A Story about Albert Camus: In response to "Accomodationism just muddy [sic] the waters"

Note: I am writing a devil's advocate position in defense of positions that do not hold the party line.

During the 50s, Albert Camus, my favorite philosopher, lost many of his friends because of his silence on the Algerian war, his movement for 'civil truce' and his criticism of communism.

Camus felt that if he himself became outspoken like his former friends Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beavoir that tensions in Algeria might increase and thus further endanger the lives of innocent people, particularly his mother. This led to his silence on the Algerian Revolution. Some influential historians labelled him a hypocrite for
this position because:
1) Camus had claimed that "the nobility of [the writer's] calling will always be two commitments
will alays be rooted in two commitments difficult to observe: refusal to lie about what we know, and resistance to oppression." Camus proceeded thereafter to refuse to aid major anti-war, anti-torture activist campaigns, most notably the signing of many prominent intellectuals in support for Henri Alleg's book, La Question, on his own experiences as a torture victim, which became the first book censored by the French government centuries.
2) Camus had criticize the Hungarian revolution and the use of violent suppression by the Soviet Union during the same period of the Algerian Revolution, but he refused to address openly the use of collective punishment (whole villages being laughtered), Algerians being relocated to camps to starve, and the use of torture which had even reached the prisons in the Metropole.
Camus had argued for civil truce, which was a too-little-too-late measure during a time where most of the war had eliminated most of the moderates. He argued in this campaign for both sides to sign a treaty to leave the women and children out of the violent war. The civil truce campaign had been the last straw for Simone de Beavoir. She had enough with his liberalism and said of Camus "the humanist has given way to the pied noir." ( source: Horne, Alistair. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962. New York: New York Review of Books, 2006. p. 235)

More on topic of criticism of ideological nature that atheist may sometimes find themselves, Camus made this scathing critique of communists like Jean-Paul Sartre who defended the Soviets' use of suppression in Hungary:
“Therefore they [the Soviets] do not value any idea above human life, though they kill for the sake of ideas. To be precise, they live on the plane of ideas. To justify it, finally, by incarnating it to the point of death...We are again confronted with a concept of rebellion which, if not religious, is at least metaphysical. Other men too, consumed with the same devouring faith as these, will find their methods sentimental and refuse to admit that any one life is equivalent of any other. They will then put an abstract idea above human life, even if they call it history, to which they themselves have submitted in advance and to which they will decide, quite arbitrarily, to submit everyone else. The problem of rebellion will no longer be solved by arithmetic, but by estimating probabilities. Confronted with the possibility that the idea may be realized in the future, human life can be everything or nothing. The greater the faith that the estimator places in this final realization, the less the value of human life. At the ultimate limit, it is no longer worth anything at all.” (Source: Camus, Albert. The Rebel. New York: Knopf, 1954. p. 170)

Camus's prediction of Algerian Revolution growth into a total war which would would demoralize both the French and the Algerians came to pass. As his friend from the Kablyia of Algeria, Mouloud Feraoun, observed, it was not a new man as the communists argued but a new beast was born from the war.

So the point of this lengthy anecdote: if muddying the waters of humanism and ideological activism can bring light to the betrayal of humanism and activism, bring us more mud. While an accomadationist may have a personal stake in the matter, they may have something of value in some of their outsider opinions of ideological aspect of any movement. This is more than obvious in the desire to bring modernity into the Middle East. The very efforts to make the enemy into you makes them reject you. We provoke the on the Iraqi or Afghani by using violent means of control, and we then point to their hatred of us and their violence towards us as justifying our narrative about them and their religion. As Frantz Fanon said about the European desire to Unviel the Muslim women, it is about control and that the women the European forces to unveil has the aura of rape on her because the West has pillaged her our culture and personhood.

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Tags: Albert, Camus

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Comment by Eric Stockhausen on May 16, 2011 at 11:56pm
By party line, I am referring to the New Left, with whom Camus did wrote articles and resisted during the Nazi the Occupation of France. There was solidarity between the intellectuals. Everyone was expected to fight for the just cause.
Comment by George on May 16, 2011 at 2:44pm
I don't understand your use of the term "party line". What is the "party"?

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