Subjectivity, and Representation of the Obscure Victim

A last-minute reminder for New England friends: the Mass. March for Life is this Sunday—and, unlike the last two years, it won't be raining!!! Please try to get friends and neighbors to come, and please pray for the Spirit to shine luminously through this public witness.

The Irish among us will appreciate my recalling the sterling Daniel O'Connell, who understood that an essential moment in politics is free public speech and free assembly. It is but one moment, but it is an essential one, and becoming more salient in an age of unremitting retrenchment into private worlds.

When we come together in public space for the sake of the powerless, the innocent whose right to life has been denied, we are standing in their place, we are being their representatives, and that's the beginning of (little-r) republicanism. Political representation begins with witness for the powerless others.

Representing the others coincides with the beginning of our own freedom as moral agents.

The Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas brought out this truth, arguing that our subjectivity derives from our “subjection to the Other.”

That is, subjectivity and representation are inseparable; they arise together. Our personalities can only flourish within the republican responsibility to care for the others.

“Constituting itself in the very movement wherein being responsible for the other devolves on it, subjectivity goes to the point of substitution for the Other.” Substitution is the radical form of representation.

Christic solidarity is the deep basis for both human freedom and republican coexistence.

There's a lot at stake when we stand for the victims.