue française des Annales à l’été 1980. Passablement augmenté, il devint le chapitre introductif d’un ouvrage intitulé  » Juifs en terre d’Islam  » (1984) couvrant les périodes classique, ottomane et, plus succinctement, moderne. Je consacrai à cette dernière période un autre ouvrage, intitulé  » Sémites et antisémites  » (1986). Tous deux furent traduits en plusieurs langues européennes. Faut-il y voir un symptôme : contrairement à la plupart de mes autres livres, ils ne furent pas traduits en arabe – pas plus d’ailleurs que mon livre sur les races et l’esclavage. » (…) « En août 1957, un congrès de quatre jours consacré aux  » Tensions dans le Moyen-Orient  » se tient à la School of Advanced International Studies de l’université Johns Hopkins à Washington. Les actes furent publiés l’année suivante dans un livre portant le même nom. Intitulée  » Le Moyen-Orient dans les affaires internationales « , ma contribution contenait les lignes suivantes :  » Les ressentiments actuels des peuples du Moyen-Orient se comprennent mieux lorsqu’on s’aperçoit qu’ils résultent non pas d’un conflit entre des Etats ou des nations, mais du choc entre deux civilisations. Commencé avec le déferlement des Arabes musulmans vers l’ouest et leur conquête de la Syrie, de l’Afrique du Nord et de l’Espagne chrétiennes, le  » Grand Débat « , comme l’appelait Gibbon, entre l’Islam et la Chrétienté s’est poursuivi avec la contre-offensive chrétienne des croisades et son échec, puis avec la poussée des Turcs en Europe, leur farouche combat pour y rester et leur repli. Depuis un siècle et demi, le Moyen-Orient musulman subit la domination de l’Occident – domination politique, économique et culturelle, même dans les pays qui n’ont pas connu un régime colonial […]. Je me suis efforcé de hisser les conflits du Moyen-Orient, souvent tenus pour des querelles entre Etats, au niveau d’un choc des civilisations. Cependant, si les civilisations ne peuvent avoir une politique étrangère, les gouvernements, eux, se doivent d’en avoir une.  » Ces lignes, écrites il y a près de cinquante ans, continuent de refléter les vues sur le sujet, actuellement très controversé, du choc des civilisations. […] Etait-ce un choc des civilisations ? Je dirais plutôt entre deux variantes d’une même civilisation. Le conflit persistant entre l’Islam et la Chrétienté tire sa spécificité, non pas de leurs différences, mais de leurs ressemblances. Toutes les religions proclament que leurs vérités sont universelles ; cependant, le christianisme et l’islam sont peut-être les seuls à proclamer que leurs vérités sont non seulement universelles mais aussi exclusives, qu’eux seuls sont les heureux détenteurs de l’ultime révélation divine, qu’il est de leur devoir de la faire connaître au reste de l’humanité et que ceux qui ne s’y rallient pas sont, à des degrés divers, promis à la damnation. […] Entre ces deux religions partageant en commun héritage juif et hellénistique, revendiquant une même autorité et une même vocation universelles, se disputant le Bassin méditerranéen et le continent qui le borde, le choc était inévitable. Cependant, ce choc n’était pas tant entre deux civilisations qu’entre deux rivaux aspirant à prendre le leadership d’une seule et même civilisation. Bernard Lewis
I don’t go into destiny; Im a historian and I deal with the past. But I certainly think there is something in the clash of civilizations. What brought Islam and Christendom into conflict was not so much their differences as their resemblances. There are many religions in the world, but almost all of them are regional, local, ethnic, or whatever you choose to call it. Christianity and Islam are the only religions that claim universal truth. Christians and Muslims are the only people who claim they are the fortunate recipients of God’s final message to humanity, which it is their duty not to keep selfishly to themselves like the Jews or the Hindus or the Buddhistsbut to bring to the rest of mankind, removing whatever obstacles there may be in the way. So, we have two religions with a similar self-perception, a similar historical background, living side by side, and conflict becomes inevitable. (…) the terrorists themselves claim to be acting in the name of Islam. There was one Muslim leader who said, not long ago, that it is wrong to speak about Muslim terrorism, because if a man commits an act of terrorism, hes not a Muslim. That’s very nice, but that could also be interpreted as meaning that if a Muslim commits it, it doesn’t count as terrorism. When a large part of the Muslim world was under foreign rule, then you might say that terrorism was a result of imperialism, of imperial rule and occupation. But at the present time, almost the whole of the Muslim world has achieved its independence. They can no longer blame others for what goes wrong. They have to confront the realities of their own lives at home. A few places remain disputed, like Chechnya and Israel and some others, but these are relatively minor if you’re talking about the Islamic world as a whole. Bernard Lewis
Vous voulez dire reconnaître la version arménienne de cette histoire ? Il y avait un problème arménien pour les Turcs, à cause de l’avance des Russes et d’une population anti-ottomane en Turquie, qui cherchait l’indépendance et qui sympathisait ouvertement avec les Russes venus du Caucase. Il y avait aussi des bandes arméniennes – les Arméniens se vantent des exploits héroïques de la résistance -, et les Turcs avaient certainement des problèmes de maintien de l’ordre en état de guerre. Pour les Turcs, il s’agissait de prendre des mesures punitives et préventives contre une population peu sûre dans une région menacée par une invasion étrangère. Pour les Arméniens, il s’agissait de libérer leur pays. Mais les deux camps s’accordent à reconnaître que la répression fut limitée géographiquement. Par exemple, elle n’affecta guère les Arméniens vivant ailleurs dans l’Empire ottoman. » Nul doute que des choses terribles ont eu lieu, que de nombreux Arméniens – et aussi des Turcs – ont péri. Mais on ne connaîtra sans doute jamais les circonstances précises et les bilans des victimes. Songez à la difficulté que l’on a de rétablir les faits et les responsabilités à propos de la guerre du Liban, qui s’est pourtant déroulée il y a peu de temps et sous les yeux du monde ! Pendant leur déportation vers la Syrie, des centaines de milliers d’Arméniens sont morts de faim, de froid… Mais si l’on parle de génocide, cela implique qu’il y ait eu politique délibérée, une décision d’anéantir systématiquement la nation arménienne. Cela est fort douteux. Des documents turcs prouvent une volonté de déportation, pas d’extermination. Bernard Lewis
Les illusionnistes et les hypocrites – «je ne justifie pas, j’explique» – qui justifient tout invoqueront la coopération de Tony Blair avec Bush, mais ils ne pourront masquer la logique tribale qui préside à la stratégie et à la pratique islamistes : les islamistes ont déclaré la guerre à l’Occident, tous les Occidentaux sont donc coupables, jugés, assassinables, car ils participent de la substance qu’il faut détruire, le monde de l’Incroyance, dar el-Kufr. Ceux qui croient s’être mis à l’abri grâce à leurs complaisances envers Arafat, le Hamas, le Hezbollah, le régime des ayatollahs et le reste des dictateurs et des despotes arabo-musulmans ne récoltent que le mépris, qui mène inévitablement au rudoiement. Qui se conduit comme un dhimmi sera condamné à la dhimmitude. Quand un quotidien parisien titre «Al-Qaida punit Londres», je flaire dans cet intitulé toute la puanteur de la soumission. Il faut beaucoup d’aveuglement à nos dames patronnesses palestinophiles pour ne pas voir que le refus de la dhimmitude des Juifs d’Israël est précisément l’une des motivations fondamentales de ce que l’on appelle le «conflit israélo-palestinien». Soumettez-vous, il ne vous sera fait aucun mal, ou pas trop. Vous ne serez pas punis. Sinon, vous serez soumis aux bombes vivantes fabriquées à la chaîne par les usines à tueurs que sont les medersas du monde islamo-arabe. C’est qu’aucun «grief», aucune «revendication» ni «aspiration» ne sont justiciables de la terreur. Il faut avoir bu toute honte pour comparer à la Résistance française – qui refusait les attentats individuels (à l’exception des communistes, à la bonne école de la terreur soviétique) et ne s’attaqua jamais à civil, femme, enfant ou vieillard – le ramassis de nervis assoiffés de sang qui s’est autoproclamé porte-parole unique, qui des Palestiniens, qui du monde arabe, qui du monde musulman tout entier, et dont le programme, clairement énoncé, est exterminateur. Le culte de la mort et de la destruction, l’amour de la souffrance que l’on inflige, l’assassinat rendu spectacle et objet d’affirmation identitaire, la délectation devant l’humiliation que l’on inflige à ceux dont on va vidéofilmer la décapitation, l’égorgement, l’éventrement, la volonté de puissance illimitée qu’est le pouvoir d’infliger la mort : telle est la nature de la guerre islamiste contre l’Occident. Et de l’université d’al-Azhar pour les sunnites, de la ville de Qom pour les chiites, ne s’est élevée aucune condamnation, mais au contraire, l’éloge de la mort. Voilà qui doit faire entendre, comme le fait depuis longtemps remarquer l’islamologue Bernard Lewis, que l’objet de la haine inextinguible des djihadistes n’est point ce que nous faisons, mais ce que nous sommes. Hitler n’exterminait pas les Polonais à cause de leurs «crimes», de leurs «erreurs», de leur «injustice», mais pour des raisons métaphysiques, et de même que tous ceux qu’il vouait au statut de «races inférieures». Le philosophe germano-américain, Eric Voegelin, discerna dans les mouvements totalitaires du XXe siècle, qu’il conçut avec précision comme une «Gnose moderne», cette pseudo-religion qui croit trouver le Salut ici-bas, qui en connaît toutes les voies et tous les chemins, qui est dirigée par des prophètes omniscients, et qui est prête à sacrifier la moitié de l’espèce humaine pour parvenir à ses fins. C’est au nom des raisons irrationnelles de ces croyances, hier nazies et bolcheviques, aujourd’hui islamistes, que se déchaînent l’amour du carnage et la volonté de «purifier» l’univers entier du Mal, représenté par l’Autre, juif, koulak, infidèle. Nous pouvons coexister avec un monde de l’islam qui voudrait se moderniser, mais pas avec l’islamisme éradicateur. Il faut s’en pénétrer : nous sommes en guerre. Il n’est aucune «concession», aucune conciliation, aucun dialogue qui puissent se faire avec le djihad moderne. Theo Van Gogh adjura au dialogue celui qui allait l’égorger ! Contre ce djihad, il n’y a pas de guerre défensive, il n’y a pas de défense territoriale. L’islamisme a paralysé et phagocyté une grande partie de son environnement. Il faut y porter le fer. Il faut en même temps encourager et soutenir les aspirations à la modernité, à la liberté et à la démocratie dans le monde arabo-musulman, que les élections afghanes, irakiennes et libanaises viennent de concrétiser. Quand des enjeux de civilisation causent les guerres, la neutralité est proscrite. Les Etats-Unis ne s’attaquent pas aux mous et aux tièdes : ce sont les islamistes qui s’en chargent. Les jeux sont faits. Laurent Murawiec
