“The figure of the victim is instrumentalized”

“The figure of the victim is instrumentalized”

In his latest essay, the philosopher Pascal Bruckner questions the sacralization of the victim and the abuses resulting from this new dolorism which is found at all levels of our societies.

After The White Man's Sob, The Tyranny of Penance And An almost perfect culprit, your latest book completes a work obsessed with Evil. Where does this concern come from?

I work as a clinician on the pathologies of Western society. After examining the guilt complex, the desire to self-flagellate, wokism*, I wanted to study the taste that citizens of rich societies have to describe themselves as suffering pariahs. Evil fascinates us. Our non-violent societies consume an abundance of crime stories omnipresent in literature and media. The Third Reich marks us because it is the moment when we reach an abyss in abjection. And we are paralyzed by the slide, overnight, of ordinary people into cruelty, yesterday into the concentration camp system, today by Daesh, Hamas, Hezbollah.

Why this fascination?

I don't know. Plato writes that the good man dreams of cruel acts but does not commit them while the cruel man does not dream of them but commits them. Paul Valéry says it differently: “If the eyes could act, the streets would be full of corpses and pregnant women. » How could you or I, in extraordinary circumstances, with a guarantee of impunity, behave like monsters, that is the mystery of evil. Faced with the terrible possibility, would I have said no, would I have refused to knock a man to the ground, would I have refused to kill a child?

You denounce a “victim ideology” which is spreading in the West. What is it about ?

It is the perversion of a very beautiful idea, born with the figure of Christ, the Son of God who not only takes upon himself all the sins of the world but chooses the most infamous condition by dying on the cross. This greatly shocked the Romans, who were incapable of understanding how a God could take on the appearance of a lousy person. It was with Christianity that the weak began to be right over the strong, at least in theory.

However, today, we see that this transcendence of the wretched leads to a strategy of symbolic appropriation by the powerful. Putin's Russia seizes the figure of the victim in order to justify its aggression against Ukraine. Hamas, in addition to terror, resorts to the weapon of pity and sets itself up as a victim behind the Palestinian deaths. The tragedy today is that the fights are no longer fought in the name of a collective ideal but in the name of the victimization of a group which presents itself in a miserabilist guise.

“My weakness is my right”: here is the new king slogan, you write…

Officially, our society cares for the afflicted. This is the Christian heritage and the foundation of the welfare state. In a democratic country, the unfortunate obliges us. This is why the proposal to evacuate the homeless from Paris before the Olympics shocks public opinion. The right no longer comes from the winner but from equal consideration for all.

What is serious is when the wealthy want to disguise themselves as the wretched of the Earth, when Donald Trump, being prosecuted, says that he is the American Navalny or when his disciples compare him to the persecuted Jesus; when Éric Zemmour explains that a French woman killed by an Algerian testifies to “Francocide”, that is to say a desire for genocide; when the writer Annie Ernaux (Nobel Prize for Literature, Editor’s note) the example of success through talent, poses as a victim anxious to “avenge her race” as she says.

All this is a victim delusion and an instrumentalization of the figure of the victim for personal purposes of prestige or power. There is more. Today we see a hereditary transmission of victim status. People are born victims of the history of their ancestors and use it to demand extraordinary rights. Take the concept of descendants of slaves, which is current in the West Indies, even if it has been refuted by the court of cassation. He makes those who invoke him victims and others obligated. A reparations committee is demanding billions of euros from the French state. In the United States, the San Francisco city council is proposing to pay an annuity to African-Americans, descendants of slaves, for a century!

In this game, language becomes a trap?

Yes, since the Second World War, to assess one's suffering, we have used the lexicon of the Holocaust. If you claim that those who cause your suffering are of the same order as those who applied the Final Solution, you slip into the skin of the absolute tortured, which gives you a symbolic and psychological advantage.

From victim rhetoric to victim competition, there is only one step. Can we still “form a society” in this context?

There is a real risk of pitting one against the other. In the name of women's emancipation, romantic relationships have entered the era of suspicion. For many young people, sexual relations have become delicate. We risk being prosecuted for rape, for non-consent. The legal barriers that arise around an act supposed to take place in trust and abandonment can explain the loss of the feeling of love and lead to distrust.

Furthermore, by accessing the victims' club, the enemy is no longer the executioner but the other victim who claims to have suffered more than you. Hence the fight between minorities. Within the LGBTQ movement, trans people often display verbal violence towards other minorities (lesbians, gays, etc.) accused of being “transphobic”. Victimism is warmongering.

If you are a victim for eternity, there is nothing more you can do. Is this not the symptom of a lack of responsibility and, ultimately, an abdication of one's freedom?

From freedom, we take the negative – doing what we want – and not the positive – assuming the consequences of our actions. In a trial, you often hear a defendant line up a whole series of excuses (violent parents, alcoholics, etc.) to ask not to be judged according to common law. His reasoning: whatever I have done, I am innocent, because I am above all a victim; everyone is guilty except me.

We are the opposite of the Christian message…

“The modern world is full of ancient Christian virtues gone mad,” said Keith Chesterton. This is the case of victimization. There, we are the antipodes of the sinner who must assume his fault, confess it, repent of it. Today, repentance is no longer possible because the criminal claims victimism.

To read you, we would all be Christians…

I think Christianity won by knockout. This is not a joke. After having believed in the withdrawal of religion, I see today that it moves the crowds even if it is sometimes used for identity purposes. Religion smolders like an ember behind our anticlerical or atheist proclamations. The major political reflexes remain religious. Even Marxism had established a caricature of religion, around the Christ-like figure of the working class, with its embalmed gods, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, adored by the faithful in a cult of personality.

The United States remains a world very marked by piety. We can interpret Wokism as a university religion without transcendence, of absolute pessimism but consecrated by the figure of the eternal victim: blacks will always be crushed by whites, men will always oppress women, minorities will never see the dawn of liberation, etc. There is no longer any progress or hope in a world struck by the eternal struggle between the dominated and the dominant.

Wokism freezes groups in an essence that freezes their identity until the end of time. France is in a movement of dechristianization, it is true, but having stayed with other writers at the abbey of Lagrasse (Three days and three nights, Ed. Fayard), I am convinced that the renewal of Catholicism will come from monasteries, convents and communities of the faithful rather than from the Vatican. Perhaps faith will come back from below.

“The religious smolders like an ember”; at your place too?

I am not a believer but I remain very attracted to places of worship, undoubtedly because they mark the reunion with my childhood. I was raised by the Jesuits, in the free school, from the age of 4 to 16 and that leaves a mark. I still know my prayers and my songs. I listen to religious music. Today, I no longer have the hostile attitude that I harbored for decades after leaving my Jesuit college. At Easter, my daughter reproached me for not having been able to receive communion, due to a lack of education in religion. The new generations will not have the mocking spirit that was ours towards priests, rabbis, imams. My mother, very pious, went to listen to Bishop Lustiger at Notre-Dame de Paris every day, without me. I regret today not having accompanied her.

What do you believe in?

In the capacity of men to surpass themselves, to want the good of others and to be seized at the crucial moment by the demon of Good. I believe in generosity. If we did not aspire to a certain form of human greatness, life in society would be a series of dirty tricks and traps. In fact, I am very Christian, and more and more so with time.

*This movement, born in the United States, focuses on denouncing the injustices from which all minorities suffer.

The biography of Pascal Bruckner

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