21 November 2005

Berman on Rigoulot on the Spirit of Vichy

Paul Berman's review article (free registration required) in The New Republic on several books by anti-anti-American French authors quotes a passage from Pierre Rigoulot's L'Antiaméricanisme: Critique d'un prêt-à-penser rétrograde et chauvin that Berman characterizes as "pretty ferocious":
Rigoulot ... thinks that the French intellectual and political elite, by muttering constantly about the evils of the United States, has rendered itself numb to any of the pricks of conscience that ought to have stimulated France into playing a more responsible role in the world.
This numbing, this reticence to take action, this refusal to take risks has a name: it is the spirit of Vichy. The spirit of Vichy continues to haunt France despite the defeat of the French state and the expiatory trials conducted during these last years. Vichy is not just complicity with the genocide of the Jews: it is a pacifist and past-oriented vision of the world. And it is above all a refusal to participate in the troubles and misfortunes that are engendered by all resistance and by any pursuit of a "warrior adventure." Vichy is the belief that one can remove oneself from history and from its necessarily tragic dimensions, the belief that one can evoke moral principles in order to avoid combat--yesterday against Nazism, today against radical Islamism. This spirit is stronger than ever.
And not just in France, of course. The normal response of most civilized people is not just to let sleeping dogs lie, but to keep rabid dogs outside the fence, beyond civilization. But fellow human beings also live out there, beyond the pale, down in the Gap. What is to be done about them?

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