This misconception [that Lewis was an “Orientalist”] was fostered by Lewis’ famous duel with the Palestinian American literary scholar Edward Said, whose 1978 manifesto, Orientalism, indicted Western “Orientalist” writers and scholars for purveying bigotry against Islam and the Arabs. Lewis rose to the defense of the scholars: it was they who undermined Europe’s medieval prejudice against Islam, by directly accessing and engaging original Islamic sources. Lewis maintained that this brand of scholarly Orientalism amounted to one of the nobler triumphs of the Enlightenment. (…) But Lewis wasn’t “the last Orientalist.” (“The Orientalists have gone,” Lewis insisted.) He was the first real historian of the Middle East, considered a pioneer in applying the latest approaches in European social and economic history to the Middle Eastern past. (…) and he was the first scholar to read the Islamic texts for earlier periods with a trained historian’s eye. (…) Lewis, as a young don, criticized his Orientalist forebears for their insularity and called for “the integration of the history of Islam into the study of the general history of humanity.” No one did more than Lewis to advance this elusive goal. Through his historical research, Lewis arrived at a crucial insight, which informed all his later writings. Islamic civilization in its “golden age” had all the prerequisites to make the leap to modernity before parochial Europe did. Yet it stagnated, then declined. “The rise of the West has been much studied,” he once noted, “but the waning of Islamic power has received little serious scholarly attention.” This would be his project, and in its pursuit, he reached an intriguing conclusion: the elites of the great Muslim empires, especially the Ottomans, were so certain of their own God-given superiority that they saw no reason ever to change. They discounted the steady rise of Europe, and by the time they got a fix on the problem, it was too late. Thus began a desperate race to arrest the decline of the Muslim world and its eclipse by a dynamic Europe. There were many Western observers who pointed to the spreading rot. But Lewis revealed the Muslim point of view. Reform, modernization, nationalism, Islamism, terror—all these were strategies to restore to the Muslims some semblance of the power they had wielded for over a millennium and which they lost in just a few generations. Lewis’ biggest bestseller, What Went Wrong?, published just after 9/11, distilled his many findings on how Muslims had tried and failed to restore their world. Al Qaeda (and later the Islamic State, also known as ISIS), by seeking to reenact the seventh century, was the most desperate of these attempts to reverse history. (…) Lewis has been tagged as the father of the “clash of civilizations,” which Samuel Huntington borrowed (with acknowledgment) for his famous Foreign Affairs article of 1993. Lewis had used the phrase as early as 1957 to describe the deeper aspect of contemporary conflicts in the Middle East. (Better to “view the present discontents of the Middle East,” he wrote, “not as a conflict between states or nations, but as a clash between civilizations.”) He repeated the phrase in subsequent works, most famously in his 1990 article, “The Roots of Muslim Rage.” Huntington, however, went further than Lewis, presenting the “clash” as a struggle among all the world’s civilizations, fueled by cultural differences. Lewis had something else in mind. He held that Islam and Christendom (later, the West) were unique rivals, not because of their differences but because they shared so much: the Greco-Roman legacy, Abrahamic monotheism, and the Mediterranean basin. Obviously, these two sibling civilizations often clashed. But being so similar, they also borrowed, exchanged, and translated. In 1994, just after Huntington popularized the “clash” thesis, Lewis sought to distance himself from it. That year, he revised his classic 1964 book The Middle East and the West, and in the revision, “clash” became “encounter.” He told me later that he felt “clash” was “too harsh.” In 1996, when Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Lewis again kept his distance. He noted that “there have been great struggles between Christendom and Islam in the past” and that “there are still some on both sides who see world history in terms of a holy war between believers and unbelievers.” But this wasn’t fate: “A new era of peaceful coexistence is possible,” he announced. Lewis never denied coining the phrase “clash between civilizations,” but he meant it as a very partial description of the past and the present, and not as a prediction of the future. Still, Lewis also sensed that the resentment of the West simmered, and he was the first to conclude that it would take an increasingly Islamist form. As early as 1964, he thought it “obvious” that “Islamic movements alone are authentically Middle Eastern in inspiration…express[ing] the passions of the submerged masses of the population. Though they have all, so far, been defeated, they have not yet spoken their last word.” He returned to this theme in 1976, in his seminal article “The Return of Islam.” When Commentary published it, Western liberals and Arab nationalists ridiculed him. They’d pinned their hopes and reputations on the ever-onward progress of secular modernity. If Islam had “returned,” they had failed. Lewis didn’t have to wait long for vindication. He didn’t predict the Iranian Revolution three years later, but it enhanced his reputation for prescience. He struck again in 1998 on the pages of Foreign Affairs, where he analyzed the “declaration of jihad” of a little-known Saudi renegade named Osama bin Laden. Lewis again warned against complacency—to no avail. After 9/11, America listened to him precisely because he had heard Islamist extremist voices when no one took them seriously. Yet he always insisted that those voices didn’t speak for all of Islam: “Anyone with even a moderate knowledge of Islam knows that most Muslims are neither militant nor violent.” Bin Laden’s message was a « grotesque travesty of the nature of Islam and even of its doctrine of jihad. The Quran speaks of peace as well as of war. Martin Kramer
As an intellectual rival to Lewis, Said was hopelessly outgunned. As an academic ideologue, however, he proved the more talented figure. The genius of Orientalism was that it built an intellectual bridge between Middle East studies and the guilt attitudes commonly held by American liberals toward the issue of race in their own country. The cause of the problems in the Middle East, Said implied, lay in the bigotry of white men, for which Lewis’s claim—that a deep knowledge of history and culture was relevant to understanding present-day issues—was just a smokescreen. The essence of the story was the domination of brown people by white people. Said’s argument, such as it was, is often presented as one side in an ongoing war of ideas, but the real key to understanding its repercussions is to be found in the underlying emotions that it touched on and would later inflame. (…) Osama bin Laden, he argued, represented a politically significant development, one with deep roots in the history of the Middle East if not in Islam itself. Lewis was not saying that this was the only current in Islam, or necessarily the most authentic one. But the mere fact of his attributing popular legitimacy to it, as well as a connection to Islamic tradition, was enough to enrage men like my student’s father. To his ears, it sounded as if Lewis were tarring both him and his religion with the brush of terrorism. Many scholars working in Middle East studies in the United States, being themselves of Middle Eastern heritage, share similar emotions. Those who don’t share them are surrounded, professionally and socially, by people who do. Dissenters have thus been under heavy pressure to repudiate Lewis’s perspective and to produce analyses, instead, that put the blame for the ills of the Middle East on exogenous forces—specifically, on Western and/or Israeli policies. Modern Middle East studies has therefore become a field rife with pro-Muslim apologetics. In this sense, it is fair to say that although Lewis won the argument, Said won the crowd. Thanks to Said, insufferable blowhards who willfully obscure the difference between scholarship and politicking now run the field.(…)  The rising generation wanted as little connection with him as possible—at least in public. (…) As academia increasingly disavowed Lewis, the allure of Washington grew stronger. For a man who could effortlessly quote the verse of the 10th-century Arab poet al-Mutanabbi, Lewis also revealed a remarkable talent for talking with policymakers. He was always well briefed on current affairs. For four months of every year, he traveled to the Middle East. When back at Princeton, part of his daily routine was listening to Arab political broadcasts over shortwave radio. Having spent countless hours during World War II eavesdropping on Arab leaders’ telephone conversations and briefing British commanders about them, he had a very keen sense of the day-to-day realities of regional politics and of how to distill the essence for non-experts. Michael Doran
Lewis (…) had a major impact on US foreign policy, particularly under the presidency of George W. Bush. He briefed vice president Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. His phrase, “the clash of civilizations,” was made famous by American political scientist Samuel Huntington, who argued that cultural and religious identities would be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War era. Lewis attributed the 9/11 attacks to a decaying Islamic civilization that enabled extremists such as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to conduct an international terrorist campaign. The solution to the growing problems of fundamentalist Islamic ideology was, in a word, democracy. “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us,” Lewis wrote. In many ways he was a modern-day prophet, although he was sometimes wrong and was often accused by his academic colleagues of being Eurocentric. “For some, I’m the towering genius,” Lewis told The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012. “For others, I’m the devil incarnate.” He warned in 2006 that Iran had been working on a nuclear program for some 15 years. But he wrongly predicted that Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could be planning an apocalyptic attack, perhaps against Israel, on August 22, to coincide with Muhammad’s night flight to Jerusalem. As Israel deliberates again whether to recognize the Armenian Genocide, it is timely to recall that in the first editions of his well-known book, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, Lewis described that genocide as “the terrible holocaust of 1915, when a million and a half Armenians perished.” In later editions, he changed the text to “the terrible slaughter of 1915, when, according to estimates, more than a million Armenians perished, as well as an unknown number of Turks.” Critics accused him of “historical revisionism.” In a visit to The Jerusalem Post in 2007, the London- born Lewis eloquently discussed the situation in an interview with then-editor David Horovitz and reporter Tovah Lazaroff. He predicted that one way for Muslims to alleviate their growing rage would be “to win some large victories, which could happen. They seem to be about to take over Europe.” Lewis was asked what that meant for Jews in Europe. “The outlook for the Jewish communities in Europe is dim,” he replied. “Soon, the only pertinent question regarding Europe’s future will be, ‘Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?’” In reviewing Lewis’s 2010 collection of essays – Faith and Power: Religion and Politics in the Middle East – Post International Edition editor Liat Collins pertinently noted a line of thought appearing throughout the essays was that the Western concept of separating church and state was not compatible with Islam. “The emergence of a population, many millions strong, of Muslims born and educated in Western Europe will have immense and unpredictable consequences for Europe, for Islam and for the relations between them,” Lewis wrote. Collins commented: “I don’t want to hear a ‘Told you so’ so much as an update in the wake of the current mass migration to Europe’s shores.” Although he didn’t get everything right – who can? – Collins added that his special touches are well-worth noting, such as this classic quotation: “In America one uses money to buy power, while in the Middle East, one uses power to acquire money.” Jerusalem Post
Bernard Lewis, a towering but controversial historian of Islam and the Middle East, died this week aged 101. Opinion will divide about the legacy of a learned and charming man who shamed many fellow academics with the grace and wit of his phrasemaking in more than two dozen books — was he principally a scholar or a propagandist. (…) He risks being remembered most for the 2003 Iraq war, by when he had become celebrity in-house historian to George W Bush’s US administration and ideological guru to the architects of the invasion. It was said in Washington at the time that Lewis had more influence on any administration than any academic since John F Kennedy’s era. Just as the “best and brightest” of JFK’s horn-rimmed Harvard types paved America’s path into the swamp of Vietnam, Lewis (from Princeton) furnished a veneer of respectability to a catastrophic venture.(…) His ascent as a public intellectual dated from his friendship, starting in the 1970s, with Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, founding father of what would later be called neoconservatism. Lewis’s early renown was as a scholar of the Ottoman Empire, his intellectual passion. He was the first westerner to be granted entry to the Ottoman imperial archives in 1950. His engagement with Islamic civilisation as a whole was really with its golden age, from the 8th to the 13th centuries. He consistently highlighted Turkish (and, to a degree, Persian) culture and achievement in a way that cast Arab culture in an inferior light. Writing about the failure of pan-Arabism, he was dismissive of the way European imperialism aborted the constitutional evolution of Arab politics. He did not highlight how the Ottomans (whose religious tolerance he rightly praised) enforced a ban on the Arabic printing press from the 15th to the 19th centuries to culturally stifle and subjugate their Arab territories. (…) Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American academic, identified Lewis as a manufacturer of the stereotypical myths the west used to justify dominance of the east. The two went at it hammer and tongs in 1982, in one of the most vehement intellectual disputes of the late 20th century. By the time of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, Lewis was better known for polemic and pamphleteering, piling up inferences instead of deploying evidence, clearing a path to the self-righteous Bush administration mantra: “they hate us for our freedoms”. His earlier scholarly work dwells more on the gradual elimination of the cultural clearinghouses where civilisations meet, from Abbasid Baghdad, through Moorish Spain to the Ottoman Levant — none of which was destroyed by freedom-hating Muslims. By 1990, in his essay The Roots of Muslim Rage, he coined the phrase “clash of civilisations”, later popularised by Samuel Huntington. In the end it was the squibs more than the scholarship, untroubled by doubt or disquisition, which had more impact. It was common knowledge in the Bush White House that the president kept an annotated copy of a Lewis article with his briefing papers. The Financial Times
