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Rune Engelbreth Larsen
People versus Man

The people do not exist.

Who has ever seen, heard or spoken to the people?

Have the people ever expressed an opinion, formed a thought or nurtured a hope? Have the people ever plucked a flower or hugged a child? Have the people ever shed blood, laughed or warmed to the beat of a heart? Have the people ever feared or loved anything or anybody?

The people do not exist - Man exists.

The people is a purely abstract concept, whereas the individual is concrete and existent. And whilst in the past the people, as more than simply an abstract concept, have had significance in historical moments that have united individuals and generations in a common spirit - or for entire epochs where cultures have evolved and flowered - these moments now belong to the distant past or possibly the impending future. Not in the current cultural interregnum.

Those Danes, who at one time constituted a separate and distinct people are in decline, commingling with new blood as all life must if it is to endure. And if the Danes of tomorrow develop any binding sense of fellowship, neither it nor they themselves will be anything like the foregoing - this is already as evident today as it is inevitable if one considers the increasing cultural and religious diversity of the population.

Not until "the people" becomes an expression of man's heterogeneity, will "the people" have any meaning. Not until the individual is placed above the people will it be at all meaningful to once more speak of the Danish people as anything other than an anachronistic concept, for then it will be a people composed of individuals, a solidarity of diversity, a culture of cultures - not a dictate with an abstract ideological or theological agenda imposed upon, though not actually shared by, a diverse populace.

But "the people" was, is and will always be an abstract concept, at times more meaningful than others - in today's Denmark completely without meaning.

To take into consideration the opinion of the people or the tendencies of opinion polls whilst making political decisions is at best a pious deception.

The people are not part of the decision-making process. Those who claim that "the people have decided" or that "the people have expressed" anything whatsoever, are making use of rhetorical manipulation, as the people can neither decide nor express anything in unity, not to mention decide or express anything at all.

Nevertheless, "the people" are indiscriminately exploited. Populism and opportunism - the nemeses of every conscientious decision-making process - are politically correct in today's terminology.

To appeal to the people is to appeal over the head of the individual.

And the more we identify ourselves with the people the less we identify ourselves with the individual; the more currently popular, the more latently inhuman, because the people as a modern concept in no way symbolises diversity and therefore cannot represent humanity.

And perhaps for this reason, there is no other concept in modern times as dangerous or as abused as "the people". It was abused by communism to justify the systematic extermination of dissidents. It was abused by the Nazis to justify the systematic extermination of dissidents. The social democrats and the nationalists abuse it to justify the systematic marginalisation and criminalisation of dissidents.

The people is used as a reference point by the social democrats to justify their opposition to and denial of the de facto multicultural reality, by the nationalists in their attempts to criminalize Islam and by so-called ordinary Danes, who by the use of systematic harassment demand the removal of "undesirable elements" from their community, whether these undesirable elements happen to be Hindus, junkies or Nazis.

Orientation, conviction, ancestry and appearance are increasingly becoming the target of smear campaigns, loathing and subjugation, all in the hallowed name of the people. That a person's appearance could never inflict even the slightest hurt upon another person, or that a person's thoughts and words could never prevent another person from thinking or speaking, makes no difference to the people, because the people have never formed a thought, uttered a word or worn a scarf.

The people do not exist.

Yet those who identify themselves with the people nominate themselves as the "people's mouthpiece", safe and secure on the side of the majority and the people, without need of scruples, but can discard their humanity as long as their inhumanity is directed towards the non-people, that ten percent who believe wrongly, that percent who dress wrongly or that fraction of a percent who say the wrong things.

Conversely, humanism must be Man's mouthpiece.

When democracy becomes demagoguery, and the people, egged on by the mass media and with the establishment's blessing suppress the individual, then the humanist must, as the individual's fellow-conspirator, oppose the people and ally himself with the pariahs and misbelievers. Not only is it the humanist thing to do, it is also necessary.

Only in this way can we ever hope to liberate ourselves from orthodoxy and ossification. And it is the clear possibility of this, which more than anything else keeps scepticism and doubt intact in the face of all power and all truth - as well as that realisation and acknowledgment, which unassailably unites humanism and relativism.

In the interest of the individual, we must defy convention, defy the majority, defy the truth and defy the people, until we concern ourselves with individuals, until individuals concern themselves with individuals, until the people yield to the individual.

The people are not a people without the individual, but the individual is always a human being, even without the people.

Published in Faklen (The Torch), 2000
Translated by Anthony Kiely