“True freedom is not a freedom of choice made from a safe distance, like choosing between a strawberry cake or a chocolate cake; true freedom overlaps with necessity. One makes a truly free choice when one’s choice puts at stake one’s very existence—one does it because one simply ‘cannot do otherwise.’ When one’s country is under a foreign occupation and one is called by a resistance leader to join the fight against the occupiers, the reason given is not ‘you are free to choose,’ but: ‘Can’t you see that this is the only thing you can do if you want to retain your dignity?’
“[Martin] Luther saw clearly how the (Catholic) idea that our redemption depends on our acts introduces a dimension of bargaining into ethics: good deeds are not done out of duty but in order to gain salvation. If, however, my salvation is predestined, this means that my fate is already decided and my doing good deeds does not serve anything—so if I do them, it is out of pure duty, a really altruistic act . . . .
“What Protestantism prohibits is the very thought that a believer can, as it were, take a position outside/above itself and look upon itself as a small particle in the vast reality.”
“What this also implies is that the access to ‘reality in itself’ does not demand from us that we overcome our ‘partiality’ and arrive at a neutral vision elevated above our particular struggles—we are ‘universal beings’ only in our full partial engagements. *** [W]e should assert the radically exclusive love for the singular One, a love which throws out of joint the smooth flow of our lives.
“the true ethical universality never resides in the quasi-neutral distance that tries to do justice to all concerned factions. So, if, against fundamentalisms which ground ethical commitment in one’s particular ethnic or religious identity, excluding others, one should insist on ethical universalism, one should also unconditionally insist on how every authentic ethical position by definition paradoxically combines universalism with taking sides in the ongoing struggle. Today, more than ever, one should emphasize that a true ethical position combines the assertion of Universalism with a militant, divisive position of one engaged in a struggle: true universalists are not those who preach global tolerance of differences and all-encompassing unity, but those who engage in a passionate fight for the assertion of the Truth that engages them.”
See also Less Than Nothing (“every ethical and/or moral edifice has to
be grounded in an abyssal act which is, in the most radical sense imaginable, political, . . . [as] the very space in which, without any external guarantee, ethical decisions are made and negotiated”) and “Ágota Kristóf’s The Notebook Awoke in Me a Cold and Cruel Passion” and The Fragile Absolute and Critique of Cynical Reason