Identity is like love: the more we theorize about it, the less we know what
it is. And, generally, we discuss about it especially when we do not know
how to live it any more.
Once more, the saying is true: the government is sending a reminder about a
subject discussed in France only during the worst moments of our history;
Because talking about identity, is not, in general, to say who we are, but
to make a list of what we are not, and that we refuse to become, it is
discussing the best way to exclude; it is asking for identity cards, and hunt
those who do not have one. Furthermore, wanting to make a national debate
out of it just before local elections, means pushing the left-wing to refuse
it, on behalf of a touchy morality which can only do harm with the voters.
Yet, the left-wing would make a serious mistake by giving the impression
that they are not interested in France, as they get busy defending universal
rights. They must therefore, even if the time is very poorly chosen, accept
this debate; and explain very simply how the French identity is set and may
be especially, what it can become.
Six elements characterize the identity of a people, no matter what people it
is: a territory, a language, a culture, values, their history, a common
destiny. None of these elements are stable. All evolve over time. France was
Christian, it is secular. France was Monarchist; it is Republican. And
today, all these dimensions are questioned by the world changes: the
disappearance of borders, in particular in Europe, questioning the idea of
“territoires identitaires”; the increasing nomadism of the French people
as well as the foreigners; the increasing presence, on the national
territory, of other languages, other cultures, other ways of living; the
universalization of individual freedom and human rights values that actually
weakens the national identity; and, finally, in the ambient individualism,
the uncertainty as to the existence of a common destiny.
From all of this, in the end, the only thing that will durably define the
identity of a nation, is its language and culture, its worldview. The French
language leads to think, to write, to live, in a clear, simple, direct,
precise, logical, binary way. It finds its source in the harmony of the
landscapes and leads to a symmetry of words, to a balance of concepts, which
we already find in the texts of the inventors of this language, from Rachi
of Troyes to Blaise Pascal, from Chrétien de Troyes to Montaigne, from
Marcel Proust to Léopold Senghor.
A language that therefore must be well spoken and serve as a vehicle of
thought for all those who live in France or claimed to be. A language which
alone defines the french identity; to defend, to open it to the world, so
that the world feeds on it: Do we know what is the only language in the
world in which the speakers can triple in 40 years, thanks to the
demographic evolution of Africa? And which if we are not careful, may
disappear during the same period.
A language which may also, better than any other fight extremists,
fundamentalists; even when they express themselves in French, in the purest