Avec la disparition, samedi 19 mai, à 101 ans, de Bernard Lewis, c’est toute une tradition d’érudition « orientaliste », mêlée à l’intervention passionnée dans le débat public, qui s’éteint. L’encre du savant est plus précieuse que le sang des polémistes et, malgré le bruit et la fureur qu’ont suscités ses prises de position, célébrées aujourd’hui de Benjamin Nétanyahou au secrétaire d’Etat américain, Mike Pompeo, c’est son extraordinaire connaissance du monde islamique qui lui survivra. Auteur de plus de trente ouvrages – dont la plupart ont été traduits en français – couvrant des domaines qui vont de la civilisation arabe classique aux mouvements islamistes contemporains, en passant par l’histoire ottomane et turque, qui fut son thème de prédilection, Bernard Lewis était également un styliste à la plume acérée. Cela permit à son œuvre de trouver un rayonnement auprès d’un large public dans le monde entier, dépassant les cénacles académiques. (…) Politiquement conservateur, il allait rester, tout au long d’une existence qui se confondit avec le siècle écoulé, très attaché à la cause d’Israël. Traversant l’Atlantique après la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale, comme tant d’universitaires d’outre-Manche, pour y bénéficier des facilités exceptionnelles des campus américains, il rejoignit l’université de Princeton où, avec son collègue Charles Issawi, il fut le pilier du département des études du Proche-Orient – il deviendra, en 1982, citoyen des Etats-Unis. Sa sensibilité de droite – qui ne l’empêcha pas de mener, en France, un compagnonnage savant avec Maxime Rodinson, très engagé à gauche – ainsi que son engagement pour Israël lui ouvrirent l’accès aux cercles néoconservateurs qui élaborèrent la politique américaine au Moyen-Orient à l’époque du président George W. Bush, après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Avec son collègue Fouad Ajami, disparu en 2014, il en fut la source et la caution savante, même s’il prit ses distances par la suite avec la catastrophe que constitua pour Washington l’occupation de l’Irak. En 1978, L’Orientalisme – le livre best-seller d’Edward Saïd, d’origine palestinienne et professeur de littérature comparée anglo-française à l’université Columbia – fit de Bernard Lewis sa cible principale. Cet ouvrage, qui a polarisé jusqu’à nos jours le champ disciplinaire des études sur le Moyen-Orient et a contribué à en faire un champ de ruines, lui reprochait d’avoir construit, dans la foulée d’une tradition d’auteurs européens remontant aux savants de la Description de l’Egypte de l’expédition de Bonaparte en 1799, la figure de « l’Oriental » comme un autre radical, assigné à une culture figée, dont la description visait à l’assujettir à la domination coloniale, puis impérialiste et sioniste. Cette incrimination globale fut l’acte fondateur des « post-colonial studies » qui dominent, depuis lors, les campus américains et touchent désormais les universités françaises. Par-delà les oppositions politiques entre les deux professeurs autour du conflit israélo-palestinien, où chacun s’était fait le champion de l’une des causes, le débat a ouvert des failles persistantes. Saïd a réduit le savoir livresque de Lewis à une machinerie lui permettant d’« essentialiser » les peuples arabes contemporains en ramenant leurs comportements politiques à des textes anciens imprégnés de tradition religieuse, leur déniant ainsi toute modernité. Il en découlera que seuls les indigènes seraient légitimes à produire du savoir sur eux-mêmes, au détriment des universitaires « néocoloniaux » toujours biaisés. C’est le fondement des procès en « islamophobie » intentés aux professeurs « blancs » par le parti des Indigènes de la République et leurs compagnons de route « racisés ». Lewis et ses disciples ont indéniablement tenu trop peu compte des sciences sociales et humaines, et négligé l’observation d’un terrain qui ne se réduit pas aux bibliothèques, dès lors que l’on veut rendre compte des sociétés contemporaines du Moyen-Orient, de l’Afrique du Nord, voire de l’immigration de celles-ci vers l’Europe et ses banlieues. Mais l’hypercritique de Saïd et de ses épigones a invalidé la connaissance de la culture profonde – rendant impossible de comprendre par exemple les modalités du lien entre Al-Qaida ou l’organisation Etat islamique, les sermons salafistes et les Ecritures saintes de l’islam. Un enjeu dont on ne saurait sous-estimer l’importance et auquel l’université doit apporter, sous peine de discrédit, sa contribution savante. Le caractère entier de Bernard Lewis lui a valu un désamour spécifique en France : condamné par un tribunal pour des propos tenus dans les colonnes du Monde en 1993 et 1994, dont il a été jugé qu’ils relativisaient le génocide arménien, il a voué depuis lors aux gémonies un pays dont il connaissait intimement la culture… Mais, par-delà les polémiques politiques, par-delà les aspects aujourd’hui datés d’une épistémologie restée rétive aux sciences humaines, Bernard Lewis témoigne d’un temps où la connaissance des langues et des cultures de l’Orient était un préalable nécessaire à l’analyse de ses sociétés : c’est la leçon toujours actuelle que laisse l’érudit de Princeton au monde qu’il vient de quitter. Gilles Kepel
Inventeur de la théorie du « choc des civilisations », l’historien américain Bernard Lewis est décédé, lundi 21 mai, à l’âge de 101 ans. «Commencé avec le déferlement des Arabes musulmans vers l’ouest et leur conquête de la Syrie, de l’Afrique du Nord et de l’Espagne chrétiennes », ce « choc de civilisation » entre « l’islam et la chrétienté » s’est poursuivi selon lui avec les croisades, la poussée puis le repli des Ottomans en Europe, et enfin à partir du XIXe siècle, par la domination « politique, économique et culturelle », coloniale ou non, de l’Occident sur le Moyen-Orient… Reprise sous une autre forme par son assistant au Conseil de sécurité nationale, Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations ?, article paru dans la revue Foreign Affairs en 1993, puis dans un livre paru en 1996) l’expression a connu un immense succès et n’a cessé, depuis, d’être défendue ou combattue par de nombreux autres chercheurs. Né à Londres en 1916 dans une famille juive, Bernard Lewis s’est passionné très tôt pour les langues – d’abord l’hébreu, puis l’araméen, l’arabe, le latin, le grec, le persan ou encore le turc – et l’histoire. Spécialiste de la Turquie, où il a vécu et travaillé plusieurs années, il commence à enseigner en 1974 à l’université de Princeton, dans le New Jersey. Proche des néo-conservateurs américains, revendiquant son rôle d’historien engagé, Bernard Lewis a régulièrement créé la polémique par ses prises de position. Convaincu de l’existence d’un antisémitisme spécifiquement musulman, il y voyait l’une des explications au blocage du processus de paix israélo-palestinien. Il a également contesté la réalité du génocide des Arméniens par les Turcs en 1915, apportant sa caution intellectuelle à la Turquie en affirmant que la thèse du génocide était « la version arménienne » de l’histoire. Il est finalement condamné en 1995, jugement condamné en appel l’année suivante. Parmi ses essais les plus récents, on peut citer : What Went Wrong ? en 2002 (traduction française : Que s’est-il passé ?, Gallimard), qui analyse les raisons du déclin du monde arabo-musulman, puis The Crisis of Islam en 2003 (traduction française : L’Islam en crise, Gallimard). En 2005, plusieurs de ses ouvrages et articles sont réédités, en français et en un seul volume, par les éditions Gallimard, dans la collection Quatro, sous le titre Islam. Une manière de découvrir l’essentiel de l’œuvre de cet auteur de vastes synthèses enjambant les siècles. La Croix
L’inventeur du «choc des civilisations» est enclin à décrypter l’actualité à la lumière du passé. Pour lui, cette formule qui a fait florès n’a de sens que religieux, celui de «l’affrontement de vérités universelles et exclusives». Dans l’affaire des caricatures de Mahomet, il rappelle que si la loi islamique (charia) a interdit les représentations du Prophète, c’est d’abord pour empêcher l’idolâtrie. L’insulte constitue certes une offense, mais la charia n’est censée s’appliquer qu’aux musulmans ou aux sujets d’un Etat musulman. «Elle ne s’est jamais étendue aux péchés commis par des non musulmans hors du monde musulman», souligne Bernard Lewis. Preuves de cette vieille indifférence, certains passages de L’Enfer de Dante ou des bas-reliefs sulfureux sur la façade de la cathédrale de Bologne. «L’explosion d’indignation «spontanée» a tout de même mis quatre mois à se produire, observe le professeur. Le moindre village disposait de drapeaux danois à brûler… Une affaire soigneusement préparée.» L’orientaliste américain voit la même manipulation idéologique derrière les attentats suicides. «En islam, le suicide est un péché mortel, rappelle-t-il. Celui qui le commet est promis à endurer sa mort sans fin en enfer, une éternité d’empoisonnement, d’asphyxie ou d’explosion…» Mais les radicaux ont décrété que c’était acceptable «si le kamikaze emportait avec lui assez d’ennemis. C’est une rupture absolue avec des siècles de tradition islamique», dit M. Lewis. Une telle dérive, il l’impute surtout au wahhabisme, secte «intolérante, violente et fanatique» qui est «à peu près aussi centrale au monde islamique que le Ku Klux Klan dans la chrétienté». Le professeur de Princeton est loin de prédire la prise de contrôle de l’islam par l’islamisme. Il croit au contraire que les forces démocratiques «progressent» dans le monde musulman. Nombre de principes de la démocratie (la consultation des sujets, la délégation contractuelle du pouvoir), sont déjà inscrits dans la tradition musulmane et moyen-orientale. Autant que les courants violents en Terre d’islam, ce sont les «faiblesses» de l’Occident que dénonce sans ambages Bernard Lewis. En Irak, une guerre dont il a approuvé le déclenchement, «j’ai sous-estimé notre capacité d’engendrer la défaite à partir de la victoire», déplore-t-il. «Nous offensons les Irakiens et nous les flattons en même temps.» Or, il n’y a qu’une politique à ses yeux face à l’insurrection : «La supprimer. Ce n’est pas quelque chose qu’on peut faire à moitié.» Idem du Hamas dans les Territoires palestiniens : «Une organisation terroriste dangereuse qu’il faut traiter comme telle.» L’Iran ? «Je suis enclin à croire à la démence (du président) Ahmadinejad. Il semble vraiment convaincu de l’apocalypse qu’il annonce. Avec la bombe atomique, les Iraniens deviendraient d’une arrogance insoutenable. Ils ne l’utiliseraient pas dans des bombardements, mais plutôt dans des actions terroristes, sans préciser l’adresse de l’expéditeur.» Devant d’aussi grands dangers, l’universitaire, qui conseille parfois la Maison-Blanche, n’a qu’un mot d’ordre : «La fermeté.» Etrangement, Bernard Lewis ne fait pas crédit à l’Administration Bush des vertus dont elle se prévaut en la matière. «Nous sommes plus en 1938 qu’en 1940, plutôt dans l’ère Chamberlain que Churchill, estime le vieil homme. Nous allons de retraite en retraite.» Deux guerres ne lui suffisent pas ? Encore faudrait-il qu’elles soient gagnées. En Irak, «il est encore possible de sauver la situation», à en juger par les trois scrutins libres organisés en deux ans et par la participation des femmes au processus politique. Mais parallèlement, dans le chaos des attentats et des représailles, «nous instillons la peur et nous étalons nos hésitations», une double faute «psychologique», estime M. Lewis. Elle procède selon lui d’une erreur d’analyse centrale : «Dire que nous sommes en guerre contre le terrorisme, c’est comme dire que nous étions en guerre contre des avions et des sous-marins pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Le terrorisme est une tactique, insiste-t-il. Ce n’est pas une cause et ce n’est pas un ennemi.» Autant pour Bush, dont la cible est camouflée derrière un acronyme non identifiable : Gwot, pour Global War on Terror (Guerre globale contre le terrorisme). A ce rythme, Bernard Lewis n’exclut pas un «scénario catastrophe» dans lequel «l’Occident et le monde musulman se détruiraient l’un l’autre, laissant la Chine et l’Inde dominer le XXIe siècle». Heureusement, le pire n’est pas sûr : avec un peu de chance, «des sociétés ouvertes réussiront à se développer et l’islam retrouvera sa juste place dans le monde». Le Figaro

