Functionally Literate – Quote

Our suspicions are first aroused when we see that the self-declared apostles of ethics and of the ‘right to difference’ are clearly horrified by any vigorously sustained difference. For them, African customs are barbaric, Muslims are dreadful, the Chinese are totalitarian, and so on. As a matter of fact, this celebrated ‘other’ is acceptable only if he is a good other – which is to say what, exactly, if not the same as us? Respect for differences, of course! But on condition that the different be parliamentary-democratic, pro free-market economics, in favour of freedom of opinion, feminism, the environment… That is to say: I respect differences, but only, of course, in so far as that which differs also respects, just as I do, the said differences. Just as there can be ‘no freedom for the enemies of freedom’, so there can be no respect for those whose difference consists precisely in not respecting differences. To prove the point, just consider the obsessive resentment expressed by the partisans of ethics regarding anything that resembles an Islamic ‘fundamentalist’.

The problem is that the ‘respect for differences’ and the ethics of human rights do seem to define an identity! And that as a result, the respect for differences applies only to those differences that are reasonably consistent with this identity (which, after all is nothing other than the identity of a wealthy – albeit visibly declining – ‘West’). Even immigrants in this country [France], as seen by the partisans of ethics, are acceptably different only when they are ‘integrated’, only if they seek integration (which seems to mean, if you think about it: only if they want to suppress their difference). It might well be that ethical ideology, detached from the religious teachings which at least conferred upon it the fullness of a ‘revealed’ identity, is simply the final imperative of a conquering civilization: ‘Become  like me and I will respect your difference.’

Ethics An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, Alain Badiou p24

(1993, trans. 2001)


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