In a post on Tuesday, I touched on the question of resentment and Roger Scruton's analysis of Jihadist resentment. In a recent essay, Victor Davis Hanson dealt in part with a similar concern. Hanson wrote in part:
Like fascism or Communism, Islamism galvanizes millions with its reductionist claims of Western liberal culpability for widely diverse Muslim gripes from Afghanistan to the West Bank. Rather than seeing a plethora of grievances that can be individually addressed, it is more valuable and accurate to understand the problem as a general complaint that in turn manifests itself in different regions and circumstances.As for the Jihadists' choice of accusations, Hanson plausibly argues that they "brilliantly drew on boilerplate anti-Western arguments from Western elites, and when they recycled tired charges of imperialism, racism, and colonialism they found them surprisingly effective at undermining Western morale." In other words, those suffering from resentment caused by Western social, political, economic and technological superiority turned to the hated West to find the ideological tropes with which to justify their rage. Ironies like this abound in the house-of-mirrors world where resentments define reality.
Even though a resentment expresses itself in terms of this or that perceived grievance, no amelioration of the aggrieved conditions and no concessions aimed at lessening the animosity achieve their aim. Quite the contrary in fact. This is characteristic of resentment: every attempt to appease it has the effect of arousing it the more. This is true whether the resentment in question is that of foreign ideologies, like that of the Jihadists, or the ideological anti-Western bias with which so many privileged Westerners are enamored. They do not want to persuade their ideological enemies; they want to crush them. Even when, with the luck of the draw, they complain of legitimate injustices, the resentment that animates these complains insures that whatever is done to rectify the the injustice will result in more vehement complaints driven by more ferocious vows of retribution.
As for the Western elites who provide the boiler-plate anti-Western justifications, Eric Gans had this to say the other day on the GABlog:
I have long been struck by the extreme political views of many of the most successful academicians, views that, far from acting as a handicap, are a factor in their success. Nothing attracts university faculty as much as being allowed to participate vicariously in an unsparing denunciation of everything their lives really depend on; only then can they enjoy their SUVs in peace.That so much resentment is found among those who enjoy so many of the privileges of Western culture requires a psychological analysis. Mine (for today at any rate) would be this: once one has ruled certain social and cultural phenomenon morally off-limits and insulated from moral misgivings (political correctness), then the only alternative to admitting one's moral insouciance is to find some other "cause" that will simulate the exercise of moral rectitude (in the same way that a stairmaster simulates climbing), preferably a "cause" which condemns miscreants who can be trusted not to respond to the condemnation in any serious or meaningful way.
The more we suppress moral misgivings and turn those we cannot suppress toward more politically acceptable surrogate evil-doers, the more irrational and psychologically dubious our hatred of the adversary will become. This is true of Jihadists and of the ideologues Eric Gans has witnessed at close quarters over many years and colorfully described in his blog post.
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While I'm bringing up old business, let me conclude this post with an important observation Roger Scruton made in the article from which I quoted in the earlier post about resentment. The proper response to the raging resentment of the Jihadists, Scruton argues, is simple "to bear witness once again to the religious roots of our civilisation."
Christians certainly have the duty to show that their civilisation is based upon faith, that their greatest achievements are not sky scrapers, Macdonald's and the international banking system, but the works of spiritual grace and high culture that transmit eternal meanings. They have the duty to give life anew to the Christian message, which calls us not to material comfort but to sacrifice and compassion.