Skip to comments.The Resenters - Moralism without Morality
Posted on 02/22/2003 5:53:52 PM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl
Resentment as a source of human action and thought has been around as long as the human race, of course, but we often overlook its impact as a modern social force. It is also in its own way more dangerous that a grand political vision like communism, because rather than presenting an alternate moral visioneven if that vision is warped and evilresentment is an attack on the idea of morality itself.
The first modern philosopher to cite resentment as a broad cultural force was Nietzsche. In The Birth of Tragedy; And, the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche claimed that "ressentiment" was the source of Christian morality. Christianity was in fact a "slave morality" that turned the natural order of things upside downthe losers in life were actually the winners, poverty was better than wealth, and so on. Nietzsches assessment was off the mark, however, as noted by the German philosopher Max Scheler. Scheler, whose philosophy of phenomenology would be a major influence on the thinking of John Paul II, agreed with Nietzsche that resentment could be a social force, but insisted that Christian love was different from resentmentthat it was pure and transforming.
Schelers ideas were examined and expanded by the brilliant St. Louis University historian James Hitchcock in an essay titled "Guilt and the Moral Revolution." Hitchcock notes that the rise of resentment in the United States is a sign not of the weakness of the country, but of its success. Resentment rises out of material wealth, the boredom of not having to worry about mere survival, which can lead to unhealthy personal utopianism and thus resentment when one inevitably falls short.
Furthermore, the success of Americas breakdown of social and class barriers has fired resentment. Whereas Scheler thought that resentment would be most intense in societies with class distinctions like England and peter out in societies without such distinctions, the opposite is actually the case. As Hitchcock points out, "Those societies which have gone far in the abolition of social distinctions merely invite more microscopic scrutiny of their structures." As an example, he cites the New Left of the 1960s, which attacked liberals more ferociously than conservatives. Resentment, notes Hitchcock, is a modern disease caused by the cure.
Yet Hitchcocks most important point is that, in the end,
Political and class distinctions are finally not at the heart of resentment. Morality is. It is the claim of some, whether implicit or explicit, conscious or unconscious, to represent an authoritative truth which inspires the bitterest hostility. It might even be argued that all social and political claims imply moral claims and that is why they are ultimately hated, with political or economic grievances put forth primarily as rationalizations for much deeper resentments.
The protesters and, in general, the Left simply hate the idea of morality itself. They hate that certain moral codes are tightly logical and written on the human heart. No matter how much they fool with the language or talk around it, something will always tell them that abortion is wrong. (Hitchcock comments that the pro-life movement should be glad when their arguments are met with vitriol on the other side. The fury explodes because the pro-abortion forces know what they are doing is wrong.)
Morality means impersonal standards that can be applied individually, and standards mean falling shortand falling short means giving up on utopian dreams. The resentment at the very human condition is fed by Americas enormous wealth, which has given the protestors way too much time on their hands to think about how miserable they are, and the culture of the therapeutic, which puts a premium on expression. This repeal of reticence makes things worse even as it causes guilt in the process, since, as Hitchcock says, "People continue to sense that certain forbidden feelings should never have been acted out." Its more than likely that protesters who compare Bush to Hitler do realize that its a ridiculous and vile thing to say. Somewhere deep down they feel guilt, which fuels more anger at humanitys moral code. They then hate even more. It is self-perpetuating.
With this understanding in mind, the rhetoric and hysteria of the protesters comes into sharp relief. Their problem is not with the immorality of Saddam Husseinthus the absence of anti-Saddam signsbut with the morality of George W. Bush, or indeed any morality. Paradoxically, it is the very freedom that these people enjoy, coupled with the culture that tells them that reticence is unhealthy, that makes their hostility that much greater. What is so bizarre is the fact that the heat of the rhetoric and resentment rises as America becomes more and more open and tolerant.
This interplay of resentment and the therapeutic is in evidence virtually every time one wades into American culture, and accounts, I think, for the success of conservative radio and television. What is a rapper, with his self-justification and insistence that self-expression trumps morality, but the apotheosis of resentment? The Left is really not much more than a collection of the aggrieved, whose resentment seems to grow with each progressive accomplishment. For Jesse Jackson it will forever be Selma 1965actually, it will be worse. Again, Jackson and his crowd are not as much for something as against something. As J. Bottum said in the Weekly Standard about the radical poets who attempted to turn a White House poetry gathering into a left-wing rally, there is an "againstness" to their very essence.
This is what makes for those surreal moments on conservative radio and television when one of the Resenters is caught in the trap of his or her own philosophy. Is Saddam evil? a conservative asks a protestor. The response is always a perfunctory nod to Saddams tyranny and a rush to get to the real problem: George W. Bush. The mainstream media simply wont ask the questions that the conservatives willthe kind of morality-based questions that most Americans outside of New York and Hollywood would ask. Thus outspoken moralist Bill OReilly on Fox News Channel trounces his competitor Phil Donahue, a liberal Resenter of the first order.
Yes, the views of Donohue and his ilk are too outlandish to have much relevance to the war on terrorism and its outcome. Still, the radical nature of their worldview should not be played down. It is humanitarianism based not on love of the weak, but hatred of the strong. It claims its own moral superiority while trying to demolish all fixed moral principlesand so, in the end, it cannot help but undermine itself.
For further reading:
Jonah Goldberg, "Al Frankens Suicide Mission," National Review Online, February 21, 2003.
Fred Barnes, "Fascist Pigs!" Daily Standard, February 17, 2003. (Free registration required.)
Not sure i agree with the columnist, but thx...
