UNIFIL peacekeepers on patrol in Lebanon. Photo: UNIFIL

At DC think tank, top UN official lays out challenges, priorities for future of peacekeeping

Bahjat Rizk: The murderous identities and unfortunate identity .
Monday, 6/16/2014


The question of identity is more than ever at the heart of globalization and all current societies. Both national and international conflicts are primarily and ultimately cultural conflicts. However, we still do not know how to define, develop and manage cultural pluralism, whether religious, linguistic, racial or morals (Settings Herodotus).

It is a question both anthropological, philosophical and political. We still do not have prior unanimous solution to understand and resolve such conflicts, which can reach violent ends but before reaching, political or military solution to ensure a comprehensive and sustainable approach, it is necessary to put the debate in dialectical terms, in order to consider a rational outcome. We need to define the identity process, before establishing a political project. Identity is at the same time, an abstract and a concrete dynamic problem, an idea and a translation, an equation and an incarnation.
Two writers” immortal”, two members of the French Academy published in the space of almost two decades, two remarkable essays on identity: Amin Maalouf, in 1998, ‘The murderous identities‘, and Alain Finkielkraut . in 2014. ‘ unfortunate Identity”. Both books ask, in their own way, the question of identity and try to solve it. Neither does, a definitive solution, but together they illustrate the ambivalence of identity problem, which reflects that of man, torn between his utopian idealism and pragmatic realism.
To Amine Maalouf, a French writer of Lebanese descent and Christian, author of remarkable essay ‘The Crusades by Arab’ (1983), his approach to identity tends to” empathy, humanism, reciprocity the rejection of categorization and the extreme”. Amin Maalouf therefore proposes a reading of the identity process, based on universal moral principles that transcend immediate membership and protests against the local or even global tribalism. Also invigorating and redeeming it may appear, it is a discourse that avoids confronting the political discourse in our daily life because it requires urgency, to take a position to advocate and carry out an effective action on the ground. How to explain to a politician today that identities are lethal, whereas the identity, time and due to globalization, almost turned to fact, ideology? Can you explain to Putin, Assad, Sarkozy, Merkel, Nasrallah, Netanyahu and most world leaders, their action must go beyond their mandate or election (or forced democratic, popular, populist or even divine) and thus s’ emancipate or abstract, community or national level? Humanism goes at one time, in contradiction with political action and effective control, even if historical and democratic personalities, like De Gaulle, Gandhi, Churchill, Mandela, Havel, Gorbachev tried in vain to reconcile them. A politician carries a group that represents and identifies with him, he must protect. A fortiori when the group feels in crisis or danger. Sometimes the leader exploits this threat to take power or confiscation, even the bloody cost of thousands of lives (all dictators). The group itself is connected (and even welded in times of danger) by language, religion, race or public morals. The cultural identity conflict will necessarily touch, with more or less violence, one or more of these four parameters or pillars. Amin Maalouf produced with murderous identities a reference book-a beautiful humanist bill, but that obscures the link more closely, cultural and political. Tending toward universalism of human (individual space), it seems to get away from the reality of people (space group).

The book of Alain Finkielkraut, ‘ unfortunate Identity ‘ comes nearly two decades after the Amin Maalouf and tries to cope with great courage and great clarity, the malaise of French identity and by extension, European and Western identity. In his book, author, French Polish Jewish origin, explores with intelligence, discipline, honesty and passion, the principles that have built up over the centuries the French identity and the reasons for its current deconstruction (especially guilt and self-hatred). He knows deep France, explains and love. It refers to General de Gaulle (France saving father of the twentieth century and founder of the Fifth Republic):” We are still primarily a European people of Caucasian, Latin and Greek culture and Christian religion ‘ ‘(page 106). It shows in detail the essential elements that structure the French identity. However, these structural elements once identified, can be discriminatory. It is always the risk of drift, a system that is not adequately controlled and adjusted regularly. Alain Finkielkraut by breaking taboos and defying political correctness, takes the chronology of debates, that rocked France in the last 25 years. Starting with the first issue of the veil in October 1989, in a school in Creil in the Paris suburbs, which almost bursts a few days of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989).
Finkielkraut refers especially intellectually (alongside many philosophers and thinkers French and European), Claude Lévi-Strauss. He devotes an entire chapter entitled Lesson of Claude Lévi-Strauss (pages 117-135) and puts into perspective the two parent conferences, the father of modern anthropology, pronounced UNESCO twenty years apart: ‘Race and History’ in 1952 denouncing European ethnocentrism and promotes equality of cultures, and ‘Race and Culture’ in 1971 evokes a biological threshold of each culture and claims the specificity of cultures and their legitimate right to protect themselves.
It is interesting to note that if Amin Maalouf who was elected to the French Academy in 2011 at the seat vacated by Claude Lévi-Strauss (29th seat) is Alain Finkielkraut (elected to the Academy in 2014) who dares publicly resume and highlight the correlation of these two major texts describing the intellectual journey of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Both texts reflect the ambivalence of this exceptional intellectual who oscillates between a generous humanism and preservation of self esteem. The first conference of UNESCO  in 1952, had founded structuralism, and the second, in the same place in 1971, caused a real intellectual scandal, almost earthquake. Both texts are considered dialectically and complementary because they reflect both the natural humanity of man and his survival instincts deeply human.
Thus the two books ‘ murderous identities‘ and “unfortunate Identity” are to consider in comparative dialectical and complementary way because they contain, so searched, stripped and authentic, a lot of truth. Identity structure and the identification process, act according to the same mechanisms and the same parameters (to varying degrees) in all societies. They cause since the beginning of the historical and cultural Humanity (3000 years BC.) The same recurring conflicts, latent or overt. Human entity (individual or collective) needs to be defined, to act if it is doomed to regression or disappearance.
Many reference texts have been written in recent decades about the identity, including those in Lebanon Father Salim Abu world famous true founding father and pioneer of anthropology in Lebanon and Latin America, and more recently the work Research Father Salim Daccache the Lebanese identity, through the school system. Lebanon, the country’s premier cultural and religious pluralism, should also have, since its first identity crisis, a healthy reflection on itself, so that its streamlined experience can truly serve as an example and modestly. But what about a country that wants to pioneer and remains unable to choose its own leaders and we do not know (like in today’s world) for over five decades, which actually controls it.

Bahjat Rizk

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.