NIETZSCHE AND THE POLITICS OF HATE: HOW ARE THEY MANIFEST IN THE U.S. TODAY?
The premise of the paper is that there are elements in our society suffering from feelings of ressentiment that cannot be overcome. The feelings stem from a sense that society has failed them and that the Promise of the American Dream has not been fulfilled. Their mentality is powered by a need for revenge, not by a rational belief that different policies will better serve the country. Insofar as an element of society is fueled by this irrational need for revenge, this segment does not seek the good of the country but rather the destruction of the self-defined "enemy" who has betrayed them.I first explore the concept of ressentiment as characterized by Nietzsche in his historical and philosophical world view - a world view that denies any transcendent purpose or meaning to human existence, a world of indifference and necessity into which we are thrust for a short time. The sufferers from ressentiment cannot accept the reality of an indifferent world that promises them nothing and owes them nothing. They have a personalist world view that privileges the importance of the individual; they seek answers on an individual level to the question of "Why me?" and finding none, suffer incurable persistent feelings of hatred toward an other group whom they blame for their feelings of impotence. The term ressentiment encompasses a sense of powerlessness that is alleviated by feelings of hate, envy, and spite.I then look at the question of how this sense of ressentiment came to be in this country; i.e., what it is in the American experience and our self-created myths that result in such feelings of envy and hatred. I discuss the myth of American exceptionalism, the story of a New Adam in a New World as it evolved from the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who came to build a "City on a Hill," and from the planters of Virginia who thought that they were creating a country of independent, yeoman farmers, to show how a sense of expectation and betrayal can derive from our American mythology. I give examples of the continuing role that ressentiment has played in the American experience and discuss manifestations of ressentiment among a segment of our population today. I regretfully acknowledge that we cannot overcome the feelings of hate, blame and betrayal manifest in a part of the American population. Our country cannot return to a mythical past.I start the exploration of this paper with a discussion of Nietzsche's historical, etymological and philosophical views to appropriately describe the concept of ressentiment in his framework. I end it with a discussion of Nietzsche's sense of self, responsibility and overcoming in the world that he posited.
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