Simply earthlings

Migrants and Militants
Forfatter: Alain Badiou
Forlag: Polity Books (USA)
MIGRANTS / How hospitable can one be expected to be? Those who do not belong anywhere become poets, because they have to invent a new form of world citizenship, writes Alain Badiou.


In the provocative new Netflix series Messiah (see mention), which has already led to protests in Jordan, and which has caused evangelical Christians in the United States to cancel their subscription, is one scene that is particularly poignant: The young activist and prophet al-Masih ends up in court in the United States, accused for illegal immigration. He himself has attracted the attention of the authorities as a public speaker in Damascus. He has led Syrian refugees to a closed Israeli border, where they are slowly starving to death while waiting in vain for the border guards' grace. He himself suddenly appears in the United States. In the US courtroom, the new "prophet" rises – to the defense attorney's despair – and speaks his own case: "We do not choose where we were born. You were born here, I was born there, "he says, and asks rhetorically:" What sets us apart? What is a limit? An idea invented by the lucky ones. ” The speech breaks the boundaries of the current law and strikes the assembly as a lightning bolt. This is how it brings unexpected poetry into politics: an opportunity to think completely differently, to realize that political institutions are created by ourselves and only exist as long as we believe in them.

Poetry and poetry are written here by migrants who shed light on what it means,
both political and human, being banned, unwanted and homeless.

French philosopher Alain Badiou recently clarified his approach to politics in the dialogue In Praise of Politics (2019): Just beyond the cynical power struggle we all know, politics is also a collective thought process – the opening of a space where we can jointly think of possibilities other than the world we know. When something seems deeply unjust – like when people are drowning and starving along the borders -
we are shaken and made into witnesses of truth. The truths that we do not accept within the current system, compel us to question the basic assumptions of society. Whoever does not fit in becomes a poet who has to invent something new and different, or even a prophet who says it everyone knows, but who no one dares to say out loud
- a Messiah in the courtroom or a political heretic. For example, this is how anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65) became when he declared that "property is theft".

Involuntary citizen of the world

In the short book Migrants and Militants Badiou uses poetry and poetry written by migrants to shed light on what it means, both political and human, to be banned, unwanted and homeless. A theme of these poems is the contrast between how they are seen by others and how they see themselves.

A young newly arrived person from Guinea criticizes the word "migrant" – as yet another political fiction. Why is he not simply described as guinea? "It's animals that migrate," he says – not humans. Badiou further points out that those who arrived just a little while ago were called refugeeis or immigrantis. Before that, when useful to the state, they were called "foreign workers" – or simply "workers".

True to his Marxist and communist background, Badiou thus describes the "migrants" as proletarianis – people without property, who consequently have nothing to sell but their own labor. The crucial feature of Badious's argument is that the proletariat – in both communism and the logic of Marxism – is an international community. The real estate belongs everywhere and nowhere, and is primarily united by a common perspective. They are geographically, historically and politically "unlucky", born outside the privileged zones and positions, referred to alternately being banned and exchanged.


From a cynical power-and-competition perspective, we all know that the world is not fair, that someone is born under lucky circumstances. Fairnessone whose principle does not mean denying this fact, but recognizing it and compensating for it. In the game of destiny, the unlucky one risks ending up without a country to live in or off. Hospitality's generous gesture is also an acceptance of – and a remedy for – the blind injustice of destiny. What strikes you might as well have hit me.

Badiou issues hospitality via Jacques Derrida, who pointed out that the "law" of hospitality may be universal, but that the general law must nevertheless be made specific and applied in specific cases. How hospitable can you expect to be? Can the host make demands on their guests? When does the guest stop being a guest, instead of becoming a citizen, part of the host's community?


The unspoken condition is always that the newcomers must be as invisible as possible, that they quietly take on the jobs that may be left over, and otherwise remain silent.

Contrary to this cowardly attitude, Badiou sees a revolutionary potential in the "migrant". The landless proletarians are without land, and thus – in a way that is both poetic, existential and political – simply becomes Earthlings. They are unprotected people in their nakedest form and not served by the lucky winners' legal concepts or identity markers. No current description of them gives them a good position – perhaps with the exception of the internationalist or revolutionary.

A land that belongs to everyone?

Badiou also refers to the poet Laurent Gaudé, who inspiredly writes: "Shame on anyone who just sees rags / looks at them / they carry the light with them [...] the dream of Europe / that we have forgotten."

An international community without a community, a destructive state of competition where nations,
oligarchs and corporations are constantly seeking new people and areas to profit.

It is more than compassion: The political truth they demonstrate in their poverty concerns "the capitalist universe that organizes the destiny of humanity," Badiou says. He praises politikkone also as an arena where the truth is revealed. Is this something mysterious, something idealistic? In the book In Praise of Politics he simply replies that it is about "the truth that humans have the ability to take control of their own destiny and organize themselves".

Perhaps it is reluctant to blame all "migration" on capitalism, especially at a time when climate shifts are becoming more common – unless capitalismn also gets all the blame for climate change and all armed conflicts.

It is nevertheless clear that humanity's current political organization is making more and more of the earth uninhabitable. With a long quote from Marx's Communist Manifesto, Badiou makes it clear that since its inception in Europe in the 1500th century, capitalism has created a global and international mindset in negative form: an internationalism without community, a destructive state of competition in which nations, oligarchs and corporations constantly Seeking new people and areas to benefit. Migration is also happening inland in modernizing countries, such as China today, where more and more people are feeling rootlesse. If rootlessness carries something good, it is the poetic imperative to see oneself as a citizen of the earth in a world where every country is a fatherland. We know the idea of ​​a boundless world most like poetry and confident dreams. Politically, it remains a prophetic and strange provocation.

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