Transcript: Charles Taylor on Religion and Violence | Feb 26, 2005

Charles appears on stage addressing the audience as part of a conference for "The President’s Lecture Series." He’s in his sixties. He’s mostly bald with few grey hair on the temples and is clean-shaven. He wears glasses, a black suit, pale off-green shirt and matching black silk tie.

He says WHAT AM I TRYING
TO TALK ABOUT HERE?
WELL, I'M TRYING TO TALK
ABOUT RELIGION AND VIOLENCE,
BUT LET'S GET A BIT
CLEARER ABOUT THIS.
IT'S REALLY WHAT I CALL
CATEGORICAL VIOLENCE,
THAT IS, NOT THE KIND OF
VIOLENCE WHERE SOMEBODY,
YOU KNOW, KILLS SOMEONE IN
THE COURSE OF ROBBING
A BANK, OR TWO RIVALS SHOOT
IT OUT AT DAWN IN A DUEL,
BUT THE KIND OF VIOLENCE
WHERE WHOLE CATEGORIES
OF PEOPLE ARE TARGETED.
THEY'RE TARGETED AS CROATS
OR SLOVAKS OR JEWS
OR MUSLIMS OR CHRISTIANS,
THAT KIND OF THING.
AND THIS IS SOMETHING REALLY
WORTHWHILE TALKING ABOUT
BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE TO
ARGUE THAT IT'S NOT ONLY
SOMETHING, YOU KNOW,
NOT IN THE PAST,
BUT IT'S BECOMING, IN SOME
SENSE, MORE IMPORTANT.

A caption on screen reads "Charles Taylor. McGill University." Next, it changes to "Religion and violence. Saint Michael’s College. November 19, 2004."

Charles continues
IT'S MARKED THE 20TH CENTURY
IN A QUITE HORRIFYING WAY,
IN ALL SORTS OF FASHIONS THAT
I DON'T NEED TO ENUMERATE.
AND I WANT TO PICK UP IN
THIS KIND OF VIOLENCE
THREE FEATURES THAT I
THINK IT VERY OFTEN HAS.
THE FIRST ONE IS WHAT PEOPLE
HAVE CALLED THE EXCESSIVE
ELEMENT IN IT; THAT IS,
IT'S A MATTER VERY OFTEN
NOT JUST OF KILLING PEOPLE,
HANDLING THEM ROUGHLY
AND SO ON, BUT VERY OFTEN
IT INVOLVED ATROCITIES,
EVEN MUTILATIONS.
I DON'T WANT TO GO ON ABOUT
THIS AT GREAT LENGTH,
BUT WE ALL KNOW THIS
FEATURE RECURRING.
THE SECOND IS THAT IT
INVOLVES VERY OFTEN SOME
LANGUAGE OF PURIFICATION;
AND THIS WORD WE TRANSLATE
ETHNIC CLEANSING IN
THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE,
IT'S THE SAME WORD
FOR PURIFICATION.
IT INVOLVES A CERTAIN
ELEMENT OF PURIFICATION.
AND THIRDLY, IT
SOMETIMES INVOLVES
EVEN A RITUAL ELEMENT.
AND THESE LATTER TWO FEATURES,
OF COURSE, REMIND US
OF A LONG HISTORY OF
EARLIER KINDS OF EVENTS.
THERE ARE TWO WAYS
OF UNDERSTANDING
WHY THIS ARISES AND I
WANT TO LAY THEM OUT
AND PARTLY SET THEM ASIDE
AT THE VERY BEGINNING.
ONE IS THE VIEW THAT
THIS KIND OF THING
ARISES FROM RELIGION.
YOU VERY OFTEN HEAR PEOPLE
SAYING IN NORTH AMERICA
THAT WE LIVE IN A
NICE SECULAR SOCIETY AND ISLAMIC
SOCIETY ISN'T.
AND THEREFORE ISLAM
IS A RELIGION WHICH INHERENTLY
PRODUCES VIOLENCE.
WELL, NOT ONLY IS THAT WRONG -
BECAUSE ISLAM IS MUCH MORE
THAN JUST THIS
PARTICULAR PHENOMENON -
BUT IT'S ALSO OBVIOUSLY
NOT QUITE RIGHT,
BECAUSE A LOT OF THESE
REALLY TERRIBLE EVENTS
IN THE 20TH CENTURY WERE
PRODUCED BY REGIMES
UNDER IDEOLOGIES THAT
WERE MILITANTLY ATHEIST,
EVEN, LET ALONE NOT
RELIGIOUS.
ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE'S
SOMETHING BEHIND THIS INTUITION
AT A DEEPER LEVEL, BECAUSE
WHEN YOU GET THIS FEATURE,
THIS THEME OF
PURIFICATION COMING UP,
THEN YOU GET SOMETHING THAT
AT LEAST YOU COULD SAY THIS,
HAS VERY DEEP ROOTS IN
HUMAN RELIGIOUS LIFE.
THE FIRST TIMES YOU
SEE THIS THEME ARISING
IN HUMAN HISTORY, THEY'RE
ALWAYS IN WHAT ARE EARLIER
THOUGHT OF AS
RELIGIOUS CONTEXTS.
SO THERE'S SOMETHING
VERY STRANGE HERE.
AND I WANT TO JUST
QUICKLY CHARACTERIZE IT
IN THE FOLLOWING WAY BEFORE I
TRY TO GO THROUGH THE DETAIL.
CERTAIN FORMS THAT ARISE IN
A RELIGIOUS CONTEXT SURVIVE
THE TRANSITION OUT OF
RELIGION WHEN THAT OCCURS
IN DIFFERENT SOCIETIES IN
A PURELY LAY OR SECULAR
OR EVEN ATHEIST CONTEXT.
SO WHY DO THEY SURVIVE?
WHAT IS IT THAT SURVIVES?
THERE'S A KIND OF RECURRENCE
OF CERTAIN PATTERNS.
THAT'S WHAT I WANT
TO TRY TO EXPLORE.
THE SECOND IDEA I WOULD LIKE
QUICKLY TO SET ASIDE IS THE -
YOU VERY OFTEN
HEAR PEOPLE SAYING
THIS KIND OF VIOLENCE
IS A THROWBACK.
YOU HEAR THE
WORD ATAVISTIC.
THE IDEA THAT AS
THOUGH THE TENDENCY
TO DO THIS KIND
OF THING WAS PART
OF OUR WAY DEEP OF OUR GENES
AND THROUGH THE COURSE
OF CIVILIZATION WE'VE
PUT IT BEHIND US.
THERE ARE VERY OFTEN
SOCIOBIOLOGICAL ACCOUNTS
OF THIS AND THE NOTION IS THAT
WAY BACK IN THE RAW PERIOD,
IN THE PLEISTOCENE, PEOPLE
DID THIS ALL THE TIME,
BUT NOW WE'VE
DEVELOPED CULTURES,
CIVILIZATIONS
THAT INHIBIT THIS;
THAT'S ONE IDEA OF ITS
BEING A THROWBACK.
AND I THINK THAT'S WRONG.
I WON'T HAVE TIME TO ARGUE
THIS, BUT THAT'S WRONG MAINLY
BECAUSE THE
SOCIOBIOLOGICAL ACCOUNT
REALLY DOESN'T GET TO
WHY PEOPLE DO THIS.
THERE'S SOMETHING,
IF YOU LIKE,
THE METAPHYSICAL LEVEL, LEVELS
TO DO WITH THE MEANING OF LIFE,
LEVELS TO DO WITH
NOTIONS OF THE GOOD,
THAT IS POWERING
THIS KIND OF ACTION.
IT CAN'T BE A
THROWBACK IN THAT SENSE.
IT'S NOT SIMPLY PART
OF OUR BIOLOGY
THAT WE OVERCOME
THROUGH CULTURE.
ANOTHER WAY OF THINKING
OF IT AS A THROWBACK
IS IF YOU MAKE THE
MISTAKE I MENTIONED EARLIER,
AND THINK THAT IT ONLY
ARISES WITHIN CERTAIN
RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL
AND METAPHYSICAL FORMS,
AND THAT IT DOESN'T ARISE
ANYMORE BECAUSE WE'VE LEFT
THEM BEHIND US, AND THAT
ALSO PLAINLY ISN'T TRUE.
WE CAN SEE THAT AS
WE LOOK AROUND US.
SO LET ME TRY NOW TO LOOK AT
WHAT I THINK IT REALLY IS.
I SAID A MINUTE AGO THAT
A SOCIOBIOLOGICAL ACCOUNT
PROBABLY WON'T WORK.
I HAD A LONG PASSAGE ON THAT
BUT I THINK I'D LIKE TO -
PARTICULARLY AS WE MAY RUN
OUT OF AIR HERE AT A CERTAIN
MOMENT AND I WOULDN'T
LIKE THAT TO HAPPEN
BEFORE I FINISHED
MY ARGUMENT.
JUST THINK OF DYING IN THE
MIDDLE OF THE KEY POINT.
SO LET ME LEAVE THAT ASIDE
SO WE CAN ARGUE IT OUT
IN THE QUESTION PERIOD.
AND I WANT TO
TALK ABOUT THE KIND OF
METAPHYSICAL MEANINGS IN
A CERTAIN SENSE THAT YOU SEE
RECURRING IN MODES OF
VIOLENCE IN HISTORY.
