Identity politics, Nietzsche, Pol Pot

I’ve never had any admiration for New Left identity politics.   Call me an ape in a cape or someone who needs to be brought down to Earth the way a chandelier shatters, but I don’t think my identity or anybody else’s can be encapsulated by silly notions such as “woman” or “white”.   Sure, I’m a feminist.  Certainly, I have acted strenuously to impart my knowledge of self-defense to women in Zimbabwe, and particularly to those who are not all that white.

I do what I love; I love what I do.   I’m a keen aficionado of Reason.

I also veer away from what is damaging to me.  Identity politics advocates a rape of the mind of those who are different from oneself.  The goal is for Western liberals to redistribute self-esteem — taking from those who have it, and appropriating it to those who cannot generate it on their own.   Guilt, threats, accusations — all methods of identity politicians — are also intended to humiliate those who have good self-esteem, by making them doubt their sense of reality.  Identity politics is most certainly a form of ressentiment, dressed up as if it were a system of knowledge.

A brief summary of the condition, (albeit snatched irreverently from SparkNotes), gives us the following as food for thought:

Nietzsche suggests that the “slave revolt in morality” begins when ressentiment, or resentment, becomes a creative force. Slave morality is essentially negative and reactive, originating in a denial of everything that is different from it. It looks outward and says “No” to the antagonistic external forces that oppose and oppress it. Master morality, on the other hand, concerns itself very little with what is outside of it. The low, the “bad,” is an afterthought and is noticed only as a contrast that brings out more strongly the superiority of the noble ones. 

While both slave and master morality can involve distortions of the truth, master morality does so far more lightly. Nietzsche notes that almost all the ancient Greek words denoting the lower orders of society are related to variants on the word for “unhappy.” The nobles saw themselves as naturally happy, and any misunderstanding rested on the contempt and distance they held from the lower orders. By contrast, the man of ressentiment distorts what he sees so as to present the noble man in as bad a light as possible, and thereby to gain reassurance. 

The noble man is incapable of taking seriously all the things that fester and build in the man of ressentiment: accidents, misfortunes, enemies. In allowing resentment and hatred to grow in him, in having to rely on patience, secrets, and scheming, the man of ressentiment ultimately becomes cleverer than the noble man. This constant brooding and obsession with ones enemies begets the greatest invention of ressentiment: evil. The concept of the “evil enemy” is basic to ressentiment just as “good” is basic to the noble man. And just as the noble man develops the concept of “bad” almost as an afterthought, so is the concept of “good” created as an afterthought by the man of ressentiment to denote himself.

We can see here how people suffering from a lack of self-esteem, who are unable to be happy or make a joke, or engage in satire or celebrate others in a joyful way invent evil to attack those who engage with others lightly and humorously.

A person of ressentiment will inevitably misrepresent the happiness of others as a kind of evil that requires atonement.

The problem with identity politics and its recipe of atonement is that no amount of atonement will even make an unhappy person happier.

A person suffering from ressentiment is actually suffering from himself.   An example of somebody who suffered from problems far from external to himself is Pol Pot.  He no doubt suffered from an intellectual deficiency in not being able to see that no matter how many of his own party and others he put to death, he would be left with his worst enemy:  himself.

Those who adopt identity politics to solve their problems will, similarly, have to face that they are their own worst enemies.  (Murdering millions of people is not a recipe to make socialism, from a humanist’s perspective).

The problem with sufferers of ressentiment is that they genuinely believe they are combating “evil”. As Nietzsche said, the very idea of evil is their own feverish creation. Since they are convinced they are combating evil itself, it is very hard to convince them to stop doing what they are doing.

In his determination to redistribute self-esteem, Pol Pot was almost certainly driven by nothing but good intentions.

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