Voltaire needed in the ME


Giving a break to everyday politics, I want to share my favourite quotes of my favourite philosopher, writer, a true French Enlightenment figure: Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) – 1694-1778

Voltaire was first introduced to me when I was 12 years old, in my first year at Saint-Joseph High school. But, a genuine confession, it took me ten years to understand what he really meant in his writings. I remember my father talking about “Candide” as he was himself and suggesting me to read him the first year I began to learn French. Well, sure it was not the first French book to read while I was too busy with Gaston Lagaffe, Lucky Luke and Asterix.

By then, “Candide” was also an imaginary French cartoon character for me, with a bit of similarities that of Gaston Lagaffe. Voltaire’s exaggeration and irony were apparently best reflected in his “Candide” the ultimate optimism ever granted to anyone was united with all of its forms in Candide’s body and soul. What a heroic sarcasm and an erratic personality… I believe we need such personalities in today’s world; a bit of sarcasm of reality would not hurt anyone.

“We must cultivate our garden” Voltaire concludes his book Candide after all that long search of optimism. This debatable quote and the conclusion bring the reader to the difference between “nature” and “nurture.” Although “nature” is an accepted process, “nurture” is what will define one’s choices in life, thus, efforts shown on the way of a better situation surely will be praised by the outcomes of the work… Me, myself and I, very much tempted to take Candide’s side in this debate, BUT I have to admit that I try to follow Voltaire’s side…

Candide Book Cover

Unfortunately we are sometimes forced to hide ourselves behind the realities to avoid the virtue of sarcasm with the fear of hurting someone… So, this leads me to relate the sense of humour and irony with cultural development. Not everyone can bear the bitterness of irony, particularly in the Middle East. Well, this is not to say that sense of humour has to be universal, but people HAS to be as tolerant as their universal counterparts in order to open their minds and “think twice” of what lies behind the visible words…

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to death your right to say it.”

Here are some of my favourite quotes of Voltaire:

– “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”

– “Indolence is sweet and its consequences bitter.”

– “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.” (Oops, in my region, you can’t get away from politics)

– “The secret of being boring is to say everything.”

– “Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.”

– “There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts.”

– “Think of yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”


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