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Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Nietzsche was mistaken as regards resentment—while resentment is real, it is not generated in the way he suggests. It’s not that people are weak, deformed, or unsuccessful and then resent the strong, handsome, and successful—it’s that people have a vision about how the world should be and other people impinge on that vision (this is connected to narcissism and the left, because the narcissist has a vision about how things should be and about how they are an “ideal” person—“a good person”, as progressives put it).

So the Christian, to take Nietzsche’s prime example of resentment, is not motivated by resentment or hatred against the “master class”: the Christian has a vision in their head where all people are gathered to Christ—in my mind’s eye, it’s a lush green hill with a cross, with a lamb, and Jesus stands there. In the believer’s mind, this vision makes them feel warm inside—just like if you drank some neat rum. It’s good to think about, it’s good to think about all those souls you’ll save, it’s good to think how everyone will be gathered into Jesus…

There’s no resentment—it’s a happy, positive image. The same goes for the Marxist—a vision of total economic efficiency where nobody has to pay for anything, there are no classes, and you can just paint all afternoon if you want. The same for the multiculturalist—a Sikh train conductor helps an elderly white woman down the steps to the platform, she’s on the way to an appointment with her doctor, a Chinese woman (doesn’t it make your heart glow, all the races of the world working together and looking out for each other?).

The resentment comes about because the visions do not accord with reality or encounter other people who do not agree with the visions. So the Christian floats on air until they encounter someone who points out contradictions in the Bible or someone who says “I have my own God already”—but this is the truth (the beautiful hill), it’s got to be true because it’s so wonderful; and only Jesus can save you, if you follow other gods you go to Hell! Why are you ruining the vision? What’s wrong with you? Why are you hurting me like this?

So the Christian begins to resent other people because he feels that his beautiful vision is under attack—under attack from rational sceptics who parse his texts, under attack from people who believe different things, under attack from people who say they just don’t care (the vision!). What is resented is that the beautiful vision is attacked—when this happens you decide these people are sinners, evil, devil-worshippers. You resent them and push back at them—you resent the way they destroy your vision.

It’s the same with Marxism—“How can they not see that Marx was a genius who explained how all human history led up to this moment, how can they not want to attain this vision of brotherhood and plenty for all? It’s even scientific—are you irrational?”. You must have false consciousness, you must be a reactionary—you must be an imperialist oppressor grinding the faces of the people!

There’s no need to say what a multiculturalist thinks if their vision is questioned in a rational way or flat-out rejected—“racist!”, “fascist!”, “hater!”. The last word is relevant. I think people—think about your own beliefs, whatever they are—are basically more motivated by “the vision” than by hate (more by love than hate, to put it simply).

Do you really spend your time thinking negative thoughts about other people and groups, or do you not have a vision that you think is beautiful and wonderful but that you feel is imperilled by other people who are selfish or, in fact, resentful and wilful in their hostility to “the vision”? Personally, I hardly think about other people at all in any way, but I do think about how the world should be—and then, if I see people who work against that, I feel resentment.

Even in the war between Ukraine and Russia, the Ukrainians have a vision as regards “the Ukrainian nation”—technically, they’re weaker than Russia, so, per Nietzsche, the Ukrainians should be filled with resentment; but resentment will not create a national vision—for the most part, the Ukrainians talk about “our language, our heroes, our culture”; and, contra Nietzsche, the Ukrainians have procreated a virile aesthetic. The Russians are the same—they have a vision of “integral Russia”, of themselves as “protectors of Donbass”. The resentment and hatred comes because each side negates or contradicts the vision held by the other.

As the old saying goes, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. People didn’t sign up to Christianity because it told them to hate and resent successful people (in an implicit way, as Nietzsche suggests)—they signed up to it because it offered a beautiful, if somewhat sentimental, vision at a time when the Roman Empire was like America today (luxurious, cynical, sceptical).

The Christians offered Jesus and the hill—along with oaths to help each other and pay debts promptly and so on. When the Christians started to resent, it was because their vision was questioned or seen as a threat to the state or was impinged upon by other people.

It’s the same for all these ideas: people are more motivated by honey (“love”) than by “hate”—but when the vision is questioned, especially if they are totally identified with the vision and think that it makes them a “good person”, it will feel like you have attacked their very existence; and then they will resent the “attacker”, even if the question about their “vision” is quite reasonable and sincere.

If you’re identified with your beliefs and think that what you believe makes you a “good person”, then if that belief is imperilled in any way, no matter how reasonable the point made against it, then it feels like death—it feels like that person wants to kill you, because if their challenge is correct your whole social reality will collapse (and, along with it, your sense of identity—and your sense of moral righteousness ).

If you are pushed away from the vision you are pushed into the unknown—and man fears and so hates the unknown, so the person who challenges the vision seems to you to be a hateful person.

As it happens, the above formulation can apply to a Nietzschean as much as anyone else—for a Nietzschean will have this Romanesque vision of “the master man, the overman as he strides about”, and he resents people who question the vision (people who say, for example, “Aren’t humans more motivated by love than hate?”—if you say that to a Nietzschean it makes them angry).

We live in dreams—we have a vision about how our life should be, about who we are, about how the world should be; and we are prepared to protect that vision from people who attack it—even people who question it in a reasonable way; and we resent them for trying to take that vision away from us—hence all men are great dreamers, and live by dreams.


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