WELL, ONE IS THIS, AND
THIS HAS BEEN THE OFFICE
OF RELIGION IN EARLIER TIMES;
WE ALL KNOW SUFFERING AND
DESTRUCTION AND WE
WANT TO GIVE IT
SOME KIND OF
MEANING, RIGHT?
AND SO, GIVE IT A
HIGHER SIGNIFICANCE.
AND IT'S CLEAR THAT IT'S
BEEN A RECURRING THEME
IN MANY RELIGIOUS FORMS
TO GIVE VIOLENCE,
TO GIVE DEATH AND
SUFFERING A MEANING.
AND YOU HAVE IN THE VERY
EARLIEST KINDS OF RELIGION,
A SENSE THAT THE UNIVERSE
AND THE SPIRITS THAT SOMEHOW
DOMINATE THE UNIVERSE CONTAIN
BOTH KINDS OF SPIRITS,
THOSE THAT ARE BENIGN AND
THOSE THAT ARE MALIGN
AND WREAK VIOLENCE;
THOSE THAT GIVE HELP
AND SUCCOR, AND THOSE
THAT WREAK VIOLENCE.
YOU THINK GODS OF WAR.
YOU THINK IN THE HINDU
PANTHEON YOU HAVE KALI
AND SHIVA, THAT SIDE OF
DESTRUCTION IS ALSO
THOUGHT TO BE PART
OF THE DIVINE.
OR ELSE YOU GET LATER
RELIGIOUS FORMS WHERE
YOU DON'T SIMPLY HAVE
GOOD AND EVIL AS PART
OF THE SAME UNIVERSE, BUT
YOU THINK OF THE MAJOR
SPIRITUAL FORCE IN
THE UNIVERSE AS GOOD,
AND THEN SOMETIMES THE
VIOLENT SIDE COMES IN
AS EXPLAINED IN TERMS OF
PUNISHMENT FOR OUR WRONGDOING
OR SOMETHING OF
THAT KIND,
OR AS THE NECESSARY
BASIS OF ATONEMENT.
WELL, THAT'S ONE LEVEL.
RELIGIOUS MEANINGS TO
VIOLENCE IS ONE LEVEL
THAT I WANT TO HAVE IN
OUR MINDS AS WE MOVE IN
AND TRY TO SEE WHAT
THIS PHENOMENON IS.
THE OTHER ELEMENT THAT I
THINK RECURS AND IT'S WORTH
LOOKING AT IS THE RESPONSE
YOU SEE FREQUENTLY
IN WARRIOR CULTURES WHICH
IS A WAY OF DEALING WITH
VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION
AND A WAY, I THINK,
ALSO OF DEALING WITH THE
TERRIBLE FEARS THAT VIOLENCE
AND POTENTIAL DESTRUCTION
AROUSE IN US, WHICH IS THEY -
YOU MIGHT SAY IT'S ALMOST
A WARRIOR RESPONSE -
WHERE YOU CAN FACE DOWN
THE FEAR OF DESTRUCTION
BY ACCEPTING THE POSSIBILITY
OF VIOLENT DEATH.
ALL RIGHT, THAT
CAN HAPPEN.
YOU THROW YOURSELF INTO IT,
AND IT IS, IN A CERTAIN SENSE,
REVERSES THE FIELD OF FEAR
BECAUSE NOW YOU ARE IN CONTROL.
YOU'RE NO LONGER
AFRAID OF DEATH;
YOU'RE WILLING
TO FACE IT;
YOU'RE WILLING TO PUT
EVERYTHING ON THE LINE.
AND YOU GET THIS, ALMOST A
TREMENDOUS HIGH FROM THIS.
AND YOU SEE THESE REFERENCES
IN VARIOUS POINTS
WHERE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT
CERTAIN UNITS OF SOLDIERS
AS DEAD MEN ON LEAVE.
IN OTHER WORDS, AS IT WERE,
WRITTEN OFF THE POSSIBILITY
THAT THEY COULD DIE AND
THEY'RE READY TO ACT NOW,
NOT ANYMORE PARALYZED BY
FEAR, BUT ENERGIZED BY THAT.
THE TOTENKOPF BATTALION OF
THE PRUSSIAN GUARDS
AND LATER, OF COURSE,
OF HITLER'S ARMY,
THE DEATH'S HEAD.
AND YOU HAVE THIS SENSE
OF LIVING ON THE EDGE
AND THE KIND OF EXHILARATION
THAT COMES FROM THAT.
THERE'S A COUPLE OF GOOD BOOKS
I'M GOING TO BE QUOTING FROM
HERE AND ONE IS THIS
BOOK BY AN AMERICAN
JOURNALIST, VERY INTERESTING
BOOK, CHRIS HEDGES,
CALLED WAR IS A FORCE
THAT GIVES US MEANING.
YES, WAR IS A FORCE
THAT GIVES US MEANING.
AND HE TALKS AT ONE POINT
THEREOF "THE GOD-LIKE
EMPOWERMENT OVER OTHER HUMAN
LIVES AND THE DRUG OF WAR
COMBINE LIKE THE
ECSTASY OF EROTIC LOVE,
TO LET OUR SENSES
COMMAND OUR BODIES.
KILLING UNLEASHES WITHIN
US DARK UNDERCURRENTS
THAT SEE US DESECRATE
AND WHIP OURSELVES
INTO GREATER ORGIES
OF DESTRUCTION.
THE DEAD TREATED WITH
RESPECT IN PEACETIME
ARE ABUSED IN WARTIME."
I'LL ABRIDGE THIS PARTICULAR
QUOTE BECAUSE IT GETS
A LITTLE BIT HAIRY, I MEAN,
EVEN HAIRIER LATER ON.
BUT YOU GET THE
KIND OF SENSE OF -
THIS IS SOMEBODY WHO
WAS INCIDENTALLY
A WAR CORRESPONDENT.
HE WAS VERY CLOSE TO THIS
AND IS TALKING ABOUT THE WAY
IN WHICH HE SAW PEOPLE
GETTING THIS SENSE OF HIGH.
AND THEN THE OTHER BOOK THAT
I ALSO RECOMMEND VERY HIGHLY
TO YOU, SUDHIR KAKAR, THE
INDIAN PSYCHOANALYST,
THE COLORS OF VIOLENCE.
VERY INTERESTING BOOK WHERE
HE DOES SOME RESEARCH
ON THE VARIOUS LEADERS OF
GROUPS THAT WERE ENGAGED
IN COMMUNAL RIOTS IN HYDERABAD,
AS WELL AS A REFLECTION
ON THE BJP AND SO ON OF
INDIA, AND COMMENTING
ON HIS INTERVIEWS
WITH THESE LEADERS
OF THE VARIOUS FACTIONS.
HE SAID: "THE EXCITEMENT OF
VIOLENCE BECOMES THE BIGGEST
CONFIRMATION THAT ONE IS
PHYSICALLY STILL ALIVE,
A CONFIRMATION OF
ONE'S VERY EXISTENCE."
SO THERE IS THIS
OTHER, IF YOU LIKE,
METAPHYSICAL OR IN
A CERTAIN SENSE,
VIOLENCE BEING
CONNECTED IN SOME WAY
TO ACHIEVING
HUMAN MEANING.
WE GET CLOSE TO THE
HEART OF THE PHENOMENON
WE'RE TRYING TO DEAL
WITH WHEN WE SEE
HOW THESE CAN
COME TOGETHER.
THAT IS, YOU CAN HAVE MODES
OF ACTION WHERE THIS KIND OF
WARRIOR HIGH IS AVAILABLE
IN A CONTEXT WHERE
IT'S GIVEN A METAPHYSICAL
AND RELIGIOUS MEANING.
SO IT CAN BE THE KIND OF
MEANING WE SEE WITH HOLY WAR,
SACRED MASSACRE, WHERE THE
WHOLE THING IS CARRIED OUT
IN THE NAME OF
SOME HIGH CAUSE,
SOMETHING LIKE THE
CRUSADES.
AND WE CAN SEE THIS ALSO IN
EARLY FORMS OF SACRIFICE
WHERE IN A CERTAIN SENSE,
IN THESE EARLIER FORMS,
BOTH THE KILLERS, BOTH THE
SACRIFICERS AND THE VICTIMS
ARE SEEN AND VERY
OFTEN SEE THEMSELVES
AS HAVING A HIGHER
SIGNIFICANCE.
OR IT CAN BE SEEN IN WHAT
GIRARD HAS WORKED OUT,
GREAT DEAL ABOUT,
RENE GIRARD,
IN THE SCAPEGOAT
PHENOMENON.
IT IS WHERE AT THIS POINT
SOMETHING IS PROJECTED
ONTO A CERTAIN VICTIM,
A CERTAIN GROUP,
AS BEING THE BEARERS OF
EVERYTHING THAT WE
WANT TO GET RID OF AND
THEN IT IS EXPELLED
OR THIS GROUP IS
EXPELLED OR KILLED.
SO THESE VARIOUS MEANINGS
HERE OF VIOLENCE,
RELIGIOUS, HIGHLY MORAL
MEANINGS OF VIOLENCE,
WHICH TOGETHER WITH THE WAY
IN WHICH VIOLENCE CAN EXCITE
THOSE WHO CARRY IT OUT,
HAVE PRODUCED THESE VERY,
VERY, POWERFUL FORMS THAT
EASILY CARRY PEOPLE AWAY.
