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La tyrannie de la pénitenceEssai sur le masochisme

Fascism communism genocide slavery racism imperialism the West has no shortage of reasons for guilt And indeed since the Holocaust and the end of World War II Europeans in particular have been consumed by remorse But Pascal Bruckner argues that guilt has now gone too far It has become a pathology and even an obstacle to fighting today's atrocities Bruckner one of France's leading writers and public intellectuals argues that obsessive guilt has obscured important realities The West has no monopoly on evil and has destroyed monsters as well as created them leading in the abolition of slavery renouncing colonialism building peaceful and prosperous communities and establishing rules and institutions that are models for the world The West should be proud and ready to defend itself and its values In this Europeans should learn from Americans who still have sufficient self esteem to act decisively in a world of chaos and violence Lamenting the vice of anti Americanism that grips so many European intellectuals Bruckner urges a renewed transatlantic alliance and advises Americans not to let recent foreign policy misadventures sap their own confidence This is a searing provocative and psychologically penetrating account of the crude thought and bad politics that arise from excessive bad conscience


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    Quite excellent in its erudite and stinging execution this necessary essay expounding upon the modern era's debilitatingly pervasive Cult of Culpability and its attendant spiritual morbidity aligns itself remarkably well as a complementary companion piece to Walter Russell Mead's God and Gold Much as in the work that I've read of Chantal Delsol Bruckner a kindred French thinker focusses the majority of his powers of observation upon his homeland—yet not only does his gaze allow itself to broaden and encompass modern Europe and its transatlantic kin but the symptoms malaise and remedies that he espies in a troubled and torporific France can through a medial extension apply themselves in varying degrees to a considerable number of those democratic states that espouse the values birthed in the Enlightenment and are either located in or descended from the Western part of EuropeThe list of crimes and horrors enacted by the West over the past several centuries—endemic warfare and destruction culminating in the unprecedented still barely conceivable slaughter of the Two World Wars the exploding of two atomic bombs the near extermination of the aboriginal inhabitants of three continents the enslavement of millions of African blacks an exploitative global imperialism the rapacious spoilage of nature's bounty the brutal political tyrannies of Fascism and Communism and the actualizing of genocidal ideations leading up to the hell on earth of the Holocaust the long subjugation of women as second class and homosexuals as invisible citizens—is one both lengthy and appalling and the shame and guilt they have brought upon its denizens was and is deserved and necessary What Bruckner sets out to explain is that this guilt has metastasized fed on itself set itself up as the regnant emotion to the degree that it has become pathological allowing the Western gaze to be turned ever limitingly inward even as its external awareness becomes abstract its judgement permissive its guiding s etherealIn this donning of the mantle of eternal self condemnation Bruckner espies an arrogance and narcissism that—once spread outward through imperialism and conquest of supposedly uncivilized peoples and lands—now seeks in elevating itself to the status of the paradigm of remorseful malefactor to use such overindulgence to reclaim the former paramount position it held within the world However unacceptable the deeds of another group or state might be the West can cry Look at us We're worse Who are we to judge you? as it loudly lashes itself takes its accustomed place upon the global stage and assumes control of the conversation Further the cult of culpability endemically results in the spread and prevalence of the opposing cult of victimhood Within a nation eternal victim status sets aggrieved groupings against each other in competition for largesse usually governmental and the promissory lure of compensation encourages that victimhood becomes a growth industry Exterior to the nation victim status is readily seized upon by other countries or collectivities as serving as a convenient shield against being forced to bear the responsibilities for one's current actions or behaviors Excessive hubris excessive victimization excessive contrition—as in all things intemperance breeds ill results Content to proudly wear the cilice of its trespasses and establish itself as the font of all that is maleficent its ability and will to identify and confront evil not located within has dangerously atrophied Self esteem confidence and pride are as vital to a nation as to an individual the key is to achieve a degree of balance with its antipodal counterparts In Bruckner's estimation this balance has tilted inordinately in favor of the latter While careful to ensure that the facticity of its offenses is always prevalent in the reader's mind Bruckner wishes to show how both sin and atonement have sprung from the same core values that have fueled the engine of Western civilization for a half millennia There is no doubt that Europe has given birth to monsters but at the same time it has given birth to theories that make it possible to understand and destroy these monsters Because it has raised the alliance between progress and cruelty between technological power and aggressiveness to the highest point since the Conquistadors because it has engaged for centuries in bloody saturnalia it has also developed an acute sensibility to the follies of the human species Taking over from Arabs and Africans it instituted the transatlantic slave trade but it also engendered abolitionism and put an end to slavery before other nations did It has committed the worst crimes and given itself the means of eradicating them The peculiarity of Europe is a paradox pushed to the extreme out of the medieval order came the Renaissance out of feudalism the aspiration to democracy and out of the church's repression the rise of the Enlightenment The religious wars promoted