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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The philosophy of solidarity

Here is a story that gives one hope. According to a story in the French daily Le Monde, three philosophy professors on the way to a conference in Kinshasa in the "Democratic" Republic of the Congo were arrested for asking immigration police why a man being deported from France was handcuffed in his airplane seat. The original events took place on December 16, when the philosophers boarded an Air France flight and encountered the handcuffed deportee surrounded by five police officers.

One of the philosophers, Pierre Lauret, was thrown off the plane immediately, although not before being himself handcuffed "violently" by the police. Other passengers protested his treatment and that of the deportee, and a second passenger (not one of of the philosophers) was also ejected from the plane.

The other two profs, who had, together with Lauret, asked the police why the deportee needed to be handcuffed (a reasonable question, with five officers to keep him from--what, jumping out of the plane?) were allowed to continue on to Kinshasa, but were themselves arrested on December 22 when they returned to France.

According to Le Monde, a number of passengers had protested the treatment of deportees on previous flights, and immigration authorities are apparently getting pretty touchy about it. But it does my heart good to learn that some philosophers, rather than bury their heads in books about the meaning of life and how to live a good one, are acting out for justice in the real world.

And the subject of the conference the profs were attending? A meeting on international borders and the treatment of foreigners. Said Pierre Lauret, "that placed us in a delicate moral situation." Indeed.

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