C’est les ressemblances, imbécile !

« Choc de civilisation » entre « l’islam et la chrétienté »,  « antisémitisme spécifiquement musulman » comme « l’une des explications au blocage du processus de paix israélo-palestinien »,  « déclin du monde arabo-musulman » …

Y a-t-il, y compris sa contestation effectivement discutable de la réalité du génocide turc des chrétiens arméniens, assyriens et grecs et contre les mielleries si consensuelles d’un Edward Saïd, un sujet qui fâche auquel ne s’est pas confronté le passionné de « l’histoire de l’autre camp » qu’était Bernard Lewis ?

A l’heure où après en avoir repris en les déformant les saintes écritures, l’islam est sur le point de terminer le nettoyage ethnico-religieux du berceau des religions juive et chrétienne …
Et où, entre « Palestine« , « nakba« , « déclaration d’indépendance« , « Al Quds« , « Isa« ,  « mosquée El Aksa« , « al-Haram al-Ibrahimi« , « Mosquée Bilal ibn Rabahou« , « camp de concentration à ciel ouvert« , « génocide », « droit du retour » …
Les divers mouvements terroristes du Hamas, Hezbollah et Fatah poussent l’obsession jusqu’à mimer et reproduire, à la virgule près en une sorte de contre-sionisme systématique, les moindres détails de l’histoire de leur modèle-rival juif …
Avec la complicité active tant des instances onusiennes que des grands médias occidentaux dont une AFP déplorant hier encore la non-mort d’Israéliens et présentant comme « manifestants » des lanceurs de grenades et d’engins explosifs qui ont déjà détruit plus de 2500 hectares de terres agricoles …
Retour sur la disparition, passée comme celle de son plus fidèle disciple Fouad Ajami il y a quatre ans,  quasiment inaperçue en France sinon pour le dénigrer une dernière fois …
D’un véritable monument de l’islamologie du siècle …

Et sa probablement plus grande contribution aux sciences historiques confirmée plus tard par René Girard

A savoir que ce ne sont pas les différences mais justement leur effacement

Qui contrairement à ce que l’on continue à répéter mais comme en une de nos journaux on le vérifie désormais quotidiennement …

Génèrent les plus inextinguibles conflits entre civilisations comme entre individus…

 
Voir aussi:

Quand l’orientaliste Bernard Lewis s’interroge sur les faiblesses de l’Occident face à l’islamisme
Le Figaro
04/05/2006

Un déjeuner avec le professeur Bernard Lewis, c’est comme un rendez-vous sur les rives du Bosphore avec un orientaliste qui aurait connu personnellement le dernier sultan Mehmed VI, l’émir Ibn Séoud et Lawrence d’Arabie. Même à Washington, dans un salon de l’hôtel Hay-Adams en face de la Maison-Blanche, un parfum d’Orient et de Vieille Europe enveloppe les réflexions de ce vieux savant, juif né à Londres en 1916, devenu Américain en 1982 après une vie d’écriture et d’enseignement à Princeton. M. Lewis fêtera ses 90 ans le mois prochain : «Fêter n’est pas le mot juste», ironise cet esprit infatigable, qui a publié trois livres depuis le 11 septembre 2001 (1), dans la foulée d’une trentaine d’ouvrages majeurs. Historien réputé dans le monde entier, sa science est particulièrement recherchée dans l’Amérique de George W. Bush, aux prises avec une série de conflits orientaux, de l’Irak à l’Iran et à l’Afghanistan. Le professeur Lewis, qui n’a rien d’une «colombe», a été plusieurs fois invité à donner son avis à la Maison-Blanche. Jeudi, à l’initiative du Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life, il a partagé ses thèses avec un groupe de journalistes américains et l’envoyé du Figaro.

L’inventeur du «choc des civilisations» est enclin à décrypter l’actualité à la lumière du passé. Pour lui, cette formule qui a fait florès n’a de sens que religieux, celui de «l’affrontement de vérités universelles et exclusives». Dans l’affaire des caricatures de Mahomet, il rappelle que si la loi islamique (charia) a interdit les représentations du Prophète, c’est d’abord pour empêcher l’idolâtrie. L’insulte constitue certes une offense, mais la charia n’est censée s’appliquer qu’aux musulmans ou aux sujets d’un Etat musulman. «Elle ne s’est jamais étendue aux péchés commis par des non musulmans hors du monde musulman», souligne Bernard Lewis. Preuves de cette vieille indifférence, certains passages de L’Enfer de Dante ou des bas-reliefs sulfureux sur la façade de la cathédrale de Bologne. «L’explosion d’indignation «spontanée» a tout de même mis quatre mois à se produire, observe le professeur. Le moindre village disposait de drapeaux danois à brûler… Une affaire soigneusement préparée.»

L’orientaliste américain voit la même manipulation idéologique derrière les attentats suicides. «En islam, le suicide est un péché mortel, rappelle-t-il. Celui qui le commet est promis à endurer sa mort sans fin en enfer, une éternité d’empoisonnement, d’asphyxie ou d’explosion…» Mais les radicaux ont décrété que c’était acceptable «si le kamikaze emportait avec lui assez d’ennemis. C’est une rupture absolue avec des siècles de tradition islamique», dit M. Lewis. Une telle dérive, il l’impute surtout au wahhabisme, secte «intolérante, violente et fanatique» qui est «à peu près aussi centrale au monde islamique que le Ku Klux Klan dans la chrétienté». Le professeur de Princeton est loin de prédire la prise de contrôle de l’islam par l’islamisme. Il croit au contraire que les forces démocratiques «progressent» dans le monde musulman. Nombre de principes de la démocratie (la consultation des sujets, la délégation contractuelle du pouvoir), sont déjà inscrits dans la tradition musulmane et moyen-orientale.

Autant que les courants violents en Terre d’islam, ce sont les «faiblesses» de l’Occident que dénonce sans ambages Bernard Lewis. En Irak, une guerre dont il a approuvé le déclenchement, «j’ai sous-estimé notre capacité d’engendrer la défaite à partir de la victoire», déplore-t-il. «Nous offensons les Irakiens et nous les flattons en même temps.» Or, il n’y a qu’une politique à ses yeux face à l’insurrection : «La supprimer. Ce n’est pas quelque chose qu’on peut faire à moitié.» Idem du Hamas dans les Territoires palestiniens : «Une organisation terroriste dangereuse qu’il faut traiter comme telle.» L’Iran ? «Je suis enclin à croire à la démence (du président) Ahmadinejad. Il semble vraiment convaincu de l’apocalypse qu’il annonce. Avec la bombe atomique, les Iraniens deviendraient d’une arrogance insoutenable. Ils ne l’utiliseraient pas dans des bombardements, mais plutôt dans des actions terroristes, sans préciser l’adresse de l’expéditeur.» Devant d’aussi grands dangers, l’universitaire, qui conseille parfois la Maison-Blanche, n’a qu’un mot d’ordre : «La fermeté.»

Etrangement, Bernard Lewis ne fait pas crédit à l’Administration Bush des vertus dont elle se prévaut en la matière. «Nous sommes plus en 1938 qu’en 1940, plutôt dans l’ère Chamberlain que Churchill, estime le vieil homme. Nous allons de retraite en retraite.» Deux guerres ne lui suffisent pas ? Encore faudrait-il qu’elles soient gagnées. En Irak, «il est encore possible de sauver la situation», à en juger par les trois scrutins libres organisés en deux ans et par la participation des femmes au processus politique. Mais parallèlement, dans le chaos des attentats et des représailles, «nous instillons la peur et nous étalons nos hésitations», une double faute «psychologique», estime M. Lewis. Elle procède selon lui d’une erreur d’analyse centrale : «Dire que nous sommes en guerre contre le terrorisme, c’est comme dire que nous étions en guerre contre des avions et des sous-marins pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Le terrorisme est une tactique, insiste-t-il. Ce n’est pas une cause et ce n’est pas un ennemi.»

Autant pour Bush, dont la cible est camouflée derrière un acronyme non identifiable : Gwot, pour Global War on Terror (Guerre globale contre le terrorisme). A ce rythme, Bernard Lewis n’exclut pas un «scénario catastrophe» dans lequel «l’Occident et le monde musulman se détruiraient l’un l’autre, laissant la Chine et l’Inde dominer le XXIe siècle». Heureusement, le pire n’est pas sûr : avec un peu de chance, «des sociétés ouvertes réussiront à se développer et l’islam retrouvera sa juste place dans le monde».

* Correspondant du Figaro aux Etats-Unis.

(1) What Went Wrong, The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East (2002) ; The Crisis of Islam, Holy War and Unholy Terror (2003) ; From Babel to Dragomans, Interpreting the Middle East (2004)

Voir également:

Seven Questions: Bernard Lewis on the Two Biggest Myths About Islam
He is one of the world’s foremost scholars of Islam and the Middle East. Bernard Lewis shares his thoughts on Iraq, “Islamofascism,” the roots of terrorism, and the two biggest misperceptions about the Muslim faith.
Foreign policy

August 20, 2008

From the Jan./Feb. 2008 issue of Foreign Policy: A World Without Islam, by Graham Fuller. Remove Islam from the path of history, and the world ends up exactly where it is today.

Foreign Policy: What do you see as the biggest misperception about Islam?

Bernard Lewis: Well, there are two. Sometimes one, sometimes the other, predominates. It depends when and where. I would call them the negative one and the positive one. The negative one sees Muslims as a collection of bloodthirsty barbarians offering people the choice of the Koran or the sword, and generally bringing tyranny and oppression wherever they go. And the other one is the exact opposite, what you might call the sanitized version, which presents Islam as a religion of love and peace, rather like the Quakers but without their aggressiveness. The truth is in its usual place, somewhere between the extremes.

FP: Do you believe in the clash of civilizations theory of Samuel P. Huntington, that the Islamic world and the West are destined to butt heads?

BL: Well, I dont go into destiny; Im a historian and I deal with the past. But I certainly think there is something in the clash of civilizations. What brought Islam and Christendom into conflict was not so much their differences as their resemblances. There are many religions in the world, but almost all of them are regional, local, ethnic, or whatever you choose to call it. Christianity and Islam are the only religions that claim universal truth. Christians and Muslims are the only people who claim they are the fortunate recipients of Gods final message to humanity, which it is their duty not to keep selfishly to themselveslike the Jews or the Hindus or the Buddhistsbut to bring to the rest of mankind, removing whatever obstacles there may be in the way.

So, we have two religions with a similar self-perception, a similar historical background, living side by side, and conflict becomes inevitable.

FP: You write in your chapter about radical Islam that most Muslims are not fundamentalists, and that most fundamentalists are not terrorists. Thats not self-evident to everyone, so can you just explain it a little further?

