Epub Pascal Bruckner ñ La tyrannie de la pénitenceEssai sur le masochisme ñ

Fascism communism genocide slavery racism imperialism the West has no shortage of reasons for guilt And indeed since the Holocaust and the end of World War II Europeans in particular have been consumed by remorse But Pascal Bruckner argues that guilt has now gone too far It has become a pathology and even an obstacle to fighting today's atrocities Bruckner one of France's leading writers and public intellectuals argues that obsessive guilt has obscured important realities The West has no monopoly on evil and has destroyed monsters as well as created them leading in the abolition of slavery renouncing colonialism building peaceful and prosperous communities and establishing rules and institutions that are models for the world The West should be proud and ready to defend itself and its values In this Europeans should learn from Americans who still have sufficient self esteem to act decisively in a world of chaos and violence Lamenting the vice of anti Americanism that grips so many European intellectuals Bruckner urges a renewed transatlantic alliance and advises Americans not to let recent foreign policy misadventures sap their own confidence This is a searing provocative and psychologically penetrating account of the crude thought and bad politics that arise from excessive bad conscience

10 thoughts on “La tyrannie de la pénitenceEssai sur le masochisme occidental

  1. says:

    uite excellent in its erudite and stinging execution this necessary essay expounding upon the modern era's debilitatingly pervasive Cult of Culpability and its attendant spiritual morbidity aligns itself remarkably well as a complementary companion piece to Walter Russell Mead's God and Gold Much as in the work that I've read of Chantal Delsol Bruckner a kindred French thinker focusses the majority of his powers of observation upon his homeland—yet not only does his gaze allow itself to broaden and encompass modern Europe and its transatlantic kin but the symptoms malaise and remedies that he espies in a troubled and torporific France can through a medial extension apply themselves in varying degrees to a considerable number of those democratic states that espouse the values birthed in the Enlightenment and are either located in or descended from the Western part of EuropeThe list of crimes and horrors enacted by the West over the past several centuries—endemic warfare and destruction culminating in the unprecedented still barely conceivable slaughter of the Two World Wars; the exploding of two atomic bombs; the near extermination of the aboriginal inhabitants of three continents; the enslavement of millions of African blacks; an exploitative global imperialism; the rapacious spoilage of nature's bounty; the brutal political tyrannies of Fascism and Communism and the actualizing of genocidal ideations leading up to the hell on earth of the Holocaust; the long subjugation of women as second class and homosexuals as invisible citizens—is one both lengthy and appalling and the shame and guilt they have brought upon its denizens was and is deserved and necessary What Bruckner sets out to explain is that this guilt has metastasized fed on itself set itself up as the regnant emotion to the degree that it has become pathological allowing the Western gaze to be turned ever limitingly inward even as its external awareness becomes abstract its judgement permissive its guiding s etherealIn this donning of the mantle of eternal self condemnation Bruckner espies an arrogance and narcissism that—once spread outward through imperialism and conuest of supposedly uncivilized peoples and lands—now seeks in elevating itself to the status of the paradigm of remorseful malefactor to use such overindulgence to reclaim the former paramount position it held within the world However unacceptable the deeds of another group or state might be the West can cry Look at us We're worse Who are we to judge you? as it loudly lashes itself takes its accustomed place upon the global stage and assumes control of the conversation Further the cult of culpability endemically results in the spread and prevalence of the opposing cult of victimhood Within a nation eternal victim status sets aggrieved groupings against each other in competition for largesse usually governmental; and the promissory lure of compensation encourages that victimhood becomes a growth industry Exterior to the nation victim status is readily seized upon by other countries or collectivities as serving as a convenient shield against being forced to bear the responsibilities for one's current actions or behaviors Excessive hubris excessive victimization excessive contrition—as in all things intemperance breeds ill results Content to proudly wear the cilice of its trespasses and establish itself as the font of all that is maleficent its ability and will to identify and confront evil not located within has dangerously atrophied Self esteem confidence and pride are as vital to a nation as to an individual; the key is to achieve a degree of balance with its antipodal counterparts In Bruckner's estimation this balance has tilted inordinately in favor of the latter While careful to ensure that the facticity of its offenses is always prevalent in the reader's mind Bruckner wishes to show how both sin and atonement have sprung from the same core values that have fueled the engine of Western civilization for a half millennia There is no doubt that Europe has given birth to monsters but at the same time it has given birth to theories that make it possible to understand and destroy these monsters Because it has raised the alliance between progress and cruelty between technological power and aggressiveness to the highest point since the Conuistadors because it has engaged for centuries in bloody saturnalia it has also developed an acute sensibility to the follies of the human species Taking over from Arabs and Africans it instituted the transatlantic slave trade but it also engendered abolitionism and put an end to slavery before other nations did It has committed the worst crimes and given itself the means of eradicating them The peculiarity of Europe is a paradox pushed to the extreme; out of the medieval order came the Renaissance; out of feudalism the aspiration to democracy; and out of the church's repression the rise of the Enlightenment The religious wars promoted