Fate can play cruel games: French intellectual Pascal Bruckner has often warned about the risks posed by the age of globalization and the concept of multiculturalism.
In an interview with a Greek newspaper in November 2012, the author of “The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism” said of Europe: “We have abandoned the momentum and energy of the Enlightenment. What we are left with is a reflection of a gray, chiaroscuro version of it. This is the twilight of European civilization. Something is slowly dying in our nations and, unless we wake up, we will disappear.”
On Wednesday, Bruckner visited Greece to discuss his latest autobiographical book, “Un bon fils” (“A Good Son,” which was recently published in Greek translation by Patakis), in an open conversation with journalist Yorgos Archimandritis at the Cycladic Art Museum in Athens. Bruckner was naturally asked what he thought about the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. For about 40 minutes, he gave a lucid description about recent events that are abruptly ushering us into a new era.
“This is not a time for sentimentalism, but for clear thinking, for calm and determination vis-a-vis the enemy,” he said of the terrorists, adding that the January attacks were a preamble for the events that followed. He said that the extremists targeted the innocent victims simply for what they are.
The 66-year-old philosopher, essayist and novelist also spoke about the restrictions which are expected to be imposed on individual freedoms in France, a nation which, contrary to Britain and the United States, has always treated the subject of terrorism with one eye fixed on democratic sensibilities.
“Sometimes in our attempt to protect democracy, we actually end up undermining it,” Bruckner said, adding that the only way to stop the appeal of far-right parties in Europe is for mainstream parties in power to take the necessary measures that will deprive ultranationalists of their arguments. He said that following January’s attacks, French citizens have felt closer to security and police officials. He said he has seen people giving them flowers at the Place de la Republique.
Asked about the reason behind the appeal of the jihadists’ sick ideals for thousands of French youth, Bruckner said that Islamic extremist leaders advertise the idea of a “heroic death” as salvation full of material and spiritual reward in the afterlife. In this battle of death against life, he said, many young people choose to sacrifice themselves because radical Islam offers concrete answers when compared to the confusion and dilemmas of modern Western society, a system that glorifies freedom and diversity of choice. Put simply, the extremists give their followers a guide on how to live life and, more crucially, on how to die.
In his closing remarks, Bruckner said that the war which began last Friday with the death of 130 innocent people will not end anytime soon or without pain. But at least, he said, Western states appeared to be reaching some sort of understanding with Russia on how to deal with the issue.
Bruckner is a member of the nouveaux philosophes (the New Philosophers), a generation of French thinkers who broke with Marxism in the early 1970s and produced a critique of anti-enlightenment thinkers.
His latest book is about his troubled relationship with his late father, a fervent anti-Semite.