Conformist Heretics

by Ralph C. Hancock

Alain Finkielkraut is a distinguished French philosopher and literary critic, born of Polish-Jewish refugees and recently elevated to the summit of French literary prestige, the Academie Francaise.  (For those of you who listen to French, try the podcast of his terrific interview program on the France Culture station, Repliques.  There’s no better spoken French, and no better intellectual discussion.)

This morning I was reading a short piece (“Roaring Non-conformists”) of Finkielkraut’s from a kind of diary he kept in 2001.  It was so insightful and so timely, I thought I would share a few hastily translated tidbits:

“Today’s favored ones put all their energy into convincing themselves that they are the oppressed, the rejected, the banned, and that they are not going to put up with it.  Those who are admired and who voice received opinion congratulate themselves warmly for their work of resistance.  … The spirit of our times noisily exults in thinking against the current and in formulating on any subject only the most inconvenient considerations.  The more one is well-connected, the more one claims to be provocative.  One claims to have to answer for the crime of heresy, when one is in fact running the show…  They match the stereotype of the risqué, they embody the cliché of rebellion, and do it with the utmost self-satisfaction…  For they play every role: the advantageous role of the Master and the prestigious role of the Condemned.  They live their eager adherence to today’s norm as a heroic challenge.  They are dogma and blasphemy at the same time.  And to demonstrate their marginality, they hurl insults at their very rare adversaries.  In a word, they bring together shamelessly the euphoria of power and the intoxication of subversion.”

I leave the last word of the essay untranslated:  “Salauds.”