WLCentral 4. In “Desenchantement National”

(Written under the stress of this environment.)

In Desenchantement National, the Tunisian thinker Hélé Béji identified a fundamental problem about collective identity—charm and shelter for the individual in times of conflict against the other and, fatally, instrument of repression as soon as the other is gone or no longer poses a threat. While Béji speaks about the specific battle of the individual against his colonizer and, immediately, against his national identity, this paradox belongs in general to any group and comes from an obvious truth that, like many others, we often ignore: that the individual is not his social group—cultural, political, et caetera—, or that the identity of an individual does not fully correspond with that of his group. This does not mean that the adhesion of an individual to an identity group—from church fellows to football followers—could be expendable, but it must be constantly reviewed. Of what kind will be such scrutiny depends not on whim, but on the internal logic of the matter: to understand why they prefer a soccer team and not a different one, it is enough to point out references of origin or simple sports statistics. However, the same type of inquiry concentrated, for example, on religion, demands much more elaborated responses, which after all will define the individual: a Protestant will face directly their sacred scriptures, while a Catholic, in principle, will require the verticality of ecclesiastic hierarchy, a difference that will encourage different concepts or alleged values: some tendency toward independence in the former and toward resignation in the latter. The fallacy in this example is, of course, that very few individuals in the world choose their religion. However, all of those simply kidnapped by the religion of their environment, generally elaborate these ideas of identity. It would be absurd to think that, because our surroundings have been offered to us, such ideas are not developed by ourselves: If the ritual—unique every time, though repeated—has been there forever, the one who participates in it also generates it and not just receives it.

As complicated as the religious question is the one tested by Béji, which requires further analysis or at least a more consistent one: the question of national identity. The trap of patriotism is its inevitability: the individual is born somewhere. When asked about his nation, no one should forget that his, like everyone else’s, is just a geopolitical circumstance. Here may be another call for restraint: some national institutions constantly urge the individual to relate his origin to his faith, attributing both to false merits depending on the good or bad fortune of belonging to this or that country. Every country, in search of a strong national identity, has written its history at its own convenience, has chosen heroes and enemies a posteriori, has invented and spread myths and has written epic songs and drawn symbols. All that propaganda is inevitable, but it also must be consistent. It is the individual who should be responsible for regulating the fallacies of their homeland.

The United States of America never get tired of presenting themselves as leaders of the “Free world”, a title the West has given to itself unilaterally. But the history of Western routes is a story of crime, abuse and oppression woven among its glories. If it is true that no nation is innocent before the tragedy of the world, we must recognize that the West is the main character of this bloody story, The History, and that the United States surpasses by far any other power in this issue. Not because they have either a greater or a lower soul—entirely, the human condition is vile—: Westerners and Americans in particular have such a past because they enjoy a circumstance of power. But the one who believes this situation is unfortunate only for those oppressed is mistaken: this scenario is unfortunate for the oppressors as well. The United States has failed in the practice before the excellences of its theory. It is every individual’s duty—but above all the American individual—to understand the failures of the past in order to ensure the liberties in which the “Free World” has based its privilege.

Julian Assange has acted according to such liberties; many among his critics, have not. It is surprising that this must be repeated over and over: nobody has found any law broken by Assange’s organization. No one has formally accused Assange of a crime related to his business. The law does not require invasive investigations or prosecutions against those who have received no indictment. The law cannot be written according to someone’s convenience. To damage “the interests of the United States”—expression of absolute ambiguity—cannot be a crime. And above all: the United States’ interests should be those of its people, not those of dubious propaganda, misguided institutions and corrupt elites. The American laws, which protect Julian Assange’s free actions, also protect the majority of Americans; contravening such laws would eventually violate the whole country, its people.

Such is the trap that Hélé Béji tried to explain: the Americans have said “We The People” to declare their independence from the other, but it is not the people who get any benefit from secrecy, repression and the excessive power that the State has acquired. And if secrets, repression and power are imposed only because the individual prefers the State over himself whimsically—as it would be with sports—or dogmatically—as it would be with religion—, very soon such “We The People” will be erased.