The Economic Crisis and the Coming Racism

45benjengDaniele Castellani Perelli has a brief interview with Tahar Ben Jelloun in Reset DOC:

“We are all foreigners, and not only when we travel beyond national borders. Even a Sicilian in Milan is a foreigner. There is no such thing as an absolute foreigner” said Ben Jelloun, who has lived in Paris since 1971 and also writes for Le Monde and La Repubblica. “The concept of ‘being a foreigner’ moves with us”. In a recent interview, the author of Partir praised diversity (“There are over six billion of us in the world, and no two people are identical. This diversity is humankind’s wealth, it would be dreadful if we were all the same”), but with great intellectual honesty he also emphasised how hard it is not to be racists. “One cannot love everyone, but one can respect everyone without considering wealth or physical features”, he said, acknowledging how hard we all try at times not to generalise, “not to surrender to our lowest instincts”, and “not be racists”.

He admitted in fact that “morals and culture are not enough to avoid being racists; willpower is necessary too”. Cooperation from immigrants is however needed to avoid racism. “What would I say to my compatriots from Morocco who come to live in France? Respect the law, always remain within legality. When one is invited to someone’s home, one does not start by breaking all the plates. Pedagogic work is also needed to achieve integration. One must talk to immigrants and not just insult them.” On this subject, Ben Jelloun criticised the Berlusconi government’s immigration policies, and addressed words that were not at all evident but rather awkward ones on human rights issues.