Kairos n°17

ALL UNITED?

« What are the men who profess to speak in the name of Intelligence and Spirit doing here, however? What are the professional thinkers doing here in the midst of these upheavals? They still keep their silence. They do not warn. They do not denounce. They are not transformed. They are not turned around? The gap between their thinking and the disaster-ridden universe grows every week, every day, and they are not alerted. And they do not alert. The gap between their promises and the situation of men is more scandalous than ever. And they do not move. They remain on the same side of the fence. They hold the same assemblies, publish the same books. All those who had the simplicity to wait for their words begin to rebel, or to laugh.

(Paul Nizan, Les chiens de garde, Éditions Agone, p.138.)

Weariness doesn’t win, but it does at times; the why of this struggle sometimes brings us to our knees. How indeed to win in front of the immensity of the power in front of us, its means of communication, its TV sets which propagate the unique thought every day in our homes and in our minds. Apartheid fighter Steve Biko said,  » The oppressor’s most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed . This remains true, which is why we know that the fight of ideas is essential and that we must propagate these ideas, which we think are right.

But how, with the time we have, can we reconcile the struggle to make this world something decent while finding time to enjoy what this land and the people still offer us? The answer is complex. Keeping a free press alive as we consider Kairos to be, which does not need to shout its freedom of expression as a selling point but chooses to talk about what all the « free speech »(1) does not say, is a daily struggle. Neither the public institutions nor the private sector aspire to see a newspaper like ours gain ground. A concrete change in mentalities and practices would thus sound for them like the beginning of the end of a recreation that they do not want to see coming. How could he envisage, for one, the end of professional politics, of the private-public musical chair games(2), of the media aura they have and of the indecent salaries their political status confers on them? For the others, can they even think of the introduction of a maximum wage, the drastic reduction of the boss’s pecuniary advantages, the end of the free market, the taxation of dividends, etc.?

Some subversive ideas are — still — free to be expressed, of course. But the distribution channels available to them are not those used by the marketing press. So they let us talk, according to the famous joke about democracy, which is that it allows us to talk as long as we don’t disturb the course of things too much. « We say what we want », the journalists keep telling us, but we have to admit that despite this good will, there are still many things they don’t want to say. The opinion that newspapers are supposed to reflect in all neutrality is only the reflection of what they want to see. The powerful make the menu and the journalists are in the kitchen. As for the subversive contents that some journalists would have liked to express, it is better, for the sake of professional and psychic balance, to say that they « did not want to », rather than to say that they « could not ». This is a lesson from social psychology: cognitive dissonance, « A « state of inner tension due to the fact that one is torn between two or more contradictory ideas « , can be resolved in various ways: either by rejecting the information received (« I am not censored on any content in my work as a journalist »(3) ), or by minimizing their importance (« yes, there are sometimes requests, but these are recommendations that do not affect our independence as journalists »). These two attempts to reduce tension seem ineffective in the long term, and faced with this « imperfection » of the strategy, the subject may resort to a more radical solution: leaving his job. It seems that in the current configuration of mass journalism, this is the solution that ensures internal cohesion for the subject(4). For the others, and these are the worst, who are convinced of the salubrity of what they write in the mainstream press, of their total independence and of their role as a simple witness of the state of the world, whose writings would in no way participate in it, there is no tension. There is, let us say, nothing to do with these « watchdogs ».

In any case, some feedback from readers reinforces the idea that writing can be beneficial, « doing good » as it is often said. It is a first thing, a first step, indispensable: to break the consensus, to feel that we are not alone. For there would be nothing worse, as Orwell described it, than to be opposed but to be alone: « the sufferings of a maladjusted child in a boarding school are perhaps the only equivalent that can be found in England of the isolation experienced by a dissident individual in a totalitarian society « (5). The parallel that Orwell establishes is interesting, because the contestation without other to join us makes us strangely regress to this state proper to the first experiences of « fundamental solitude ».

To think is therefore to connect with each other, not with politically correct and totally soothing injunctions, but to offer a content that comes as close as possible to the truth.

We will have to unite, of course. But let’s not be fooled, with those who are « on the same side of the fence ». Or understood that it was necessary to cross it…

Alexandre Penasse

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