Wednesday 13 December 2017

Time to look forward and stop wallowing in our guilt

We need to stop bemoaning the mistakes of the past and instead get on with putting things back together, writes Brendan O'Connor

French philosopher Pascal Bruckner has written a book called The Tyranny of Guilt. The subtitle of the book is An Essay on Western Masochism. His basic thesis is that the entire western world is addicted to wallowing in guilt about the past, and that the root of it all is roughly religious -- stemming form the notion of original sin. Bruckner's most vivid illustration of our addiction to guilt is that so many thinkers and commentators could greet the murder of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001, with cries of "we had it coming".

"We had it coming" could be Ireland 2010's catchcry as well.

Bruckner reckons that in a weird way this wallowing in guilt and remorse is a form of narcissism. "Our superiority complex," he says of the West, "has taken refuge in the perpetual avowal of our sins." He could be talking about Ireland. We were the best at economic miracles, now we are the best at repentance and austerity.

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