Pascal Bruckner is considered one of the eminent philosophers in France today.
The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism by Pascal Bruckner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pascal Bruckner clearly and successfully articulates my own thoughts and feelings concerning the West's heavy love affair with flagellating itself.
He makes so many good points and I certainly won't attempt to list them all, but here are a few:
Once upon a time the West had good reason to feel guilty of slavery, racism, genocide, fascism, communism, imperialism etc... but those days are gone. We are still apologizing for events that have happened hundreds of years ago. The most recent events, like segregation and racial discrimination hearken back to the years before affirmative action which was the 1950s. Notice how all the popular movies about racism in the U.S. take place in the fifties or earlier? But according to our culture of Western guilt nothing has changed.
Yes, we have poverty and too many minorities and immigrants living in ghettos, but are the reasons still due to racism and discrimination?
Bruckner gives a resounding "No!" He then elucidates on what actually does hold minorities and immigrants back. It is the tyranny of Western Guilt. Because when the great white west tells African and Middle Eastern immigrants and also racial minorities in the U.S. that "It is all due to the evil white empire that you are degraded." What are you saying? You are calling these people degraded.
What can be more degrading than to make a career of victimhood?
The terrorist threats? The West's fault! Poverty among immigrants? West's fault.
Bruckner's book goes further into citing specific historical sources and also political leaders that have profited by perpetuating this myth and the people that follow along because it makes them feel virtuous while they continue to live in upper scale, segregated neighborhoods, putting their children in private schools while denying minorities who are too poor to pay for these schools the same choice and have to put their children in dangerous, failing public schools and continue to live in gang-ridden neighborhoods.
Bruckner makes an interesting observation about the recent turn against Jewish people, especially in Europe. They were acceptable as victims of the holocaust, and living in ghettos, but once they rose to equal status to the rest of Europe and America and built their own nation, they are the "new fascists" and the Arab nations are Israel's victims.
He points out how Europe enables anti-nationalism because we are not supposed to identify with a particular country anymore but see ourselves as part of a global community. So people gleefully boo during the French national anthem during soccer matches. Algerian immigrants who were born and raised in France wave Algerian flags while never ever intending to step foot in Algeria.
The career of Victim-hood demands that we see ourselves as the tyrannical oppressors of Middle Eastern countries while never contemplating why these same people are desperately trying to get out of their own countries and come to Europe, America and Canada.
He brilliantly points out a fact that the self-flagellates are blind to: that to view yourself as an oppressor or tyrant is to hold yourself as guess what? Superior! And guess what it also does? Holds your "victims" as Inferior.
The results of this Western Guilt is to preserve racial division and create an even greater hostile environment between the different groups than when there was actual discrimination.
An excellent quote from the book:
"It is a mistake to believe that making schoolchildren feel guilty in accord with the principle 'your ancestors enslaved mine' will make them like the idea of human diversity any better or will seem to them anything more than a theatrical artifice.
Just imagine little blond, brunette or curly headed kids coming up to each other on the playground and introducing themselves as descendants of slaves, of colonized peoples, of slave traders, of bandits, of peasants, of beggars...
...Why ask boys and girls to make themselves the contemporaries of crimes that may have been committed three centuries ago...we are supposed constantly to inject rage and anger into them. "
He goes on to say that perhaps we should simply abolish any kind of statutes of limitations on crimes, give all of us a portfolio at birth of grievances to exploit. That we can go back as "far as the Middle Ages" to "demand justice."
Our present system of white guilt has produced "chronic malcontents" where no one can ever get on with their life and enjoy it. We must either view ourselves as oppressed and be miserable or as oppressors and be consumed with guilt (another form of misery).
Somebody finally put in print what I have been thinking for ever so long.
The book says far more with many historical recitations and I don't agree with everything he says, especially concerning Christianity, which he considers the originator of guilt, at least the Medieval Catholic church, which is an oversimplification and it ignores the gods of pagan countries who had to be constantly appeased in order to avoid destruction.
He says that the Enlightenment threw off religion but retained the mantle of guilt. This is his theory of origins but he can't really substantiate it.
However, his observations of the here and now are compelling and one of the most perspicacious studies on the subject.
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