NOW I WANT TO LOOK AT A
PARTICULAR FACET OF THIS
WHICH I THINK IS THE ONE
THAT WE FIND RECURRING AND
THAT'S THE - WELL, IT'S
A KIND OF MIXTURE OF
THE SCAPEGOAT PHENOMENON AND
THE HOLY WAR PHENOMENON.
THESE ARE TWO WAYS THAT
THIS COULD PLAY OUT,
AND IT'S SOMETHING OF
THE FOLLOWING KIND.
ON A FIRST LEVEL, IN ORDER
VERY OFTEN TO FEEL GOOD
ABOUT OURSELVES,
WE FIND OURSELVES,
OUR MINDS DRIFTING TO SOME
CONTRAST CASE OF OTHER PEOPLE
THAT DON'T HAVE OUR
VIRTUES, OUR MORALITY,
OR WHATEVER, RIGHT?
SO WHENEVER YOU FEEL BAD
ABOUT YOURSELF, YOU CAN SAY,
WELL AT LEAST I'M NOT, OH,
A CONCENTRATION CAMP GUARD,
OR AT LEAST I'M NOT - YOU
THINK OF SOME OTHER GROUP
IN RELATIONSHIP TO WHICH
YOU STILL LOOK GOOD EVEN
AFTER ALL THE TERRIBLE
THINGS THAT YOU'VE DONE.
THIS IS A KIND OF
UNDERSTANDABLE REACTION
OF SEEING ONESELF GOOD
THROUGH A CONTRAST CASE,
YOU'RE AT LEAST NOT THAT.
AND THIS CAN BE RELATIVELY
HARMLESS IN CERTAIN CASES
WHERE THE PEOPLE CONCERNED
HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
THEY'RE WAY FAR AWAY, AS
EARLIER ON PERHAPS
YOU COULD HAVE HELENIANS
THINKING OF BARBARIANS
IF THEY NEVER ACTUALLY MET
THEM OR FOUGHT THEM AND SO ON.
BUT THERE'S ANOTHER LEVEL
THAT IT RISES TO WHERE THERE IS
THE SENSE THAT, NOT ONLY THAT
THIS IS A CONTRAST CASE,
BUT THEY ARE IN SOME
WAYS THREATENING TO US.
IT CAN BE THAT WE FIND
SOMETHING TEMPTING ABOUT
THE WAY THEY ARE AND WE'RE
WORRIED ABOUT THAT,
AND THIS RAISES
THE ANXIETY.
PEOPLE ARGUE A CERTAIN
AMOUNT ABOUT EXTREME
HOMOPHOBIA COMES, YOU KNOW,
FROM A SENSE OF PERHAPS
TEMPTATION OR EXCITEMENT BY
THIS ON THE PART OF PEOPLE
WHO DON'T WANT TO BE
THAT, WHO WANT TO DEFINE
THEMSELVES OVER
AGAINST THAT.
THIS IS A KIND
OF CASE.
BUT THERE'S ANOTHER KIND OF
CASE WHICH CAN COMBINE
WITH THIS, BUT IT'S
SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT,
WHERE ONE IS UNCERTAIN ABOUT
JUST WHAT IS GOING WRONG
WITH ONESELF AND NOW THINK
NOT JUST AT THE LEVEL OF
THE INDIVIDUAL NOW, BUT THINK
AT THE LEVEL OF A SOCIETY.
SOMETHING'S GOING WRONG.
WE DON'T SEEM TO BE
LIVING UP TO OUR IDEALS.
WHAT IS IT?
WHAT ARE WE GOING
TO DO ABOUT IT?
AND ONE OF THE THINGS
YOU NEED IN THIS CASE
IS A DEFINITION OF IT.
IT'S VERY SORT OF ANXIETY
CREATING NOT TO HAVE
A DEFINITION OF IT, AND
THERE YOU GET A STRONGER
REASON TO FIND YOURSELF A
CONTRAST GROUP NOW
ON WHICH YOU CAN PROJECT THE
THINGS THAT ARE GOING WRONG
WITH YOU, AND THEREBY
GIVE IT AN EXPLANATION,
GIVE IT A FACE, GIVE
IT A DEFINITION.
AND I THINK YOU FIND
THIS - OF COURSE,
IT'S A CLASSIC SITUATION
IN ANTI-SEMITISM,
IN CHRISTENDOM OVER
MANY CENTURIES,
WITCHCRAFT CRAZES AND
SO ON OF THAT KIND.
PLAINLY WE DON'T FULLY
UNDERSTAND THIS, BUT PLAINLY
A LOT OF THINGS THAT
WERE UPSETTING PEOPLE
AND WORRYING PEOPLE
AND SO ON FOUND
A KIND OF "THIS IS
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT."
AND BY FINDING
THAT DEFINITION,
YOU ALSO FIND HERE, NOW,
AS AGAINST THE DISTANT
CONTRAST CASE, YOU
FIND A POSSIBLE REMEDY:
EXPEL THESE PEOPLE
OR MARGINALIZE THESE PEOPLE,
OR WHATEVER, RIGHT?
AND NOW AT A SORT
OF DEEPER LEVEL,
YOU COULD ALSO SAY THE
FOLLOWING: THIS CONTRAST CASE
NOT ONLY SERVES TO
DEFINE WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT,
BUT ACTUALLY, OUR ACTION
AGAINST IT SERVES TO REAFFIRM
OUR SENSE THAT WE'RE REALLY
GOOD; WE'RE REALLY IN THE RIGHT.
BECAUSE INSOFAR AS
YOU DEFINE IT AS BAD
AND YOU'RE
FIGHTING AGAINST IT,
YOU FEEL MAXIMALLY
INTEGRATED AND GOOD AGAIN.
SO THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO
CALL THE SCAPEGOAT OPERATION
WHERE THE VERY POWERFUL
ATTRACTION OF IT IS THAT
IT MAKES YOU - MAYBE AS
AN INDIVIDUAL BUT NOW,
LET'S THINK, IN OUR
CASES OF SOCIETIES -
IT MAKES YOU AS A
SOCIETY, AS A CULTURE,
AS A CIVILIZATION FEEL
EXTREMELY POSITIVE,
STRONG ABOUT YOURSELF AND,
OF COURSE, THIS IS TREMENDOUS
BOON TO YOU BECAUSE IT
CAN BE EVEN THE BASIS
OF YOUR AFFECTIVE
COLLECTIVE ACTION, RIGHT?
BUT IT INVOLVES
TARGETING ANOTHER,
AND INTERNAL OTHER
WITH EXPULSION,
SCAPEGOAT MECHANISM;
EXTERNAL OTHER, HOLY WAR,
CRUSADE, THAT PHENOMENON.
THESE CAN BE DOING ROUGHLY
THE SAME THING FOR YOU.
NOW, I'VE JUST MENTIONED
A CERTAIN EPOCH OF HUMAN
HISTORY, YOU KNOW,
MEDIEVAL AND EARLY
MODERN, SCAPEGOATING,
SAY JEWS AND
WITCHES IN EUROPE.
IS THAT WHERE THE PHENOMENON
LIES SAFELY IN THE PAST?
WELL, NO.
AND THERE'S SOMETHING
RATHER WORRYING ABOUT
THIS WHOLE POINT THAT
I WANT TO MAKE HERE,
WHICH IS THAT IN
A CERTAIN SENSE,
THE PROGRESS OF CIVILIZATION
IS ALSO SOMETIMES -
ANYWAY POSSIBLY REGRESSED,
OR CIVILIZATION
IS ALSO SOMETIMES POSSIBLY
INCREASED SAVAGERY.
THAT'S, I THINK, WHAT
COMES OUT OF THIS.
THINK BACK BEFORE THAT
PERIOD AND WE GET
THE KIND OF SACRED
KILLING INVOLVED IN
WHAT PEOPLE CALLED
PRE-AXIAL CIVILIZATIONS,
PRE-AXIAL RELIGIONS.
THAT IS, THE EARLY FORMS OF
RELIGION THAT WERE THERE
BEFORE WHAT WE THINK OF AS
THE HIGHER RELIGIONS AROSE
WHICH BASICALLY HAVE AS A
CHARACTERISTIC THAT THEY
PRESENT A PICTURE OF THE
UNIVERSE WITH A CLEAR
MORAL STRUGGLE BETWEEN
GOOD AND EVIL WITH USUALLY
THE ULTIMATE TRIUMPH
OF GOOD BEING PRESENTED
AS THE END OF IT ALL, AS
AGAINST THESE VARIOUS
PRE-AXIAL CIVILIZATIONS
WHERE, AS I SAID EARLIER,
THE NOTION IS - SOME
KINDS OF POLYTHEISM -
THAT THE DIFFERENT
ASPECTS OF HUMAN LIFE,
INCLUDING THE ONES THAT ARE
TERRIBLY MALIGN AS WELL AS
THE BENIGN ONES ARE ALL
REPRESENTED IN THE PANTHEON.
THEY'RE ALL PART OF
THE UNIVERSE AND PART
OF THE PANTHEON OF GODS.
THERE ARE WAR GODS AS WELL
AS GODS OF AGRICULTURE
AND INDUSTRY AND SO ON.