secularism national antagonisms promoted the hope of a supranational community and the revolutions of the twentieth century promoted the antitotalitarian movement Europe like a jailer who throws you into prison and slips you the keys to your cell brought into the world both despotism and liberty It sent soldiers merchants and missionaries to subjugate and exploit distant lands but it also invented an anthropology that provides a way of seeing oneself from the other's point of view of seeing the other in oneself and oneself in the other—in short of separating oneself from what is near in order to come closer to that from which one is separated Our Enlightenment values may have revealed themselves as carrying a venom within—but they have simultaneously been shown to also bear an antitoxin for that poison We should make use of this fact not to shoulder all of the blame for the ills of the world excusing non Western nations for their excesses and crimes out of the embarrassed knowledge that we have done the same or worse; rather we ought to stand firm in reuiring that such realms admit themselves to the same processes of self reflection responsibility and improvement For all of its myriad faults the West has evolved a societal standard of personal liberties tolerance and the rule of law; imperfectly conceived and realized to be sure but a commonality within its constituent nations It ill behooves such foundational values to wallow in culpability to the degree that it paralyses the West from reproaching others when they abuse those rights against their own citizenry or neighbors—or are brought as a barrier to set against Western values by those who have immigrated into the countries from which they first aroseAye the multicultural issue Bruckner is fearless in wading full into the touchiest topics of our time the aforementioned and identity politics; the Israeli Palestinian uagmire; the War on Terrorism; fundamental Islam and its anti modernity; the accommodations with authoritarian China Russia and the Middle East; the failures amongst the former colonial nations of Africa; and the enduring conflict between the Old World and the New World over how to deal with all of the above Bruckner's analysis and opinions of each is too complex to delve into with justice in a review But as an example he sees in Europe's white hot condemnation of Israel one that is out of proportion to both the Jewish state's size and offenses Fully acknowledging Israel's enduring injustices to the Palestinians he yet sees a disturbing tendency to euate Israel carte blance with the Nazi regime a trend the author believes stems from the desire of select European nations—France foremost—to purge themselves of their guilt over complicity in the treatment of Jews in the Second World War by retroactively proving the Jews deserving of their fate and the transmission of a hatred of Liberal Capitalism—shorn of appropriate Third World or Proletarian movements to be infused with such—into the heart of its Western outpost within an Islamic milieu that some parts of the West believes it lacks the moral authority to confrontIt is this atrophied will that Bruckner would like to see addressed; in effect he desires that the Old and New Worlds work continually and supportively together rather than at odds in order that Europe might gain the United States' ability for self reflection without a diminishment in capacity to act firmly and that the US might simultaneously come to accept the need to tame its pride and accept certain limitations to its ability and the desirability of it being the decider in chief of the world Both civilizations need to work to balance their current spiritual constitution that they might help the process—one that will reuire patience and time to be effected—of encouraging those nations who oppose them to adopt the Enlightenment derived values that will influence them to curb their own abuses allow internal changes and improvements the room to evolve and bring themselves into some means of accommodation with an interconnected world And for France itself the author wishes that it might develop some of the Anglo American dynamism that allows them to comparatively embrace the free market economic system that has spread across the globe in order that its young populace might show ambition than to compete for bloated government jobs with guaranteed income and pension; abstain from its slow sinking into the status of museum of civilization; refuse to patronizingly coddle its disaffected minorities and work instead towards addressing a culture that continues to discriminate against the new and unfamiliar; that its Leftist elements might proves less conservative and its Conservative elements less radical in the peculiarly paradoxical state of affairs that comprises the modern French polityOne does not need to agree with everything that Bruckner brings to the table in The Tyranny of Guilt In addition to lacking the detailed knowledge of modern France sufficient to fully gauge the accuracy of the situations therein that he describes and decries I have certain uibbles or problems with his purview regarding multiculturalism the assimilation of immigrants and the exhausting Israeli Palestinian perma crisis And while the excesses of identity politics can be and are debilitating in many cases their existence was vital to keeping their issues at the forefront of Society's short attention span—the tyranny of Guilt has a sibling in the Majority that can prove just as endemic and enfettering However Bruckner is concerned at heart with excesses and I found myself agreeing throughout with his elegantly stated impassioned and wittily limned prose The Tyranny of Guilt is an affliction that easily devolves to the individual I know that my life is one where an oppresively excessive burden of guilt an unceasing self hatred that is perforce the malignant outgrowth of a terribly metastasized self love has deformed my personality and restricted my life in ways that I can acknowledge but have proven incapable perhaps unwilling to address The reality of guilt's tyranny is something I have an acute awareness of—and so when I encounter Bruckner's application of it to a higher and broader collectivity I can both accept what he states as true while drawing an even deeper and fuller understanding of it from his brilliantly constructed arguments Not the happiest of tomes to read but an important one

