Repost: The philosophy of "mea culpa"

The philosophy of “mea culpa”: “Most of identity politics is moral but anti-psychological in terms of perceiving others, and I hold that an anti-psychological attitude to human affairs reeks of the attitude that Nietzsche called “ressentiment“. 


I find it to be by no means insignificant that the humanity of others is diminished by those who employ identity politics as their primary way of coming to terms with historical injustices. Those employing identity politics as their main means to redress historical wrongs tend to reduce the complexity of human relationships to a stark black and white of “good” versus “evil”. Generally, the “good” are those who are deemed to have been oppressed. The “evil” are those who belong to the group that was deemed to have oppressed them. Since this is an ideology that concerns groups not individuals, the actual behaviour of those concerned is not of that much interest, except when it lends itself to exemplifying that is assumed to be already known about the opposing groups. What can be known, as already said, is that the members of one group are good, and the members of the other group are evil. 

Even more subtle thinkers employ these terms: I have had, for instance, interactions with otherwise extremely intellectual people, who will quiz me again and again, concerning what my “problem” could be in terms of having lost my original culture, country and sense of origin. Apparently, it doesn’t make any sense to them at all that I’m a human being and could feel pain from gigantic losses. The inability to see the human aspect in all of this can, however, be explained by the fact that a totally different set of images is running through the other person’s mind. Whereas I experience the complex feelings of loss and a resulting bewilderment, the other person sees only that “evil” was ousted, and that “good” was restored. The moralistic version of this same scenario is wholly different from my own experiential one. Here, I’m positioned as the “evil” that was ousted from Zimbabwe. Black liberation (but, in the Zimbabwe of today, practically a form of black domination) was the goodness that was unleashed. And really, what could be wrong with moral order having been restored? No doubt, only a truly evil person could have any problem with that! (This is to deliberately muddle two discourses — the psychological and the moral, with the effect that the value and meaning of the former are totally denied.)

The moralising approach is also an emotionally blackmailing approach, although it is only so by default, since ostensibly (that is, on the surface of things) the moralising perspective eschews psychology as not being directly relevant to its concerns. In effect, however, what it says is, “You have been determined to belong to a group that is evil. The more you try to resist this label, or complain about it, the less you will be seen as having any decent moral qualities at all. So, the moralising approach has a psychological dimension to it — one which is not acknowledged in any of its public discourses. 

There are demands for an endless mea culpa, endless admissions of wrongs done, where wrongs may not actually have been done at all. Rather one’s “sin” was merely to have been born into a dominant group. And, nowadays, another group is dominant.   The atonement, if it ever had any ethical value, has no more value these days. It will be extracted only as a product of ressentiment. It also has no political value apart from this.

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