Édouard Louis: Individual Responsibility Is Only for the Poor

EL

Because there are people who make decisions, who are responsible for this. It was strange for me to talk about Chirac, Sarkozy, and Macron in a literary work. But if that’s strange, it’s because we’re not used to it. Probably also because many writers come from the ruling classes and have never had this experience of politics, as an intimate experience, as an experience of life or death. They tell of lives without politics because they have lives without politics, whereas my father’s life was a political life.

Above all, there’s this constant denying of the responsibility of those who make decisions. When a worker dies, we chalk it up as a workplace accident, and that’s that. But no — it’s not that. There are human responsibilities. It’s strange, because when I published my first books, in which I spoke a lot about homophobia and racism in my childhood environment, many journalists — bourgeois journalists — told me, “When you call someone a fag or a sand nigger, you are responsible. There’s no excusing the individual.” And when I published Who Killed My Father, where I recounted the decisions of Macron or Sarkozy that impacted my father, that crushed my father’s back, people said to me, “Oh no, but wait, it’s a whole system, it’s not them who really decide . . .” We live in a society in which there is a regime of sociological excuses only for the dominant. Macron can change my father’s life but my father cannot change Macron’s life. There is someone who has power over the other — and those who have the most power bear the least responsibility. At first, I had always thought that the dominant were against sociological excuses; they are always for responsibility, for the individual. In fact, they only want to make the dominated individually responsible.

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