“White Guilt” is a term which, strictly speaking, has no meaning. No group can be guilty of anything, only individuals. You might as well speak of black guilt, Asian guilt, French, Burmese or Klingon guilt.
This “guilt” is claimed to exist because of what “whites,” lumped together into a non-existent uber-group, have supposedly systematically done to “non-whites” as groups, i.e., oppression, exploitation, slavery, murder. (As an aside, I’ll point out the original Welsh version of my last name meant “slave” to the English, who captured the Welsh and sold them as slaves. Should all English, even today, suffer group guilt because of this? Do they owe me and all my Welsh/Scots-Irish/Scottish/Irish relatives reparations? Tearful apologies, at the very least?)
To expand on those last few sentences a bit, do African blacks owe American blacks reparations for capturing them and selling them to foreign slavers? Do Muslims owe Slavs (the word “slave” derives from Slav) for enslaving them? Do American blacks owe American blacks reparations because some blacks owned other blacks as slaves in the U.S.? And were even slave-ship captains? How about American Indians who owned black slaves? What about all the white slaves thoughout history? I could go on for an hour.
Whites as a group, it is claimed, owe those they have supposedly exploited some sort of reparations (which, of course, as we all know, will never be enough and therefore never end). There is, however, a dynamic that I believe most people don’t understand: the relationship between guilt and envy.
This guilt is supposed to be permanently on the heads of the “oppressors” (a loaded Marxist term if there ever was one) and is never to be expiated. Perhaps it is genetic guilt, never to be eradicated until those defined as damned are themselves eradicated? The inherently cruel, vicious Ice People as compared to the happy-clappy, generous, non-violent Sun People?
The “oppressed,” instead of exhibiting gratitude because of concessions made, respond with envy and rage. Unfortunately, hate is an integral part of envy, so those who try to make reparations to the oppressed, trying to ease their burden of self-imposed guilt, are instead going to be the shocked targets of a lot of wrath and not the slightest scrap of gratitude.
A perfect modern example of this wrath are the New Black Panthers, one of whose spokesmen, Minister King Samir Shabazz, recently spoke of killing “crackers” and their babies. How can this be? The United States has spent over a trillion dollars since LBJ’s Great Society to improve the lot of blacks, so shouldn’t all of them respond with gratitude and not oceans of Cornel Westian vitriol?
Hardly. The main reason why there is hate instead of gratitude is that when you do favors, especially from a position of strength, they see the people doing the favors as looking down on them. Whoa, bad move, dude! The invariable response? Hate and envy.
Kant wrote this about ingratitude: “Ingratitude towards a benefactor which, if taken to the point of hatred of that benefactor, is qualified ingratitude, but otherwise is termed thoughtlessness, though it is generally held to be a very dreadful vice; yet it is so notorious in man that to make an enemy as a result of benedictions rendered is not regarded as improbable.”
“It is astounding that countless benefactors allow themselves to be persuaded over and over that ingratitude with the resulting hatred is a rare and special case,” writes Helmet Schoeck in his magisterial book, Envy.
I suspect on some level these whites, with their sense of guilt, understand they are envied, and so try to placate the envious through “reparations.” I am reminded in a scene in Tom Wolfe’s book, Hooking Up, in which a wealthy white teen in New York City wore baggy pants and his hat sideways, trying to deflect envy from him by imitating his homies. Did this teenager know what he was doing? I’m sure that, consciously, he did not.
Giving money to the “oppressed,” or acting like them, are not true reparations at all but instead are self-abasing attempts at impotent bribes that lead to the self-destruction of the benefactor, since you cannot placate the envious unless you let them utterly crush you, or better yet, kill you — specifically, if you let them mutilate and then murder you (in that order), as the envious did during the French Revolution. Such is the enormity of the power of hate and envy.
Schoeck understood the relationship between guilt and envy. “The guilt-tinged fear of being thought unequal,” he writes, “is very deeply ingrained in the human psyche. It is found among primitive people and existed long before the existence of Christianity.”
What we’re dealing with today — the guilt of the “oppressors” (read “successful”) and the envy of the “oppressed” (read “less successful”) — is nothing new. It is probably the de facto state of human existence. If it wasn’t the natural state of humanity, one of the oldest stories on record — that of Cain murdering Abel — would not have happened, because Cain would not have felt it necessary to slaughter his brother because of his envy of him.
Perhaps a better word than envy is the word ressentiment. There is no easy translation of it, but it can be described as a person dwelling on real or imagined grievances and imaginatively enlarging them until they are consumed by them. Hence, we end up with aggrieved, resentful and hate-filled people shrieking for the murders of “cracker babies.”
