Finkielkraut on “Self-Hating”: Guide to the Left

Among the many profound and perceptive remarks that Alain Finkielkraut made in two lectures at BU, one on “Laïcité” [secularism], one on the Plight of the Jews — hopefully soon to be podcast — one remark came, en passant in answer to a question about the Ha-Aretz affair. Referring to the journalist from Ha-Aretz, an Israeli paper notorious for its aggressive credulity for any accusation against Israel and for its hostility to what it considers any form of “right-wing” Zionism, he remarked that the journalist was acting neither as an impartial journalist nor a friend; but that he had ambushed Finkielkraut with this interview.

This prompted an aside on so-called “self-hating Jews.”

They are not self-hating,” he said pausing, “they love themselves. It’s other Jews they hate.

They hate other Jews for embarrassing them, for making their idea of what Judaism is (should be) — the quintessence of liberal love for humanity and creation — look bad. “Surely you can’t justify Sharon! Sharoooon!”

One of Finkielkraut’s points was precisely that “the other side of the coin of anti-Zionism was a self-loathing of the French, as anti-French as anti-Zionist. [I'd start thinking of a cube, because we now have at least three major components: anti-Zionist, anti-American, anti-French/British/German... , a "Western derangement disorder cube."]

Apply the insight from Jewish “self-hate” to this problem of the left, and we can see what makes the Left so vulnerable to American Derangement Syndrome, ADS. When they view Bush or Wolfowitz or Cheney as capable of anything evil, and worthy of any debasement history can devise for them, they are not self-hating. They do not identify with these people as part of the same civilization and culture as they. These are “not us,” and therefore “we” not only perceive in them the elements that “we” reject — desire to make lots of money, abuse of power, lack of concern for the downtroddern — but can assume that this is all that moves them. They have no commitment to any of the “real values” that define us; they are capable of any atrocity (as we are not); they must go.

Hence: they do not make mistakes, they lie; they do not try however unsuccessfully to really solve serious problems (even if not the way we would), they conspire to rape the globe. How easy to hate such men.

On the other hand, we love ourselves. “We” go to anti-war rallies and stand up to the bully Americans to protect those poor wretched of the earth, the Iraqis. We won’t tolerate that one hair on one Iraqi child’s head be harmed by ordinance paid for by our taxes. Are they victims of Saddam’s unbearable tyranny? “I’m not sure I trust the MSM on this one… it may be very exaggerated. Didn’t Michael Moore get a shot of them flying kites before our invasion?”

And so we witness a kind of perversion of that extraordinary capacity for self-criticism that lies at the heart of the modern world. Moral narcissists use the self-critical tradition of their own culture to accuse themselves (really other Westerns, the ones we hate), of the worst crimes in the book. The violence from others? Understandable reaction to the intolerable behavior of our leaders (who must go, and then things will work). From PCP1 to PCP2, and into the Moebius Strip of cognitive egocentrism where dupes of demopaths enable demonizing scapegoaters — a breathtaking journey to self-destruction. From a healthy instinct to self-criticize into a vortex of pathologies, masochistic omnipotence syndrome with (under current conditions) its suicidal tendencies.

After all, if you’re in a war and you wish — and work — for your own side lose because you’re pissed with the leadership, you asking for a very bad future.

8 Responses to Finkielkraut on “Self-Hating”: Guide to the Left

  1. Kneave Riggall says:

    I think you have the right animal — narcissism — but by the tail, not the throat. I think what you are describing, i.e., the various “derangement syndromes”, is often called “splitting” by psychologists, a defense mechanism that allows the splitter to divide the world into angels and devils rather than deal with the complexities, contraditions and failings of mere human beings. While using this mechanism is not uncommon for narcissists, and there of many of those on the left (and right), the more precise diagnosis of the derangmenet syndromes is “borderline personality disorder”, which entails deep confusion as to self-identity (e.g., the “radicialization” of “assimilated” Muslims), feelings of unreality and even nonexistence (making suicide easier) and deep anger over being “rejected” (again, making suicide and genocide easier to carry out).

  2. RL says:

    okay, this is getting out of my league, and i’m beginning to feel like lawrence barnes, so walk us thru this slowly.

    i understand derangement disorders as forms of un-acknowledged honor-shame dilemmas. i so dislike someone, i so want him/her to suffer and be humiliated, that i’ll screw him even if he’s on “my team.”

    if i understand what you’re saying, the ability to be so oblivious to who’s
    “on my team” comes from a dualistic splitting mechanism that neatly divides the world into good and bad guys. you say this is not “mere” narcissism but more akin to BPD (Tony’s mother in The Sopranos). now your symptoms of BPD don’t really differ from things i’d find similar to my understanding of narcissism (deeply confused love-hate of self made solepsistic by a fear of all serious attachments to surely disappointing/betraying others). of course narcissists have problems with identity — hence the attractions of fanaticism.

  3. igout says:

    SHould we start at the other end and bring forth examples of sanity? Here’s my candidate: The Henryk Sienkiewicz trilogy Fire and Sword, Deluge, Fire in the Steppes. (RL, thanks for the HTML lesson)
    There are a lot of similarities between the 17th century Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth and our beleagured West. They’re well worth describing elsewhere, but here llet me admire the un-nuanced, bigoted, Polish gentry who knew when to cease their silliness and to fight. Their country, their freedom, their lives, and that of their families were in threat of extinction. And, it being the 17th century, I’m not speaking with exaggeration. Here you have none our hand wringing, or temporizing, or wishful thinking, or excessive pondering (none at all, in fact). These Pans are quite comfortable with the stakes. Slaughter or be slaughtered. ( May I make a confession to blogville here? Last fall when my wife noticed my unwonted zeal in raking the leaves, I didn’t tell her I was in reality the Polish Hussaria scattering the Cossaks and Tartars.Such is the power of heroic myth.)
    Maybe it’s time to move from diagnosis to cure. Huzzah!

  4. RL says:

    now now, let’s not get carried away. slaughter or be slaughtered is precisely that “dominating imperative” that needs to be overcome if we are to establish civil societies. now we (esp the woosy europeans) have become so “used to” or committed to renouncing the dominating imperative they can’t even realize when they’re dealing wiith people who really can’t/don’t want to/won’t play by those post-testosteronic rules.

    so while we’ll need the hussaria, we need to figure out where and when to use it.

  5. [...] wrought and profoundly unjust hyper-criticism feeds a current wave of insane Judeophobia. Alain Finkielkraut would say, it’s not that they [...]

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  8. [...] and I regret not having caught it. For one thing, I don’t use the term self-hating any more (never did like it). I’ve written about the problem a great deal, and I don’t think I can be accused of [...]

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