BL: Naturally we hear about the acts of terror. Nobody ever wrote a headline saying a million people went peacefully about their business yesterday and did nothing. Terrorism is very much the news of the moment and it is also the threat of the moment. It is a real menace, and I dont wish to understate that or diminish it in any way. But if one assumes that thats all there is to Islam, thats a grave mistake, because terrorism only comes from one brand of Islam, and even that one brand of Islam is not entirely committed to terrorism. But for a terrorist movement, you do need mass support.

FP: I noticed that you use the term Islamofascism in the conclusion of your book. That term has been hotly debated. What do you think? Is it harmful or useful?

BL: Well, I dont use it; I discuss it. I think one has to confront that this is a term that is used. I dont like it because its insulting to Muslims. They see it as insulting to link the name of their religion with the most detestable of all the European movements. Its useful in the sense that it does distinguish real Islam from Islamofascism, but I still feel that the connection is insulting, and I prefer to use the term radical Islam.

FP: A lot of analysts, and this is especially something you hear from political leaders in the Muslim world, say that Islam has nothing to do with terrorismthat these are completely separate issues. Is that a view that you subscribe to? Some people say that terrorism is largely caused by occupation or a response to U.S. policy, not Islam.

BL: Well, I cant subscribe to it since the terrorists themselves claim to be acting in the name of Islam. There was one Muslim leader who said, not long ago, that it is wrong to speak about Muslim terrorism, because if a man commits an act of terrorism, hes not a Muslim. Thats very nice, but that could also be interpreted as meaning that if a Muslim commits it, it doesnt count as terrorism.

When a large part of the Muslim world was under foreign rule, then you might say that terrorism was a result of imperialism, of imperial rule and occupation. But at the present time, almost the whole of the Muslim world has achieved its independence. They can no longer blame others for what goes wrong. They have to confront the realities of their own lives at home. A few places remain disputed, like Chechnya and Israel and some others, but these are relatively minor if youre talking about the Islamic world as a whole.

FP: Iraq, which used to be ruled by a Sunni ruler, is now being governed by Shiites. What does that mean in the context of Islamic history?

BL: I think it means a great deal. But what is important in Iraq is not that its being ruled by the Shiites, but that its being ruled by a democracy, by a free, elected government that faces a free opposition. It proves what is often disputed, that the development of democratic institutions in a Muslim Arab country is possible. A lot of people say, No, its impossible. It cant work. They cant do it. Well, its difficult, but its not impossible, and I think Iraq proves that. What is happening in Iraq I find profoundly encouraging. Of course, it is the ripple effect from Iraq that is causing alarm among all the tyrants that rule these countries [in the region]. If it works in Iraq, it could work elsewhere, and this is very disturbing [for tyrants].

FP: As someone who has spent so much time studying the Ottoman Empire, the history of Islam, and the region, is the future of Islam something that has a deep meaning to you personally? Where do you see the Muslim world headed in the next decade?

BL: Im not a religious person. But I find things that are good and encouraging. Islam over the last 14 centuries has brought dignity and meaning to millions of drab and impoverished lives. It has created a great civilization that has gone through several different phases in several different countries. It is now going through a major crisis, and it could go either way. It could descend into a fanatical tyranny, which would be devastating for Muslims and a threat to the rest of the world. Or they may succeed in developing their own brand of democracy. When we talk about the possibility of democracy in the Islamic world, it doesnt have to be our kind. Our kind results from our own history and institutions. Its not a universal model. They can, and I think will, develop their own brand of democracy, by which I mean limited, civilized, responsible government. And there are signs of that.

Bernard Lewis is professor emeritus at Princeton University and the author of dozens of books, most recently Islam: The Religion and the People (Upper Saddle River: Wharton School Publishing, 2008), coauthored with Buntzie Ellis Churchill.

Voir encore:

The Conflicted Legacy of Bernard Lewis
A Clash of Interpretations
Martin Kramer
Foreign Affairs
June 7, 2018

Bernard Lewis, historian of the Middle East, passed away on May 19, just shy of his 102nd birthday. No other person in our time has done as much to inform and influence the West’s view of the Islamic world and the Middle East. A long career of scholarship in the United Kingdom, followed by decades as a public intellectual in the United States, earned him readers across the globe. After the 9/11 attacks, he became a celebrity: “Osama bin Laden made me famous,” he admitted. The two short books he published after the terror strikes became New York Times bestsellers. Charlie Rose couldn’t get enough of him.

Regard for Lewis extended well beyond (and above) the general public. He was also known to be a valued interlocutor of Turkish and Jordanian statesmen, Iran’s last shah, Israeli prime ministers, and U.S. President George W. Bush and his team. Bush was even spotted carrying a marked-up copy of one of Lewis’ articles. As the “war on terror” and its Iraqi sequel unfolded and unraveled, he became the subject of magazine profiles and cover stories. Bernard Lewis knew the Middle East, and America thought it knew him.

Or did it? “For some, I’m the towering genius,” Lewis said in 2012. “For others, I’m the devil incarnate.” Despite having written 30-plus books (including a memoir) and hundreds of articles, and undertaken countless interviews, Lewis was widely misunderstood. Many of those misunderstandings, latent since he went silent a few years ago, reappeared in his obituaries, mixed with either admiration or vitriol.

Part of this is due to his sheer longevity. On 9/11, he was already 85 years old; he’d published his first book in 1940, over 60 years earlier. He was hardly obscure when he became “famous,” but his mass audience discovered him only during the last decade of his seven-decade career. For those like me who met him much earlier (I became his student at Princeton University in 1976), the latecomers seemed not to grasp the true significance or magnitude of his contribution.

It would take thousands of words to dispel the many myths about Lewis, from the crude ones (the “Lewis Plan” for dividing up the Middle East into statelets, or the “Lewis Doctrine” of “sowing” democracy by force), to the supposedly knowing ones (“Godfather of the Iraq War”). That needs to be done elsewhere, and in a pointed way. Here, let me flag three particularly salient misunderstandings, which arose not from malice, but from a failure to read widely and deeply in the great body of his work.

« LAST ORIENTALIST » OR PIONEER SCHOLAR?

The first is the belief that Lewis was an “Orientalist,” or even “the last Orientalist,” a title applied to him either as a term of abuse or as a badge of honor. This misconception was fostered by Lewis’ famous duel with the Palestinian American literary scholar Edward Said, whose 1978 manifesto, Orientalism, indicted Western “Orientalist” writers and scholars for purveying bigotry against Islam and the Arabs. Lewis rose to the defense of the scholars: it was they who undermined Europe’s medieval prejudice against Islam, by directly accessing and engaging original Islamic sources. Lewis maintained that this brand of scholarly Orientalism amounted to one of the nobler triumphs of the Enlightenment.

But in defending the Orientalists, Lewis wasn’t acting as one. Yes, Lewis had studied under a famed British Orientalist, Sir Hamilton Gibb. He knew the Orientalist canon intimately and had a gift for languages that would have been the envy of any philologist. But Lewis wasn’t “the last Orientalist.” (“The Orientalists have gone,” Lewis insisted.) He was the first real historian of the Middle East, considered a pioneer in applying the latest approaches in European social and economic history to the Middle Eastern past.

His highly readable studies on every period were chock-full of fascinating historical detail about day-to-day life, which he’d culled from indigenous sources. He was the first Westerner admitted to the Ottoman archives, and he was the first scholar to read the Islamic texts for earlier periods with a trained historian’s eye. (I can attest, as someone who once tended his 18,000-volume library, that he owned every significant Arabic, Persian, and Turkish chronicle.) Lewis, as a young don, criticized his Orientalist forebears for their insularity and called for “the integration of the history of Islam into the study of the general history of humanity.” No one did more than Lewis to advance this elusive goal.

Through his historical research, Lewis arrived at a crucial insight, which informed all his later writings. Islamic civilization in its “golden age” had all the prerequisites to make the leap to modernity before parochial Europe did. Yet it stagnated, then declined. “The rise of the West has been much studied,” he once noted, “but the waning of Islamic power has received little serious scholarly attention.” This would be his project, and in its pursuit, he reached an intriguing conclusion: the elites of the great Muslim empires, especially the Ottomans, were so certain of their own God-given superiority that they saw no reason ever to change. They discounted the steady rise of Europe, and by the time they got a fix on the problem, it was too late.

Thus began a desperate race to arrest the decline of the Muslim world and its eclipse by a dynamic Europe. There were many Western observers who pointed to the spreading rot. But Lewis revealed the Muslim point of view. Reform, modernization, nationalism, Islamism, terror—all these were strategies to restore to the Muslims some semblance of the power they had wielded for over a millennium and which they lost in just a few generations. Lewis’ biggest bestseller, What Went Wrong?, published just after 9/11, distilled his many findings on how Muslims had tried and failed to restore their world. Al Qaeda (and later the Islamic State, also known as ISIS), by seeking to reenact the seventh century, was the most desperate of these attempts to reverse history.

The question of decline preoccupied Lewis, because he knew its human cost. When he finished his PhD at the University of London in 1939, his country still ruled a quarter of humankind and almost a third of the world’s land mass. Then, just as he was on the brink of launching his career, his country went to war against an evil power that overran Europe and nearly destroyed Western civilization. In his city, London, 30,000 died in German bombings. “I went to shelters in the underground stations,” he recalled, “but I soon got tired of this and decided to stay in my bed and take my chances.”

After the war, the British Empire gradually dissolved, and Britain ceased to be great. Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse (Everything passes, everything breaks, everything wearies): Lewis in old age was wont to repeat the French adage. He had witnessed firsthand the crumbling of a mighty empire, and he sought the underlying causes of decline in the example of Islam. Lewis’ later message to the United States, which had saved the West, was to warn against a repeat of the smug complacency that presaged the precipitate declines of Ottoman Islam and Britannia.

CLASH OR ENCOUNTER?

This brings us to a second misunderstanding. Lewis has been tagged as the father of the “clash of civilizations,” which Samuel Huntington borrowed (with acknowledgment) for his famous Foreign Affairs article of 1993. Lewis had used the phrase as early as 1957 to describe the deeper aspect of contemporary conflicts in the Middle East. (Better to “view the present discontents of the Middle East,” he wrote, “not as a conflict between states or nations, but as a clash between civilizations.”) He repeated the phrase in subsequent works, most famously in his 1990 article, “The Roots of Muslim Rage.”

Huntington, however, went further than Lewis, presenting the “clash” as a struggle among all the world’s civilizations, fueled by cultural differences. Lewis had something else in mind. He held that Islam and Christendom (later, the West) were unique rivals, not because of their differences but because they shared so much: the Greco-Roman legacy, Abrahamic monotheism, and the Mediterranean basin.

Obviously, these two sibling civilizations often clashed. But being so similar, they also borrowed, exchanged, and translated. In 1994, just after Huntington popularized the “clash” thesis, Lewis sought to distance himself from it. That year, he revised his classic 1964 book The Middle East and the West, and in the revision, “clash” became “encounter.” He told me later that he felt “clash” was “too harsh.”

In 1996, when Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Lewis again kept his distance. He noted that “there have been great struggles between Christendom and Islam in the past” and that “there are still some on both sides who see world history in terms of a holy war between believers and unbelievers.” But this wasn’t fate: “A new era of peaceful coexistence is possible,” he announced. Lewis never denied coining the phrase “clash between civilizations,” but he meant it as a very partial description of the past and the present, and not as a prediction of the future.

