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If People is a concept: might it be populist? Re: <nettime> Mesopotamia'
Keith Hart on Mon, 21 Apr 2003 23:57:32 +0200 (CEST)


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If People is a concept: might it be populist? Re: <nettime> Mesopotamia's burning


Louise Desrenards wrote:

WHO ARE YOU?

I thought the question in the subject header was a good one, but didn't see
a way of answering it in the text. 

As for me, I like aspects of America, France and even the country of my
birth, perfide Albion. Of the revolutionary trinity, I would say that I
learned most about freedom from the USA, about solidarity from France and
abour fairness (equity) from Britain. It is interesting that most members
of these societies seem to need to demonise at least one of the others. If
pushed, I would demonise Britain, but I think it is more valuable to ask
what each country contributes to human aspirations for democracy. I would
take inspiration from de Tocqueville in that respect. I make my life
between France, America and Britain, plus occasionally some other European
countries. 

My home is in Paris (I live near a street named after LaFayette). Some of
my best friends are French, as they say. I too could point to unresolved
questions concerning French participation in the Holocaust and the war
against Algeria, to English brutality in Ireland and Scotland, as well as
many other places and no-one who has lived in Chicago's South side, as I
have, needs reminding about American racism. I don't see the point of
trying to work out which of these three modern imperialisms has been the
least obnoxious. Equally, I resist being typecast as a British imperialist
when I work in Jamaica or South Africa. I would not categorize you, just
for writing this message, as an embittered French intellectual pining for a
vision of universality that has gone. About the same proportion of French
people, under a third, support Le Pen and wanted the US to lose the Iraq
war. They may not be the same people, but I bet there is a strong overlap.
I hate nationalism in all its forms, even as I admire French national
culture for its distinguished particularity (but even more the many
regional variations). If they try to convert the Comedie Francaise into a
Macdonalds, you will find me in the picket line protesting.

As for the master/slave rhetoric, I recall this passage from Rousseau's
second discourse (please forgive me for not quoting in the original French,
but I want to reach the majority of Nettime subscribers):

>The establishment of law and private property was the first stage, the
institution of magistrates the second, and the transformation of legitimate
into arbitrary power the third and last stage. Thus the status of rich and
poor was authorised by the first epoch, that of strong and weak by the
second and by the third that of master and slave, which is the last degree
of inequality and the stage to which all the others finally lead, until new
revolutions dissolve the government altogether and bring it back to
legitimacy. [One-man-rule closes the circle.] It is here that all
individuals become equal again because they are nothing, here where
subjects have no longer any law but the will of the master...<

Keith Hart

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