Why So Much Anger and Resentment?

2018–The Year of Living Hatefully is the title of a recent post by Roger Simon:

Practically no one was happy. Or if they were, they didn’t show it. All they wanted to do was vilify the opposition or even their neighbors.  Democrats hating Republicans (see the new movie “Vice”) and vice versa were just the tip of a rancid iceberg. Never Trumpers hate Trumpers and the reverse, Sanders supporters hate Beto supporters, Antifa hate the bourgeoisie, the Proud Boys hate Antifa, FOX hates CNN and MSNBC hates FOX…It goes on and on. Families and friends split from each other. People shut up at work for fear they’ll be fired. Thanksgiving is a festival of hostility, Christmas (when we’re allowed to speak its name) is only slightly better.

Roger attributes the toxic atmosphere in large part to the decline in religiousness.  I’m not convinced by that explanation; there are plenty of examples of religion as a cause of mutual hostility as well as cases where it has served as part of a cure.

One factor in the development of the toxic atmosphere, IMO, has been the cult of “self-esteem development” carried to an excess…this seems to have resulted in a large number of people who simply cannot stand challenge or disagreement.

Still, there are plenty are angry and hostile people who are old enough to have missed the era of self-esteem indoctrination.

Another factor is social media,which seems to lend itself to the formation of on-line lynch mobs, as I discussed in my post freedom, the village, and social media.

Economic fear and uncertainty surely also plays a role.  Although Roger remarks that “all this (craziness and anger) is happening in a country awash in affluence, also as almost never before, with close to full employment for all ethnic and racial groups,” it remains true that many people are highly disappointed in their failure to advance more economically, and many who feel that their children will be less-well-off than themselves.  Economic factors aside, there are also many who have been severely disappointed in their relationships and blame this disappointment in large part on society.

A friend of mine once remarked that “if someone is bitter, then he is publicly announcing that in his own eyes he is a failure.”  I thought this was a profound comment, and by that measure, there are a lot of people in America today who consider themselves to be failures.

But still, there are a lot of people who are doing very well economically, who seem to have excellent relationships/family lives, but who also have a lot of anger at a large number of their fellow Americans.

Also,  I remember something Ralph Peters wrote many years ago:

Man loves, men hate. While individual men and women can sustain feelings of love over a lifetime toward a parent or through decades toward a spouse, no significant group in human history has sustained an emotion that could honestly be characerized as love. Groups hate. And they hate well…Love is an introspective emotion, while hate is easily extroverted…We refuse to believe that the “civilized peoples of the Balkans could slaughter each other over an event that occurred over six hundred years ago. But they do. Hatred does not need a reason, only an excuse.

This also is, I think, a profound remark.  And today’s intense focus on group identities has surely led to much more viewing of people as avatars of a group, rather than individuals–making it that much easier to despise and attack them.

And a significant part of American academia is endlessly busy manufacturing new and revised group identities, and stirring up resentments based thereon.

Do you agree with Roger that 2018 was the most Hateful year in recent history?  If so, what do you see as the primary causes and the potential remedies, if any?


4 thoughts on “Why So Much Anger and Resentment?”

  1. I mostly block nasty people on Facebook, the only social medium platform I use.

    I mostly use it to stay in touch with family, and post photos for their information.

    I do have a few “Facebook friends” that I know only through that platform.

    I don’t watch much TV except college football. I do watch a few programs, none sitcoms. I have a collection of classic movies on DVD and Blue Ray that I watch from time to time.

    My neighbors are apolitical and most family members are conservative or keep their mouths shut. We have more important things to talk about when we meet.

    I do see craziness online and in the newspapers. I don not understand how some of these people think they could rule the country or what they would want to do. Fortunately, I live in a state that does little to impede my freedom and I am old enough to think that I would avoid the consequences if these people should actually seize power.

  2. Social media is poison. One must remember, though, that it is not real life. Get off line. Go to a diner, a local craft show, etc. The internet is not reality. People aren’t as violently angry as you would think from facebook or the New York Times comments section.

    Unfortunately, it only takes a small minority to start a revolution. Or a civil war.

  3. I think David has hit on most all of the significant trends that are causing more expressions of hatred and blame.

    We have largely removed accountability to a supreme being who has clear moral guidance. We have substituted fluid, relativistic and often peer determined standards of civility, values, behavior and even cultural myth inheritance.

    Many placed in such a culture were raised in an environment of unearned self-esteem and externalizing and projecting onto others (especially identified villainized groups of “others”) the responsibility for all bad stuff. This includes externalizing disagreeable personal outcomes and supposed catastrophic and human-caused macro issues. Such attitudes logically results in hatred of identifiable individuals and groups as virtue signalizing and redemption.

    Since the benefits of virtue signaling and projection redemption are largely emotional to members of such groups, there is not much room for factual basis, discussion or debate.

    One hopes that reality will make such trends shorter rather than longer in scope. Could it turn out that the haters and shamers won’t like the trajectory of this pop culture when they experience the logical results? Well, it might at least put a limit on its spread.


  4. I doubt 2018 was more hateful than 1850-1880, 1954, 1968. However, 2018 had social media.

    Ralph Peters was right about hatred not needing a reason. It’s generally easier to say negative things and to destroy than it is to say positive things and to create. It takes more effort to be positive. And now, with media of all kinds electronically networked to an unprecedented degree, negativity gets amplified more than ever and spread farther and faster than ever.

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