  2. says:

    Think of this book as a work of philosophy A French intellectual is challenging the thinking of his contemporaries who chose to deride the accomplishments of their own culture The writing is very French – not only is it about the perspective as seen from France but the writing style itself is very florid Personally I thought some of it was very elouent It seems many people disagree with me and found it difficult to readHe is not attacking irrelevant straw men These intellectuals are the people who are teaching our children that the West is the source of all oppression with a litany of victims and their ideas are creeping into mainstream society It is important to challenge this thinking and this work read properly can make a useful contributionRather than try to summarize his entire argument I will drop a few uotes so you can get a feel for his writing style and some of the ideas he explores Lets start at the beginning “Repent That is the message that under cover of its proclaimed hedonism Western philosophy has been hammering into us for the past half century— though that philosophy claims to be both an emancipatory discourse and the guilty conscience of its time What it injects into us in the guise of atheism is nothing other than the old notion of original sin the ancient poison of damnation In Judeo Christian lands there is no fuel so potent as the feeling of guilt and the our philosophers and sociologists proclaim themselves to be agnostics atheists and free thinkers the they take us back to the religious belief they are challenging As Nietzsche put it in the name of humanity secular ideologies have out Christianized Christianity and taken its message still further”Here is an idea that I have not fully considered before – our progressive intellectuals are imprisoned by the worst ideas from our past They are merely re enacting the old medieval play while changing the names of the actors For example that which is supposed to be criticism really amounts to confession “Critical thought at first subversive turns against itself and becomes a new conformism but one that is sanctified by the memory of its former rebellion Yesterday’s audacity is transformed into clichés There is no artist no journalist no actor who does not claim to be subversive especially if he or she receives a government subsidy”Martyrdom has now been recast as being on the receiving end of oppression “Suffering gives one rights it is even the sole source of rights that is what we have learned over the past century In Christianity it used to generate redemption; now it generates reparations”An important point he raises is that the celebration of victimhood the meek shall inherit the Earth locks people into that role It is merely a recasting of our discredited attitude of superiority “This culture of apologies is above all a culture of condescendence Nothing authorizes us to divide humanity into the guilty and the innocent for innocence is the lot of children but also that of idiots and slaves A people that is never held accountable for its acts has lost all the ualities that make it possible to treat it as an eual”Whose interest does all this really serve? “Multiculturalism may ultimately be nothing than a legal apartheid in which we find the wealthy once again explaining tenderly to the poor that money won’t make them happy let us shoulder the burden of freedom of inventing ourselves of the euality of men and women; you have the joys of custom forced marriages the veil polygamy and clitoridectomy”Finally he suggests that our supposed caring about others is really an act of self indulgence “There still remains to uench their thirst for the absolute a final noble savage the Palestinian He is the great Christ like icon the oppressed of the oppressed whose beatification has been proceeding for the past thirty years And the fact that his situation has hardly improved makes it possible to keep alive the revolt he incarnates”The author makes it clear that he is well aware of the real injustices suffered by the Palestinians His point is that we do not actually care about them as real people “People who support the Palestinians are not hoping to aid flesh and blood human beings but pure ideas Intellectuals writers and politicians are not so much engaged in inuiring into a specific antagonism as in settling accounts with Western culture The actual fate of millions of men and women subjected to daily humiliation and precarious living conditions is of little importance We are pursuing our own mythologies in a foreign theater”The writing is provocative It is meant to be He is trying to puncture our own mythologies But he also has a positive view about how we should acknowledge and overcome that which we regret about our past “The best victory over the exterminators torturers and slave traders of yesterday is the coexistence that is now possible among peoples and ethnic groups that prejudices and mentalities previously declared to be incompatible it is that formerly dominated people are now treated as euals and engaged in a collective adventure”Not everyone likes the book This review observes that he is sometimes loose with his facts Taken literally it is unnecessarily polarizing However I read it as philosophy a source of ideas rather than an objective documentary about the Western intellectual landscape It is food for thought not the gospel I am glad I read it

