Douglas Murray On Victimhood and Resentment
On what we value today
Around the 35 minute mark of the podcast Goodfellows, a conversation from the Hoover Institution, guest and Spectator columnist Douglas Murray offers an explanation of his views on victimhood and resentment that is well worth your time (the transcript below is auto-generated so it may have a few errors).
In your book The War on the West, Douglas, you introduced two phrases, one "culture of ingratitude" and the other "societies of resentment." What exactly are you getting at and how do you reverse those mentalities?
“Well, let me use the shorthand that actually Elon Musk rather helpfully provided the other day in his interview with Bill Maher. It is the thing where you speak to a student at any American University and ask them what they know about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, they tell you that they were slave owners. And then you say "anything else?" It's hard to get anything out of them.
I recently did a tour of universities in the south and, you know, even at Thomas Jefferson's own university at UVA, they're ashamed. They're embarrassed. They don't know what to do. Because people in the past turn out not to have all the views we have in 2023. Who could have guessed? I'm sure that we believe that our own views will be held for all millennia to come.
But in the meantime, we have this culture of, yes, ingratitude and self excoriation. It is absolutely embedded now in America, it's why the rest of the Anglosphere is picking up this American mind virus. And why certain countries like France are actually trying to cut themselves off from American cultural influence because they say we just don't want this here.
I think this, to my mind, this is one of the biggest threats that America faces all the questions of, you know, defense spending, whether or not America wants to remain the global hegemonic all fall away. If you believe that there's nothing good about America. I mean, for instance, what what American school child is not taught that slavery was the founding sin of America. I deeply resent this language as well as I think being a historical if America has a founding sin fine. What's founding sin of Nigeria? What's the founding sin of Egypt? Zimbabwe, China, France? You could go on and on.
Why does only America have a founding sin? Why does everything in America have to be rewritten in this negative key in this generation? Why after 20 something years of the internet have we become stupid or in our public debate to the extent that we now disagree over which year or century America was founded? And where not to get into one of the distractions of our time but where we don't even agree on what a woman is? I mean, why have we allowed ourselves to slip into this place of self abnegation?
And my own view is that it is because in our lifetimes, in the lifetimes of all of us here, we have moved from a celebration of heroism as being the great public virtue to a celebration of victimhood being the great public virtue. And we have all seen this coming in our lifetimes. I personally abhor it. Like I think everyone present I was brought up with a different ethic.
But on the ethic of resentment, I quote in The War on the West I quote Nietzsche carefully as I always say — he is one of the great thinkers of all time, but nevertheless one you have to deal with carefully — in The Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche has this great insight on the person of resentment who is he says among other things, “likes to tear at wounds long since healed and then cry about his hurt.” Ring any bells?
Another example, of course, is what Nietzsche says about the person of resentment, that really what they need is somebody to stand across their lives. Even Nietzsche isn't sure who, he says maybe a secular priest, and it's very telling that even Nietzsche can't quite say who could perform this task. But somebody needs to stand across the life of the person that resentment and say: “Actually, yes, you are correct. There is a person who has ruined your life. There is a person who has ruined your life in the world entire. The person is you.”
Now, nobody would ever want to perform that task as well. Even the sector priest is a sort of attempt to come up with an idea of who could perform that task. But if that person does not exist, and say actually, it is you, it is you who has ruined your life nobody else has held you back. As as Morgan Freeman famously said in an interview many years ago, the bus leaves town every day, that bus leaves every day, but if you didn't get on it in America, and the wider west now, everyone can say oh, it's not your fault you didn't get on it. Other people were holding you back from it, systemic reasons for holding you back, maybe systemic racism. Maybe everybody with white skin was holding you off, getting on the bus, et cetera, et cetera.
And now this has spilled out not just from minority communities, but to the majority, which is why we see these extraordinary figures like almost 100% as far as one can see now of people that university in America is identifying as LGBTQIA+ — a heterosexual is about to be put into a minority group quite soon at this rate. But they identify as this because they want a bit of a victimhood pie. They want a bit of it, because it's what we celebrate now in America and in the wider West.
And I find that absolutely disgusting, and don't mind admitting it.”