INTERVIEW. Raphaël Enthoven: “Identity is not a virtue”

Nothing is going well in Krasnaïa since an intentional fire ravaged the Bois Rouge. Will the prudent horse that the animals have given themselves as Regent be worthy of the crime? Should it be replaced by a less soft animal? How will albinos, femellists and animalists behave? Like George Orwell, in Animal Farm, Raphaël Enthoven uses the fable to describe the political game and the ideological quarrels which animate our democracy. We will recognize some familiar figures in animal traits: Macron as a wolf, Le Pen as a bear, Mélenchon as a donkey or Zemmour as a mole…

You have written a political fable. What does this literary genre allow to say better than an essay?

The device of the fable has two advantages. When one writes a fable, the pleasure is incomparably greater than the small joys of writing an essay. The second advantage is more strategic. You can tell about fornication between animals, you won’t be accused of doing porn! What is animalized opens up extraordinary perspectives. Those whose job is to say what sticks in their eyes can see their speech hindered by the fact that people feel threatened by this speech. We free ourselves from these shackles by representing animals.

photo “Only dictatorships are afraid of criticism.  democracies live from it, and breathe better thanks to it.  » © daniel fouray, west-france

“Only dictatorships are afraid of criticism. Democracies live on it, and breathe better thanks to it. » © Daniel Fouray, Ouest-France

Your book is a satire on democracy. Why criticize a regime that remains the least bad of all?

Democracy is the only regime acceptable to me. But I have a Tocquevillian relationship to democracy. Tocqueville used to enumerate the pathologies of the nascent democracy in the United States, out of attachment to the very idea of ​​democracy, the genius of which stems from imperfection, and which is improved upon by criticism. Only dictatorships are afraid of criticism. Democracies live on it, and breathe better thanks to it.

What drifts do you point out?

The paradox of democracy is that there is no beyond to democracy. Moreover, even the people who criticize the regime in which we find ourselves do so in the name of democracy. Éric Zemmour considers that we do not live in a democracy, because freedom of expression is hampered by rogue laws. The natives of the Republic also because we live in a blantriarchy, etc. Democracy is a closed horizon. We are free, but in an aquarium. Hence the desire to think that we are living in a dictatorship. Hence, too, the mechanisms of censorship that Tocqueville called “sly despotisms”.

What is it about ?

This is how a crowd excludes a dissenting voice. Tocqueville was the first to understand that there was something profoundly democratic (and totalitarian at the same time) in the way the people set themselves up as governors of mores. The device of the tyranny of the majority is perfectly suited to online lynching as seen in social networks.

photo “the history of which each is the heir does not give him any specific rights.  » © daniel fouray, west-france

“The history of which each is the heir does not give him any specific rights. » © Daniel Fouray, Ouest-France

Democracy, in your view, is threatened by identity tensions, such as nationalism and anti-racism. Can we put them on the same plane?

Not “anti-racism” in general. A certain anti-racism itself turned racialist. What is more, to say that discourses feed each other does not mean that they should be put on the same level. I describe a tango. The characteristic of a tango is to rest on the asymmetry of the partners. I describe a relationship that is certainly asymmetrical but mutually beneficial to these antipodes that I call in the book “animalism” and “colorism”. On the Franco-French scale, it takes the form of nationalist indigenism with Éric Zemmour, in the face of reverse racism with the natives of the Republic. In reality, these two speeches provide each other with the caricature they need to attack the Republic.

You go further: you say that one cannot speak as a black person or as a woman…

The past is not a skill, identity is not a virtue. The history of which each is the heir does not give him any specific rights. What I register against is the age of identity, that is to say the feeling that some would be more justified than others in talking about such and such a thing. Blacks alone could speak of negrophobia, Muslims of Islamophobia, bulls of corrida, etc. When you attack a Jew, a black, an Arab, a woman, you attack everyone. There needs to be a common ground for discussion. However, this disappears when people come to the public square with the shell of their identity and with the feeling that it will be enough to shout louder than the other to win.

Don’t certain situations, such as the climate emergency, force us to be radical?

On the contrary. Apocalyptic and liberticidal speeches are unproductive. To tell the truth, the climate emergency requires you to be an educator. For example, the vast majority of “climatosceptics” do not doubt global warming but man’s responsibility. Their argument is to say: “We are not certain that the man is at the origin of the disturbance noted, it is possible, but not sure. ” Why not ? The problem is that they deduce from their skepticism the recommendation not to change our behavior, whereas such a doubt invites, in doubt, to act as if the man were responsible for it… Pedagogy is more effective than panic.

photo “when people can die from it, the temporary restriction of freedoms is a condition of freedom.  » © daniel fouray, west-france

“When people can die from it, the temporary restriction of freedoms is a condition of freedom. » © Daniel Fouray, Ouest-France

But you admit that in times of pandemic, certain freedoms may be restricted…

Yes, because the urgency is not of the same nature. In times of pandemic, when millions of people die in a few days from a virus whose deleterious effects they could have avoided thanks to the vaccine or thanks to caution, it is not liberticidal to wear a mask or to be vaccinated. . Those who think otherwise reduce freedom to the freedom of the strongest, or that of the fox in the henhouse. Again, when people can die from it, the temporary restriction of freedoms is a condition of freedom.

You are criticized for being yourself in the situation of defending an identity position, that of the white male who loses his grip…

It’s despicable. And it is exemplary of the time. What is at stake with such an accusation is to neutralize the criticism, to ward off the objection by accusing it of its presumed origin, to replace, in short, the interlocutor with the enemy. This is the moment when we forget what you say to blame you for what you are. It is the death of dialogue, it is the end of discussion. It’s shame.

You do not hesitate to jump into the fray, being very offensive on social networks. What drives you?

I love that. It’s a contradiction for me. I deeply believe in the virtues of peace and the collective construction of freedom through exchange and dialogue. And besides, I love to fight. It is a convergence of interests between bad humor and civic engagement. That said, I’ve been accused of insulting antivax, calling them “cons” or “monsters”. But I have never encountered a single counter-example! Show me a single antivax that isn’t conspiratorial, uninformed, paranoid, cynical, or dead, and I’ll change my mind.

But do you agree that this is the zero level of the debate?

We live in a time when rationality is challenged, like an old concubine. Because we consider that it is either a tool of oppression, or the alibi of weighting when we should be energetic. Which puts the defenders of rationality in the paradoxical situation of being both the defenders of a universal tool, while constituting themselves as a camp. It is an insoluble contradiction. This is the reason why when the dialogue is futile, when the arguments do not take, we must give up the discussion and balance in derision, mockery and in blow for blow. It’s as simple as that, there are no other methods.