  3. says:

    What started as a decent and well constructed study on the feelings of shame and guilt of Europe turned out to be a biased narrow minded read spewing hatred towards islam and eulogizing zionism and the Zionist Construction Elouently written regarding the content however it is too many times inaccurate and not much worth

  4. says:

    This was a powerfully argued in many ways persuasive intelligent book that I thought I would end up disliking because of Bruckner’s reputation as a political gadfly in Europe The subject of the book would also put off a certain kind of American reader who might openly identify with the terms “liberal” or “progressive” In a time when the French thinker can sometimes be identified with the obscurantism of someone like Jean Baudrillard Bruckner much closely resembles someone like Raymond Aron – which would position him politically at least as a moderate in the United States and on the far right especially in academic circles on the Continent At the heart of Bruckner’s book he makes claim that is not meant to provoke so much as it is to get people thinking Europe has spent too much of the twentieth century apologizing for its mistakes fascism the Holocaust the horrors of Communist instead of carving out a new path for itself by learning from these mistakes This apologizing he says can become pathologically debilitating In a time of bracing secularism Brucker argues that the guilt of original sin never really left us but that it has been transmogrified – into guilt at the former atrocities of colonialism slavery racism genocide and many others Condemnation has become a kind of new civic religion Instead of doing the rational thing which would consist of a dialectical consideration of both our past crimes and an ongoing effort to both correct for them and ensure that they do not occur again the West and he’s particularly talking about western Europe here reverts to a kind of childish narcissism whereby the only way we can savage any shred of former international importance is to wallow in past atrocities Whether or not you agree with Bruckner’s thesis and I had the feeling that I would learn and appreciate it a lot less than I actually did – his writing even the translation is extraordinarily well crafted and his writing convincing A few of his minor assertions – like his claim that Baudrillard was positively giddy at the bombing of the Twin Towers on 911 – struck me as dubious The general themes however brought me on board than I expected them to This is said too often and of too many writers but its true of Bruckner whether you agree with him or not you’ll certainly come away from this book having been challenged – and done so by a writer who while far outside the European political mainstream of the intelligentsia eschews extremism and intelligently uestions even his own assumptions

  5. says:

    From existentialism to deconstructionism all of modern thought can be reduced to a mechanical denunciation of the West emphasizing the the latter's hypocrisy violence and abomination In this enterprise the best minds have lost much of their substanceThus begins Pascal Bruckner's entertaining occasionally brilliant denunciation of the denunciators – who are or less all of usIt would be easy to lump Bruckner in with disillusioned Anglo American liberals such as Paul Berman or Christopher Hitchens in his Ira invasion cheerleading guise but the temptation should be resisted Ira was an exemplary case of the double bind whether one approved of the intervention or not one was wrong Hard to imagine Hitchens writing that Bruckner's analysis is subtler spritely – as you'd expect from the author of Perpetual Euphoria and Bitter Moon His polemic is directed at whole pantheons of intellectuals historians commentators journalists at all the masochists who hate themselves than they love others who refuse to hold other cultures and societies to the same standards by which they condemn their ownBruckner is hardly the first to make this argument but few have made it better I did find it strange that he made no mention of The Betrayal of the West by Jacues Ellul published a generation ago An enterprising reviewer not me could provide a point by point comparison of the two books; in fact in his central argument Bruckner merely updates and re frames Ellul Neither has any intention of excusing the crimes of the West; they accept those as given But each wants to defend values that have taken centuries to achieve even if those values have just as often been betrayed Nowhere else did anyone discover the astounding truth that is peculiar to man he is a maker of history history understood as the expression of freedom and of man's mastery of events nature and his own social life This conception of history is characteristic of all western thinking whether rightest or leftist Ellul Freedom is not a crusade it is a proposition Bruckner The situation of the West brings with it a crushing responsibility – and perhaps a crushing guilt writes Ellul But masochism solves nothing Culpability provides an alibi for our abdication Bruckner concludes Crime will always exceed the possibilities of pardon and memories will always be too numerous the dead will not be avenged or sufferings amended wounds closed Only history oral or written can give these millions of dead the tomb they deserveEveryone will find plenty to argue with in this book but it's bracing in the best sense free of the poison of partisan politics exemplary in its exercise of critical thought and imagination