WELL, THE SHIFT OVER HERE,
AS YOU MIGHT SAY, A MASSIVE,
SORT OF MORALIZATION OF -
OR A SENSE OF THE GODLY,
OF THE DIVINE, BUT IT'S
PRECISELY THAT WHICH SEES
THE SCAPEGOAT OPERATION
RECURRING IN THE WAY IT DID
IN THE PERSECUTION
OF JEWS AND WITCHES,
WHICH IS VERY OFTEN A
MUCH MORE MURDEROUS FORM.
AGAIN, JOHN KEEGAN,
HIS HISTORY OF WAR,
WRITES ABOUT VERY EARLY
WARS, LARGELY RITUALIZED,
WE THROW SPEARS AT
EACH OTHER AND SO ON.
AND A LOT OF THE TIME
THE POINT IS NOT TO HIT
THE PERSON, BUT GO
THROUGH THE RITUAL.
AND THEN WE GET MORE
CIVILIZED AND RATIONAL
AND WE THINK, YOU KNOW,
INSTRUMENTALLY RATIONALLY
ABOUT VIOLENCE, WE GOT TO
HAVE A GOAL AND THE GOAL
IS TO GET THEM OFF THIS
TERRITORY AND WE GOT TO DO
WHAT WE NEED, AND THAT
SHOULD CUT VIOLENCE DOWN,
EH, BECAUSE WE'RE JUST DOING
WHEN WE ABSOLUTELY NEED IT.
BUT IT DOESN'T WORK
OUT THAT WAY, YOU KNOW?
IT ACTUALLY INCREASES VIOLENCE.
SO THIS TRANSITION
FROM THESE VERY EARLY
RELIGIOUS FORMS TO,
LET'S SAY, YOU KNOW,
500 YEARS AGO IN OUR
CIVILIZATION, WELL,
THE VECTOR AT THAT POINT
WASN'T QUITE GOING IN
THE RIGHT DIRECTION
BECAUSE WHAT WE THINK OF
MORE ADVANCED, HAVING A
HIGHER RELIGION AND SO ON,
DIDN'T ACTUALLY LEAD IN
TERMS OF VIOLENCE
TO BETTER SITUATIONS.
SO, WELL, MAYBE AFTER THAT,
SINCE WE NOW HAVE RATIONAL,
SECULAR, ENLIGHTENED
CIVILIZATION,
MAYBE AFTER THAT, THINGS
GOT BETTER AND BETTER.
WELL, IN SOME WAYS
IT LOOKED THAT WAY,
BUT THEN YOU GET A
PHENOMENON LIKE
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION,
AND HERE YOU HAVE
ITS ULTIMATE AFFILIATION
WITH A KIND OF MODIFIED -
I THINK OF IT AS
MODIFIED CASTRO'S -
FIDEL CASTRO'S SLOGAN,
"PATRIA 0 MUERTE," BUT IT BECAME
PATRIA E MUERTE.
THAT'S WHERE IT ENDS UP, IN
OTHER WORDS, THE COUNTRY,
THE FATHERLAND AND
DEATH, RATHER THAN
FATHERLAND OR DEATH.
AND YOU WANT TO ASK
HOW THIS HAPPENED.
HOW SOMETHING LIKE
THE TERROR HAPPENED,
WHICH INCIDENTALLY, TERROR
HAD THESE THREE FEATURES
THAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, THESE
THREE WORRYING EXTRA FEATURES:
THAT IS, THE EXCESSIVE VIOLENCE,
FABRICATION OF ENEMIES THAT
DIDN'T NEED TO BE ENEMIES;
THE DISCOURSE OF
PURIFICATION WHICH YOU SEE
EMERGING IN ROBESPIERRE'S
SPEECHES AS WE MOVE
TOWARDS TALMOR AND THE
QUASI-RITUAL ELEMENT,
WHEELING PEOPLE OUT IN
TUMBRELS AND HAVING
THIS PUBLIC USE
OF THE GUILLOTINE.
I WANT TO QUICKLY
TALK ABOUT THIS
BECAUSE I FIND THIS
A VERY CRUCIAL POINT.
YOU CAN SEE IT IN
TWO PERSPECTIVES.
ONE IS A PERSPECTIVE OF
THROWBACK, HANGOVER,
ELEMENTS THAT COME FROM
THE PAST AND HAVEN'T
YET BEEN CLEANED AWAY.
THERE'S SOME TRUTH IN THIS
BECAUSE THERE WAS A
POPULAR CULTURE OF
URBAN REBELLION IN FRANCE
WHICH WE SEE REPEATED
AGAIN AND AGAIN
IN WHICH THE POPULOUS RISES
UP AGAINST SOME WRONG,
USUALLY SOMEBODY, THE
PRICE OF WHEAT HAS GONE UP
AND THEY'RE SURE THAT
THERE'S SOME ENGROSSER
YOU SAY IT IN
OLD ENGLISH.
IT'S CALLED ACCAPAREUR
IN FRENCH, SOMEBODY'S WHO'S
CORNERED THE MARKET.
AND SO THEY THINK THIS
MUST BE WHAT HAS DONE IT
AND THEY GO AND BURN THE
PLACE DOWN OR EVEN
KILL THE PERSON, DEPENDING
ON HOW MUCH RESISTANCE
THERE IS FROM
THE AUTHORITIES.
AND VERY OFTEN THERE WAS A
KIND OF RITUALIZATION
OF THIS AND EVEN
ELEMENTS OF CARNIVAL
AND LAUGHING
AND SO ON.
INCIDENTALLY, ALL THIS
HAPPENED AT THE TAKING
OF THE BASTILLE ON
JULY 14, 1789,
INCLUDING THE PARADING
OF THE GOVERNOR'S HEAD
ON THE SPIKE, THE LIEUTENANT
GOVERNOR'S HEAD ON SPIKES
AFTERWARDS WITH MUCH
POPULAR HILARITY.
IT'S VERY INTERESTING THAT
THE MIDDLE CLASS DEPUTIES
IN VERSAILLES WERE ABSOLUTELY
HORRIFIED BY THIS.
BUT TWO WEEKS LATER THEY
DECIDED TO RE-WRITE IT,
AS IT WERE, AND TREAT
IT AS THE RISING
OF THE SOVEREIGN
PEOPLE AND SO ON.
AND SINCE THEN EVERY
JULY 14TH IN FRANCE,
THAT'S HOW WE CELEBRATE.
HISTORY HAS BEEN
REWRITTEN IN A VERY
INTERESTING WAY HERE.
BUT LET'S GO BACK
TO THE STORY.
IN THE IMMEDIATE CASE,
THAT, IF YOU LIKE,
POPULAR VIOLENCE, WAS A
TERRIBLY IMPORTANT PART
OF THE EQUATION AND
THREATENED BY ROYAL TROOPS
FROM OUTSIDE, IN A SENSE,
THE REVOLUTION DEPENDED ON
THAT POPULAR VIOLENCE.
THE BASTILLE WAS
IMPORTANT BECAUSE TAKING IT
MADE THE ROYAL SWISS
TROOPS RETREAT AND SO ON
AND SAVED THE REVOLUTION.
SO YOU HAVE THE
REVOLUTIONARY LEADERS
ARE FORCED TO GIVE MORE, AS
IT WERE, WEIGHT TO THIS,
AND THE PARTICULAR KIND
OF OUTLOOK THAT INSPIRED.
ONE OF THE FEATURES
OF THE OUTLOOK OF THIS
POPULAR REBELLION IS NOTHING
HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT.
NOTHING HAPPENS FOR
JUST PERSONAL REASONS.
IT ALWAYS HAS TO BE SOME
EVIL DOER BEHIND IT.
PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO EXPLAIN
TO THESE PEOPLE, YOU KNOW,
WE HAVE THIS NEW
SCIENCE OF ECONOMICS,
IF THE PRICE RISES, IT'S NOT
NECESSARILY ANYBODY'S FAULT.
IT'S JUST THE WAY THE MARKET
WORKS AND SO ON AND
THEY WEREN'T
BUYING IT AT ALL.
THERE'S GOT TO
BE AN ACCAPAREUR,
JUST FIND OUT WHO
THE PERSON IS.
AND SIMILARLY, THE WHOLE
RHETORIC OF THE REVOLUTION WAS
TALKING ABOUT COMPLOT
EST COMPLIQUE, AND SO ON.
AND YOU HAVE
A FIGURE LIKE MARAT
WHO IS WORKING
UP THE POPULOUS.
SO ONE REASON FOR THE
TERROR IS CLEARLY THAT.
THE LEADERS IN PARIS FELT
THEY HAD TO GO ALONG.
THERE'S A WONDERFUL LINE
FROM DANTON OF 1793
WHO IS THINKING BACK
TO SEPTEMBER 1792
AND THE CLEAR OUTBREAK
OF POPULAR RIOTS
THEY WENT INTO THE PRISONS
AND SEIZED ALL THE PRISONERS
AND EXECUTED MANY OF
THEM, EVEN THOUGH MANY
OF THEM WERE JUST
CRIMINALS OF DOUE COMMERCE;
THEY WEREN'T AT
ALL POLITICS.
AND A YEAR LATER, DANTON
SAYS TO HIS COLLEAGUES,
"SOYONS TERRIBLES POUR
DISPENSER LE PEUPLE DE L'ETRE."
LET US PRACTISE TERROR
TO LET THE PEOPLE
NOT HAVE TO
PRACTISE TERROR.
