Guilt, stirred up by leftist thinkers, is now de rigueur in the west. But Pascal Bruckner believes our soul-searching is both hypocritical and injurious.
Beneath Bruckner’s eloquence is a serious message: we remain prisoners of a white guilt whose victim is its supposed beneficiary. Our guilt, he writes, is actually a means for us to retain our superiority over the non-white world, our masochism a form of sadism. After all, if everything is the fault of the west then the power to change the world lies squarely in the hands of westerners.
This belief demeans Frantz Fanon’s “wretched of the earth”—the non-western poor who we are supposed to redeem. Worse than this, it excuses the barbarism of tinpot dictators from Mao to Mugabe, who are considered irresponsible children, their crimes the result of colonialism, racism or capitalist exploitation. In upholding one moral code for the west (and Israel) and another for the rest, we retard human progress. Surely the column inches devoted to Israel’s atrocities, which Bruckner doesn’t gloss, should be overshadowed by the more significant carnage of Darfur. Yet “Nazi” Israel excites leftist ideologues like Gilles Deleuze, while the more serious war crimes of Congo et al do not.
The left avoids these contradictions through relativism. Bruckner, however, staunchly defends Enlightenment liberalism. He has no truck with those who blame the west for jihadism—notably the postmodernist stalwart Jean Baudrillard, who reacted in “pornographic jubilation” to the fall of the twin towers. Moreover, leftist radicals remain cloaked in a respectability which we would never accord the far right, and Bruckner seeks to rip through this bogus status.