Self-hatred is a form of self-absorption, which is rarely a source of moral clarity. In The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, the French writer Pascal Bruckner said:
Nothing is more Western than hatred of the West, that passion for cursing and lacerating ourselves. By issuing their anathemas, the high priests of defamation only signal their membership in the universe they reject. The suspicion that hovers over our most brilliant successes always threatens to degenerate into facile defeatism. The critical spirit rises up against itself and consumes its form. But instead of coming out of this process greater and purified, it devours itself in a kind of self-cannibalism and takes a morose pleasure in annihilating itself. Hyper-criticism eventuates in self-hatred, leaving behind it only ruins. A new dogma of demolition is born out of the rejection of dogmas.
Thus we Euro-Americans are supposed to have only one obligation: endlessly atoning for what we have inflicted on other parts of humanity. How can we fail to see that this leads us to live off self-denunciation while taking a strange pride in being the worst? Self-denigration is all too clearly a form of indirect self-glorification. Evil can come only from us; other people are motivated by sympathy, good will, candor. This is the paternalism of the guilty conscience: seeing ourselves as the kings of infamy is still a way of staying on the crest of history. Since Freud we know that masochism is only a reversed sadism, a passion for domination turned against oneself. Europe is still messianic in a minor key, campaigning for its own weakness, exporting humility and wisdom. Its obvious scorn for itself does not conceal a very great infatuation. Barbarity is Europe’s great pride, which it acknowledges only in itself; it denies that others are barbarous, finding attenuating circumstances for them (which is a way of denying them all responsibility).
For Bruckner, there is a crucial distinction between repentance and remorse. He said, “the former recognizes the sin the better to separate itself from it and to enjoy the grace of convalescence, while the latter remains in sin out of a sick need to suffer its burning. Remorse does not repent of its sin; it feeds on it, wants to remain attached to it forever.” The latter is often mistaken for moral courage, but in reality, it is an expression of condescension. When we refuse to hold a group of people fully accountable for their actions, we are treating them as less than equal.