IN OTHER WORDS, WE'RE TAKING
OVER FROM THEM, YOU KNOW,
THEY ARE OUR FOLLOWERS -
YEAH, WE MUST FOLLOW THEM.
WE ARE THE LEADERS.
SO YOU CAN SEE THAT THEY
WERE TRYING TO CANALIZE THIS.
SO THAT'S ONE ACCOUNT.
THE SECOND PERSPECTIVE
SAYS ON THE CONTRARY,
LOOK AT THE ACTUAL DISCOURSE
OF PEOPLE LIKE ROBESPIERRE,
THAT THEY HAD A DEEP
IDEOLOGICAL INVESTMENT
IN THESE IDEAS OF PURITY AND
THESE IDEAS OF EVERYTHING
THAT GOES WRONG IS SOMEHOW
CAUSED BY A COMPLOT.
SO THAT EVEN PEOPLE WHO
LOOK SUSPECT CAN
INDEED BE TARGETED.
NOW, I THINK YOU HAVE TO
SEE THE UPSHOT OF THIS,
THE PHENOMENON, THE ACTUAL
TERROR WHICH HAPPENS
AS A KIND OF MARRIAGE
OF THESE TWO IN WHICH
THEY'VE TAKEN THESE
THRUST OF POPULAR REVOLT
BUT THEY'VE GIVEN IT
THEIR OWN JUSTIFICATION.
SO IT'S A KIND OF
RATIONALIZATION AND
SANITIZATION OF THIS
EARLIER KIND OF REVOLT.
RATIONALIZATION BECAUSE NOW
SUPPOSEDLY THE ONLY ENEMIES
WHO ARE ACTUALLY
BATTENED ON ARE PEOPLE
WHO ARE REALLY DISPARATE.
SANITIZATION BECAUSE
WE DON'T HAVE THESE
GRUESOME KILLINGS LIKE
BEFORE, YOU KNOW,
WHERE WE HAD THESE WONDERFUL,
SCIENTIFIC, CLEAN -
MISTER GUILLOTINE HAS INVENTED
THIS FANTASTIC MACHINE.
THERE'S NO EXCESS
BLOOD OR ANYTHING.
IT'S JUST - CHEUNG! -
LIKE THAT, AND ALSO
THEY CLEANED
UP THE RITUAL.
YOU COULD SEE THAT THESE
SORT OF MIDDLE CLASS,
ENLIGHTENED
REVOLUTIONARIES WERE HORRIFIED
BY THE ELEMENTS OF
POPULAR CARNIVAL:
PEOPLE LAUGHING,
MAKING JOKES,
SHOWING THE DEAD
BODIES AND SO ON.
WE DON'T NEED TO GO INTO
DETAILS, AND ALL THAT THEY
CLEANED UP BY A KIND OF VERY
SEVERE, MORALISTIC RITUAL.
BUT THEY NEVERTHELESS TOOK
UP AND USED THIS WHOLE FORCE
FOR THE REVOLUTION, AND THIS
IS, OF COURSE, VERY,
VERY, DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND.
ROBESPIERRE, IN THE EARLIER
TIME WHEN THEY HAD TO VOTE ON
THE NEW CONSTITUTION,
WAS ONE OF THOSE WHO VOTED
AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY
FOR THE NEW REPUBLIC.
SO WHAT'S HAPPENED HERE?
STRANGE THING IS
HAPPENING HERE.
THIS PERSON WHO DOESN'T
THINK THE DEATH PENALTY
SHOULD BE PART OF THE NEW
REPUBLIC ALSO THINKS
THAT THE PATH TO THAT REPUBLIC
MUST GO THROUGH THIS BLOOD.
WE HAVE TO PURIFY.
THIS PUBLIC IS SOMETHING SO
PURE IT SHOULDN'T HAVE
A DEATH PENALTY, BUT IT'S SO
PURE THAT IT CANNOT TOLERATE
THESE IMPURE ELEMENTS THAT
ARE STANDING IN ITS WAY.
AND OF COURSE, WE HAVE NOT
ONLY THAT IN THE FRENCH
REVOLUTION, BUT ALSO THE
EXTERNAL APPLICATION
OF THAT IN A KIND OF
WAR OF SO-CALLED
LIBERATION IN EUROPE.
AND WE SEE HERE
RECURRENCES OF VERY, VERY OLD
RELIGIOUS MOTIFS, INCLUDING
THIS IDEA OF SACRIFICE,
THE PEOPLE WHO FALL -
THESE ARE SACRIFICE.
RIGHT UP TO THE TOMB
OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER.
THIS WHOLE LITURGY SURROUNDS
THE MODERN REPUBLIC,
WHICH IS, IN SOME WAYS,
SUPPOSED TO BE THE MOST
ADVANCED AND ENLIGHTENED
AND RATIONAL FORM OF LIFE.
OKAY, THAT'S ONE
PHENOMENON.
THE OTHER PHENOMENON THAT
I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT
WAS NATIONS AND
ETHNIC CLEANSING.
LET ME TRY TO GO BRIEFLY
THROUGH THIS FOR A SECOND.
THE PARTICULAR THING
I WANT TO FOCUS ON IS THAT
THE MODERN IDEA OF A NATION
IS THE CRUCIAL CORRESPONDING
IDEA TO THE NOTION OF
POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY,
THAT PEOPLE SHOULD
RULE THEMSELVES,
REQUIRES THAT WE INVENT OR
CREATE A NEW COLLECTIVE
AGENCY CALLED THE
PEOPLE OR THE NATION,
WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF THE
WILL THAT IS EXPRESSING
ITSELF IN RULING ITSELF.
AND OF COURSE THIS HAS VERY
OFTEN BEEN CLOSELY ATTACHED
ALSO TO THE NOTION OF
A CERTAIN TERRITORY.
THERE'S A PEOPLE
ON A TERRITORY.
NOW THIS CREATES A TERRIBLE
NEW DILEMMA OR A NEW KIND OF
LEGITIMACY CHALLENGE WHICH
DIDN'T EXIST IN EARLIER LESS
ENLIGHTENED REGIMES, BECAUSE
THE EXISTENCE OF AN
IMPORTANT MINORITY ON THE
TERRITORY WHICH EITHER
CANNOT BE ASSIMILATED
TO THE NATION,
OR REFUSES TO BE
ASSIMILATED TO THE NATION,
IS A LEGITIMACY THREAT IN
THE WAY IN WHICH IN SOME OF
THE SAME TERRITORIES BEFORE,
SAY THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE,
OTTOMAN EMPIRE, YOU
HAD THIS CO-EXISTENCE
OF VERY DIFFERENT CULTURAL
AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS;
OF COURSE, UNDERSTOOD IN
A KIND OF HIERARCHAL WAY -
ONE BILLET ON TOP
AND THE OTHERS BELOW -
BUT WHERE THERE WAS NO
LEGITIMACY PROBLEM.
YOU KNOW, EMPIRES ARE EMPIRES.
OF COURSE, THERE
ARE OTHER PEOPLE HERE.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WE
HAVE AN EMPIRE FOR?
WE HAVE OTHER PEOPLE
THAT WE'RE RULING
ON OUR TERRITORY.
THIS SUDDENLY BECOMES A
TERRIBLE PROBLEM AND WE GET
THE PHENOMENA THAT WE'VE SEEN
FOR THE LAST 100, 150 YEARS
SOMETIMES INVOLVING TRYING
TO FORCE PEOPLE TO BE
PART OF THE MAJORITY.
MAGYARS FORCING
SLOVAKS TO MAGYARIZE,
OR TURKS TRYING TO FORCE
KURDS AT A CERTAIN POINT
TO BECOME TURKS.
AND THEN SOMETIMES IF THAT
DOESN'T WORK, YOU GET, WELL,
ETHNIC CLEANSING IN
ALL THE TERRIBLE FORMS
THAT IT CAN TAKE.
WELL HERE YOU GET ANOTHER
GREAT STEP FORWARD.
I THINK IT'S A
GREAT STEP FORWARD.
I'M NOT SAYING LET'S GO BACK
TO THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN
EMPIRE, YOU KNOW, ACH
DU LIEBE SIDEN SOHN.
THAT'S NOT HOW I
FEEL AT ALL.
I'M SURE IT'S
NOT HOW YOU FEEL,
BUT THERE IS THIS PROBLEM,
THIS WORRYING PROBLEM,
THAT IT OPENS UP A NEW
FIELD FOR THIS KIND
OF CATEGORICAL VIOLENCE.
NOW, THIS IS MADE THE
GREATER, I THINK,
BECAUSE IT IS MORALIZED.
IN OTHER WORDS, JUST AS
IN A CERTAIN SENSE THE
MORALIZATION OF THE WHOLE
ISSUE AND THE RATIONAL
MORALIZATION OF THE WHOLE
ISSUE BY ROBESPIERRE
IN RELATION TO EARLIER
UPRISINGS IN CITIES,
MADE IT ALL THE MORE
MURDEROUS THAN IT WAS BEFORE.
THE CERTAIN RITUAL
KILLING OF THE GOVERNOR
AND LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
AND IT'S ALL OVER,
BUT NOW WE HAVE MASSIVE
HAULING OF PEOPLE
IN THE TUMBRELS TO THE PLACE -
NOW THE PLACE DE LA CONCORDE
IS NAMED THAT WAY IN ORDER
TO FUMIGATE IT FROM
THE TERRIBLE FUMES OF
HISTORY THAT ARISE
FROM THIS INTERESTING
PLACE IN PARIS.
