“A race of such men of ressentiment is bound to become eventually cleverer than any noble race (..)” F. Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals.
It went well for a while until – after some sleepless nights and doubts that weren’t picked up by others – it went steeply downhill. Deeply downhill. It was 5 AM and, as self-defense, my self was attacking me, I started writing to create the illusion I was talking to someone else. I always try to stay connected to the external world because if that connection fails I fall back on an internal world that is just noise; a ringing inside my ears, a brain buzzing with the effort of making sense where sense cannot be found. I get my rhythm from that external world and that keeps up the inspiration from my inner world. Without rhythm I fall back on a grimness that only wants its own end. I try – here comes the resentment – to convince others to respect my need for rhythm. They want to even if they find it a rather obsessive/oppressive streak in me. They’d call it pride, an internal conviction that things would be better of they were simply my way. And they kind of would be because when I am in flow I am a brute force of nature, a noble and commanding spirit sensitive to even the slightest disturbance of my rhythm. There is then no internal and external anymore – every dissonance is a scream directly picked up by my brain; something I lie awake of. It is beyond me how people have the nerve to disturb the rhythm I invent. They destroy my world and, failing the energy to destroy them, the only thing left is to destroy myself.
This is a piece about the connection between pride and resentment and where Nietzsche got it wrong when separating them and got it right when not separating them. It’s a piece on the pride I take in trying to deal with the power of my resentment.
I try to connect people. I try to connect things. Maybe that’s why my life is so complex. It’s certainly so that I see lots of people able to ignore a lot of variables: either do this or that, not too much at the same time. Seems logical because there is a limit to processing things together. Still, the result is that groups are built (Karl Kraus repeats this phrase over and over “Es bildeten sich Gruppen.”) and I resent groups. Groups are necessarily “either you are in or you are out”. I am too proud to make that choice and cannot see beyond the fact that every group entails defining an out-group. My rebellion is innate, inborn. It leads to a reaction of trying to demolish every group feeling, opening every border. But I see why people resent this noble reaction: groups are places where people feel good because they can feel at home. Groups are places where people enjoy the liberation of not having to be constantly making rational choices. Even my rebellion, my wanting to be free from being part of group conventions, is only thinkable based on there being groups to rebel against.
Groups build an illusion that there’s something like The World, including the scary effect of the capital letters. Still, it is also an illusion that there is No World, a pseudo-comfort in all things being relative. The fact is there is A World we share. My ecological footprint is somebody else’s climate change. If we express ourselves it is only because we share some impact on our shared world. And the more we express ourselves the more we intertwine ourselves. Sometimes I’m tempted to think there only is an outer world and that an inner world is just an illusion that we have talked ourselves into in order not to be alone when we are alone. That’s dark, I know, but the escape of “being who we truly are” seems to be just a way to shrink the world into the imaginary friend (called self) we have created in order never to be alone. And that imaginary friend of course is nothing else than a result of the previous versions of our selves, each defined by groups we were in whether or not we wanted to be in them or not. Every time we proudly ask ourselves whether this is the way it should be – every time we resent being in a group and therefore resent ourselves – we die and we are reborn again as somebody new. Life is dying a thousand deaths. Being dead is the refusal to be proud enough to resent our selves and settle for a risk-free, pale muddle of a life refusing to die (and thereby resenting the other, the out-group person of different convictions than yours). It is, by the way, somehow relaxing to know you died a thousand deaths because practice makes for perfection and that one biological death, if it is well planned, should not be an occasion for drama anymore.
Again, our imaginary friend is just nothing else than the integral of the previous versions of what we believed important and superfluous. It is the group we made for ourselves to fall back onto without fearing any discrepancies. It is a weakness and not a strength. It is a cleverness without nobility. A resentment without pride. The harmony of ‘inner worlds’ is a fiction of the weak trying to appear strong, trying to appear ‘just themselves’. It is just the case in my case that my imaginary friend is mostly angry. She says that I don’t follow through on what we always wanted. She says we always wanted to be different and that I just increasingly conform myself to others. She says I make us into a boring narrative in which we never truly choose and just meekly comply. She says it is time to choose, either this or that. But then, when pushed, she doesn’t know it anymore herself – maybe she has her own imaginary friend pushing her to be proud and to not rest with her resentment? – as we have never wanted to choose for this one simple reason: choosing is ruthless and it exists only by the lack of virtue characteristic of every group: exclusion.
To rest with resentment (to lack the pride that needs to go with it) originates from a lack of expression. And I mean here expression in a broad way: sexual, intellectual, romantic, friendly, professional. I am pretty certain that when people feel inhibited in expression – when they feel they shouldn’t say certain things for fear of being pushed out of a group – that they feel this as oppression. Unconsciously this leads to a reactionary reaction, some kind of resentment that resigns itself (ignobly, cleverly) to reassert whatever they think they truly are or should be. I do not know whether I can die free of this resentment. This piece obviously is full of resentment, of not being understood, of the inability to express clearly what I think. I do not know whether I have the stomach of being reborn the next time I feel the need to self-destruct, the need to be heard. I do not know whether the next time I will not rest resentfully with the thought ‘they don’t want to listen anyway’. But the key lies in expression, as long as you can proudly express yourself, discover a brand new version of your self, as long as you have the idea that somebody wants to do the effort of charitably listening, as long as there is a “longing to be longed for”, there still is creation – a cycle of life and death, some sense to all this.
The pride you built up in previous cycles is the fuel to get you through periods where one despairs of the possibility for that expression and that longing. It is a buffer against such resting-with-resentment and it is probably why Friedrich Nietzsche resented resting with resentment and kept on pursuing pride and authenticity and gayness. As long as there is a bunch of people which you can connect things for there is life. When a moment comes – and it will come – that you know you cannot muster that energy (when your pride is used all up) it is time to go. It is the only time you will be able to die without resentment, when you have little to write to those who remain (because such is the strength of our desire to express ourselves that in the last moment it is the last thing we find the energy to do) the time has come. It is just a pity that it is as of now impossible to express this idea because it breaks something in the people you love and for whom you would do everything not to make them feel broken.
So a long rant in which I set out to prove nothing and would up proving nothing but I did express myself and – yet another – I will live another day.