21 November 2005

The Satisfying Pleasures of Hatred

Paul Berman has a long and fascinating review article (free registration required) in The New Republic on several books by French authors whom he characterizes as "anti-anti-Americans." Here's a bit of what he has to say about André Glucksmann's Le discours de la haine ('the discourse of hatred'):
The wildest of hatreds do not need a cause outside of ourselves. This is Glucksmann's point. Hatred's causes may merely be hatred's excuses. We hate because we choose to hate. We could equally choose not to do so. And why choose to hate? On this question, Glucksmann reveals himself as the disciple, as no one could have predicted, of Sartre. In Anti-Semite and Jew, Sartre wrote that people who give in to the pleasures of hatred do so because they cannot abide their own frailties. Weakness and imperfection are the human condition. But weakness and imperfection leave us unsatisfied, maybe even disgusted with ourselves. Hatred, however, can make us feel strong. Hatred is thrilling. Hatred is reassuring. When we choose to hate, we discover that, by hating, we overcome our own disappointment at ourselves. We choose to hate because we want to feel the exhilarating vibrations of power instead of weakness, the perfect ideal instead of the imperfect reality. And so, in order to hate, we hold aloft a glorious vision that can never exist: the vision of a perfect mankind unstained by weakness and flaws, a vision of purity and power. And we give ourselves over to the satisfying pleasures of hating everyone who stands in the way of the perfect vision.

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