Ressentiment

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When an individual or an organization states what they are “for”, are they really just using language and rhetoric for what they are “against”?   Continuing on in Hunter’s “To Change the World”, in essay II he brings up the dynamic of Ressentiment.

Ressentiment originates with Nietzsche from the French word where we get the English root of resentment.  But it is more than that.  Hunter says: “Ressentiment is grounded in a narrative of injury or, at least, perceived injury; a strong belief that one has been or is being wronged.  The root of this is the sense of entitlement a group holds.” (p. 107)

In the land of American politics this plays itself out with Right-Wing Christians saying that we have lost our way, that what we have now is not the Christian nation our forefathers established.  Their ressentiment is that this is a new holy war, to take back what is rightfully theirs that has been hijacked.  With Left-Wing Christians, they see the inequality of power and wealth and long for justice.  They are done with the zealots of the Right defining what Christian political activism is and want to argue for the “right” way, which is one of a more elite and refined intelligence.  Equality and justice over capitalism, they are the voice of the poor that the Right are involved with perpetuated their suffering.  Hunter also takes on what he calls the “neo-anabaptists.  Those that see all power structures and things of this world as evil and seek to be separatists of it.  Their ressentiment leads to a complete uninvolvement in the issues of their day and they find they cannot fully detach themselves from the fabric of the networked institutions they want no involvement with.  Ultimately, Hunter would say, their goal is futile. They aren’t detached, they are just acting in ressentiment towards the establishment.The idea of ressentiment is strong social theory.  Nothing will get the masses fired up more than a perceived enemy that is aggressively seeking your deterioration.  The idea that “they” are out to get us is a powerful one and you can find it on any of the 24/7 news networks, regardless of their leanings.

Hunter states:  “The sense of injury is the key.  Over time, the perceived injustice becomes central to the person’s and the group’s identity . . . Cultivating the fear of further injury becomes a strategy for generating solidarity within the group and mobilizing the group to action.”  (p. 107-108)

This is a good challenge to me as a passionate irishman.  It doesn’t take much for me to get fired up, have an emotional response and retaliate in real or perceived ressentiment. Playing the martyr and dehumanizing our opposition can take the place of  real dialogue of the issues and our difference of views.  This is the same for the arena of politics, church, education, civil issues, workplace and recreational organizations.My reflection to this issue as a leader is:  “Articulate yourself for what you are for, not what you are against.”peace,Marshall

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