The Tracery of Incarnation by Éric Laurent

From LQ 96 – 22.11.11. – Translated by Yannis Grammatopoulos, Anna Pigkou, Dimitris Alexakis

Link to french version


It’s autumn. It will soon be winter. And here we are again in Tahrir Square. Twenty-eight people have died during three days of conflicts on the streets leading to the Ministry of the Interior. Calls for a “Million Man March”, as happened once in the National Mall in Washington, can be heard. Who is in charge of those calls? No one exactly knows. It is said that it’s “the activists”. Yesterday, we saw an interview of an active protester, a courageous “shebab” who had trained as leader of football supporters. He seems to be supporting a fight for the sake of it, against the police, in the spirit of the Paris Saint-Germain football club of yonder. A “blogger and activist” who lives in France, denounces the crimes that have occurred in the name of the Military Council, on radio France-culture this morning. Another peculiar “naked blogger” demands a determined feminism. Tahrir Square protesters are suffocated and shot directly in the eyes. We deplore the blinded bloggers. Who are they? We remember it was also an “activist blogger” who called for an attack on the Israeli embassy. Other activist bloggers appear in English-speaking Al-Jazeera, which takes up its continuous commentary on the events again. They are not the same as those of the spring. Heroes of that era didn’t last. Could the ephemeral be a result of technology?

Already on October 31st Robert Worth highlighted in the New York Times that the protesters of the Arab spring had not produced a great voice. He wondered whether in those movements “the role of the intellectual can be reduced to the micro-blogger or organiser of the streets”. Are we indeed in a meta-ideological era where there is no need for intellectual figures that unify, or heroes? The phenomenon appears more complicated, as if in a type of paralysis of the eventual leaders.  The moment a Council is formed in Syria, Libya or Egypt, everything occurs as if Syrian law was applicable. “No one wants to be accused of abducting the revolution”, the Syrian philosopher and Human Rights defender Sadik Jalal al-Azm says. On the website of L’Express, Bernard-Henri Lévy, after replying to questions by internet users, answered the questions of Christophe Barbier. He points out the difficulties of the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya in finding a voice that could really carry. He evokes a “deficit of incarnation” and wonders whether this does not respond to the “excessive incarnation” that used to be the foundation of the position of authoritarian tyrants, especially Gaddafi. Could this be a kind of preventive vaccination of the movement against any cumbersome leader? This would free this area for the openly Islamic parties whose candidates take honour in effacing themselves before God. The others, Bacher el Assad, Mubarak, Ben Ali, less extravagant tyrants, fantasmatically also weigh heavy. The activists of Tahrir Square say it clearly: only the muslim brothers will vote next week, because the activists don’t vote for a candidate, for a name. They vote for God. Protesters who were present in Tahrir Square accommodate Mohammed el Baradei or “any honest civilian”. We see that “any” is a diffuse fantasy.

If we consider the attraction of the Turkish model to overcome the group paralyses that came out of the Arab spring, we realize it regards a social conservatism totally focused around a man, Tayyip Erdogan, who increasingly reveals his solitary taste for authority. During his clash with the military, he managed to use his charisma with no scruple. Do the spring Arabs wait for their Erdogan and his “electoral authoritarianism”?

Perhaps we could generalise the “deficit of incarnation” that appeared in the Arab uprisings and question ourselves on the difficulties of government as such, through the different political systems. America, the great democracy, whether exceptional or not, is paralysed. In France the affirmation of leadership of the opposition candidate is not so easy. In Europe the syndrome is repeated in general. Nanni Moretti extended it to the Church by his “Habemus Papam”. The desire to occupy the position of exception, the one in charge in the last instance of the act, doesn’t seem to be running in the streets. Could this be a generalised vaccination against the desire to occupy the position of the One of the exception? Could the democratic passion have come in at the end of the “passion for power”? Is this a kind of vaccination against the popular leaders of the 30’s? Bernard-Henri Lévy in his book writes about the “leukemia of memory, the great disease of today”. Could this retreat from ultimate responsibility be like a paradoxical memory: mainly so that this won’t start again?

Faced with this lameness of the desire of the elected, it is even more surprising, as BHL shows in this context, in what “the desire of the one alone, without a representative mandate” can produce, according to the expression by Jacques-Alain Miller. BHL managed to put into action what he himself defines as “the advantage of not depending on anyone, on no group, on no mission (and therefore gain time)”. Couldn’t we regard the various symptoms of the democratic bureaucracies as aspects of the same truth? On the one side, the elected politicians can’t but state their impotence (Belgium). On the other, the technocrats that were trained by Goldman Sachs take administration directly in hand, short-circuiting the political system (Italy, Greece, and soon, Spain). The question persists and on this point Latin America found a solution different to Europe. Its great democracies had at their top leaders who assumed their function (Lula, Kirchner). They have both retired and it is now up to two women to incarnate that function of desire in action, without which politics dies. It seems that Cristina succeeds better in this place than Dilma. In Europe, BHL’s dasein resonates in the time because it moves the impasse of the tracery of Incarnation.

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