SO IN THIS CASE HERETO,
THE FRAMEWORK UNDERSTANDING
OF MODERN NATIONS AND
NATIONALISM IS THE NOTION
THAT THERE
ARE MANY NATIONS,
EACH HAS THEIR LEGITIMACY,
THEY OUGHT RECOGNIZE EACH
OTHER AND THEY OUGHT TO
LIVE TOGETHER IN PEACE, AS
AGAINST THE BAD OLD DAYS
OF EMPIRES, RIGHT?
WHERE PEOPLE WERE
TRYING TO TAKE OVER
OTHER TERRITORY
AND RULE THEM.
WE OF THE GOOD NEW DAYS OF
FREE NATIONS CO-OPERATING.
THERE AGAIN, I'M
NOT MAKING FUN OF THIS.
THIS IS WHAT I MYSELF BELIEVE.
ON THE OTHER HAND, I BELIEVE
THAT ALSO THE INTENSE
MORALIZATION OF THIS, THE
FACT THAT THERE IS A PERFECT
MORAL SOLUTION RIGHT
THERE ON THE HORIZON,
NAMELY THAT WE ALL RESPECT
EACH OTHER'S IDENTITY AND
DON'T MAKE WAR, MEANS ALSO
THAT THE SENSE OF IDENTITY
THREAT FROM THIS MINORITY
IS TURNED INTO AN ACCUSATION
OF SOME KIND OF AGGRESSION.
THESE PEOPLE ARE DOING
THE TERRIBLE THING OF
THREATENING OUR IDENTITY.
AND THEN YOU GET THE WAY IN
WHICH - AND WE COULD TALK
ABOUT THIS LATER -
THE WAY IN WHICH WHAT IT
STARTS OFF BEING AN IDENTITY
THREAT IS PARLAYED INTO
A LIFE THREAT, AND
THERE WHAT HAPPENS,
WE SEE IT AGAIN AND AGAIN,
IN CERTAIN VERY SMALL
MINORITIES, CREATE SOME
ATROCITY HERE IN THIS VILLAGE,
RIGHT, AND THEN THE
STORY GOES OVER THERE
AND WHAT WAS FIRST OF ALL
SEEN AS AN IDENTITY THREAT
IS THEN RAPIDLY ESCALATES
WITH THE SENSE THAT
THEY ARE REALLY AFTER US
AND YOU GET SOMETHING LIKE
THE PUNJAB IN 1947.
BUT INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH,
THIS CAN SOMETIMES BE
STOPPED BECAUSE THE PUNJAB
IN THE LAST DECADE ATTEMPTS
TO DOING EXACTLY THIS,
BETWEEN THE SIKHS
AND THE HINDUS,
DIDN'T ACTUALLY IN THE
END, I THINK, WORK.
SO THERE ARE SOMETIMES THE
INTEGUMENT OF SOCIETY
CAN BE STRONG ENOUGH -
AND THESE ARE AREAS
WHERE THERE HAS BEEN
CO-EXISTENCE FOR A LONG TIME -
ACTUALLY TO
FIGHT THIS BACK.
BUT NEVERTHELESS, YOU CAN
SEE HOW THE MECHANISM GOES.
SO HERE WE HAVE TWO KINDS OF,
IN A CERTAIN SENSE, BROADER
SCALE AND SOMETIMES MORE
SAVAGE AND MORE RELENTLESS
AND MORE MERCILESS
VIOLENCE THAT ARISE OUT
OF FEATURES OF THE RATIONAL,
ENLIGHTENED WORLD.
AND YOU COULD SAY SOMETHING
OF THE FOLLOWING KIND,
THAT THE HIGHER AND THE MORE
TRULY AND TOTALLY GOOD
THE GOAL IS, THE
HIGHER THE STAKES.
SO PARADOXICALLY THE VERY
FACT THAT WE'RE WORKING FOR
A REPUBLIC WHICH IS SO
GOOD AND SO HUMANE
THAT IT WOULDN'T HAVE
A DEATH PENALTY,
SOMEHOW MAKES IT LOOK RIGHT
TO DEAL WITH UTMOST SEVERITY
WITH THOSE WHO STAND IN THE
WAY OF THIS GREAT ADVANCE.
THE VERY FACT THAT WE'RE
FIGHTING FOR A WORLD
IN WHICH ALL NATIONAL
IDENTITIES ON THEIR OWN
TERRITORY ARE SAFE AND
ACCEPT OTHERS IN COMITY
AND AMITY MAKES IT POSSIBLE
TO JUSTIFY THE UTMOST SEVERITY
WITH THESE PEOPLE WHO
WERE OFFERING A THREAT.
SO THERE'S AT ONE AND
THE SAME TIME THERE'S
A DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE GOALS
AND THE ACTUAL STRUGGLE ITSELF.
WE FEEL A TERRIBLE
DISCONNECT BETWEEN
NO DEATH PENALTY HERE AND
KILLING A LOT OF PEOPLE THERE,
BETWEEN PEACEFUL
CO-EXISTENCE HERE
AND THIS KIND OF ETHNIC
STRUGGLE THERE.
BUT ON SOME LEVEL
THEY CAN BE LINKED
IN A KIND OF
JUSTIFICATION.
WELL, THESE ARGUMENTS
RATIONALIZE THE KILLING.
BUT HERE WE GET TO
THE MOST DIFFICULT
AND QUESTIONABLE
PART OF MY THESIS.
IF YOU'RE SAYING, IT'S MORE
QUESTIONABLE THAN WHAT'S UP
TO NOW, YOU MUST BE
SAYING TO YOURSELF,
IT'S REALLY GOT TO
BE VERY HARD TO TAKE.
BUT MY SUPPOSITION IS THAT
THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE STORY.
THAT IS, THE RATIONALIZATION
OF THE KILLING
IS NOT THE WHOLE STORY.
THAT I WANT TO SAY HERE THAT
WE HAVE SOMETHING LIKE
A RECURRENCE OF WHAT
I'M CALLING THE BASIC
SCAPEGOAT OPERATION WITH
ITS ORIGINAL MOTIVATION;
NAMELY, THAT IT GIVES
US, THE AGENTS,
A SENSE OF GOODNESS,
VIRTUE, UNITY, POWER.
THAT PROJECTING ALL THE
THINGS THAT ARE POTENTIALLY
LEADING TO THE
DIS-AGGREGATION OF OUR
NATION OR OUR REPUBLIC
ONTO THESE ENEMIES,
AND THEN SHOWING OUR DEEP
COMMITMENT TO ALL THESE GOODS
BY FIGHTING AGAINST
THEM AS HARD AS WE CAN,
CREATES FOR US A SENSE OF
OUR GOODNESS AND -
THESE ARE UNLINKED.
THESE ARE NOT DISCONNECTED
FROM OUR OWN FUNDAMENTAL
GOODNESS AND OUR
POWER, RIGHT?
SO YOU HAVE HERE UNDERLYING
THE RATIONALIZATION
THIS OTHER MECHANISM WHICH
HAS, THANKS TO THIS
RATIONALIZATION, AS IT WERE

LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY,
IT'S A KIND OF VIRUS WHICH
EXISTED IN VARIOUS FORMS.
IT EXISTED IN CHRISTIAN
ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE
15TH CENTURY, SOMETHING
LIKE THAT, AND THIS VIRUS,
YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO
KILL THE VIRUS BY KILLING
THE HOST AND GETTING RID OF
THAT AND HAVING THIS PURITY,
RATIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF
HISTORY AND CIVILIZATION,
AND LO AND BEHOLD, THIS
VIRUS, I WOULD ARGUE,
RE-CREATES ITSELF.
THAT'S MAYBE TOO
DRAMATIC AN IMAGE
BUT IT TAKES OVER AGAIN;
OR IN OTHER WORDS,
IT COLONIZES THIS
NEW FORM.
SO THIS KIND OF KILLING
CROPS UP IN QUITE
DIFFERENT IDEOLOGICAL
FRAMEWORKS.
IT CROPS UP IN
RELIGIOUS FRAMEWORKS.
IT CROPS IN WHAT LOOKS ON
THE SURFACE LIKE
A RELIGIOUS
FRAMEWORK, RIGHT?
AND THAT'S WHY MY
FIRST POINT WAS,
IT'S JUST TOO
SIMPLE TO THINK IT'S
IN TERMS OF RELIGION.
BUT MAYBE, YOU COULD STILL
DEFEND THIS THESIS THAT
WE COULD SOMEHOW PUT THIS
BEHIND US BY MAKING
THE RIGHT METAPHYSICAL MOVE,
MAKING THE RIGHT MOVE
PHILOSOPHICALLY BY MOVING
OUT OF ONE TYPE OF FRAMEWORK
INTO ANOTHER, AND SOME
PEOPLE MIGHT THINK -
AND PEOPLE HAVE SAID
THIS TO ME WHEN
I'VE LAID OUT THE
ARGUMENT THIS FAR, OH,
YOU'RE JUST TALKING ABOUT
PEOPLE LIKE ROBESPIERRE
OR MAYBE STALIN AND SO
ON, AND THESE PEOPLE
HAD IDEOLOGIES WHICH
WERE LIKE RELIGION.
