Saturday, November 15, 2003


“Read the whole thing” is advice bloggers often give to their readers. I seldom do. I try hard to summarize instead. But This article by Jack Wheeler is so good that this time I feel I have to give that hackneyed advice. It explains both the apparent self-hatred of white American middle class Leftists and the very real hatred of Islamic fundamentalists towards America. The article actually adds up to a very short summary of a very large book: Envy: A theory of social behaviour by Helmut Schoeck -- one of the few books that have made a big impact on my understanding of the world. I am not at all envious myself so until I read that book I had no idea that envy was such a fire inside so many people.

The basic thesis of both Wheeler and Schoeck is that envy is an enormous and destructive force in all human societies (and this suggests why that is so). So avoiding being envied is an important thing to do. And a good way to deflect envy is to denigrate oneself or any successful group that one belongs to. Hence the “guilt” of so many “limousine liberals” and the Anti-Americanism of so many Hollywood stars. They don’t really feel guilty at all. They think they are brilliant in fact. They are just trying to deflect envy and sound virtuous by criticizing their own society -- the very America that has made them so rich.

And why is it the Left in particular who are so fearful of being envied? Because they themselves are burnt up by it so know from inside how potentially destructive it can be. To a Leftist no acclaim or success is ever enough. So even when such good socialists as Stalin and Saddam Hussein got complete power over their own countries, even that was not enough. They then went on to fill their country with statues and portraits of themselves. When you have an ego as hungry as that, you will always be envious of what others have no matter how much you have yourself.


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