Still, Lewis also sensed that the resentment of the West simmered, and he was the first to conclude that it would take an increasingly Islamist form. As early as 1964, he thought it “obvious” that “Islamic movements alone are authentically Middle Eastern in inspiration…express[ing] the passions of the submerged masses of the population. Though they have all, so far, been defeated, they have not yet spoken their last word.” He returned to this theme in 1976, in his seminal article “The Return of Islam.” When Commentary published it, Western liberals and Arab nationalists ridiculed him. They’d pinned their hopes and reputations on the ever-onward progress of secular modernity. If Islam had “returned,” they had failed.

Lewis didn’t have to wait long for vindication. He didn’t predict the Iranian Revolution three years later, but it enhanced his reputation for prescience. He struck again in 1998 on the pages of Foreign Affairs, where he analyzed the “declaration of jihad” of a little-known Saudi renegade named Osama bin Laden. Lewis again warned against complacency—to no avail.

After 9/11, America listened to him precisely because he had heard Islamist extremist voices when no one took them seriously. Yet he always insisted that those voices didn’t speak for all of Islam: “Anyone with even a moderate knowledge of Islam knows that most Muslims are neither militant nor violent.” Bin Laden’s message was a « grotesque travesty of the nature of Islam and even of its doctrine of jihad. The Quran speaks of peace as well as of war.”

IN CONTEMPT OR GOOD FAITH?

The third misunderstanding is the notion that Lewis held “the Arabs” in contempt. After his death, some Twitter feeds sputtered words supposedly said by Lewis to Dick Cheney when he was vice president: “I believe that one of the things you’ve got to do to Arabs is hit them between the eyes with a big stick. They respect power.”

The only source for this “quote” was the former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who speculated to a journalist on what Lewis might have said behind closed doors. In fact, no one ever heard Lewis say any such thing. But beyond fake quotes, there has persisted the idea, planted first by Said, that Lewis’ work was “very close to being propaganda against his subject material.” (Presumably, the reference is to the Arabs. In regard to the Turks, Lewis’ critics sometimes claimed he propagandized for them.) Another academic, Richard Bulliet, claimed that Lewis was “a person who does not like the people he is purporting to have expertise about. He doesn’t respect them.”

If this were true, there is no credible explanation as to why, for all the years I knew Lewis, his staunchest friends included prominent Arab scholars. At Princeton, Lewis’ closest colleague was the Egyptian-born economic historian Charles Issawi, his exact contemporary and a man of vast learning. Their erudite and recondite banter induced awe. When the “Orientalism” controversy broke, Issawi stood with Lewis. (“We should be eternally grateful to the Orientalists,” Issawi told an interviewer, “who taught us so much.”) Issawi often closely tracked the ideas of Lewis, as in a 1986 lecture (later published) entitled, “The Clash of Cultures in the Middle East.” Lewis and Issawi disagreed over Israel and Palestine. But in an affectionate tribute to Issawi, Lewis wrote that “our agreements have not strengthened nor our disagreements weakened our friendship.”

It was at Princeton that Lewis first met the Lebanese-born Fouad Ajami, half his age at the time, who gradually became a disciple. It was Ajami who wrote paeans to Lewis on special occasions and spoke movingly at events celebrating him. Ajami attested to “deep reservoirs of reverence felt for [Lewis] in many Muslim and Arab lands…. Countless Arab and Iranian and Turkish readers…know that he has not come to the material of their history driven by bad faith, or a desire for dominion.” Lewis, in turn, dedicated a book to Ajami, “in appreciation of his scholarship, friendship, and courage.” Together they founded an academic association of Middle Eastern studies, meant as a platform for dissenting views.

And while some Arabs thought Lewis too “Zionist,” others valued him precisely for his rapport with Israeli leaders. In 1971, the Egyptian statesman Tahseen Bashir, acting at the behest of President Anwar Sadat, asked Lewis to inform Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir of Egypt’s interest in peace. Lewis not only conveyed the message from one friend to another, he endorsed it. (Meir rejected the overture; war followed two years later.) Lewis also always combined visits to Israel with stops in Jordan, where King Hussein and then Crown Prince Hassan hosted him. “I had a personal relationship with the royal family,” wrote Lewis, who made Amman his base in the Arab world. He certainly didn’t believe that Israelis and Arabs were doomed to “clash,” and he supported the Oslo Accords (although he later admitted it was a mistake to imagine Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat abandoning terrorism).

It was Lewis’ Arab friends who persuaded him, however improbably, that the Arab peoples were primed for democracy, beginning in Iraq. During the long Cold War, when the Arabs were subjected to Stalinist-style dictatorships, Lewis saw the present as a simple continuum of “the authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition.” But the fall of the Soviet Union invigorated democracy movements everywhere. Were the Arabs truly exceptions? Iraqis came to Lewis and told him they weren’t, and Lewis was primed to believe them. He had entered a last and hopeful phase, of desiring to see the Arabs partake of the bounty of democracy.

Consider, for example, his penultimate contribution to Foreign Affairs. In his 2005 essay, “Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East,” Lewis denied that dictatorship constituted “the immemorial way” of the Arabs. It was “simply untrue. It shows ignorance of the Arab past, contempt for the Arab present, and unconcern for the Arab future.” Dictatorships were “very alien to the foundations of Islamic civilization. There are older rules and traditions on which the peoples of the Middle East can build.”

It’s debatable, and probably always will be. But in making the case, beginning with Iraq, Lewis wasn’t propagandizing against his subject. To the contrary, he was arguing that there was nothing so exceptional about the Arabs or Islam that would exclude them from the shared future of humankind. “The Middle East is a region of great, ancient civilizations with talented and ingenious people,” he announced in 2002, “and I have no doubt at all that they can create free societies.” This wasn’t a well-grounded analysis, akin to his prescient read of Islamism. It was a closing prophecy, meant to resolve the contradictions in Lewis’ double devotion to Islam and the West.

The questions that Lewis posed, and the answers that he gave, are still at the center of our politics, which is why his death produced such an outpouring of passions, for and against him. But now he is himself a subject in history. Lewis has given us guidelines for assessing him. “The historian must strive to achieve as great a degree of objectivity as possible,” he wrote. “No man can be entirely detached from the events of the time in which he lived…. The scholar, however, will not give way to his prejudices. He will recognize them, control them, allow for them, and by a process of intellectual self-discipline reduce their working to a minimum.”

Whether Bernard Lewis approximated this ideal is a legitimate question. But it can be answered fairly only by rising to his standard.

Voir aussi:

With the Death of Bernard Lewis, the Age of Academic Giants Has Come to an End

Professional study of Middle East history now belongs to incompetents and political agitators.

Observation
Michael Doran
June 6 2018
About the author
Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the author of Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East (2016), is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council.
By then I had met any number of extremely accomplished people, but never anyone quite like him. Lewis was a genius, by which I mean not just that he was extremely intelligent but that he possessed dazzling and unique intellectual gifts. He knew somewhere between ten and fifteen languages. The ones that mattered most to him professionally—Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, modern Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, French, and German—he knew extremely well. He also had a photographic memory.Near-perfect recall is an impressive instrument, though it entails its own peculiar complications. One day, Lewis handed me a manuscript of his new book, The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. He asked me to proofread it and to be on the lookout, especially, for repetitions—not just within the text but also between it and his other publications. Edward Said, the author of Orientalism and Lewis’s nemesis and bête noire, had accused him of “recycling old notes.” Lewis had no wish to turn Said into a truth-teller.No sooner had I begun my work than I discovered a passage that had appeared, verbatim, in an article written by Lewis some two decades earlier. Was Said correct, then, and was Lewis cutting and pasting from earlier work? This I knew to be false. Lewis didn’t write books in the conventional sense of the word “write.” He would collect primary sources, organize them into manila folders—a separate one dedicated to each chapter in the book under construction. Then he would sit comfortably in the chair at his desk and speak into the Dictaphone. Out they would flow—perfectly formed sentences. Uninterrupted by so much as an “uh” or an “umm,” they would soon turn into neat paragraphs, and the paragraphs would grow into chapters. A light editing after dictation was sometimes all it took to ready the material for publication. If Lewis sometimes repeated himself verbatim, it was because ideas that he had formulated over the years were simply engraved in granite in his mind.At our next meeting, I showed Lewis the repeated passage. He turned beet red and quickly changed the subject. When on a later occasion I tried to discuss the subject of his phenomenal recall, it was plain my questions irritated him. So I never broached the topic again—but I did once ask if he’d ever experienced writer’s block. “Rarely,” he said. “However, I am occasionally at a loss for the right word.” He had a method for overcoming this ordeal. “I draw myself a hot bath, ease down into the water, put my head back and relax. And then it comes to me.”To call him prolific is an understatement. Wikipedia’s list of his books runs to 33 titles ranging across all periods of Islamic history. The list, however, is incomplete. Among the omissions is Days in Denmark, a lighthearted guidebook published in 1950 under the pseudonym Louis Bernard; alongside its voluminous information and advice, the book pokes fun at the foibles of the Danes. I’d discovered it by chance one day while puttering around in his study. After skimming through it, marveling as I read, I brought it to him fully expecting a show of pride at his command of so offbeat a subject. To my surprise, he was unforthcoming.“You even know Danish?” I asked, brandishing the book.“Where did you find that?”“Over there on the shelf. Did you work on Denmark during the war?” (He had served in British intelligence.)“No.”“What prompted you to learn Danish?”

“Personal reasons,” he said, taking the book from my hand. The conversation, he made clear, was over. I would subsequently learn that his wife had been Danish, and that the marriage had ended unhappily.

Actually, Lewis’s guide to Denmark points to the grand theme of his career: cross-cultural perception, misperception, and conflict. This subject came naturally to him, and was never far from his mind even in the unlikeliest-seeming contexts. One such context that I’ll never forget involved his reaction to a California jury’s notorious verdict of not-guilty in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. For the purposes of an upcoming speech, and prompted by the uproar over the verdict, Lewis was intending to relate an anecdote drawn from the memoirs of a judge in Ireland, a certain McGillicuddy. Would I go to the library, he asked, and hunt down the book to double-check the accuracy of the quote?

Lewis explained what he was looking for. McGillicuddy had served on the bench before Ireland received its independence. With the British ruling the country, Irish Catholic juries were notoriously reluctant to convict Irish Catholic defendants, no matter how damning the evidence. McGillicuddy was outraged when, at a murder trial over which he presided, the jury returned a verdict of not-guilty for a man who was patently guilty. Unable to bring himself to pronounce the prescribed formula for setting free an exonerated defendant—“You have been found innocent by a jury of your peers. You leave this courtroom with no stain on your record”—McGillicuddy, Lewis recollected, revised it to fit the circumstances: “You have been found innocent by an Irish jury. You leave this courtroom with no other stain on your record.”

Off to the library I went. I scoured the stacks and all the relevant databases, but with no luck. No research library in North America had a copy of McGillicuddy’s memoirs. Lewis had read the passage when studying law in the mid-1930s, and recalled it verbatim a half-century later.

Total recall, command of sources, mastery of hard languages—these are indeed powerful tools. I’ve encountered other scholars who’ve possessed them, but they often tend to be hopeless pedants, capable of boring you to tears in five languages. Not so Lewis. He yoked his innate intellectual gifts to a powerful analytic intelligence and expressed the result in lively and urbane prose.

Memory plus languages plus analysis plus talent for expression—this was the magical combination that put him in a class all his own. But that, too, was by no means the end of it. His lectures and his writing always had a point: a big, significant thesis into which even an anecdote plucked from a half-century-old book on a different subject would take on special meaning.

In the 1950s, in the archives of the Ottoman empire in Istanbul, Lewis had found the grand cross-cultural story worthy of his prodigious talents. As one of the first Western historians to gain access to the empire’s official records, he also belonged to a very small fraternity of non-Turkish scholars who had truly mastered the Ottoman language. His archival research allowed Lewis to examine the practical strategies that the last great Muslim empire adopted to contend with the rise of the West.

