Joseph Biden and Nietzsche’s error
I disagree with Nietzsche that the weak, lame, and deformed feel resentment because they are weak, lame, and deformed and then drag everyone else down from spite—from a spiteful resentment that is inherent in their condition. If you think about how resentment (spite) works, you realise that the old religions were wiser than Nietzsche—just to be weak or ugly is not enough to make you resent other people and want to sabotage them.
You can tell this is so when you realise that attractive women will sabotage their sisters—not for being more plain or even more beautiful but because women over-value themselves (vanity), it’s a generalised spite that comes from conceit. Those who over-value themselves will be spiteful to others, even if they themselves are well situated in their social hierarchy. Hence just to be beautiful will not make you *good*—or, in Nietzschean terms, “non-resentful” or with an “over-man ethos”.
You feel resentment or spite when you have a self-image to protect—one that flatters you, or even one that induces pity. If you really value that self-image, the existence of other people who damage or even just contradict that self-image will be hateful to you—and you will want to destroy them.
If you are weak, lame, and deformed and you accept that is what you are, then you cannot feel resentment against other people. If you over-value yourself—even if you’re far from being weak, lame, and deformed—you will resent other people, even if you have a lot of power at your command.
The Buddhists like to say, “Accept everything.” So if you get a “C” on an exam, you don’t fight it—you just say “I got a C” and you treat that as a fact without any judgement about it. If you start a long recrimination chain about how your roommate played music all night before the exam, or even, trailing right back, how if your parents hadn’t moved house and you’d gone to the school all your other friends went to you would never have ended up with this average grade, then you haven’t accepted the situation. You’re striving to maintain a self-image (vanity, narcissism, conceit).
If you accept everything, you have nothing to complain about—and there’s no evidence that the weak, lame, and deformed have less capacity to accept things than other people (clearly, beautiful women and even successful men don’t necessarily accept everything, and for the latter not to accept things might be intrinsic to their success—“I’m not settling for this!”).
The Christian complexion on this idea would be to emulate Christ’s humility, perhaps consider your insignificance in relation to God. It’s a different technique, not as effective in my view, but the basic thrust is the same—don’t feel that you’re so important. If you don’t feel important about yourself, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to resent other people. Whatever they do or don’t do—whatever they are or are not, have or don’t have—just doesn’t impinge on you very much. But if you think you’re important—that somehow “the universe” owes you something—you’re going to naturally be dissatisfied wherever you are and whatever you do (and a lot of that will be directed at other people, mainly as spite).
I’d take Biden as a case in point. Biden has this real self-image of himself as “an Irishman”—and not just as “an Irishman” but as an Irishman who is a victim of the British. You can tell this is so because when he was elected he made a really petty and spiteful point about not taking a question from the BBC, specifically because it was *the BBC*. Yet if Nietzsche were right, Biden’s position as the world’s most powerful man would negate all his spite—he’d feel the power flowing through him, so to speak (overflowing, even). Yet he clearly doesn’t—and he’s not physically deformed, either (so far as I know).
So Nietzsche can’t be right—Biden is resentful because he has cultivated a self-image as “Irish victim”, even though he has always lived in America and benefited from her position as the world’s premier nation; and even as the leader of the world’s most powerful nation he still lives in the self-constructed prison of “Irish victim”. No matter how much power he has, his resentment will never decrease—because his resentment derives from a self-image whereby he feels important because he is an “Irish victim”; and, as such, he needs to punish other people, specifically the British.
It’s not really based in reality, because if being Irish really meant a lot to him he could have moved back to Ireland—but he hasn’t done so, because he’s a hypocrite and has it pretty sweet in America. Yet he doesn’t live in reality—he doesn’t accept that he’s an Irish-American who has never been victimised by the British. Yet if he gave up that self-constructed image of victimhood he’d not feel important anymore—it’s actually more important to him than being president, because he clings to it as president and doesn’t just enjoy the power of the presidency (Obama had a similar difficulty).
Hence Christianity, contra Nietzsche, does not increase resentment—it tells people not to be so self-important and not to take themselves so seriously; hence, it decreases resentment. Further, just to be beautiful, strong, or intelligent does not mean you will not feel resentment; if you have a self-image to protect and you feel other people contradict it—perhaps just by their existence—you will try to drag them down.