On the Pleasures of Humanitarian Anger

Dalrymple has a new piece for the Library of Law and Liberty that provides a deeper analysis of a human type he has written about before and which we all know well: the unjustifiably and self-righteously enraged.

Anger allegedly felt on behalf of vast numbers of people who are believed to suffer because of a single characteristic that they have in common is deeply satisfying to those who feel it because it assures them that they are, at heart, generous and open-minded people, capable of empathizing with a large proportion of suffering mankind (the larger the better), despite their own personal good fortune.

But why should they require such assurance in the first place? Because they know in their hearts that they do not care half as much for humanity as they think they ought, and therefore compensate for the coldness of their love by the warmth of their wrath. They are angry that they are not as good as they would like to appear in a world in which a person’s goodness is often measured by the strength of feeling he expresses on behalf of others. Hence the shrillness of anger; this also explains the oft-noted paradox that those who love humanity or some very large portion thereof seldom love individual humans, to whom indeed they are frequently outright hostile, while those who make no claims to love humanity en masse are kind and considerate in their personal relations.

3 thoughts on “On the Pleasures of Humanitarian Anger

  1. Benjamin Rossen

    Surely, are we not all very much nastier self-centered conniving creatures than we like to admit to ourselves and to others… or is that just me?

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  2. Jaxon

    Interesting.
    In at least one of TD’s essays he quotes, more or less, what Edmund Burke said about intemperate people having a problem with freedom, it basically never rests easy with them.
    Know yourself. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to fathom the puzzle that is myself and actually I think I’ve had some success… No small thanks to Dalrymple.
    I made some remark here once about his writing being as the Himalayas for the aspiring heart and mind. Maybe that comes across a bit cringeworthy or pretentious or perhaps merely grammatically and semantically unsound… yeah, just how much worse could it get?
    Clearly I’m still creeping my way up a rather challenging face. Challenging for me anyway.

    The fact is I’m rather intemperate by nature and I don’t derive pleasure from it… Or if I do it’s so minimal that I have I think quite consistently opted, at least at the everyday mundane level, for the sort of life that doesn’t move me to anger.
    For example, cycling. I probably walk my bike as much as I ride it, more so… I mean, I’ve come along way from my childhood tantrums, probably everyone who knows me only since my ‘drastic break’ from a past life, nearly twenty years ago, would be surprised, even very surprised, that I think of myself as intemperate; such is my success, and everyday my overriding sense is primarily one of reformed character.

    But alas, when I get on my bike, on a busy road, invariably a rather disconcerting ‘former self’ (the real me?) starts to reassert itself and much too easily for my liking and any notion of self congratulation starts to look horribly like road-kill. I almost always stop short of cursing aloud and never shake my fist, for what it’s worth.

    TV, radio and newspapers… I almost entirely manage to avoid them but just today I made an exception to listen to BBC podcasts. Roger Scruton – Of The People, By The People, which of course I recommend.

    However, and here I’ll quote TD:

    “She was really most unattractive, the kind of person one would go to some trouble to avoid at a gathering, at which she would probably get you in a corner and harangue you about the sexist nature of Così fan tutte, or apply the methods of literary deconstruction to a cheese soufflé. In short, definitely an academic in the ever-expanding department of Grievance Studies.”

    Having called up a menu of BBC podcasts I noted one called Gender Matters by a Sarah Dunant who I’d previously never heard of and only wish I had remained ignorant, I might just as well have cycled onto the M25. What load of BULLSHIT!!

    I apologise for my Tourette’s… I blame feminism…

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