On Bastille Day, 2019
There is more than one way to cage a child.
It is tempting sometimes to say that the society we live in today can be straightforwardly deduced from the self-development of the logic of its institutions. That the horrid conditions we witness today are prefigured in the exclusions devised for a legal order somehow conceived in the certainty of quasi-mathematical determinants to create an inescapably “path-dependent” structure that is too challenging in its consequences, and therefore too daunting to overturn.
We have to resist the conclusion at the end of that temptation, heart and soul.
I learn – am still struggling to learn – from Hegel, that an ethical principle (like the necessity to protect, nurture, care for and love a child) is ethical inasmuch as it is intrinsically universal. What is truly universal is the community of all, by which we can recognize that imposition on the vulnerable and exploitation by means of superior strength does not constitute a universal for us. The difference is clear; the latest era of imperial conquest imposed the triumph of a world system, the victory of a “center” over the rest. This is no universal.
What we owe the world instead is to join it in supplanting erroneously-construed universals with the supremacy of inclusivity and the end of exploitation.
This means we have to oppose the institutions that hold us and our fellow creatures in contempt for the sake of wringing a profit or protecting a privilege. Our enemies are those that destroy our families and environments, and those of others. In this inclusive universality, there is no “Other“.
It is not love and feeling that grows in the family alone that obligates us. (A family is in many ways the negation of – the opposite of – the universal community.) Help in time of need, sometimes thought of as “rescue”, is a contingent kind of action; what is universally ethical, by contrast, is what is thought and done in ordinary, hum drum, daily reality.
Those who claim they want the blood relationship, or the “legally sanctioned” relationship to be the basis of concern fail an historic task that has fallen to us. What concerns the family doesn’t of necessity concern “the citizen.” Likewise the children at our border, and those neglected within, and those removed from our protection, are all our concern.
Hegel said: “…the individual, so far as he is not a citizen but belongs to the Family, is only an unreal impotent shadow.”
The real demand we make must be universal: care, safety, rights. The needs of body and soul, for everyone, excluding no one.
Let them all in. Bring them all home.
Close the camps. Cherish the living.