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66

Bichon Among the Blacks

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Barthes, R. (2012). Bichon Among the Blacks. In Barthes, R. Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation. , pp. 66-69

66

First of all, nothing is more irritating than heroism without an object. It is a serious matter for a society to start developing the forms of its virtues gratuitously. If the dangers incurred by young Bichon (floods, wild animals, diseases, etc.) were real, it was simply stupid to impose them, on the sole pretext of going to Africa to paint and to acquire the dubious distinction of spreading on canvas "a debauch of sun and light"; it would be even more reprehensible to pass off such stupidity as a fine piece of audacity, so decorative and so touching. One sees how courage functions here: it is a formal and hollow act (the more unmotivated it is, the more respect it inspires); we are at the heart of Boy Scout civilization, where the code of sentiments and values is completely detached from concrete problems of solidarity or progress. It is the old myth of "character," in other words, "training.” Bichon's exploits are of the same sort as spectacular feats of mountain climbing: demonstrations of an ethical order, which receive their ultimate value from the publicity they are given. In our culture, there frequently corresponds to the socialized forms of collective sport a superlative form of star sport: here physical effort does not institute man's apprenticeship to his group, but instead an ethic of vanity, an exoticism of endurance, a minor mystique of risk, monstrously severed from any concern with sociability.

—p.66 by Roland Barthes 1 year, 4 months ago

First of all, nothing is more irritating than heroism without an object. It is a serious matter for a society to start developing the forms of its virtues gratuitously. If the dangers incurred by young Bichon (floods, wild animals, diseases, etc.) were real, it was simply stupid to impose them, on the sole pretext of going to Africa to paint and to acquire the dubious distinction of spreading on canvas "a debauch of sun and light"; it would be even more reprehensible to pass off such stupidity as a fine piece of audacity, so decorative and so touching. One sees how courage functions here: it is a formal and hollow act (the more unmotivated it is, the more respect it inspires); we are at the heart of Boy Scout civilization, where the code of sentiments and values is completely detached from concrete problems of solidarity or progress. It is the old myth of "character," in other words, "training.” Bichon's exploits are of the same sort as spectacular feats of mountain climbing: demonstrations of an ethical order, which receive their ultimate value from the publicity they are given. In our culture, there frequently corresponds to the socialized forms of collective sport a superlative form of star sport: here physical effort does not institute man's apprenticeship to his group, but instead an ethic of vanity, an exoticism of endurance, a minor mystique of risk, monstrously severed from any concern with sociability.

—p.66 by Roland Barthes 1 year, 4 months ago

(noun) adherence to the highest principles and ideals; uprightness

68

the intellectual probity of men like Mauss

—p.68 default author
confirm
1 year, 5 months ago

the intellectual probity of men like Mauss

—p.68 default author
confirm
1 year, 5 months ago
69

We still live in a pre-Voltairean mentality; that is what must be constantly repeated. For since the time of Montesquieu or of Voltaire, if we were astonished by the Persians or the Hurons, at least it was to grant them the benefits of ingenuity. Today, Voltaire would not write the adventures of Bichon the way Match has done: instead he would imagine some cannibal (or Korean) Bichon contending with the napalmed puppet show of the West.

—p.69 by Roland Barthes 1 year, 4 months ago

We still live in a pre-Voltairean mentality; that is what must be constantly repeated. For since the time of Montesquieu or of Voltaire, if we were astonished by the Persians or the Hurons, at least it was to grant them the benefits of ingenuity. Today, Voltaire would not write the adventures of Bichon the way Match has done: instead he would imagine some cannibal (or Korean) Bichon contending with the napalmed puppet show of the West.

—p.69 by Roland Barthes 1 year, 4 months ago