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Murder is the problem today
on 8 March 2011
This is a review of the Vintage Edition.
Building on his former essay `The Myth of Sisiphus', where the view of an absurd world culminated in suicide, Albert Camus analyzes here rebellion against the absurd, the affirmation of life: `I rebel, therefore we exist'.
He examines critically metaphysical and historical rebellion for freedom and man's dignity. Moreover, he asks the all important question: why are rebellions mostly ending in (and justifying) murder, under the flag of freedom or reason (logical crimes) with philosophy as an alibi? For A. Camus, the will to power takes the place of the will to justice.
The metaphysical rebel protests against his condition in the world, against the whole of the creation, its injustice and its evil, and also against death.
The father of all rebels is Prometheus (`see the injustice I have to endure').
The Marquis de Sade proclaims unbridled personal freedom, absolute negation and universal destruction. Stirner proclaims universal affirmation of the self, while Nietzsche proclaims active nihilism: every man has to make his own laws.
The surrealists also proclaim absolute personal freedom with `gratuitous acts' as satisfactions of one's instincts and one's unconscious.
All those metaphysical rebels want to control totally their own world and construct for them a pure terrestrial kingdom.
The history of man is the sum of his successive rebellions. Freedom and man's dignity are the motivating principles of all revolutions. But, when justice demands the suppression of freedom, terror consummates the revolution. Justice adopts violence and murder and the revolutionaries assume the responsibility of total guilt.
J.J. Rousseau formulated the concepts of the Republican State with law and order based on the general consent.
Saint-Just wanted the Republic to be totally cleansed of all alien elements.
Hegel's dialectic of master and slave (the conqueror is always right) culminates into the absolute State, `the reflection of the Spirit of the world in the mutual recognition of each by all.'
But, in the absolute State, the will to power replaced the will to justice.
Fascism dreamed of liberating a minority by subjugating the rest.
Building on Marx' prophesy of the abolition of the State, Lenin's professional revolutionaries organized Russian Communism aiming at liberating all men, but, by provisionally enslaving them all.
Overall, man's dignity and living standard (freedom) have only been served, not by doctrine, dogmas or abstract concepts, but by concrete revolutionary trade-unionism. Only by organizing the labor force and by strikes have the working conditions been mightily improved from a 16 hour work day to a forty hour work week.
Albert Camus expressed impressively his personal views on the history and the deadly dangerous human rebellious condition, which are still highly relevant today.
Not to be missed.