The Envy of the Left (or No Good News Goes Unpunished)
According to Webster's, envy is defined as "malice," and a "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage." The psychoanalytic understanding of envy is that it is an unconscious fantasy aimed at attacking, damaging, or destroying what is good, because of the intolerable feeling that one does not possess and control the object of goodness. As such, it is an aspect of what Freud called the death instinct, since it ultimately involves a destructive attack on the sources of life and goodness. Particularly envious individuals cannot tolerate the pain of not possessing and controlling the "good object," so they preemptively spoil it so that they don't have to bear the pain.
What is critical--and so perverse--about envy, is that it is not an attack on "the bad" or frustrating, but a hateful attack on what is good. As a result, the psyche of such individuals confuses what is bad and what is good, and cannot experience a sense of gratitude toward the good, the sine qua non of happiness and mental health. The envious person does not want to have a relationship with the good object, but wants to be that object. If it cannot be the object, then it attacks it to eliminate the tension.
Yesterday was an instructive but disturbing case study in the many ways of envy. Here we had such wonderful news coming out of Iraq, but the left found a multitude of ways to devalue, attack, and "spoil" the news through their excessive envy--by ignoring it, by downplaying it, by qualifying it, and by completely assaulting it with near-psychotic delusions.
I went trolling around the darker precincts of the blogosphere yesterday in search of envious attacks on the good news, and they weren't difficult to find. These samples are mostly taken from dailykos and the Huffington website. Note the specific quality of infantile spoiling:
--"Both sides are participating in these elections to screw the other side and not for any real reason beyond that (although promises to end the occupation, even if lies, represent a tasty carrot)."
--"This is our last chance to leave on terms where we can still claim some marginal success. Because it's all downhill from here. It's the Joke of the Week. An inside joke that few seem to get."
--"Democracy isn't elections. Many a dictator has won an 'election' by overwhelming landslide."
--"This is precisely what BushCo want us to believe. Distract us from the violence and the deaths, of both U.S. and coalition forces and the Iraqi people, by staging these phony elections and giving us these photo ops."
--"Earlier this week, on Air America, I heard about a truck of ballots being intercepted on it's way from Iran. With Iran & the U.S. both wanting a desired outcome, I don't think it matters what the Iraqis want. Either Iran or the U.S. is going to win this election, votes be damned."
--"As far as the election goes, the whole thing stinks to me... purple fingers be damned... I've become a bit of a cynic in the last five years..."
--"Bush’s false claims of 'bringing democracy to Iraq' cannot be the prerequisite for ending the occupation and bringing home all the U.S. troops. The invasion and occupation were and remain illegal, and it is our obligation to fight to end it now."
--"This Election is to Make People Forget about the Occupation
--"If the election was successful, troops will come home immediately. Otherwise 'success' is just a Bush lie. Another lie. Bring the troops home now."
--"If Kerry were president, this day would have come much sooner. And far less money and human life would have been wasted."
--"You warmongers cannot have it both ways. If the election was a success, the U.S. is done. If there is a democracy there, the U.S. has no business staying there. It's either a democracy, or a country occupied by the U.S."
--"The IRAQ Elections are rigged... rigged elections is THE ONLY THING repugs are good at!"
--"This time the sunnis participated"... wonder why? No purple finger = no food... You didn't know that? That's right, goebbel's nazi US MSM never tells you that... or anything of value for that matter."
--"This election, as the others, is a farce. The 'victory' Bushpigs are crowing about hasn't happened, and can't happen unless we leave Iraq and they're able to carry out peaceful elections on their own. Does anyone think that they're anywhere near being able to do that? I certainly don't, but then unlike the Bushpigs, I don't have my head up my ass.
--"If the supreme traitors had not stolen your and my vote on 12-12-2000, of course none of this would have happened.... especially 9-11 which was perpetrated by bush. I know, it's a tabou subject in nazi US, but NOBODY in the rest of the world believes the 9-11 fairytale (Why did wtc 7 come down?)."
Envy is such an important but generally ignored concept, probably because people don't want to consider the sinister ways it operates in their own lives. But it is a key that unlocks many mysteries, particularly in politics. So strong and ubiquitous is envy, that you cannot have a political system that doesn't accommodate or find some way to manage envy. You might say that one party will generally represent the envied, the other the envious. Guess which ones.
Victor Davis Hanson has a typically outstanding piece today that highlights the power of envy in shaping people's perception of reality--of their need to spoil the good. He writes:
"For some time, a large number of Americans have lived in an alternate universe where everything is supposedly going to hell. If you get up in the morning to read the New York Times or Washington Post, watch John Murtha or Howard Dean on the morning talk shows, listen to National Public Radio at noon, and go to bed reading Newsweek it surely seems that the administration is incommunicado (cf. “the bubble”), the war is lost (“unwinnable”), the Great Depression is back (“jobless recovery”), and America about as popular as Nazi Germany abroad (“alone and isolated”).
But in the real adult world, the economy is red-hot, not mired in joblessness or relegating millions to poverty. Unemployment is low, so are interest rates. Growth is high, as is consumer spending and confidence.... The military isn’t broken. Unlike after Vietnam when the Russians, Iranians, Cambodians, and Nicaraguans all soon tried to press their luck at our expense, most of our adversaries don’t believe the U.S. military is losing in Iraq, much less that it is wise now to take it on....
Nor are we creating new hordes of terrorists in Iraq — as if a young male Middle Eastern fundamentalist first hates the United States only on news that it is in Iraq crafting a new Marshall Plan of $87 billion and offering a long-oppressed people democracy after taking out Saddam Hussein. Even al Jazeera cannot turn truth into untruth forever....
The world does not hate the United States. Of course, it envies us. Precisely because it is privately impressed by our unparalleled success, it judges America by a utopian measure in which anything less than perfection is written off as failure."
To put it in psychoanalytic terms, I would simply change that last paragraph to read, "The world hates the United States because it envies us. Precisely because they cannot tolerate our unparalleled goodness and success, they attack it and turn America into a uniquely bad object. In doing so they have destroyed the good and conflated good and bad, but at least they don't have to feel the pain of envy."