This is correct, since the culprits are
always isolated individuals who have found no access to a collective. And
it is incorrect, since isolated cases of this kind are becoming more and
more frequent. This increase leads one to conclude that there are more and
more radical losers. This is due to the so-called "state of
things." This might refer equally to the world market or to an
insurance company that refuses to pay.
But anyone wishing to understand the radical loser would be well advised
to go a little further back. Progress has not put an end to human
suffering, but it has changed it in no small way. Over the past two
centuries, the more successful societies have fought for and established
new rights, new expectations and new demands. They have done away with the
notion of an inevitable fate. They have put concepts like human dignity
and human rights on the agenda. The have democratized the struggle for
recognition and awakened expectations of equality which they are unable to
fulfil. And at the same time, they have made sure that inequality is
constantly demonstrated to all of the planet's inhabitants round the clock
on every television channel. As a result, with every stage of progress,
people's capacity for disappointment has increased accordingly.
"Where cultural progress is genuinely successful and ills are cured,
this progress is seldom received with enthusiasm," remarks the
philosopher Odo Marquard (book):
"Instead, they are taken for granted and attention focuses on those
ills that remain. And these remaining ills are subject to the law of
increasing annoyance. The more negative elements disappear from reality,
the more annoying the remaining negative elements become, precisely
because of this decrease in numbers."
This is an understatement. For what we are dealing with here is not
annoyance, but murderous rage. What the loser is obsessed with is a
comparison that never goes in his favour. Since the desire for recognition
knows no limits, the pain threshold inevitably sinks and the affronts
become more and more unbearable. The irritability of the loser increases
with every improvement that he notices in the lot of others. The yardstick
is never those who are worse off than himself. In his eyes, it is not they
who are constantly being insulted, humbled and humiliated, but only ever
him, the radical loser.
The question as to why this should be so only adds to his torment. Because
it certainly cannot be his own fault. That is inconceivable. Which is why
he must find the guilty ones who are responsible for his plight.
But who are these omnipotent, nameless aggressors? Thrown back entirely on
his own resources, the answer to this nagging question is beyond the
isolated individual. If no ideological program comes to his aid, then his
search is unlikely to extend to the wider societal context, looking
instead to his immediate surroundings and finding: the unjust superior,
the unruly wife, the bad neighbour, the conniving co-worker, the
inflexible public official, the doctor who refuses to give him a medical
But might he not also be facing the machinations of some invisible,
anonymous enemy? Then the loser would not need to rely on his own
experience: he could fall back on things he heard somewhere. Few people
have the gift of inventing themselves a delusion that fits their needs.
Consequently, the loser will most often stick to material that floats
freely within society. The threatening powers that are out to get him are
not hard to locate. The usual suspects are foreigners, secret services,
Communists, Americans, big corporations, politicians, unbelievers. And,
almost always, the Jews.
For a while, this kind of delusion may bring the loser relief, but it will
not be able to actually pacify him. In the long term, it is hard to assert
oneself in the face of a hostile world, and he can never entirely rid
himself of the suspicion that there might be a simpler explanation, namely
that he is responsible, that his humiliation is his own fault, that he
does not merit the esteem he craves, and that his own life is worthless.
Psychologists call this affliction "identifying with the
aggressor". But what is that supposed to mean? It certainly has no
meaning for the loser. But if his own life is worthless, why should he
care about the lives of others?
"It's my fault." – "The others are responsible."
These two claims are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they
reinforce each other. The radical loser is unable to think his way out of
this vicious circle, and it constitutes the source of his terrible power.
The only way out of the dilemma is to fuse destruction and
self-destruction, aggression and auto-aggression. On the one hand, at the
moment of his explosion, the loser for once experiences a feeling of true
power. His act allows him to triumph over others by annihilating them. And
on the other, he does justice to the reverse of this feeling of power, the
suspicion that his own existence might be worthless, by putting an end to
As an additional bonus, from the moment he resorts to armed force, the
outside world, which has never wanted to know anything about him, takes
notice of him. The media make sure he is granted an enormous degree of
publicity – even if it is for just 24 hours. Television spreads
propaganda for his act, thus encouraging potential imitators. For minors,
as shown by events in the United States in particular, the temptation this
represents is hard to resist.
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