The guilt of the “oppressors” leading to reparations does not create peace, only more envy and hate toward the benefactors. And as the story of Cain and Abel tells us, that envy leads to murder. I consider that a law of human nature, one you will never see taught in any college psychology class.
The United States government is currently letting in far too many uneducated (and probably uneducable) low-IQ people from the Third World, out of a sense of guilt (and the greed for cheap labor). Some of these people, I’m sure, admire the U.S. (and admiration, as Kierkegaard among others has noticed, is the benign, concealed form of envy). But millions hate and envy this country, want reparations (permanent welfare) and ultimately want to see this country and people destroyed and replaced by the envious less-successful — even though it means the wealth of the United States would evaporate (although I’m sure the envious don’t understand that is exactly what would happen).
The United States is unfortunately sinking into an abyss of fascism/socialism, following nearly the exact path of the Roman Empire. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn explained in Leftism Revisited, both fascism and socialism are leftist (as is Nazism, for that matter), which is why they work together so well.
Schoeck pointed out in his book, and Friedrich von Hayek in his The Road to Serfdom, that socialism is the primitive “tribal” attempt to make everyone equal and eradicate envy though the force and fraud of the State. Though it has never worked in the history of the world, the Western world — the United States and Europe — is today trying it again.
The West did at one time learn to manage and therefore minimize envy through private property and the free market. Schoeck claims private property deflected envy from people onto property.
He writes, “…the merciful effect of private property is evident, though it is seldom recognized. It is not the cause of destructive envy, as the apostles of equality are seeking to persuade us, but a necessary protective screen against people. Whenever there have ceased to be any enviable material goods or where these have for some reason been withdrawn from the enemy’s field of vision, we get the evil eye and envious destructive hatred against the physical person. It might almost be said that private property first arose as a protective measure against other people’s envy of our physical qualities.”
The free market (and it corollary, small government), minimizes envy, while socialism, which is supposed to eradicate envy, instead turns it into an ever-expanding Blob, because without private property, envy is deflected back onto people. And while you can’t murder private property, you certainly can murder people.
I don’t think it’s all that hard to predict the future if things continue on the path they are on. If the U.S. truly becomes multicultural, Whites and Asians will be the most successful and blacks and those from south of the border will be the less successful. The least successful will be envious of the more successful, and the more successful will try to assuage the envy directed toward them with showers of money, make-work jobs and special rights.
Of course, none of it will work. It never has in the past. Patronizing the least successful by giving them money and jobs for which they are unqualified will just lead to more envy, hate and violence. Even the not-so-bright know fear and condescension from their “benefactors” when they see it, and it’s just going to enrage them.
I do wish liberals were right and human nature was infinitely malleable. Things would be so much easier. But it’s not. If it’s not infinitely malleable, I’d wish instead there weren’t any differences between races and ethnic groups, so that some, such as blacks, wouldn’t be at the bottom of every country they live in, and that Africa wouldn’t be a basket case. Or that the United States wouldn’t have a Third World country on its southern border.
Since liberals of whatever persuasion live in a fantasy world, the only workable choice we have is for this country to head back to the free market and political liberty, so we again would have plenty of high-paying jobs (wages stopped going up in 1973, courtesy of free trade policies and our grotesquely bloated government). Then, this vicious destructive envy would be minimized because nearly everyone could have a good job and own property. Envy, unfortunately, will never be eliminated, because, as C.S. Lewis amusingly wrote, the human race is permanently “bent.”
I cannot see this correction toward political liberty and the free market happening anytime soon. Fortunately, the U.S. is still about 50% free market, which is advancing society, while unfortunately the other half of it is socialized. Bizarrely and perversely, we’re stomping on the brake and accelerator at the same time. Or, to use an older saying, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.
Too bad people these days have so little understanding of the destructive effects of envy (and the Seven Deadly Sins in general). Perhaps our “religious leaders” aren’t doing their jobs and are instead regaling their flocks with fantasies about the Rapture and Tribulation, or else are supporting open borders to increase their congregations.
I close with a perceptive quote from Schoeck: “in any group the envious man is inevitably a disturber of the peace, a potential saboteur, an instigator of mutiny and, fundamentally, he cannot be placated by others.”
Like the Terminator, or the Giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk,” the envious will not stop, until society learns again — after a lot of heartbreak — how to stop them. Which, unfortunately, usually means knocking heads.