I’ve had a number of conversations recently where I was searching for a word I couldn’t find. Each time, it was the same thing I was trying to describe.
It’s that tendency some people have to count, in the greatest detail, the slights or unfairnesses they’ve suffered, but to ignore, or seem unaware of, the advantages they have or the unfairnesses others suffer. To feel immensely out of pocket, even when you are clearly not.
It’s the thing (emotion? tendency? dimension of personality?) that makes racists convinced immigrants have it easy. It makes MRAs convinced that men are terribly oppressed and women are all mean to them. It makes [redacted person of my acquaintance] act like a total bitch, no matter what anyone does for her.
It made an old flatmate of mine (who’d had a perfectly nice childhood) deeply resentful of the troubled kid in her class who got sent by some charity on the only holiday of his life (a rainy week in an outdoor centre in Scotland).
It’s the driver of Daily Mail readers’ daily apoplexy. The rationale for car users rage at cyclists. Arguably it’s the thing that allows the Tories to countenance, and get away with, policies that squeeze the most vulnerable in our society until the pips squeak, while letting rich people and corporations get away with murder.
It’s a tendency, or habit of mind, that seems to cause a great deal of the suffering and shitness in the world. And yet I cannot find a name for it.
Words like selfishness, or self-centredness do apply to these people, but they don’t quite capture it. Selfishness can just mean being oblivious to other people. It doesn’t communicate the resentful totting up of every perceived slight. It doesn’t communicate the asymmetry of always seeing yourself as hard-done-by, but never recognising others’ disadvantages, pain and suffering. It doesn’t quite nail that unwillingness to empathise with others, cos you’re too busy burnishing your own box of resentments.
I think Orwell was right, that not having words for things makes it harder for us to talk about them, to even see them. How have we ended up without a word for this thing? Is there a word, and I’ve just missed it or not thought of it? If not, can we invent a word?
Because I think it’s something we need to talk about, identify, and work out how to combat. Or the human race is never going to turn into a nicer place.
All-time most read posts
- Is it just me, or is this dog-whistle misogyny? politicaladvertising.co.uk/2017/03/17/ref… 1 week ago
- Trump finally got the crowds he's been wanting. twitter.com/MPSWestminster… 1 month ago
- OMG, haven't they been watching the news? This is not the time to quit a stable, non-fascist political and trade un… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… 1 month ago
- Bristol police tazer their own race relations officer by mistake m.bristolpost.co.uk/investigation-… 2 months ago
- So now that Assange and Trump are mates, doesn't that mean (by his own logic) that Assange has no reason to be fighting extradition? 2 months ago