secularism national antagonisms promoted the hope of a supranational community and the revolutions of the twentieth century promoted the antitotalitarian movement Europe like a jailer who throws you into prison and slips you the keys to your cell brought into the world both despotism and liberty It sent soldiers merchants and missionaries to subjugate and exploit distant lands but it also invented an anthropology that provides a way of seeing oneself from the other's point of view of seeing the other in oneself and oneself in the other—in short of separating oneself from what is near in order to come closer to that from which one is separated Our Enlightenment values may have revealed themselves as carrying a venom within—but they have simultaneously been shown to also bear an antitoxin for that poison We should make use of this fact not to shoulder all of the blame for the ills of the world excusing non Western nations for their excesses and crimes out of the embarrassed knowledge that we have done the same or worse rather we ought to stand firm in requiring that such realms admit themselves to the same processes of self reflection responsibility and improvement For all of its myriad faults the West has evolved a societal standard of personal liberties tolerance and the rule of law imperfectly conceived and realized to be sure but a commonality within its constituent nations It ill behooves such foundational values to wallow in culpability to the degree that it paralyses the West from reproaching others when they abuse those rights against their own citizenry or neighbors—or are brought as a barrier to set against Western values by those who have immigrated into the countries from which they first aroseAye the multicultural issue Bruckner is fearless in wading full into the touchiest topics of our time the aforementioned and identity politics the Israeli Palestinian quagmire the War on Terrorism fundamental Islam and its anti modernity the accommodations with authoritarian China Russia and the Middle East the failures amongst the former colonial nations of Africa and the enduring conflict between the Old World and the New World over how to deal with all of the above Bruckner's analysis and opinions of each is too complex to delve into with justice in a review But as an example he sees in Europe's white hot condemnation of Israel one that is out of proportion to both the Jewish state's size and offenses Fully acknowledging Israel's enduring injustices to the Palestinians he yet sees a disturbing tendency to equate Israel carte blance with the Nazi regime a trend the author believes stems from the desire of select European nations—France foremost—to purge themselves of their guilt over complicity in the treatment of Jews in the Second World War by retroactively proving the Jews deserving of their fate and the transmission of a hatred of Liberal Capitalism—shorn of appropriate Third World or Proletarian movements to be infused with such—into the heart of its Western outpost within an Islamic milieu that some parts of the West believes it lacks the moral authority to confrontIt is this atrophied will that Bruckner would like to see addressed in effect he desires that the Old and New Worlds work continually and supportively together rather than at odds in order that Europe might gain the United States' ability for self reflection without a diminishment in capacity to act firmly and that the US might simultaneously come to accept the need to tame its pride and accept certain limitations to its ability and the desirability of it being the decider in chief of the world Both civilizations need to work to balance their current spiritual constitution that they might help the process—one that will require patience and time to be effected—of encouraging those nations who oppose them to adopt the Enlightenment derived values that will influence them to curb their own abuses allow internal changes and improvements the room to evolve and bring themselves into some means of accommodation with an interconnected world And for France itself the author wishes that it might develop some of the Anglo American dynamism that allows them to comparatively embrace the free market economic system that has spread across the globe in order that its young populace might show ambition than to compete for bloated government jobs with guaranteed income and pension abstain from its slow sinking into the status of museum of civilization refuse to patronizingly coddle its disaffected minorities and work instead towards addressing a culture that continues to discriminate against the new and unfamiliar that its Leftist elements might proves less conservative and its Conservative elements less radical in the peculiarly paradoxical state of affairs that comprises the modern French polityOne does not need to agree with everything that Bruckner brings to the table in The Tyranny of Guilt In addition to lacking the detailed knowledge of modern France sufficient to fully gauge the accuracy of the situations therein that he describes and decries I have certain quibbles or problems with his purview regarding multiculturalism the assimilation of immigrants and the exhausting Israeli Palestinian perma crisis And while the excesses of identity politics can be and are debilitating in many cases their existence was vital to keeping their issues at the forefront of Society's short attention span—the tyranny of Guilt has a sibling in the Majority that can prove just as endemic and enfettering However Bruckner is concerned at heart with excesses and I found myself agreeing throughout with his elegantly stated impassioned and wittily limned prose The Tyranny of Guilt is an affliction that easily devolves to the individual I know that my life is one where an oppresively excessive burden of guilt an unceasing self hatred that is perforce the malignant outgrowth of a terribly metastasized self love has deformed my personality and restricted my life in ways that I can acknowledge but have proven incapable perhaps unwilling to address The reality of guilt's tyranny is something I have an acute awareness of—and so when I encounter Bruckner's application of it to a higher and broader collectivity I can both accept what he states as true while drawing an even deeper and fuller understanding of it from his brilliantly constructed arguments Not the happiest of tomes to read but an important one