In My Right Mind

"We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking." - Mark Twain

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"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take away everything you have." - Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, July 16, 2005

In Defence Of The French? What Are You Nuts?!

I came across an article on the web today that was, at least for me, a complete surprise. Here is an American trying to defend the French. In his article, Lee Harris calls for us, to reconsider our view of the French and their contributions to modern society.

Here are some highlights from Harris' defense of the French:

The French are indispensable-it is impossible to imagine civilization without them. They had to exist in the past even if you do not believe there is a pressing need for them at present.

There is a whole way of understanding the world that is French and that is critically important in order to make a civilization work.

The French have a method of analyzing human conduct that makes them see truths that are invisible to other forms of the human intellect, especially our boisterously pragmatic American one.

We believe in the power of positive thinking-they believe in the power of intellectual lucidity, even at the price of an increased pessimism. For an American pessimism is a sin; for the French it is prudence.

On this question, I must admit that I am sympathetic to the French. I agree with them in their pessimism because, like them, I am convinced that this pessimism is justifiable based on the universal prevalence of the phenomenon spoken of in French-and only in French-as amour propre.

Harris goes on to explain that amour propre is not to be confused with amour de soi, which is love of the self. Enjoying people, possessions, food and drink for the sheer pleasure they bring to the self at the moment. This kind of love, Harris informs us, the French highly encourage since it is the key to joie de vivre, that is the joy of living.

For the French amour propre is the selfish use of people, possessions, food and drink for the sole purpose of elevating one's social status, one's reputation in the eyes of everyone around them. This type of love is to be avoided at all costs.

If a man drives a BMW because he genuinely enjoys the feel of a good car, it is amour de soi, and that is fine; but if he drives it because it gives him a certain status vis-à-vis others, then it's amour propre, and he is in deep merde. And the same may be said of anything in life-our looks, our intellect, our bowling skills, our mate-we can all fall into the trap of making these things important for the status they give us instead of the pleasure; and, as any fool can see, this is a fatal error.

Amour propre brings grief because it is based on a complete illusion-and one that, once seen through, cannot be unseen through.

To watch this illusion collapse before your very eyes, ask yourself what constitutes a person's status and you will instantly see that a person's status is nothing more substantial than the estimation of his character that exists exclusively in the fickle and feckless imagination of other people.

Which is precisely why, for Sartre, hell is other people. Because, when we are driven by amour propre, we are permitting others to control our sense of status-which means that a life devoted to the pursuit of status is ultimately the futile and soul-exhausting chasing after an illusion, as both Pascal and Proust could tell us, the first through his bleak pensées and the second through his epic study of snobbery-that stock exchange of amour propre.

And this is the unique contribution of the French to the spiritual life of the human race-to show us how amour propre is an ever present danger to all human beings, from the saint who wishes to rise above it, and then foolishly prides himself when he succeeds, to the sinner who cannot escape from its snares even in the depths of depravity, like the characters of Marquise de Sade-And what else is sadism, if you but think about it, but the ultimate expression of our superior rank in respect of the Other, and thus the final pathology of amour propre?

The French, in short, see amour propre behind every human action, and regard it as quite impossible for human beings to act without it.

All of this sounds pleasant and reasonable until you think about what Harris is saying on behalf of the French.

First of all, speaking from a boisterous, pragmatic American viewpoint, The French have it only half-right.

I believe that it is safe to say that any reasonable person would agree that amour propre is foolish. It is the root behind both snobbery and it's opposite personality flaw: a poor self worth complex. In fact, part of maturing into an adult is learning not to over emphasize the importance of what other people think about you. Essential to what it means to be an adult is to accept yourself for who you are, (flaws and all), and to take personal ownership of values and morals that are based upon what is right, and true, rather than what the latest fad would dictate.

But, as I stated above, the French are only half-right. They need to take another look at the amour de soi that they are so enamoured with.

Unchecked, amour de soi is nothing more than selfish hedonism. Decadence destroys lives and brings down entire civilizations, (the Roman Empire). Most adults know that the joie de vivre is found in living a meaningful life that balances the pursuit of pleasure with responsibility.
The joy of living is most certainly not found in the pursuit of a reckless orgy of debauchery and over-indulgences.

My second boisterous American point is in criticism of the ridiculous French notion that amour propre is the real motive behind every human act. Perhaps it is the foundation of every French person's act, but it doesn't follow that it extends beyond the French to other nations.

I can assure you that there are quite a few males all around the world who are going out this Saturday night to various bars and discotheques with one purpose in mind, to pick up women. In this case, it is definitely amour de soi at work here and not amour propre as the French intelligentsia is so sure is the real motivation.

They aren't out looking for women who will raise their status in the eyes of society. No. They are looking for women to gain pleasure from. Sexual pleasure. Status in society be damned, it's the hedonistic amour de soi that is the goal, plain and simple.

So much for the French's: "method of analyzing human conduct that makes them see truths that are invisible to other forms of the human intellect, especially our boisterously pragmatic American one."

This brings me to my third boisterous American point. Does Harris actually expect us to believe that up until the existence of the French intelligentsia, it never occurred to anyone that using people, things, food or drink for the sole purpose of impressing others was a vain and meaningless act? The Greeks never noticed it? The Romans never noticed it?

Mr. Harris, you want to defend the French do you? Well, let's take a look at just what the French have introduced to civilization:


- The guillotine (a more efficient way to carry out the barbarous act of beheading someone)

- Existentialism. The poisonous, pessimistic philosophy that promotes:

- The misguided view that life has no real meaning.

- Therefore, there is no such thing as right or wrong, good or evil.

- It's all simply a matter of perception. One person's perception of reality is as equally valid as another person's. ["Each to his/her own!" The lunatic's perception of reality is as valid as the sane person's.]

- Do whatever "feels good". After all, there is no obligation to consider what any other person thinks about your actions. To do so would be to commit the sin of amour propre.

- There is no such thing as love. Romance is just sheer fantasy. Compassion is a pipe dream. Humans are incapable of anything but selfish self-promotion at all times. [So much for Paris being the "City of Love"]

-Therefore, the moral decay of Western Culture and it's eventual demise is inevitable. [After all, when everything is "relative" there can be no such thing as justice, or freedom just anarchy]

All of this French existentialism ultimately leads to the view of nihilism. That is, the worship of death and the establishment of a "culture of death". In fact, it was the French existentialist philosopher, Albert Camus who glorified suicide in his writings as a decision of honor, (ref. "The Myth of Sisyphus")

It is jerks like Jean Paul Sartre who end up characterizing the typical Frenchman. Sartre found "hell as other people" simply because he was himself a sniveling, self-absorbed nerd, (ref. "Nausea"). Sartre was nothing more than an atheist and communist wandering around the fertile, filthy streets of Paris.

His sniveling whining is, unfortunately, echoed in the academic halls of universities around the world. He is the inspiration behind the atheist who wishes to force his views down the throats of everyone else via lawsuits funded by the ACLU. He or she is the one who expects "the many" to bow to his or her desires for the "good of society." His or Her Majesty didn't receive enough attention as a child, therefore society itself must pay.

Yeah, me as well as a lot of other Americans, are now reconsidering our views about the French Mr. Harris. Thanks for reminding us just how depraved the ideas of those cowards, the French, really are. They are not "indispensable" to Western civilization at all. In fact, I suspect we would have gotten along better without them!

1 Comments:

Anonymous Mary Quigg said...

Well, that could be true.

8:22 AM  

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