by Daniel Pipes
"Nothing is more Western than hatred of the West." So writes the French novelist and essayist Pascal Bruckner in his book La tyrannie de la pénitence (2006), capably translated into English by Steven Rendall and recently published by Princeton University Press as The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism. "All of modern thought," he adds, "can be reduced to mechanical denunciations of the West, emphasizing the latter's hypocrisy, violence, and abomination." He exaggerates, but not by much.
He shows how Europeans see themselves as "the sick man of the planet" whose pestilence causes every problem in the non-Western world (what he calls the South). When the white man set foot in Asia, Africa, or
These provocative statements undergird Bruckner's brilliant polemic arguing that European remorse for the sins of imperialism, fascism, and racism have gripped the continent to the point of stifling its creativity, destroying its self-confidence, and depleting its optimism.
Bruckner himself concedes Europe's blemishes but he also praises it for self-criticism: "There is no doubt that
Paradoxically, it is
The South, in contrast, is deemed perpetually innocent. Even as colonialism fades into the past, Europeans righteously blame themselves for the plight of once colonized peoples. Eternal innocence means infantilizing non-Westerners; Europeans flatter themselves as the only adults – itself a form of racism. It also offers a way to preempt criticism. This explains why Europeans ask what they "can do for the South rather than asking what the South can do for itself." It also explains why, after the
As shown by the
Europe exonerates itself of crimes against Jews by extolling Palestinians as victims, no matter how viciously they act, and by portraying Israelis as latter-day Nazis, no matter how necessary their self-defense. Thus has the Palestinian question "quietly relegitimated hatred of the Jews." Europeans focus on
He hopes that Europe and
Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
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