SO WHAT WE WANT IS AN
IDEOLOGY THAT IS NOT ONLY NOT
A RELIGIOUS IDEOLOGY BUT
ISN'T LIKE RELIGION.
WELL, WHAT DO YOU
MEAN BY "LIKE RELIGION"?
WELL, PLAINLY I CAN
SEE WHAT THEY MEAN,
A VERY STRONG SENSE
OF A VERY FAR REACHING
TRANSFORMATION WHICH HAS
TREMENDOUS GOODNESS AND
VALUE TO IT AND SO ON, AND
THAT'S CERTAINLY TRUE
THAT THAT'S PART OF WHAT
RATIONALIZES THE SENSE
THE STAKES ARE SO HIGH THAT
WE REALLY HAVE TO NOT FLINCH
BEFORE ATTACKING THESE
PEOPLE IF THEY'RE
STANDING IN THE ROAD.
SO YOU CAN SEE THAT PEOPLE
HAVE A CERTAIN INSIGHT HERE.
SO LET'S TRY SOMETHING
THAT ISN'T LIKE THIS.
LET'S IMAGINE, WHICH WE
HAVE LOTS OF IN OUR WORLD,
A KIND OF TOTALLY
OBJECTIFIED VIEW,
A DISENGAGED,
DISTANCING STANCE,
A SCIENTIFIC PICTURE OF HOW
HUMAN LIFE COULD BE IMPROVED
WHICH WOULD BEST BE CARRIED
OUT BY PEOPLE WITH TRAINING
AND UNDERSTANDING,
SORT OF TECHNOLOGICAL
GENIUSES WHO WERE SOMEHOW
STANDING OVER US
AND YOU SEE SOME OF
THIS IN HISTORY, TOO.
SOME OF THE SAME
PHENOMENA THAT IN SOME
OF THEIR ASPECTS LOOKED
LIKE RELIGIOUS WAR,
IN OTHER ASPECTS
LOOKED A LOT LIKE THIS.
THE BOLSHEVIK
PHENOMENON DOES.
IT'S VERY CLEAR THAT THEY
LOOKED ON THEIR ACTUAL
IDEOLOGICAL ENEMIES
AS KIND OF EVIL,
BUT IF YOU LOOK AT THE
DISCOURSE OF A LOT OF THESE
LEADERS IN THE SOVIET UNION,
THEY LOOKED ON THE MUSHKAS
AND THE PEASANTS AS LOWER BEINGS
THAT NEEDED TO BE EDUCATED.
THE WAY IN WHICH THIS
VERY ENLIGHTENED
INTERNATIONALIST
ELITE TALKED ABOUT
THE RUSSIAN PEASANTRY WAS MAYBE
SHOCKING TO THOSE
WHO STILL HAVE
ILLUSIONS ABOUT THEM.
STALIN FAMOUSLY SAID, WHO'S
GOING TO REMEMBER ALL
THIS RIFFRAFF IN TEN
OR TWENTY YEARS' TIME?
AND BUKHARIN SPOKE ABOUT THE
MANUFACTURING OF COMMUNIST MAN
OUT OF THE HUMAN MATERIAL
OF THE CAPITALIST AGE.
SO THERE'S A KIND OF
DISTANCING WHICH YOU CAN
PRODUCE FROM THE PEOPLE,
POPULATIONS YOU ARE WORKING ON,
WHICH IS NOT BASED
ON THE GOOD AND EVIL;
WE ARE GOOD AND
THEY'RE EVIL.
BUT IT'S BASED ON THE, IF
YOU LIKE, OBJECTIFICATION.
WE ARE AGENTS AND THEY ARE
SOME KIND OF STUFF THERE
THAT NEEDS TO BE WORKED ON.
NOW, THE POINT ABOUT THIS
DISTANCING IS THAT
IT HAS SOME OF THE
SAME CONSEQUENCES
AS THE GOOD-EVIL
POLARIZATION.
ONE OF THE OBVIOUSLY
COMMON CONSEQUENCES IS THAT
YOU NEVER THINK FOR A
MINUTE OF CO-AGENCY,
OF WORKING TOGETHER
WITH THOSE PEOPLE.
YOU'RE WORKING
EITHER TO DESTROY THEM
OR YOU'RE WORKING
TO RESHAPE THEM.
AND WE'VE SEEN
EFFECTS OF THIS.
THIS IS A MUCH LESS IMPORTANT,
LESS MURDEROUS EFFECT,
BUT I JUST MENTION THE
FAMOUS ABORIGINAL SCHOOLS
IN CANADA WITH THIS
GOOD IDEA IN MIND
THAT SUPPOSEDLY
SELF-UNDERSTOOD GOOD IDEA -
WE'VE GOT TO GIVE THEM THE
BENEFIT OF CIVILIZATION
AND WE'LL WORK
THEM OVER -
WHAT THAT EVENTUALLY
ADDS UP TO.
BUT I THINK MORE DEEPLY, YOU
COULD SAY THIS ABOUT THIS MORE
OBJECTIFYING STANCE AS
AGAINST THE GOOD-EVIL STANCE,
THE KIND OF DISTANCING
HERE DOES SOMETHING LIKE
THE SAME THING.
THAT IS, IT STOKES UP YOUR
OWN SENSE OF YOUR MORAL
AND OBVIOUSLY INTELLECTUAL
SUPERIORITY OR SUPERIORITY
AS AN AGENT BECAUSE YOU ARE
THE PEOPLE THAT ARE BRINGING
ON THIS GREAT DEVELOPMENT
AS AGAINST THIS INERT MASS
WHICH CAN'T
UNDERSTAND ITSELF.
IT PRODUCES SOMETHING LIKE
THE SAME SELF-BOOSTING EFFECT.
AND I THINK THAT
EVEN UNDERNEATH IT ALL,
THE ATTEMPT TO REPUDIATE,
SAY, WE'RE NOT AT ALL
DEALING WITH AN ISSUE
OF GOOD AND EVIL.
EVEN THAT ISN'T
QUITE RIGHT.
AS YOU FIND IN THE DISCOURSE
OF THESE PEOPLE WHEN
THERE'S SOME RESISTANCE
FROM THE MATERIAL,
THE TALK ABOUT
GOOD AND EVIL RECURS.
SO YOU HAVE HERE,
THERE ISN'T A WAY OUT.
IN OTHER WORDS, THIS KIND OF
IDEOLOGY CAN ALSO BE COLONIZED
BY THIS KIND OF
MURDEROUS, IF YOU LIKE,
SCAPEGOATING -
SCAPEGOAT OPERATION,
WHICH I THINK HAS THE
SAME DEEP MOTIVATIONS.
OKAY, HOW DO YOU GET OUT
OF THIS IF IT ISN'T
A MATTER OF LET'S
FIND AN IDEOLOGY?
LET'S FIND A DOCTRINE.
LET'S FIND A PICTURE OF THE
GOOD THAT WE CAN PURSUE
AND WE WERE KIND OF
GUARANTEED IN PURSUING THIS,
WE WON'T BE TAKEN
OVER BY THAT.
SO MY ARGUMENT IS,
THERE ISN'T ONE SUCH.
AND WHAT WE HAVE TO DO
IS A WHOLE LOT OF THINGS.
I HAVEN'T GOT TIME
AND THERE'S A WHOLE PROGRAM
TO DO WITH IN THE PRESENT
CONTEXT OF THE SO-CALLED
WAR ON TERROR, AND
SO ON, IS LOOK AT
SOME OF THE CAUSES OF THIS
AND THE WHOLE PROCESS
OF GLOBALIZATION NEEDS TO
BE LOOKED AT AGAIN, AND SO ON.
I TAKE THAT AS READ BECAUSE
I WANT TO SAY A FEW THINGS
BEFORE I RUN OVER TIME,
WHICH I THINK ARE ESSENTIAL
TO THIS PART OF
THE ARGUMENT.
WE ALSO NEED ANOTHER
KIND OF SHIFT.
A SHIFT IN OUR WHOLE WAY OF
OPERATING AND THINKING ABOUT
THINGS WHICH IS ORTHOGONAL
TO THE DIFFERENT DOCTRINES.
NOT A SHIFT FROM ONE
DOCTRINE TO ANOTHER,
BUT A SHIFT OF, AS IT WERE,
REGISTER AND WHATEVER
DOCTRINE WE HAVE,
OF THE HUMAN GOOD.
AND THIS SHIFT
HAS TWO SIDES.
ONE IS THE INSIGHT OF, IF YOU
LIKE, SHARED IMPERFECTION.
AGAIN, THIS IS, THIS WHOLE
POSITION OWES AN IMMENSE
AMOUNT TO DOSTOYEVSKY AS SOME OF
YOU HAVE ALREADY GUESSED.
BUT IN THE POSSESSED, ONE
OF THE KEY LINES, I THINK,
IN THE MOUTH OF SARATOV IS,
"WE ARE ALL TO BLAME."
AND OBVIOUSLY THE
IDEA THAT THE WORLD
ISN'T DIVIDED BETWEEN THE
GOOD AND EVIL TOTALLY.
WE ALL CREATED THIS
PREDICAMENT AND WE
ALL HAD A HAND IN IT.
ONE SIDE.