Protesting in a mass movement like many complex behaviors is over-determined and has many "causes." One such cause, seldom appreciated, is to lose oneself in a cause greater than oneself. To renounce your own identity and to identify with the cause (and sometimes with charismatic leadership) is greatly fullfilling. This is especially true if you feel empty, unfocused and lacking in a purpose for living.
Contrary to popular opinion early members of mass movements are middle aged women and adolescent females who have not been oppressed or wronged in any fashion. What they find in the mass movement is a transcendental experience. Further, personally advocating their position (usually not well thought out)reinforces their conviction of the justice and importance of their movement.
I don't suppose anyone reads him any more, but Eric Hoffer wrote a whole book on this called The True Believer. He was writing about the right at the time, but his observations including the finding of middle aged women as important, early members of mass movements is universal and not dependent upon a particular political schema.
Leftists also seem attach themselves to strange occult mysticism. (They are what I call the "Religious Left.")
This is partly done through the promotion of: third world primitive cultures on "public radio," in other places, and in academia; the paganisms of ecofascism; promotion of psychics and astrologers (astrology is a pagan idolatry); the "gay rights" arguments for homosexual monogamy as a form of marriage based on the Adam and Eve model; the use of art, music and drama as a form of religious conditioning; as well as the other subtle applications in public discourse, which compose a list of such great length, it is too much to include here.
Plato's Euthyphro and Apology are a great illustration.
Socrates advances the argument to Euthyphro that, piety to the gods, who all want conflicting devotions and/or actions from humans, is impossible.
Likewise, morals are such a construction of idols used by the Left as a rationale for them to demand compliance to their wishes in politics, which most often are a skewed mess of fallacies in logic. Morals are a deceptive replacement for the avoidance of sin. If a person believes in a God, it is the conviction of the Holy Ghost by which they are guided and not by the idolatrous vanities of morals constructed by others.
Plato's Apology is a drama that portrays the current Left wing frustration with talk radio in America. The people of Athens (the Left) is demanding that Socrates (Rush) be silent. Socrates refuses and the elite of Athens demand the execution of Socrates. The modern Left wants a figurative execution of Rush Limbaugh and others like him (although 'figurative' would be quickly made actual if the Left ever had the unchecked power they desire).
Radio is the focus of only one of the five senses. A listener has to really tune in to the subject matter and focus on the content of the ideas.
Television is a combination of sensory focus and it is far easier to distract and misdirect viewer attention from essential topics presented.
Considering that 90% of people tend to be more influenced by the visual, television has become a new religion. It is analagous to Plato's cave allegory. Television as a propaganda tool helps create visual phantasms (or as Thomas Hobbes called them, 'phantastical images') of the brain.
There are three ways people are influenced according to the school of behavioral psychology - - visual (sight), auditory (sound), kinesthetic (emotion). The kinesthetic or 'feeling' is also based on olfactory and tactile sense, much like Pavlov's salivating dogs. Visual images and sound portrayed can be used to anchor emotional and/or conditioned responses desired by those that present them, which in the case of television, is the Leftist television media, actors who create phantastical images in film, and Leftist politicians who pander to symbolism over substance (like Rush always says about them).
The visual aspect of that phenomenon is also used by the print media to a degree. Interactve talk radio requires thought, television does not and relies on this as a means to influence viewers...
They worship for gods 'those appearances that remain in the brain from the impression of external bodies upon the organs of their senses, which are commonly called ideas, idols, phantasms, conceits, as being representations of those external bodies which cause them, and have nothing in them of reality, no more than there is in the things that seem to stand before us in a dream...'
Like the necromancy of the Wellstone funerally, the use of Martin Luther King Day, or constantly invoking the "spirit of the '60's," they attempt to raise spirits of the dead as a totem for worship.
Marxism and their forms of Cultural Marxism are a religion, a collection of cults. In many cases they worship a dead Karl Marx like some (and I stress some) Christians worship a dead Jesus, and not a living God. This is no more apparent than in the practice of enshrinement and regular grooming of Lenin's corpse in the former Soviet Union.
It is the religious fervor associated with the pro-abortion advocacy. The societal practice of abortion is ritual mass murder upon the altars dedicated to idolatrous vanities, a collective human sacrifice to pagan idols. It has a similitude to the Teutonic paganism of Adolph Hitler, whose idolatry was the idea of a "master race." In effect, this genocide was a mass human sacrifice to those pagan idols.
The Left is properly identified with a 'confederacy of decievers that, to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour, by obscure and erroneous doctrines.'
The fantastic is, of course, most closely related to the imagination (Phantasien), but the imagination is related in its turn to feeling, understanding, and will, so that a persons feelings, understanding and will may be fantastic. Fantasy is, in general the medium of infinitization
Kierkegaard, Søren. The Sickness Unto Death. Trans. Alastair Hannay. New York : Penguin, 1989.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan: with selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668. Ed. Edwin Curley. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994.
It is called idolatry. See my post, #13...
Only partially dupes. They are more like idolators. See post #13...
Socrates, Plato, Hobbes, and Kierkegaard pegged them years ago. See #13...
'those appearances that remain in the brain from the impression of external bodies upon the organs of their senses, which are commonly called ideas, idols, phantasms, conceits, as being representations of those external bodies which cause them, and have nothing in them of reality, no more than there is in the things that seem to stand before us in a dream...'
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan: with selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668. Ed. Edwin Curley. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994.
See # 13...
Fascinating observation. Most of them haven't a clue what they're doing or why, yet they are following their baser instincts - willingly led. Thank you, Sir Francis.
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