Full post and brief written interview here.
Henri-Levy has done some pretty deep thinking, mostly within leftist intellectual traditions, but also seems to attempt to question the core ideas of those traditions:
“I hate competition of victimhood. But I also hate the idea of a big, huge, and empty concept of suffering…”
A deep moral and (maturing political) realist who’s also anti-religious (typically left, at least he doesn’t advocate enforcement of Godlessness).
I agree that there’s danger in identity-victimhood politics. It can cultivate many vices under its loftier idealism. Yet, for my part, I believe that an intellectually honest, reasonable conservative (conservare) position already acknowledges much of this danger:
“You had fascism in Japan. You had fascism in Europe. You had fascism in people like Lindberg in America. You had fascism in Latin America and in the Arab world.”
Well…yes. It doesn’t go away, and you can likely make a deep metaphysical theories about how it is a part of each of us and extend them around the globe with moral courage as Henri-Levy has done. However, I don’t think the conservative position need devolve into caricatured support of fascist tendencies. I can easily see how identity-politics might inflame fascist tendencies (if you accept Henrei-Levy’s defintion of fascism.
Which brings me to the next point:
“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”
…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”
What is he smoking? The grand alliance? No wonder his book American Vertigo seemed so tone-deaf when dealing with its potential subject: America. Even the American left found it lacking.
I appreciate the support that some in the French republic extended to African Americans (jazz musicians, writers, James Baldwin…for example) who were cast beneath our moral concern, and held there, sadly, by even the laws. There are hardly words for such injustice, yet I see no easy recourse from it.
In fact, if I were one of the millions of relatively poor and marginalized Muslims on the outsides of Paris, languishing with little hope of a future, my fascist tendencies (expressed within or without the Koran) would lIkely be bubbling up. And while the depths of moral courage, wisdom and insight an Henri-Levy provided (if I got the chance to read him) might spur me on to independent thought, those depths would leave a lot untouched.
Addition: Reader-emailed evidence for the American black-jewish leftist alliance on Bloggingheads with Joshua Cohen engaging in genuine moral concern and genuie academic apologetics. Obama has chosen Rahm Emmanuel to likely be the White House Chief Of Staff, and of course from the Kentucky Fried Movie, Cleopatra Swartz. Thank you readers…I think.
At this point, we’re probably helping Henri-Levy make his. Identity politics!
I thought Henri-Levy had transcended them…oh wait…never mind.
See Also: Tim Kavanaugh At Reason: Every Man A Derrida