The Treasury Of Merit

We in the West have been taught to think in terms of Bad Guys and Good Guys, in part because our underlying cognitive model for understanding international relations is the Allies versus the Nazis. It would be difficult for us to construct a model in which the Nazis were the good guys, nor am I myself interested in attempting it. The trouble is, however, that there used in fact to be such a model, to be found within the Nazi propaganda space.

Our victors’ world-view seems to assume that the Nazis knew they were the bad guys, just as we knew ourselves to be the good guys. This was emphatically not the case, of course. No man is a villain to himself, and no nation either. The latter may even be a definitional truth; if a nation ever came to believe that it was wicked, it would probably cease to be a nation. A nation may, therefore, be defined as a bunch of people sharing a collective conviction that they are the good guys. A culture is a kind of bank, into which people put allegiance and take out a comforting sense of collective superiority and self-righteousness.

This, then, is one of the three reasons why the West is so sure of its virtue, the second being the dominance of mass media peddling narcissism and the third being the assumption that whosoever defeated Hitler is a good guy in an ontological sense immune to the passage of time and the adoption of new behaviours. That is to say, the fact that Britons and Americans were on the “right” side in the Second World War – meaning that they won it, otherwise theirs would have been the “wrong” side in the history books – has inculcated a sense of essential superiority in both nations. By “essential” I mean a sense that they just are on the side of the angels, whatever they are actually doing at the moment. Having defeated Hitler creates a sort of Treasury of Merit, which will last until the heat death of the universe, and upon which they draw when anyone complains of their present actions.

In consequence of all this, we are about as capable of viewing ourselves as the Bad Guys as were people who were socialised into adulthood within the Hitlerjugend. This may yet have the same kind of consequences.

Posted on July 16, 2011 at 18:37 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, Medicalising The Opposition

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