Over the last few readings of Simone de Beauvoir, I have noticed an interesting topic reoccur on the idea of our existence with each other in the way of interaction and power. This is where the keyword “ethics” gets involved in her Ethics of Ambiguity. What I started asking myself is where do her ethics apply today, if at all. We are in a time where social injustice is being recognized and powerful authorities trying to both progress and hinder liberty itself. This seems like the greatest time if any to begin applying her ideas to the present world around us.
Our country is built on the ideas of the individual, the value of the individual, and individual liberties. This is one of the reasons why our Constitution has lasted so long, our democratic system has been a model system to many nations around the world. But is it still working at the same strength it once had? Simultaneously we are heard and ignored, sometimes as if we are screaming into an abyss. Democratic societies understand the value of the individual, a reason to value life enough to continue living it. We may have ceremonies like marriage and graduations, things to let us feel like a uniquely valuable individual, but is the democratic society meeting its expectation to count us as one? We vote and protest, but we are in a time where either of these prime examples is decreasing affect immensely.
Unfortunately, we are also a nation built on the back of the oppressed, slowly we progress toward freedom but what does it say to those who want to go back? People wish to go back to a time when life was easier, and America was better. They want to make it “great” again as if it did not cost us to be oppressors. If we have a leader who is willing to continue oppression and hinder the liberty of so many, and to silent and hush their voice what is it we are to do? Simone de Beauvoir would say:
“We are obliged to destroy not only the oppressor but also those who serve him, whether they do so out of ignorance or out of constraint.”
It seems simple, but it is very difficult when the leader of oppression can be seen in a political office. This leader may believe he is better than everyone else, his ideas are the best, and does not listen to the voice of the people because he is on a higher transcendence. They would use people as a utility for the sake of his ideologies. This person, Simone de Beauvoir would describe as a tyrant.
“The tyrant asserts himself as a transcendence; he considers others as pure immanences: he thus arrogates to himself the right to treat them like cattle.”
We can recognize these effects of tyranny with ongoing situations in our democracy. We have people seeking safety at our borders but rather than provide a protection we label them as “caravans” and send the military to lock down our borders. We have the possibility of transgender and non-binary pronouns being stripped away leaving many in uncomfortable and humiliating situations to no longer identify themselves. We have movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too coming out loud and strong, and yet we see little feedback or results in our “democracy.” Where do we go from here, where a democracy, which is to value the individual, begins to silence and oppress them once more?