THE FREEDOM OF THE WORD
“ ‘ Negativism! Again this time, everything you have said is negative . . . What positive proposals do you have, and what program do you suggest.’ I could answer in learned fashion with the positivistic dialectic of negativism: in the final analysis, only the No produces change and advance.
“Again in this case, however, I prefer to refer to the simplest of images: a person is chained fast, by his feet and wrists, with forged chains. He has no way of freeing himself. You come with a sledgehammer and you break his chains. At the material level your act is purely and exclusively negative: you have broken some chains that were a fine product of a large business concern that shows human progress. You are entirely negative—especially since you do nothing else. You have broken a lovely iron object that is now useless. And there you stopped. You have constructed nothing positive, that’s certain.
“. . . Doesn’t this purely negative deed produce freedom? Now that he is unfettered, the person can stand up, begin to walk and choose where he wants to go . . .
“This is precisely our situation. Whoever accuses my analyses and research of negativism . . . to be purely pessimistic orientation proves just one thing: that he loves his chains. He is not ready to risk the adventure of freedom that begins with the freedom of the word, which requires a great effort and an enormous commitment.
“The only positive action we can take is to open a space into which we must dash forward.”
From Humiation of the Word, by Jacques Ellul, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Used by permission.