Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.
“Dans l’épreuve quotidienne qui est la nôtre, la révolte joue le même rôle que le cogito dans l’ordre de la pensée: elle est la première évidence. Mais cette évidence tire l’individu de sa solitude. Elle est un lien commun qui fonde sur tous les hommes la première valeur. Je me révolte, donc nous sommes.”
“…the first progressive step for a mind overwhelmed by the strangeness of things is to realize that this feeling of strangeness is shared with all men and that human reality, in it entirety, suffers from this distance which separates it from the rest of the universe. The malady experienced by a single man becomes a mass plague. “
“In our daily trials rebellion plays the same role as does the ‘cogito’ in the realm of thought: it is the first piece of evidence. But this evidence lures the individual from his solitude. It founds its first value on the whole human race. I rebel — therefore we exist.”(pg. 22)
Ben Stoltzfus, University of California, Riverside
Ernest Hemingway’s writing had a profound influence on the new generation of French writers in the 1930s, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and, in a 1946 essay in the Atlantic Monthly, Sartre said that L’Etranger would not be what it is if Camus had not read The Sun Also Rises. Although there is rebellion of sorts in both works, neither novel displays much solidarity. Sun narrates the erratic behavior of “the lost generation,” the term Gertrude Stein used to describe American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s, and Meursault’s passive aggression in L’Etranger is a misguided attempt to cope with alienation and the absurd.
The absurd describes the state of mind of individuals who are conscious of a discrepancy between desire and reality: the desire for freedom, happiness, and immortality, and the knowledge that life imposes limits on desire even as death announces finitude. In fact, death in an absurd world is one of the themes that Camus and Hemingway develop in their fiction and in their essays.
In L’Homme révolté, Camus’s longest and perhaps most important book, he moves beyond solipsism, suicide, and death, the major themes of Le Mythe de Sisyphe, to address the issues of social oppression, tyranny, and state-sponsored murder. He believes that people who rebel against these dehumanizing forces assert a value that transcends them as individuals. His group cogito, “I rebel, therefore we are,” posits a collective ontology based on the fact that rebellion defines and conditions human solidarity (Hr 431). Camus says that in order to exist, men and women must rebel, and he postulates the need for metaphysical as well as sociopolitical revolt. However, in defending freedom, the rebel strives not to violate the freedom of others. There is, in fact, an enormous distance between the rebel and the revolutionary. The rebel respects life, including the enemy’s, whereas the revolutionary believes that the means, no matter how bloody, justify the ends. The rebel, because he or she empathizes with the victim(s), stops short of terror and murder, whereas the revolutionary believes that, if the world is to be transformed, the death of opponents is both just and inevitable. But, says Camus, the world is sundered whenever rebellion turns violent (Hr 685).
Revolutions are therefore doomed to fail. Indeed, all modern revolutions, says Camus, have reinforced state control, and, from a human and historical vantage, they have been disasters. The French revolution of 1789 gave birth to Napoleon; the revolution of 1848 to Napoleon III; the Russian revolution of 1917 produced Stalin; in Italy, the difficult years of the 1920s spawned Mussolini; and the Weimar Republic gave us Hitler. The ensuing state terror, murder, and the suppression of human rights, although perhaps not inevitable, were at least predictable (Hr 583).