I promised in the last News & Views page to begin a column that would provide views rather than just news. I have decided to call it Chronicles of Love and Resentment because these are the two poles of human interaction. They are of the utmost theoretical importance precisely because they are not abstract concepts distilled by thought from our lived experience, but realities–the most powerful human realities–of our daily lives.
Perhaps the most useful way to describe the difference between GA and Girard’s system is that the latter begins with resentment whereas GA begins with love. Human violence is as violent as it is only because the first human act is the deferral of violence. Resentment preoccupies us more than love because it poses problems to be solved, but our problems repose on a basis of human solidarity. This is not an expression of optimism, but a reminder of our ontology. One (more) thing the Oedipus myth is about is human survival through love, minimally defined as the deferral of violence. Oedipus is the infant that his father could not kill, that his mother could not abandon to his death; loved as a child by his adopted parents, he leaves the scene, accompanied by his loving daughter Antigone, to die a holy man at Colonus. It is not to make little of life’s tragedies to affirm that they are part of la comédie humaine.
Of all our personal experiences, that of love is the most profound–in the vocabulary of GA, the most originary. So much so that it cannot fully be articulated, no more than the believer can fully articulate his faith. The foundation of language cannot be directly expressed in language. Resentment, on the other hand, rests on a foundation of love; the resenter is a child who breaks his toys knowing his parents are there to pick up the pieces. And thus it can be articulated with great sharpness. Its danger lies precisely in this ease of communication.
The most powerful expression of resentment I can think of is Jenny’s song from Brecht-Weill’s Dreigroschenoper. I am no great admirer of Brecht’s work, let alone of his persona, but one cannot deny the genius that reveals itself in this expression of resentment. I can never hear this song without thinking of that other genius of resentment whose Mein Kampf was written at about the same time. One line best sums up the whole:
Und sie wissen nicht mit wem sie reden. (And they don't know whom they're talking to.)
How many times have my experiences in the academic world made me think of that line!
And yet the bottom line, there as elsewhere, is still love; how could I hate an institution that pays me to work on Generative Anthropology?