“You can get attention and really make people resent you if you do it with an unrelated gimmick. They won’t like you for that.”

Bill Bernbach


No one is easier to manipulate than a man who exaggerates his own influence.


“By dividing the people, we can get them to expend their energies in fighting over questions of no importance to us except as teachers of the common herd.”

The Civil Servants’ Year Book, “The Organizer” January 1934


Resentment is a very personal feeling. Resentment is a sense of grievance, a personal feeling, and suggests a persistent or recurrent brooding over injuries (perceived or real) rather than a sudden outburst if passionate anger (source: Hayakawa). Resentment has a strong sense of implicit grievance. It is deep and persistent. Let’s maybe call this an incredibly corrosive version of an us versus them narrative.

I purposefully use corrosive to lead into politics of resentment. I do so because while resentment is personal, politics of resentment is a tactic. I would argue it is politics at its worst because not only does it divide, but it creates actual barriers to unifying. In other words, it is both an offensive tactic as well as a defensive one (defends against someone who seeks to unite). Resentment is like a magnet. What I mean by that is it is one of those things that people do not need to be led toward or even commanded to exhibit, instead it is a dormant ‘sense’ that simply needs to be activated and once activated will stick to whatever metal places itself in front of that resentment.

And while politicians are certainly accountable, what I just shared, means that a specific criminal rarely exists. Throughout history authorities haven’t ordered violent resentment – pogroms, lynchings, riots – people just committed them.  The only role politicians play is in manipulating resentments to bring them about. This is the politics of fear or victimhood and is exploitation of what is latent in every individual. Now. Resentment involves the need for a “them,” a scapegoat, because most people don’t like to isolate a specific personal scapegoat (it feels too personal). So political rhetoric offers everyone a way to identify someone to scapegoat at arm’s length. The politics of resentment crafts a narrative offering people a scapegoat, usually a collection of people, i.e., them, which every individual person can transfer “evil/danger” to so each individual feels justified and validated in their resentment. This is political manipulation because it purposefully absolves each person of being accountable for the choice of who to demonize, ‘the enemy’ to eliminate, but rather we have enemies crafted by propaganda and some comfortable narrative for them to fall into. By exploiting the scapegoat narrative, people feel comfortable making the scapegoat the generalized incarnation of evil. This is where the politics of resentment truly rears its ugliest head. In the exploitation of resentment, the scapegoat becomes the cause of perceived misfortune. To be clear. There is little to no actual rational basis for this resentment no matter how much the political narrative may circulate and distribute so-called rational reasons. Resentment results solely from the subconscious beliefs/bias/attitudes. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out it was Hitler in Mein Kampf who said “it is necessary to suggest to the people that the most varied enemies all belong to the same category and to lump all adversaries together so that it will appear to the mass of our own partisans that the struggle is being waged against a single enemy. This fortifies their faith in their rights and increases their exasperation against those who would assail them.”

These narratives are corrosive in a variety of ways, but one of the most dangerous aspects is once this type of narrative gains a foothold, reality is under attack. The narrative is not a reflection of reality, using crafted scapegoats, but the resentment reflects real dormant latent subconscious feelings. This means people and society get trapped in the wretched hollow in between reality and perception, hope and resentment. This sense gains momentum because as soon as ‘a scapegoat’ has been clearly identified a variety of resentments can be directed toward them and ‘resentment’ becomes ‘everything evil’ transferred into some nebulous adversary, which only becomes bigger and more evil and more dangerous as more and more resentments are blamed on them. Reality becomes confusion in a conflation of accusations, all enhanced by everyone’s subconscious resentments, with the only clarity being “the scapegoat/enemy.”

Which leads me to ideologies.

Politics is ideologically driven. In the most basic sense, it would be conservatives (those who seek to conserve) and progressives (those who seek to progress). Regardless. While ideology creates the intellectual underpinnings of society, it is also true that ideological expressions typically represent distorted consciousness of realities; consequently, ideologues produced real distorting efforts. For example, an ideology can attempt to take credit for the concrete economic successes of an industrial system of and, yet, that is a distortion of the effect of the ideology let alone the truth. What I mean by that is social reality and social identity get molded into reality in the ideological image and once ideology, the abstract, becomes concrete it is legitimized – even if it is simply an illusion of narrative (and politicians are masters of illusion). In other words, this ideology becomes a miraculous beacon of ‘reasonable common sense’ only an ignorant idiot wouldn’t agree with. Even worse, within the politics of resentment, at that point ideology takes on sort of a precision in that it no longer represents choices but rather becomes assertions of undeniable facts.

The politician’s role in this is to assist in defining normalization because in doing so it becomes an indispensable tool to sanction that ‘normalization.’ I imagine what I am trying to suggest is that within the politics of resentment society, rooted in emotion, identity and ways of life cultivated among a self-identified ‘us,’ operates in an entirely different frame than the rational, universal, truth of a functional healthy society and economy. I will say that history has demonstrated over and over again when real or perceived threats abound, politicians will depart from rational discourse and shift to friends vs. enemies/us vs. them narratives. Politicians are adept at organizing the survival and sustenance of a community – defined by those who are not part of it.

Which leads me to the heinous aspect of politics of resentment.

Self is emergent as a property of the whole. In other words, we are who we are through the interactions/connections with others and the world. An individual rises to new levels when it is part of the whole (not a part of the whole). What I mean by that is separate things have reason to come together that offers advantages that being separate does not have. While there is no “law of attraction”, if there were, this would be it. I believe my thought here is a derivative of what is called “the allurement principle” which is the social collective desire for impact. This is what the politics of resentment destroys, if not suffocates. I believe it was John Ralston Saul who used the phrase ‘pillager of words.’ Some politicians seem to hijack scraps of moral precepts to justify actions, ignoring true reason and morality. They seek to offer simple, and simplistic, answers to things that are neither simple nor have any real answers. They also seek to use pseudo-logic, a derivative of the faux concrete proof, because logic, or what is deemed ‘reason,’ can multiply certainty, as well as doubt, at terrifying speed. They seek to divide in order to have power over parts of the whole – because they cannot gain power by any other means because the ‘whole’ would reject them.

Self is actually about a collective ability to understand and act. Problems are rarely individual; they are more likely larger tragedy of the commons issues and therefore demand some type of collective action. Politics of resentment is anti- ‘everything in that last sentence’. Resentment, at its worst, makes everyone an individual and everyone a potential enemy or someone to blame for any number of my individual woes – real or perceived. Consequently, politics of resentment makes everyone a victim. That last sentence was hard to type because it is a hard thought to swallow. But maybe the first step out of resentment is to accept someone is attempting to make us a victim. Ponder.

“It may be that the universal history is the history of a handful of metaphors.”

Jorge Luis Borges

Written by Bruce