THE OTHER SIDE, OF COURSE,
IS THE OBVERSE OF THAT:
WE CAN ONLY GET OUT OF
THIS PREDICAMENT
IF WE WORK AT IT TOGETHER.
IN OTHER WORDS, IN ORDER
TO AVOID THE OTHERWISE
INELUCTABLE CONSEQUENCES
OF PAST WRONGDOING,
WHICH VERY OFTEN ARE
OTHERWISE INELUCTABLE,
BECAUSE THEY VERY OFTEN
TAKE THE FORM OF A KIND OF
POLARIZATION WHERE EACH SIDE
IS TRYING TO TREAT THE OTHER
IN THAT WAY, WHICH
SPIRALS DOWNWARD
LIKE A MORALIZED
VENDETTA.
THIS IS WHAT WE ARE SEEING
TODAY IN CERTAIN PARTS
OF THE WORLD, NOT THE OLD
SICILIAN STYLE
WHERE MAYBE YOU
COULD END IT.
I'LL PAY YOU A LOT OF MONEY,
AND DON'T KILL MY NEPHEW.
BUT WHERE IT'S A
MORALIZED VENDETTA,
WE HAVE TO GO AND KILL HIS -
WHATEVER IT IS - NEPHEW.
SO WE CAN ONLY GET
OUT OF THAT BY FINDING
A WAY OF ACTING TOGETHER.
THESE ARE TWO SIDES
OF THE SAME THING.
YOU RECOGNIZE WE
ALL DID IT.
THE PROPOSAL IS TO FIND
A WAY OF TOGETHER
GETTING OUT OF IT.
YOU CAN SEE WONDERFUL
CASES OF THIS,
REALLY INSPIRING CASES,
CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP
THAT DOES THIS.
I'M THINKING OF
NELSON MANDELA;
ONE OF THE GREAT FIGURES
OF THE 20TH CENTURY,
WHO, IN A SITUATION WHICH
COULD HAVE BEEN SPIRALED
DOWNWARD FOR AN ALMOST
ENDLESS VENDETTA,
LET IT RENOUNCE THE RIGHT
OF THE VICTIM TO EXTRACT
THE FULL WEIGHT OF PUNISHMENT.
AND WHAT WAS HE DOING THIS FOR?
HE WAS DOING THIS BECAUSE HE
SAW VERY CLEARLY THE SECOND HALF
OF THIS PROPOSITION ANYWAY,
IF WE DON'T WORK TOGETHER
TO BUILD A NEW KIND
OF SOUTH AFRICA,
IT WILL BE HELL FOR EVERYBODY.
SO WE HAVE TO GET BEYOND THIS.
AND THEN OTHER PEOPLE
LIKE, YOU KNOW,
IN POLAND, ADAMCZYK,
SOMETHING LIKE
THE SAME THING YOU
SEE RECURRING.
NOW, THIS SOUNDS IN A
WAY OBVIOUS, BUT IT ISN'T.
AND LET ME JUST FINISH
BY ONE OF THE WAYS
ON WHICH IT, ALAS,
ISN'T OBVIOUS.
I'M THINKING OF THE
REACTIONS TO 9/11,
PARTICULARLY THE REACTIONS
OF A MAJOR GOVERNMENT
OF A MAJOR REPUBLIC NOT
TERRIBLY FAR FROM HERE.
LET'S TAKE THIS EXAMPLE.
THE FIRST REACTION WAS,
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
BECAUSE PEOPLE
HATE FREEDOM.
BECAUSE THERE ARE
PEOPLE WHO ARE EVIL.
AND THEN THE THEN
CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER,
JEAN CHRETIEN, WHOSE ACTIONS
I DIDN'T ALWAYS ADMIRE,
HE MADE A TELEVISION
INTERVIEW IN WHICH
HE SAID, WELL, MAYBE
THERE'S SOME THINGS
WE'RE DOING WRONG THAT ARE
CREATING THE CONDITIONS
IN WHICH PEOPLE WANT TO
DO THIS KIND OF THING.
AND IT WAS PLAYED ON FOX
TELEVISION AND, YOU KNOW,
ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.
NOW, WHAT DID PEOPLE SAY?
RUDY GIULIANI SAID
THIS KIND OF THING TOO.
THEY SAID, BUT YOU'RE
JUSTIFYING THESE ACTS.
AND THIS IS A VERY
INTERESTING MOVE
BECAUSE THIS IS A
MOVE, OR WHAT'S
HAPPENING IN THIS MOVE IS
THAT NOTHING IS ON THE TABLE
EXCEPT THE GOOD
AND EVIL ACCOUNT.
WHO'S GOOD AND
WHO'S EVIL.
THAT'S THE ONLY
THING ON THE TABLE.
IF YOU PUT ANYTHING
ELSE ON THE TABLE,
YOU'RE UNDERCUTTING THAT SO
IT'S EQUIVALENT TO SAYING,
WE'RE GIVING A
MEDAL TO BIN LADEN.
NOW, WHY DO
PEOPLE DO THAT?
WELL, I'M TRYING TO
SAY THAT IT'S ANOTHER
EXAMPLE OF WHAT I'M
TALKING ABOUT,
THAT IT MAKES CERTAIN
SENSE OF, WE'RE RIGHT.
WE'RE GREAT, YOU KNOW?
WE ARE TOGETHER.
WE ARE POWERFUL.
WE ARE PERFECT.
PEOPLE NEED THAT.
SOME PEOPLE
NEED THAT.
SOME PARTICULAR IDEOLOGIES
MAYBE NEED THAT MORE THAN
OTHERS AT CERTAIN PERIODS;
BUT THAT, I THINK,
IS WHAT DRIVES PEOPLE TO
TAKE THIS POSITION
WHICH, AFTER ALL, IS
TOTALLY BLIND.
BECAUSE IF THEY DEFINE
IT AS A WAR ON TERROR,
THEY'RE GOING TO LOSE IT.
BECAUSE 9, 10TH OF IT
HAS GOT TO BE CHANGING
HEARTS AND MINDS IN
VARIOUS PARTS OF THE WORLD.
YOU CAN'T DO
THAT BY WAR.
YOU CAN'T DO THAT WITHOUT
WORKING WITH THOSE PEOPLE.
SO THINKING OF IT
AS A WAR ON TERROR
IS THE BIGGEST SHOOTING
OF YOURSELF IN THE FOOT
THAT YOU COULD
POSSIBLY IMAGINE.
AND SO, WHY DO PEOPLE
DO THINGS WHICH ARE
SO INCREDIBLY BLIND?
WELL, I THINK
THEY DO THEM -
I'M TRYING TO GET AT -
I'M TRYING TO GET AT
SOME OF THESE DEEPER
MECHANISMS AND OPERATIONS
WHICH RECUR AND
RECUR AND LEAD TO THIS.
I THINK YOU CAN SEE IT
OPERATING HERE BECAUSE
YOU CAN'T BREAK IN WITH
REALITY HERE BECAUSE
YOU'RE ACCUSED OF
JUSTIFYING.
IN OTHER WORDS, ONLY A
MORALISTIC FRAMEWORK IS ALLOWED.
SPEAK OF THIS.
A MORALISTIC FRAMEWORK
AND THEN OF COURSE
AN INSTRUMENTAL FRAMEWORK
OF HOW WE MILITARILY GET THEM.
IT'S THE ONLY WAY YOU’RE ALLOWED
TO SPEAK ABOUT THIS
AND IT'S THOUGHT TO BE
SOMEHOW MORALLY ABSOLUTELY
UNACCEPTABLE TO
THINK IN OTHER TERMS.
THIS ISN'T, OF COURSE,
A SANE MORAL JUDGMENT.
WHAT'S SPEAKING HERE?
WHAT'S SPEAKING IS THIS
SAME VOICE THAT DRIVES
THE SCAPEGOAT MECHANISM
THROUGHOUT HISTORY
AND THAT CAN
COLONIZE ANYTHING.
THEY STAND FOR FANTASTICALLY
GOOD VALUES THAT MOST
OF WHICH WE
STAND FOR, TOO.
SO THERE AGAIN, THAT'S
NOT GOING TO SAVE THEM.
WHAT'S GOING TO SAVE THEM IS
BEGINNING TO REALIZE THAT
THERE IS THIS DANGER
AWAITING ALL OF US AND
THAT IT CAN ACTUALLY BE
SUICIDAL NOT TO NOTICE IT.
SO WHAT I'M SAYING IS THAT
RELIGION AND VIOLENCE,
NO, IT'S NOT RELIGION,
BUT IT'S SOMETHING -
SOME DEEP SET OF
MECHANISMS AND OPERATIONS
THAT HAVE COLONIZED AT
VARIOUS TIMES ALL RELIGIONS,
BUT IT CAN COLONIZE
ANYTHING ELSE.
YOU NAME IT, YOU
CAN COLONIZE IT.
AND WE HAVE TO BE AWARE OF
THIS AND TO STEP OUTSIDE IT
TO MAKE THIS, WHAT I
CALL, ORTHOGONAL MOVE
OF RECOGNIZING
CO-RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT'S
GONE WRONG AND CO-ACTION
OF SOME KIND FOR WHAT
CAN SET IT RIGHT.
WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH
FOR YOUR VERY KIND ATTENTION.

(The audience cheers)

Charles concludes
IF YOU'RE STILL BREATHING,
IT'S A MIRACLE.

Watch: Charles Taylor on Religion and Violence