Thoughts on the Finkielkraut interview
I just got around to reading Alain Finkielkraut’s interview on Europe 1, or rather his interrogation and confession, that I posted here a few days ago. Finkielkraut, with his comments that he is not himself, that his quoted statements are the statements of a different person that he doesn’t recognize, comes across as a lost soul in some novel about Communist show trials. For example:
Elkabach—Let us not cultivate hatred. This morning, Alain Finkielkraut, what do you say to those Frenchmen of African and Mahgrebin descent who have been wounded and insulted by your remarks?The interview is not easy to follow. The abstract language used by both men, and the way they jump confusedly from one point to another, makes it difficult to understand what is really being said. However, it seems to me that there is a basic political outline that can be discerned here.
The interviewer, Jean-Pierre Elkabach, is a hard-line cultural leftist. No criticism at all of any minorities is allowed, period. Even to mention the words “black” and “Arab” in a critical context is a moral outrage against society.
Finkielkraut is a moderate liberal. He would like the black and Muslim minorities to assimilate and become part of France, and he is critical of the minorities, and of the larger French society as well, for preventing this from happening. Therefore he criticizes the anti-French attitudes of the minorities in the hope of getting them to feel more a part of France. To Elkabach, this makes Finkielkraut a racist and a hater. To expect people to assimilate is hatred. It used to be that to exclude people was racist. Now to want them to assimilate is racist (as I pointed out in my first article on multiculturalism in 1989).
In brief, Elkabach is a multicultural leftist. Finkielkraut is an assimilationist liberal—but he is so confused and guilt-ridden that it is hard to see any good he can achieve.
Think of it—a conflicted, guilt-ridden Jewish liberal now represents the racist bigoted right in France!
As a minor but telling indication of Finkielkraut’s ambivalence, which under the best of circumstances would render him a poor spokesman for French identity and French culture, though born in France, he refers to himself as an “immigrant … a second generation immigrant.” In fact, it was his father who was the immigrant, so Finkielkraut is more properly characterized as a first-generation Frenchman. But since the contemporary Western world has lost the meaning of “first-generation” as the first generation born in the new country, we have now the absurdity of “first-generation immigrants,” followed by “second-generation immigrants,” and “third-generation immigrants.”