Deep thought

“People who used to natter on about the Third World nowadays speak solemnly about the ‘south.’  The phenomenon formerly known as Western imperialism has ended up being described as the forces of globalization.  And the main concept never seems to change at all – namely, the firm belief that wealth is theft, and Western success is the source of everyone else’s difficulties, and Western prosperity means non-Western poverty, and suffering elsewhere means guilt here.  And so the spirit of self-hatred has persisted, and has even deepened and spread – a spirit of self-loathing that has come to be expressed in ever-more ingenious philosophical systems.  The intellectual class, in Bruckner’s portrait, has come to resemble the medieval clergy, a ‘penitential caste,’ which communicates its dogma of remorse by expounding multicultural theories of inexpiable Western guilt, and looks for ever newer ways to display its own humility.”

Paul Berman, The Flight of the Intellectuals

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2 Responses to Deep thought

  1. Brutus says:

    I don’t get it. In this deep thought, Berman asserts that we’re self-flagellating. The subtext is that this perspective is merely the latest incarnation of winner’s remorse and need not be taken to heart. Then in your next post, you remark that the financial hegemony of most Western democracies is illusory — false wins based on deficit spending — and that we have a lot to answer for. So is our self-loathing earnest and deserved or not?

    • I don’t think Berman is saying we are self-flagellating: he’s saying the intellectual left is self-flagellating, abasing itself before intolerant and illiberal forces. Nothing there about winner’s remorse.

      My post never said that the financial hegemony of most Western democracies is illusory: it said (or attempted to, in any case) that many democracies have overspent, but ours seems to be lagging behind Europe in dealing with the problem.

      In a liberal democracy, self-loathing is never healthy. If you have made mistakes (like spending too much), work to correct them. If you have behaved badly (the Germans after Hitler), own up to it, make amends as you can, make sure it never happens again. Again: penitential postures only give illiberal groups the upper hand.

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