European expansion was an old story, but Lewis had a new take: how that expansion looked from the heartlands of the Middle East. His research in Istanbul, which in the first instance yielded The Emergence of Modern Turkey, also shaped his thinking in general, and in a way that some commentators on his work have missed: it gave him a particular perspective on modern history.

Nationalism sometimes fosters a shallow intellectual culture, but among the Turks, furtively before World War I and openly thereafter, it generated an original and sophisticated literature. The Ottoman empire was a multiethnic, Islamic polity. To become nationalists, the Turks had to think themselves out of traditional categories and entirely reconceive their history, culture, and politics. This intellectual enterprise, massive and multi-generational, culminated in Kemalism, the ideology associated with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Anyone curious about the influence of Kemalism on Lewis can compare The Rise of Modern Turkey with The Development of Secularism in Turkey, a masterful history written by Niyazi Berkes, the leading Turkish scholar of the day. Lewis and Berkes, the comparison will immediately reveal, are close cousins.

But this is hardly to deny the uniqueness of Lewis’s own take on the Turkish national story. With his inimitable panache, he placed it in the broadest possible context, presenting it as it was in itself but also as a chapter in a world-historical drama: the interaction as a whole between the Middle East and the West.

At the center of Lewis’s story is Islam—its nature, power, and persistence. As the men who ran the Ottoman empire and its successor states sought to modernize their societies, they continually butted heads with the champions of traditional society, who expressed their own values and aspirations in an Islamic idiom. This led Lewis to be on the lookout for possible recrudescences of anti-Western Islamic movements. So armed, he was able to identify important political developments significantly in advance of other experts.

Two essays stand out for their prescience in this regard. “The Return of Islam,” published in Commentary in 1976, identified Islamic-based politics as a rising trend—three years before the Iranian revolution that toppled the shah and brought to power the rule of the ayatollahs. Two decades later, in “License to Kill,” published in Foreign Affairs in 1998, he drew attention to Osama bin Laden’s call for jihad against America—three years before 9/11.

It is impossible to exaggerate how hostile the academic field of modern Middle East studies was to these two essays—or to the author of the large corpus of historical research out of which they grew. This hostility was spearheaded by Edward Said in Orientalism (1978). Taking aim directly at Lewis, the book depicted the scholarly tradition of which Lewis was the leading figure as, in its essence, a highfalutin cover for Western prejudice—a learned justification for Western imperialism and Israeli expansionism.

As an intellectual rival to Lewis, Said was hopelessly outgunned. As an academic ideologue, however, he proved the more talented figure. The genius of Orientalism was that it built an intellectual bridge between Middle East studies and the guilt attitudes commonly held by American liberals toward the issue of race in their own country. The cause of the problems in the Middle East, Said implied, lay in the bigotry of white men, for which Lewis’s claim—that a deep knowledge of history and culture was relevant to understanding present-day issues—was just a smokescreen. The essence of the story was the domination of brown people by white people.

Said’s argument, such as it was, is often presented as one side in an ongoing war of ideas, but the real key to understanding its repercussions is to be found in the underlying emotions that it touched on and would later inflame. Consider, for example, a Muslim student of mine, a son of immigrants to the United States, with whom I held hours of solemn conversation in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. (I was working at the time as a professor.) The student unburdened himself to me about the emotional turmoil into which Osama bin Laden’s attacks had thrown his family.

His parents were barely on speaking terms. His father was enraged—at America and at Americans. Before the 9/11 attacks, the father had been just another colleague at work; afterward, he suddenly became the Muslim colleague. He felt unfairly singled out by his non-Muslim co-workers. Some of them became distant, while others insistently asked him to explain Osama bin Laden as if being Muslim gave him special insight into the arch-terrorist’s motivations.

My student’s mother, meanwhile, had the polar opposite reaction. If her husband felt falsely accused, she felt genuinely implicated by bin Laden’s crimes. Overcome with a sense of shame, she grew visibly depressed, staying in bed to avoid going out in public.

As my student’s home became an unhappy place, and as he tried to sort through his own complex feelings, he also found himself unable to talk about these matters with his Muslim friends. They were simply too close to the problem. So he’d come to me instead.

Now consider what Bernard Lewis’s books, articles, and interviews were telling Americans at this same time. Osama bin Laden, he argued, represented a politically significant development, one with deep roots in the history of the Middle East if not in Islam itself. Lewis was not saying that this was the only current in Islam, or necessarily the most authentic one. But the mere fact of his attributing popular legitimacy to it, as well as a connection to Islamic tradition, was enough to enrage men like my student’s father. To his ears, it sounded as if Lewis were tarring both him and his religion with the brush of terrorism.

Many scholars working in Middle East studies in the United States, being themselves of Middle Eastern heritage, share similar emotions. Those who don’t share them are surrounded, professionally and socially, by people who do. Dissenters have thus been under heavy pressure to repudiate Lewis’s perspective and to produce analyses, instead, that put the blame for the ills of the Middle East on exogenous forces—specifically, on Western and/or Israeli policies.

Modern Middle East studies has therefore become a field rife with pro-Muslim apologetics. In this sense, it is fair to say that although Lewis won the argument, Said won the crowd. Thanks to Said, insufferable blowhards who willfully obscure the difference between scholarship and politicking now run the field.

Indeed, by the time I got to know Lewis in the mid-1990s, the ground had already shifted. The rising generation wanted as little connection with him as possible—at least in public. Young academics on the make, some of them his own students, recognized that search committees for coveted jobs would often include an aging curmudgeon who still respected Lewis. To disarm and mollify these older types, they would kiss up to Lewis and ask for recommendations even while denigrating him to their peers.

Out of a sense of professional responsibility, and also because he was loyal to a fault, Lewis would produce the requested recommendations. He recognized rank careerism for what it was, but was he aware of the depth of duplicity being displayed by individuals who owed their careers to him? Of that I’m not so sure.

As academia increasingly disavowed Lewis, the allure of Washington grew stronger. For a man who could effortlessly quote the verse of the 10th-century Arab poet al-Mutanabbi, Lewis also revealed a remarkable talent for talking with policymakers. He was always well briefed on current affairs. For four months of every year, he traveled to the Middle East. When back at Princeton, part of his daily routine was listening to Arab political broadcasts over shortwave radio. Having spent countless hours during World War II eavesdropping on Arab leaders’ telephone conversations and briefing British commanders about them, he had a very keen sense of the day-to-day realities of regional politics and of how to distill the essence for non-experts.

Truth be told, however, he was more an analyst than an implementer, and he was not especially gifted at formulating policy. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of 9/11, he allowed himself to be drawn into the debate over the Iraq war, which he supported. Looking back on it now, I wish he had played the role of grand old man of Middle East analysis rather than becoming, as he did, an intellectual icon for policymakers. I even suggested to him once, over a late-night scotch, that he might remain aloof, issuing Delphic statements that kept him above the fray. “At my age,” he responded, “what difference does it make?” I had no response. He was playing a significant role in the world, in a way usually denied to people in the second half of their ninth decade. And he’d earned the right.

Bernard Lewis was a loyal friend and a scholarly legend. The sadness at his passing only grows as one is forced to acknowledge that the age of academic giants has now definitively come to an end. The professional study of Middle East history now belongs to the heirs of Edward Said—to, that is, intellectual pygmies.

Have I closed on a word, and an image, unpardonably “Orientalist” and “colonialist”? I certainly hope so.

Voir également:

Bernard Lewis

Lewis attributed the 9/11 attacks to a decaying Islamic civilization.

 JPost Editorial
May 23, 2018

Lewis, who will be buried at the Trumpeldor Cemetery in Tel Aviv on Thursday, had a major impact on US foreign policy, particularly under the presidency of George W. Bush. He briefed vice president Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. His phrase, “the clash of civilizations,” was made famous by American political scientist Samuel Huntington, who argued that cultural and religious identities would be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War era.

Lewis attributed the 9/11 attacks to a decaying Islamic civilization that enabled extremists such as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to conduct an international terrorist campaign. The solution to the growing problems of fundamentalist Islamic ideology was, in a word, democracy. “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us,” Lewis wrote. In many ways he was a modern-day prophet, although he was sometimes wrong and was often accused by his academic colleagues of being Eurocentric. “For some, I’m the towering genius,” Lewis told The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012. “For others, I’m the devil incarnate.”

He warned in 2006 that Iran had been working on a nuclear program for some 15 years. But he wrongly predicted that Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could be planning an apocalyptic attack, perhaps against Israel, on August 22, to coincide with Muhammad’s night flight to Jerusalem.

As Israel deliberates again whether to recognize the Armenian Genocide, it is timely to recall that in the first editions of his well-known book, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, Lewis described that genocide as “the terrible holocaust of 1915, when a million and a half Armenians perished.” In later editions, he changed the text to “the terrible slaughter of 1915, when, according to estimates, more than a million Armenians perished, as well as an unknown number of Turks.” Critics accused him of “historical revisionism.”

In a visit to The Jerusalem Post in 2007, the London- born Lewis eloquently discussed the situation in an interview with then-editor David Horovitz and reporter Tovah Lazaroff. He predicted that one way for Muslims to alleviate their growing rage would be “to win some large victories, which could happen. They seem to be about to take over Europe.”

Lewis was asked what that meant for Jews in Europe.

“The outlook for the Jewish communities in Europe is dim,” he replied. “Soon, the only pertinent question regarding Europe’s future will be, ‘Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?’” In reviewing Lewis’s 2010 collection of essays – Faith and Power: Religion and Politics in the Middle East – Post International Edition editor Liat Collins pertinently noted a line of thought appearing throughout the essays was that the Western concept of separating church and state was not compatible with Islam.

“The emergence of a population, many millions strong, of Muslims born and educated in Western Europe will have immense and unpredictable consequences for Europe, for Islam and for the relations between them,” Lewis wrote. Collins commented: “I don’t want to hear a ‘Told you so’ so much as an update in the wake of the current mass migration to Europe’s shores.” Although he didn’t get everything right – who can? – Collins added that his special touches are well-worth noting, such as this classic quotation: “In America one uses money to buy power, while in the Middle East, one uses power to acquire money.”

“Bernard Lewis was one of the great scholars of Islam and the Middle East in our time,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, recalling the wide-ranging conversations Lewis had with his late father and fellow historian, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu. “We will be forever grateful for his robust defense of Israel.”

Most importantly, Lewis helped improve the world’s understanding of Islam and the Arab world. Still today it is difficult to predict how events in the Middle East will play out. His scholarship will live on but his voice will be missed.

Voir encore:

Bernard Lewis, historian of the Middle East, 1916-2018

Originator of ‘clash of civilisations’ phrase, influential in George W Bush’s White House

Bernard Lewis, a towering but controversial historian of Islam and the Middle East, died this week aged 101. Opinion will divide about the legacy of a learned and charming man who shamed many fellow academics with the grace and wit of his phrasemaking in more than two dozen books — was he principally a scholar or a propagandist. He left an indelible mark, over a long career in which he rarely seemed to change his mind or modulate his pithy opinions on what made his chosen region tick.

He risks being remembered most for the 2003 Iraq war, by when he had become celebrity in-house historian to George W Bush’s US administration and ideological guru to thearchitects of the invasion . It was said in Washington at the time that Lewis had more influence on any administration than any academic since John F Kennedy’s era. Just as the “best and brightest” of JFK’s horn-rimmed Harvard types paved America’s path into the swamp of Vietnam, Lewis (from Princeton) furnished a veneer of respectability to a catastrophic venture.

