Beneath the froth and ferment of daily news, there is often a working through of the relationship between individual freedom and collective humankind. The first response I ever had to the ebb and flow of that sometimes uneasy relationship was the simple adage that one person’s freedom ends where the next begins.
I think that may be partly what Saint-Exupéry is saying in this pithy quotation, taken from the short, working Credo he jotted down at the end of his thoughtful, slim work, Flight to Arras.
Liberty is not the exaltation of the individual against Man.
By the same token, liberty is not the exaltation of Man against the individual, which is a key characteristic of totalitarian régimes, where the individual is but a dispensable cog in a bigger machine. Vasily Grossman writes particularly trenchantly on this – see our celebration of his magisterial Life and Fate.
Ideally, civilization finds the balance between the individual and humankind, serving both in the same breath, as seen here.
Source: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, trans. by Lewis Galantière (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961), p. 166
Photo credit: Rob Curran at unsplash