On Macron’s novlangue


Dear friends,

I have to tell you about a reading event that never happened to me before. A few months ago, in the middle of covid, I heard — no one is perfect — a speech by Macron. I was stunned, petrified. And I asked myself: is he the one who is delusional? Or is it me? I had to know for sure, to systematize the experience, just to check. So — forgive me again — I embarked on a masochistic enterprise: I read (almost) all of Macron’s prose. I read the thick Revolution manifesto he wrote for the 2017 presidential election, and I listened-read all of his speeches, before, during, and after the lockdown. As a result, it was the first time in my life that I saw someone take me so rudely for a fool. And then immediately afterwards, as there are limits to masochism, I thought: « What if the jerk was him? » The problem is that there is no definition of bullshit. I looked for Aristotle, Kant, Castoriadis, Kairos, but I did not find any. So I wasn’t very advanced. Until another image comes to me: when I listen to a speech by Macron, I have the impression, as Gargantua says, that he is  » escorting the fox « . To put it plainly (a little modified): he spits his vomit in my face. 

Why vomit? Because in the vomit you can’t see anything. And in a very vague, very distant way, this indistinction reminded me of things from Orwell. So I took a big leap in time — from Rabelais to 1984. I reread the entire novel. At the beginning, we see Winston, the central character of 1984, lost in the maze of doublethink. Orwell defines 

doublethink as the state of one who no longer distinguishes between things. And above all: who no longer distinguishes between opposites. For example, Winston remembers that his country Oceania was once an ally of Eurasia, yet the Party’s propaganda announces that it was never an ally of Eurasia. What to do? Escape to (I quote Orwell)  » the labyrinth of doublethink. To know and not to know. Retain simultaneously two opinions that cancel each other out, even though they are known contradictory and believe in both. Use logic against logic. To repudiate morality while claiming to be of her. To believe at the same time that democracy is impossible and that the Party is the guardian of democracy .

Macron is like the totalitarian party of 1984. He says one thing and « at the same time » he says the opposite, and he believes both at the same time. In Revolution we read:  » We are in the process of to live a final stage of world capitalism which, by its excesses, shows its incapacity to really last. The excesses of financialization, inequalities, environmental destruction (…), the digital transformation: these are the elements of a great upheaval that requires us to react. (…). This great transformation obliges us all. Refusing the changes of the world is not France  » (p. 67). I translate: capitalism is destroying us in a great destructive upheaval that we cannot refuse because the solution is adaptation to the final upheaval. In short, our challenge is to adapt to our (self)destruction. The problem (industrial capitalism) is the solution (industrial capitalism). And vice versa: the solution is the problem. Life is death, and vice versa. The opposites are identical. 

CQFD. Long live suicide! 

Three years later, in the midst of covid, Macron puts on a civic-minded air to adapt his novlanguage to containment:  » Staying at home, he says, is a gesture of civic-mindedness  » (speech of March 16, 2020). But I, who am very old, remember the time a little earlier (2,400 years ago) when I was a student at the Lyceum of Athens. One day Aristotle told us (a bit stupidly because he had not read Macron):  » Civism is thecommon actionof men. So I translate what the president says: civism, which is the common action, is the fact that citizens do not do anything civic-political because they are confined, dispersed, isolated at home. In short, common activity is isolated passivity, and vice versa. Civism is non-civism, and vice versa. 

Conclusion: I don’t think Macron is stupid, I think — I don’t know if it’s better — that he is completely crazy. But we have known for a long time that men, who make institutions, are what their institutions make of them. All this means that industrial and ultraliberal institutions are completely crazy, murderous and suicidal. It is time for life-giving wisdom. 

Dear friends, I greet you industrially, because industry is ecology, and vice versa. 

Marc Weinstein, University of Aix-Marseille, philology and philosophical anthropology. 

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