Born in London in 1916, Lewis was a spectacular linguist, mastering not just Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish, but Latin, Greek and Aramaic as well. After studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, he served in British intelligence during the second world war. He returned to an academic career at SOAS, moving to Princeton in 1974, subsequently becoming a naturalised US citizen. His ascent as a public intellectual dated from his friendship, starting in the 1970s, with Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, founding father of what would later be called neoconservatism.

Lewis’s early renown was as a scholar of the Ottoman Empire, his intellectual passion. He was the first westerner to be granted entry to the Ottoman imperial archives in 1950. His engagement with Islamic civilisation as a whole was really with its golden age, from the 8th to the 13th centuries. He consistently highlighted Turkish (and, to a degree, Persian) culture and achievement in a way that cast Arab culture in an inferior light.

Writing about the failure of pan-Arabism, he was dismissive of the way European imperialism aborted the constitutional evolution of Arab politics. He did not highlight how the Ottomans (whose religious tolerance he rightly praised) enforced a ban on the Arabic printing press from the 15th to the 19th centuries to culturally stifle and subjugate their Arab territories.

It is often said that Lewis’s view of the Arabs came about because after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 it became difficult for him, as a Jew, to research in Arab countries. Yet his famous The Arabs in History, which appeared first in 1950, is already disdainful of Arab achievement after the golden age. The same man who knew how Europe relied on Arabic medical textbooks well into the Renaissance, wrote that “the camel is the supreme technological innovation of the Middle East”. According to Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford university, Lewis’s view was: “There are only two intelligent, competent, and reliable countries in the Middle East — Turkey and Israel — and the US should base its policy towards the entire region on these two allies.”

Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American academic, identified Lewis as a manufacturer of the stereotypical myths the west used to justify dominance of the east. The two went at it hammer and tongs in 1982, in one of the most vehement intellectual disputes of the late 20th century.

By the time of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, Lewis was better known for polemic and pamphleteering, piling up inferences instead of deploying evidence, clearing a path to the self-righteous Bush administration mantra: “they hate us for our freedoms”.

His earlier scholarly work dwells more on the gradual elimination of the cultural clearinghouses where civilisations meet, from Abbasid Baghdad, through Moorish Spain to the Ottoman Levant — none of which was destroyed by freedom-hating Muslims. By 1990, in his essay The Roots of Muslim Rage, he coined the phrase “clash of civilisations”, later popularised by Samuel Huntington. In the end it was the squibs more than the scholarship, untroubled by doubt or disquisition, which had more impact . It was common knowledge in the Bush White House that the president kept an annotated copy of a Lewis article with his briefing papers.

He is survived by his partner, Buntzie Ellis Churchill, his son Michael and daughter Melanie.

Voir par ailleurs:

L’historien anglo-américain Bernard Lewis est mort

Spécialiste du monde musulman, l’auteur de « Que s’est-il passé? L’Islam, l’Occident et la modernité » s’est éteint samedi 19 mai, à 101 ans.

Gilles Kepel (Professeur à l’Université Paris Sciences et Lettres, dirige la chaire Moyen-Orient Méditerranée à l’Ecole normale supérieure)

Le Monde

Avec la disparition, samedi 19 mai, à 101 ans, de Bernard Lewis, c’est toute une tradition d’érudition « orientaliste », mêlée à l’intervention passionnée dans le débat public, qui s’éteint. L’encre du savant est plus précieuse que le sang des polémistes et, malgré le bruit et la fureur qu’ont suscités ses prises de position, célébrées aujourd’hui de Benjamin Nétanyahou au secrétaire d’Etat américain, Mike Pompeo, c’est son extraordinaire connaissance du monde islamique qui lui survivra.

Auteur de plus de trente ouvrages – dont la plupart ont été traduits en français – couvrant des domaines qui vont de la civilisation arabe classique aux mouvements islamistes contemporains, en passant par l’histoire ottomane et turque, qui fut son thème de prédilection, Bernard Lewis était également un styliste à la plume acérée. Cela permit à son œuvre de trouver un rayonnement auprès d’un large public dans le monde entier, dépassant les cénacles académiques.

Né britannique, dans une famille juive, le 31 mai 1916, durant la première guerre mondiale, il apprit, enfant, l’hébreu des prières et découvrit un jour qu’il s’agissait d’une langue. Celle-ci lui ouvrit la voie de l’araméen, puis de l’arabe, et sa curiosité l’amena au persan, à l’ottoman ancien et au turc moderne. Cette extraordinaire maîtrise linguistique lui permit de pénétrer au plus profond les cultures de l’Orient, qu’il lisait dans le texte et citait à profusion.

Caution savante pour George W. Bush

Politiquement conservateur, il allait rester, tout au long d’une existence qui se confondit avec le siècle écoulé, très attaché à la cause d’Israël. Traversant l’Atlantique après la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale, comme tant d’universitaires d’outre-Manche, pour y bénéficier des facilités exceptionnelles des campus américains, il rejoignit l’université de Princeton où, avec son collègue Charles Issawi, il fut le pilier du département des études du Proche-Orient – il deviendra, en 1982, citoyen des Etats-Unis.

Sa sensibilité de droite – qui ne l’empêcha pas de mener, en France, un compagnonnage savant avec Maxime Rodinson, très engagé à gauche – ainsi que son engagement pour Israël lui ouvrirent l’accès aux cercles néoconservateurs qui élaborèrent la politique américaine au Moyen-Orient à l’époque du président George W. Bush, après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Avec son collègue Fouad Ajami, disparu en 2014, il en fut la source et la caution savante, même s’il prit ses distances par la suite avec la catastrophe que constitua pour Washington l’occupation de l’Irak.

En 1978, L’Orientalisme – le livre best-seller d’Edward Saïd, d’origine palestinienne et professeur de littérature comparée anglo-française à l’université Columbia – fit de Bernard Lewis sa cible principale. Cet ouvrage, qui a polarisé jusqu’à nos jours le champ disciplinaire des études sur le Moyen-Orient et a contribué à en faire un champ de ruines, lui reprochait d’avoir construit, dans la foulée d’une tradition d’auteurs européens remontant aux savants de la Description de l’Egypte de l’expédition de Bonaparte en 1799, la figure de « l’Oriental » comme un autre radical, assigné à une culture figée, dont la description visait à l’assujettir à la domination coloniale, puis impérialiste et sioniste.

Le désamour de la France

Cette incrimination globale fut l’acte fondateur des « post-colonial studies » qui dominent, depuis lors, les campus américains et touchent désormais les universités françaises. Par-delà les oppositions politiques entre les deux professeurs autour du conflit israélo-palestinien, où chacun s’était fait le champion de l’une des causes, le débat a ouvert des failles persistantes. Saïd a réduit le savoir livresque de Lewis à une machinerie lui permettant d’« essentialiser » les peuples arabes contemporains en ramenant leurs comportements politiques à des textes anciens imprégnés de tradition religieuse, leur déniant ainsi toute modernité. Il en découlera que seuls les indigènes seraient légitimes à produire du savoir sur eux-mêmes, au détriment des universitaires « néocoloniaux » toujours biaisés. C’est le fondement des procès en « islamophobie » intentés aux professeurs « blancs » par le parti des Indigènes de la République et leurs compagnons de route « racisés ».

Lewis et ses disciples ont indéniablement tenu trop peu compte des sciences sociales et humaines, et négligé l’observation d’un terrain qui ne se réduit pas aux bibliothèques, dès lors que l’on veut rendre compte des sociétés contemporaines du Moyen-Orient, de l’Afrique du Nord, voire de l’immigration de celles-ci vers l’Europe et ses banlieues. Mais l’hypercritique de Saïd et de ses épigones a invalidé la connaissance de la culture profonde – rendant impossible de comprendre par exemple les modalités du lien entre Al-Qaida ou l’organisation Etat islamique, les sermons salafistes et les Ecritures saintes de l’islam. Un enjeu dont on ne saurait sous-estimer l’importance et auquel l’université doit apporter, sous peine de discrédit, sa contribution savante.

Le caractère entier de Bernard Lewis lui a valu un désamour spécifique en France : condamné par un tribunal pour des propos tenus dans les colonnes du Monde en 1993 et 1994, dont il a été jugé qu’ils relativisaient le génocide arménien, il a voué depuis lors aux gémonies un pays dont il connaissait intimement la culture…

Mais, par-delà les polémiques politiques, par-delà les aspects aujourd’hui datés d’une épistémologie restée rétive aux sciences humaines, Bernard Lewis témoigne d’un temps où la connaissance des langues et des cultures de l’Orient était un préalable nécessaire à l’analyse de ses sociétés : c’est la leçon toujours actuelle que laisse l’érudit de Princeton au monde qu’il vient de quitter.

Voir enfin:

Proche des néo-conservateurs américains, revendiquant son rôle d’historien engagé, l’historien britannique Bernard Lewis a régulièrement créé la polémique par ses prises de position.

Inventeur de la théorie du « choc des civilisations », l’historien américain Bernard Lewis est décédé, lundi 21 mai, à l’âge de 101 ans.

« Commencé avec le déferlement des Arabes musulmans vers l’ouest et leur conquête de la Syrie, de l’Afrique du Nord et de l’Espagne chrétiennes », ce « choc de civilisation » entre « l’islam et la chrétienté » s’est poursuivi selon lui avec les croisades, la poussée puis le repli des Ottomans en Europe, et enfin à partir du XIXe siècle, par la domination « politique, économique et culturelle », coloniale ou non, de l’Occident sur le Moyen-Orient… Reprise sous une autre forme par son assistant au Conseil de sécurité nationale, Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations ?, article paru dans la revue Foreign Affairs en 1993, puis dans un livre paru en 1996) l’expression a connu un immense succès et n’a cessé, depuis, d’être défendue ou combattue par de nombreux autres chercheurs.

Passionné de langue et d’histoire

Né à Londres en 1916 dans une famille juive, Bernard Lewis s’est passionné très tôt pour les langues – d’abord l’hébreu, puis l’araméen, l’arabe, le latin, le grec, le persan ou encore le turc – et l’histoire. Spécialiste de la Turquie, où il a vécu et travaillé plusieurs années, il commence à enseigner en 1974 à l’université de Princeton, dans le New Jersey.

Proche des néo-conservateurs américains, revendiquant son rôle d’historien engagé, Bernard Lewis a régulièrement créé la polémique par ses prises de position. Convaincu de l’existence d’un antisémitisme spécifiquement musulman, il y voyait l’une des explications au blocage du processus de paix israélo-palestinien. Il a également contesté la réalité du génocide des Arméniens par les Turcs en 1915, apportant sa caution intellectuelle à la Turquie en affirmant que la thèse du génocide était « la version arménienne » de l’histoire. Il est finalement condamné en 1995, jugement condamné en appel l’année suivante.

Son œuvre rééditée en France

Parmi ses essais les plus récents, on peut citer : What Went Wrong ? en 2002 (traduction française : Que s’est-il passé ?, Gallimard), qui analyse les raisons du déclin du monde arabo-musulman, puis The Crisis of Islam en 2003 (traduction française : L’Islam en crise, Gallimard).

En 2005, plusieurs de ses ouvrages et articles sont réédités, en français et en un seul volume, par les éditions Gallimard, dans la collection Quatro, sous le titre Islam. Une manière de découvrir l’essentiel de l’œuvre de cet auteur de vastes synthèses enjambant les siècles.

« Pour certains, je suis un génie immense. Pour d’autres, je suis le diable incarné », déclarait-il dans un entretien accordé en 2012 au Chronicle of Higher Education.


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