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 to lose because you’re pissed with/embarrassed by the leadership, you put your own civilization at peril before a ruthless enemy. Not too smart.