  6. says:

    Lucid and prescient would be the best way to describe this short bookessay Despite his egalitarianpluralist bent Pascal Bruckner does not as many liberals turn a blind eye to the dubiousness of the Western guilt complex He does not accept it as dogma prima facie that 'The West' is guilty in an unualified sense nor does he accept the pious pleading for absolution as a necessary or desirable phenomenon amongst our peoples References to important thinkers Nietzsche Lichtenberg Thucydides etc abound in the book and are referenced wellWell worth the read despite the somewhat regrettable re affirmation of 'democracy' and 'pluralism' as if those help us in any sense Any intensification of of the same will do us no good I'm afraid

  7. says:

    Guilt must be the Christian principle par excellence Obviously it is a healthy element that helps to discipline both individuals and societies But as Aristoteles has taught us a virtue should be moderate The current European is paralyzed by guilt masochism and fear Both the left Aragon Chomsky and Third World countries help to exploit this feeling The former because they thrive on chaos the latter mostly for financial reasons Paradoxically millions immigrants still want to invade this so called racist continentBruckner stresses that Europe should not feel guilty for all what happened since the end of its colonial empires Asian countries have proved to recover very well while Africa and Middle East use Europe and even USA and Israel to neglect their lack of potential corruptionThe European politicians are either too leftist or too cowardish to react against this tendency Minorities get privileges and are sometimes above the law Hardly a non white can be sentenced for being racist A country is reduced to no than a group of people residing at some point in time somewhere on the same piece of land Multiculturalism has created a new form of apartheid that no longer reuires a constitution to tie in all its inhabitants Common values are not reuired which makes it hard to impossible to integrate mass immigration cf recent Charlie Hebdo murdersEurope has lost its political will and military power During the Cold War it could rely on its Western nephew which it secretly admires and openly hates While Europe is risk averse and clinging to its past not sure whether it should cherish or despise that past too US is rather confident and forward lookingI liked particularly the episode on France and its post WW II feelings of annoyance and regret about its glorious pastNot sure whether Europe and US are so connected and should be as the author recommends Bush jr and Obama seem to have directed their attention to Asia In my opinion Europe should first gain confidence and heavily invest in a military and political future As a strong partner it can look to both United States and Russia to co operate But that perspective reuires a strong ideological medecine to get cured from that nasty feeling of guilt Is there any doctor in the room?

  8. says:

    I read fairly happily until page 31 I thought until that moment that perhaps the translation was inadeuate to convey the subtleties of Bruckner's arguments but suspected that the fault lay with Bruckner himself Indeed it appears to me that he is slightly madThe premise here is that the West isn't only bad and that it's not only Western governments that have inflicted evil I agree and enjoyed the beginning of this wild and provocative ride But only sentences after arguing that forcing baguettes on Africans and pudding on Hindus is using tribalism to practice imperialism he shows that despite his hip and all embracing posturing he in fact reeks of that all too familiar Western superiority Page 31 Without Caesar and without the infusion of Greco Roman culture into France was it an infusion and not a forced imperialist infliction because he approves of its high culture in retrospect? There are plenty of examples of Great Cultures practiced by non Europeans too France would get this have long remained a myriad of tribes with uncouth customs and obscure forms of worship I can only laugh because if I think much further about this abomination there will be a book burning in Berlin tonight I'm wasting neither my time nor a match

  9. says:

    Lots of incisive phrasing and humor in this very serious book about how Western multiculturalism sells out Western values while denying full personhood to minorities Protecting minority culture in the West creates a legal apartheid in which we find the wealthy once again explaining tenderly to the poor that money won't make them happy let us shoulder the burden of freedom of inventing ourselves of the euality of men and women; you have the joys of custom forced marriages the veil polygamy and clitoridcectomy

  10. says:

    An excellent critiue of cultural relativism western guilt and multiculturalism While western society has produced injustices colonialism slavery racism massacre it has also produced the antidotes antislavery and abolition anticolonialism the belief in euality before the law liberty antiracism The attitude that guilt over past western injustices should be atoned for by being uncritical towards other cultures is wrongheaded it is atrophying for ourselves and also takes away the possibility of progress for other societies