Book Plunge: The Politics of Envy

What do I think of Anne Hendershott’s book published by Crisis Publications?

Envy is said to be the one sin that we don’t enjoy while we’re doing it. A guy can enjoy lust while he’s sitting at his computer watching pornography. We can rejoice in the adulation we get when undergoing pride. Having a lot of wealth and greed can be a good feeling and many a glutton still loves the taste of food.

Envy doesn’t do any of that. Unless acted on also, it will not hurt the one we are envious of a bit. They get along with their lives just fine. However, despite all of that, we still struggle with envy. It does us no good and it leads to great damage.

It’s almost as if man is fallen.

This book is written from a perspective that is religious and I think likely Catholic, but being religious does not mean that the secularist has nothing to get out of the book. Religion is presented in a gentle way. This isn’t in your face Christianity and the skeptic of Christianity could still easily agree with the damage that envy does.

One of the places the book starts off with is sex and marriage. Here, we encounter a confusion between jealousy and envy. If a husband has a wife who is being adulterous, he will have jealousy, and that is in this case something noble to have. The husband expects an inclusive intimate relationship with his wife and that is not being given.

Most all societies view marriage this way. Really? What about the Inuit people who are supposed to have free love going on? Not so fast.

The reality is , as David Buss writes from an evolutionary perspective : “ Contrary to popular myth , male sexual jealousy is the leading cause of spousal homicide among the Inuit , and these homicides occur at an alarmingly high rate . Inuit men share their wives only under highly circumscribed conditions , such as when there is a reciprocal expectation that the favor will be returned in kind . . . . All of these findings demonstrate that there is no paradise populated with sexually liberated people who share mates freely and do not get jealous . ”

Many of those who claim to be open in this way do normally have some breaking point. If they don’t, it’s easy to wonder if they really care about the relationship at all. However, that is jealousy. There is real envy going on.

This happens with a group called the InCels, which stands for involuntary celibates. These are guys who would love to have sexual relationships with women, but they don’t think they are desirable in the eyes of women. Sadly, this has arrested in a lot of violence taking place. Killing sprees were done by Alec Minassian and Elliot Rodger.

All of this happens because of the envy that these guys have. It is the kind that says they want to take their rejection by women out on the world around them. There are other places of envy to consider as well.

Do we not hear today often about taxing the rich? This will pay for all of our nice social programs from the government. Right? How much of this is envy? Historically, this tactic failed in the past, but today is different. In the past….

In Federalist No . 10 , James Madison dismissed the idea of taxing what he called the “ various descriptions of property ” because he knew it would begin to destroy the rules of justice . The Fourteenth Amendment promised equal protection of the law to all citizens , and early attempts to “ tax the rich ” met with legislative failure . In 1894 , when Congress passed an income tax that was levied on only the top 2 percent of wealth holders , the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional because it targeted only one group . Writing for the majority , Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field repudiated the congressional action and predicted that if such a tax were allowed , it would be the “ stepping stone to others , larger and more sweeping , until our political contests become a war of the poor against the rich . ”

And as Hayek warned:

According to economist Friedrich Hayek ( 1899 – 1992 ) , “ social justice rests on the hate towards those that enjoy a comfortable position , namely , upon envy . ” In The Mirage of Social Justice , Hayek suggests that social justice is a notion that lacks a rigorous meaning since no one has been able to determine , except in the marketplace , what would be the absolutely just distribution of the patrimony and income in a mass society . Suggesting that the phrase social justice had become a source of “ sloppy thinking and intellectual dishonesty , ” Hayek believed that using the phrase was “ the mark of demagogy and cheap journalism which responsible thinkers ought to be ashamed to use because , once its vacuity is recognized , its use is dishonest . ” Describing social justice as “ that incubus which today makes fine sentiments the instruments for the destruction of all values of a free civilization , ” Hayek warned that the continued unexamined pursuit of “ social justice ” will contribute to the erosion of personal liberties and encourage the advent of totalitarianism .

It should not be a shock that we have envy going on. Whenever I hear people talk about social justice, I notice it is never really defined. The reality is economics won’t change that. Some people will always have something that someone else won’t and despite what we think, the self-esteem movement has not helped a bit with this. We really need to consider if envy is driving much of what we do today and if it is, it won’t end well.

And as for why we make such a big deal about politics….

In some important ways , this has contributed to the current culture of envy because once the realm of the metaphysical is rejected , individuals become creatures not of God but of society and politics . This is why everything is now political . It is also why people become anxious and consumed with political campaigns and the outcomes of elections . Those who continue to try to depend on their traditional religious institutions have found that , in many cases , religion itself has become corrupted by politics — losing its transcendental reference points while it undermines balanced political judgment .

After all, if our hope is not to be found in God, it must be found in man, and thus if an election goes wrong, then there goes everything. This does not mean that a Christian or any religious person shouldn’t care about politics. It means politics should not be seen as everything.

No look at this would be complete without social media being discussed. In the past, those who lived glamorous lives didn’t have everything they did accessible to the public. Now, they do. Facebook and Instagram and other sites have us putting forward our best selves normally and we are competing with the best selves of others.

Sometimes, we can go to talk about problems on these sites, but it really isn’t the best place to go. This is not to say we don’t form true friendships on these sites, as I have, but that does mean that most people won’t invest in you like real friends will offline. Social media has actually led to us being depressed and being dependent on what others think of us going for that coveted “like.”

The hope for this is the recovery of the sacred. We need to know what is truly good and worth pursuing for all of us and that is available for all of us. That will also help us to look less at others and then pursue that which is worthwhile.

Again, even if you are a skeptic of religion, you will likely get something good out of this book. Envy is a topic we need to discuss more often. If we miss that so much of what we do is a result of envy, we will only keep doing the damage that envy causes without any real long-term solutions.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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