Saturday, May 3, 2014

Selective Enlightenment

Elisabeth Badinter is a famous person.  A celebrity of sort.  I only heard of her recently when I stumbled upon an interview with her in the Financial Times in which she was described as a philosopher, a feminist and a billionaire.  The combination of those three together was intriguing as well as contradictory.  I thought to myself, a person with such power must have vested interests that could compromise its philosophical and feminist ideals (Just a thought and I could be wrong of course).

Badinter is a former philosophy teacher, a best selling author, and an intellectual.  She is also the largest shareholder (10%) in Publicis, the multi-billion euro advertising agency.

The interviewer probed Badinter on an array of issues such as women’s rights, gender equality, religion, and prostitution. No talk of French prostitution and feminism is complete without evoking the name of the French baron of sleaze, Dominique Strauss Kahn (DSK), who Badinter happens to be his wife’s friend.

The views of Badinter were refreshingly progressive and bold. She made the distinction between women’s rights and gender equality favoring the latter.  Simone de Beauvoir figured prominently in her thinking, and she seemed quite mesmerized by her.  On the topic of prostitution, Badinter sees it as a contract between two consenting adults, which the government has no business interfering in. In Badinter exact words she said, “If a woman wants to rent out her body, that’s nobody’s business”.  She is quite supportive and feels strongly about  gay marriages. 

All of this talk of freedoms took a sharp turn to the worst when it came to religion, especially Islam in France.  One could sense the tone of Badinter changing and she instantly turned into an all too familiar xenophobe that France has had an abundance of lately.  She vehemently opposed women wearing the veil at school and women in niqab in public places.  She equated wearing the veil with religious radicalism, and she proceeded to hail secularism as “Being part of France‘s DNA.” She went on to say “It [secularism] is the heritage [of France] of the [Age of] Enlightenment (17th century).”

Badinter’s extremism and intolerance towards Moslems was perplexing and disappointing.  How could such a “progressive”  person who believes that prostitution is a right, deny the same right to choose to another.  This selective approach only highlights the hypocrisy that is taking over a large part of the world’s “intelligentsia”.  In fact it goes beyond hypocrisy to the more serious epidemic of the globally prevailing moral bankruptcy.  The same way seculars want religious institutions to accept their right not to believe, they too must grant these freedoms to religious people with all the edicts that come with it.  Interestingly I highly doubt that Badinter would dare to make such accusations, or take such strong stands by campaigning against any exhibition of Jewishness, which is quite prevalent all over France.

Publicis is a huge conglomerate.  To have its biggest shareholder campaign so vociferously against the simplest manifestation of Islam should undermine its ability to do business with Moslem stakeholders. Until Moslems learn how to flex their economic muscle, they should not be surprised to see business conducted with bigots who see them as an easy target, and who openly and belligerently attack their religious and cultural beliefs that they so cherish and consider “part of their DNA.”

And by the way just as I expected, Badinter’s view of the “DSK affair” was quite sympathetic (powerful vested interests at play).  She said the way DSK was treated  after his infamous New York Sofitel affair “has left a scar”.  I would say not one but many scars…the kind that usually comes with serial rapists.

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