A Word for a Destructive Person

Salaudnoun • (sahh-low)

Definition: someone who devalues or dehumanizes the existence of others and/or their own existence.

Origin: French

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Within the French-speaking Existentialist community, salaud is a commonly used word, but tragically it is often mistranslated or ignored entirely within English.

Salaud is basically a curse word or profanity to describe a person who devalues or dehumanizes the existence of others or their own existence. It is a profanity that does not derive meaning from proclaiming that someone is inherently a bad person who will spend their eternal afterlife in a bad place. Instead, it is a word which draws its meaning from declaring that a person is engaging with existence in a bad way and turning their environment into a bad place through their actions.

The concept of salaud at first can appear as a simple, uncomplicated idea, but when we examine the English words that are considered profanities or curse words, it becomes apparent that most of these words have little to no basis in reality.

Our curse words rarely pertain to actions or individuals that diminish our quality of life. Instead, they are words that speak to a postmortem punishment or have been used to define an unfairly demonized group of people.

For example, the n-word in America is a bad word not because there is anything wrong with Black people, but because it speaks to language being used to dehumanize and demonize a group of people. America is finally recognizing that this destructive language is problematic, yet we still struggle to come up with terms to describe the culture of people who revelled in using such dehumanizing language. 

Yes, we can call these people racists, but it is also likely that these people use demonizing language to other groups of people without a specific focus on race. Therefore, labelling them as a racist could actually be too limiting — it wouldn’t adequately capture all the ways they devalue existence. Likewise, calling them “evil” has religious or moral undertones, and now we are back to using terms whose power and meaning derive from a society's belief in an afterlife, and not words dealing with our present existence.

To make a good society, we must also be able to collectively articulate and define bad actions. These bad actions and the individuals who perpetuate them must be based on how their actions harm existence. Salaud is a word that aspires to do exactly that.

Salaud and the Childhood of a Leader

Describing an action or a person as “bad” based on their actions can be a very complicated endeavor because most of the time we know that the person engaging in bad actions is not intentionally doing things that they consider “bad.” Additionally, no one is capable of only committing good actions, therefore, at some point in our lives we will do something bad.

The difference between a good and a bad person is not based on a sense of moral purity, but the preponderance of one’s actions. To be considered a bad person, one should be able to accurately anticipate that you will engage in a bad action in the future.

America’s ethnocidal society—in which white ethnociders are celebrated and people of color are demonized—has made America very bad at anticipating good and bad actions.

For example: During Trump’s presidency, many political pundits anticipated a day when Trump would suddenly act ”presidential.” Many Americans felt comfortable predicting a moment when Trump became “good” and started behaving in a completely different manner. They wrongly anticipated that the office of the president would give him a moral character that would cause him to start making good actions.

Likewise, when discussing people of color, the American norm has long justified anticipating that a person of color will inevitably do something “bad” regardless of their previous actions. To substantiate this inaccurate prediction, ethnocidal Americas will dig through a person of color’s history with the goal of uncovering actions that could be defined as “bad.”

America has concepts of “good” and “bad” that have no basis in reality, so in order to articulate a badness grounded in reality, it is often necessary to depict a typical existence and articulate what actions are bad and why they are bad. 

In L’Enfance d’un chef (The Childhood of a Leader), published in 1939, French Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre attempted to depict the life of a salaud. The novel is a coming-of-age story, but not that of a hero. It is that of a villain who aspires to become a leader.

In the novel, the child’s father owns a factory and the young boy aspires to become a leader like his father who can wield power over others. This young boy’s identity is no longer based on becoming self-aware and equitably connecting with others, but instead molding himself into a person who can project power over others. 

He neither wants to know himself or other people, and throughout the novel he spurns opportunities for self-knowledge if knowledge could be interpreted as weakness. He’d rather be ignorant, so long as ignorance could be interpreted by others as a strength.

The pinnacle moment of the novel is when the main character, who is now an adult, refuses to shake hands with a Jewish person, and his community of ignorant, power-hungry people embrace him. 

The novel does not aspire to depict the life of an anti-Semite, but to describe the culture of a salaud and how that culture can turn someone into an anti-Semite. The boy did not grow up in an environment with an inherent hatred towards Jewish people, but his community’s concept of a leader largely consisted of creating an Other in which he could dominate or “lead.”

Sartre wrote this novel in 1939 as an attempt at describing the toxic, dehumanizing, industrialized culture that was destroying Europe and cultivating a hatred towards Jewish people. You did not need to be born into a culture of anti-Semitism to become intoxicated by a culture that could turn you into an anti-Semite. The people who perpetuate toxic cultures that destroy existence need to have a name, and salaud was Sartre’s attempt.

Ethnocide and Salaud

One of the main obstacles for salaud to become a readily used term in America is not merely the language, but how prevalent the term was used by Existentialists. 

The term could be used for countless businessmen and leaders as they embodied the actions depicted in The Childhood of a Leader prior to the moment when he becomes an anti-Semite. The prevalence of the word made many people believe that it was essentially a meaningless word that anyone could be called without any rhyme or reason, and not the prevalence of bad actions that our society had mistakenly described as good.

Ethnocide and salaud have an obvious connection because America has long professed a “goodness” in destroying the culture of the Other in order for white ethnocidal Americans to be the leaders who dominate our society.

Strength and ignorance have been interwoven in America since colonization. America’s power and leadership derives from the supposed strength of European ideas and an ignorance, or erasure, of the cultures, ideas, and existences outside of Europe. Non-European ideas in America that cannot be ignored or erased are often whitewashed in an attempt to turn them into quasi-European ideas. For example: The origins of much of American music and cuisine derive from Black Americans, the ethnocidee, but America has long erased these origin stories and attempted to depict American culture as exclusively white.

America often interprets leadership in the same manner as Sartre’s salaud and this often manifests in some Americans defining themselves not based on their own self-awareness, but on their capacity to distance themselves from and demonize the people they have classified as the Other.

Donald Trump’s rise to power is a manifestation of the leadership of the salaud. Not only have people of color and Jewish Americans been subjected to more domestic terrorism, but an enhanced awareness of America’s true history, instead of white ethnocidal propaganda, has been perceived as a threat and a weakness that would prevent some Americans from being leaders.

Conservative Americans have denounced both The 1619 Project and critical race theory because the truth could be perceived as a weakness that would prevent ethnocidal Americans from leading our society.

Throughout this newsletter we have aspired to introduce words such as antihero, ethnocider, poshlost, and letzter mensch to identify people whose actions and beliefs make life less liveable and fulfilling. Salaud has been added to this list.

As we collectively work to make a sustainable, Eǔtopian existence, we must also have the language to objectively describe those who undermine existence. These words do not exist so that we can condemn people to an afterlife within an inescapable hellscape, but so that we can educate them about the flaws in their actions and then collectively work together to improve existence.

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