Pascal Bruckner

French writer

Pascal Bruckner (born 15 December 1948, in Paris) is a French writer, one of the "New Philosophers" who came to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s. Much of his work has been devoted to critiques of French society and culture.

Quotes edit

The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism (2010 ed.) edit

Princeton University Press. Translated by Steven Rendall. ISBN: 0691143765,9780691143767 (Original work published 2006 as La Tyrannie de la Pénitence: Essai sur le Masochisme Occidental)
  • “We are not afraid of death,” the suicide bombers say to show their superiority to ordinary people. But they are afraid of life, constantly trampling on it, slandering it, destroying it, and training children still in their cradles for martyrdom. Observers have noted that the photos of terrorists taken a few hours before they made their attacks show people who are serene and at peace. They have eliminated doubt: they know. It is the paradox of open societies that they seem to be disordered, unjust, threatened by crime, loneliness, and drugs because they display their indignity before the whole world, never ceasing to admit their defects, whereas other, more oppressive societies seem harmonious because the press and the opposition are muzzled.
    “Where there are no visible conflicts, there is no freedom,” Montesquieu said.
  • The critical spirit rises up against itself and consumes its form. But instead of coming out of this process greater and purified, it devours itself in a kind of self-cannibalism and takes a morose pleasure in annihilating itself. Hyper-criticism eventuates in self-hatred, leaving behind only ruins. A new dogma of demolition is born out of the rejection of dogmas. Thus we euro-americans are supposed to have only one obligation: endlessly atoning for what we have inflicted on other parts of humanity. How can we fail to see that this leads us to live off self-denunciation while taking a strange pride in being the worst? Self-denigration is all too clearly a form of indirect self-glorification. ...This is the paternalism of the guilty conscience: seeing ourselves as the kings of infamy is still a way of staying on the crest of history.
  • We are not going to confine women to the home, cover their heads, lengthen their skirts, or beat up gay people, prohibit alcohol, censure film, theater, and literature, and codify tolerance in order to respect the overly sensitive whims of a few sanctimonious persons.
  • There is no solution for Europe other than deepening the democratic values it invented. It does not need a geographical extension, absurdly drawn out to the ends of the Earth; what it needs is an intensification of its soul, a condensation of its strengths. It is one of the rare places on this planet where something absolutely unprecedented is happening, without its people even knowing it, so much do they take miracles for granted. Beyond imprecation and apology, we have to express our delighted amazement that we live on this continent and not another. Europe, the planet's moral compass, has sobered up after the intoxication of conquest and has acquired a sense of the fragility of human affairs. It has to rediscover its civilizing capabilities, not recover its taste for blood and carnage, chiefly for spiritual advances. But the spirit of penitence must not smother the spirit of resistance. Europe must cherish freedom as its most precious possession and teach it to schoolchildren. It must also celebrate the beauty of discord and divest itself of its sick allergy to confrontation, not be afraid to point out the enemy, and combine firmness with regard to governments and generosity with regard to peoples. In short, it must simply reconnect with the subversive richness of its ideas and the vitality of its founding principles.
  • Naturally, we will continue to speak the double language of fidelity and rupture, to oscillate between being a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. That is our mental hygiene: we are forced to be both the knife and the wound, the blade that cuts and the hand that heals. The first duty of a democracy is not to ruminate on old evils, it is to relentlessly denounce its present crimes and failures. This requires reciprocity, with everyone applying the same rule. We must have done with the blackmail of culpability, cease to sacrifice ourselves to our persecutors. A policy of friendship cannot be founded on the false principle: we take the opprobrium, you take the forgiveness. Once we have recognized any faults we have, then the prosecution must turn against the accusers and subject them to constant criticism as well. Let us cease to confuse the necessary evaluation of ourselves with moralizing masochism. There comes a time when remorse becomes a second offence that adds to the first without cancelling it. Let us inject in others a poison that has long gnawed away at us: shame. A little guilty conscience in Tehran, Riyadh, Karachi, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas, Algiers, Damascus, Yangon, Harare, and Khartoum, to mention them alone, would do these governments, and especially their people, a lot of good. The fines gift Europe could give the world would be to offer it the spirit of critical examination that it has conceived and that has saved it from so many perils. It is a poisoned gift, but one that is indispensable for the survival of humanity.
  • As good heirs of the Bible, we think that a great misfortune necessarily follows a great infraction. In this respect the intellectual caste, in our world, is the penitential class par excellence, continuing the role of the clergy under the Old Regime. We have to call its members what they are: officials of original sin.
  • The average European, whether male or female, is extremely sensitive, always ready to shoulder the blame for the poverty of Africa or Asia, to sorrow over the world’s problems, to assume responsibility for them, always ready to ask what Europeans can do for the South rather than asking what the South could do for itself.
  • Every war, every crime against humanity among the damned of the Earth is supposed to be somewhat our fault and ought to lead us to confess our guilt, to pay endlessly for being a member of the bloc of wealthy nations.
  • There is a twofold deception here: one side supports the Islamic veil or polygamy in the name of the struggle against racism and neocolonialism. The other side pretends to be attacking globalization in order to impose its version of religious faith.
  • [I]t is not hard to predict which one will crush the other once its objectives have been achieved. The Leftist intransigence that refuses any compromise with bourgeois society and cannot castigate too severely “little white men” actively collaborates with the most reactionary elements in the Muslim religion. But if the far Left courts this totalitarian theocracy so assiduously, it is perhaps less a matter of opportunism than of a real affinity. The far Left has never gotten over communism and once again demonstrates that its true passion is not freedom, but slavery in the name of justice.
  • Europe got over the loss of its colonies much more quickly than the colonies got over their loss of Europe.
  • Taking over from Arabs and Africans, it instituted the transatlantic slave trade, but it also engendered abolitionism and put an end to slavery before other nations did.

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