I’ve been considering the origins and effects of resentment for the past two weeks or so since it first came up in class regarding exclusive studying spaces on campus and hypothetical exclusive shelter privileges (when we went outside and imagined all the buildings were locked). I knew I wanted to write a blog post about it, so I went to Google to try to find some material to work with. What I came across is this article here, which pins a bunch of negative consequences as being rooted in feelings of resentment.
So to begin, the definition of resentment is “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly” (from Google). In the context of Parable, we saw a bunch of resentment on the part of the street poor directed at those who they perceived as rich or, at least, able to feed and shelter themselves in relative comfort. Lauren never saw herself as rich, but she acknowledged that she was better off than those outside of her gated community (before she was forced to leave it, of course). I find the painted pyro addicts especially interesting, and I’ve been thinking a lot about their place in this book, and their counterparts outside of it. The painted people, as Lauren comes to understand, are seen almost like Robin Hoods, in that they crack in to the resources hoarded by the “rich,” so that the poorer people living on the outside can come and scavenge in the wreckage.
To connect back to the article and the course more as a whole, I’m trying to figure out how resentment factors in with people who are homeless, down-on-their-luck, or otherwise disadvantaged. If you take a look at the above linked article, you’ll find that resentment breeds “fantasies of retribution, which stimulate small doses of adrenalin and cortisol for temporary increase in energy and confidence.” The article also explores some of the same themes I talked about in one of my previous posts about learned helplessness and cycles of grief. Resentment is cumulative, according to the article, and people can carry it around from past transgressions made against them spanning years back, and can continue to project resentment into the future in daily interactions.
The source I’m pulling from is a little sparse and doesn’t consider the sociological consequences of resentment, but I would like to make some of my own (*cough*unresearched*cough*) predictions and assumptions. What I want to point out is that the “fantasies of retribution” that the article mentions could mean that part of the thrill pyro addicts get from setting fire to any and everything could have something to do with the resentment they likely feel towards those who are better able than them to feed and shelter themselves. Maybe this isn’t the case, but there’s plenty of textual evidence that suggests that the painted people aren’t entirely random in the places and things they choose to set fire to. I’m interested in this because I believe that resentment can be a very strong feeling, and if too many people feel it too strongly, than I think there is a very real possibility of social order turning into upheaval and anarchy. I told Beth in one of our first classes that I might want to eventually draw some connections between the course and our current political climate, and I think I finally reached that point. The social atmosphere, as far as I’ve observed, at least, has calmed quite a bit since the inauguration, but I only project a growth in resentment among those of lower socioeconomic status in the coming years. The wage gap is growing and growing at an obscene rate, and I think this is a very bad thing for general American morale. There have been protests and marches, and they continue to happen (the climate march on D.C. was yesterday), and maybe these will lessen, but I’m convinced feelings of resentment (especially between political parties) are not getting better. I don’t know what the solution to this is, but I don’t want to ignore the patterns we see from history and in our literature. When Katrina hit, a lot of people thought that it might mark a turning point, that the especially affected groups of people would come together and collectively demand better treatment, coverage, and attention. That vision may not have been entirely realized, but there’s a tipping point at which people can only be pushed so far. I don’t know where it is or who, precisely, needs to be pushed, but I know it exists and I know resentment can drive people to action when this tipping point is reached.