Monday, August 21, 2006
What President Bush is reading
Albert Camus's L'Etranger is part of President George W Bush's summer reading, and Adam Gopnik writes in the New Yorker:
As “Camus at Combat,” a new collection of his editorials—he was a working journalist—makes plain, the experience, first, of the Nazi occupation of France, and then of the struggle of Algerian independence against France led him to conclude that the “primitive” impulse to kill and torture shared a taproot with the habit of abstraction, of thinking of other people as a class of entities. Camus was no pacifist, but he deplored the logic of thinking in categories. “We have witnessed lying, humiliation, killing, deportation and torture, and in each instance it was impossible to persuade the people who were doing these things not to do them, because they were sure of themselves and because there is no way of persuading an abstraction, or, to put it another way, the representative of an ideology,” he wrote. Terror makes fear, and fear stops thinking.Thinking in categories is a fault that runs across the Indian political spectrum as well. A few common categories: "multinationals," "imperialists," "upper castes," "lower castes," "bourgeoisie," "communalists," "pseudo-secularists," and, of course, "Muslims." So much damage has been done because we haven't, to use Gopnik's words, been able "to think about particular people, proximate causes, and obtainable objectives."