We must not be deceived by the expression "spirit of revenge". Spirit does not make revenge an intention, an unrealised end but, on the contrary, gives revenge a means. We have not understood ressentiment if we only see it as a desire for revenge, a desire to rebel and triumph. The topological principle of ressentiment entails a state of real forces: the state of reactive forces that no longer let themselves act, that evade the action of active forces. It gives revenge a means: a means of reversing the normal relation of active and reactive forces. This is why ressentiment itself is always a revolt and always the triumph of this revolt. Ressentiment is the triumph of the weak as weak, the revolt of the slaves and their victory as slaves. It is in their victory that the slaves form a type. The type of the master (the active type) is defined in terms of the faculty of forgetting and the power of acting reactions. The type of slave (the reactive type) is defined by a prodigious memory, by the power of ressentiment; several characteristics which determine this second type follow from this.
Inability to admire, respect or love
The memory of traces is itself full of hatred. Hatred or revenge is hidden even in the most tender and most loving memories. The ruminants of memory disguise this hatred by a subtle operation which consists in reproaching themselves with everything with which, in fact, they reproach the being whose memory they pretend to cherish. For this reason we must beware of those who condemn themselves before that which is good or beautiful, claiming not to understand, not to be worthy: their modesty is frightening. What hatred of beauty is hidden in their declarations of inferiority. Hating all that is experienced as lovable or admirable, diminishing by buffoonery or base interpretations, seeing traps to be avoided in all things: always saying, "please don't engage me in a battle of wits". What is most striking in the man of ressentiment is not his nastiness but his disgusting malevolence, his capacity for disparagement. Nothing can resist it. He does not even respect his friends or even his enemies. He does not even respect misfortune or its causes.9 Think of the Trojans who, in Helen, respected and admired the cause of their own misfortune. But the man of ressentiment must turn misfortune into something mediocre, he must recriminate and distribute blame: look at his inclination to play down the value of causes, to make misfortune "someone's fault". By contrast, the aristocrat's respect for the causes of misfortune goes together with an ability to take his own misfortunes seriously. The way in which the slave takes his misfortunes seriously shows a difficult digestion and a base way of thinking which is incapable of feeling respect.
In ressentiment happiness "appears essentially as a narcotic drug, rest, peace, 'sabbath', slackening of tension and relaxing of limbs, in short passively" (GM I 10 p. 38). In Nietzsche "passive" does not mean "non-active"; "non-active" means "reactive"; but "passive" means "non-acted". The only thing that is passive is reaction insofar as it is not acted. The term "passive" stands for the triumph of reaction, the moment when, ceasing to be acted, it becomes a ressentiment. The man of ressentiment does not know how to and does not want to love, but wants to be loved. He wants to be loved, fed, watered, caressed and put to sleep. He is the impotent, the dyspeptic, the frigid, the insomniac, the slave. Furthermore the man of ressentiment is extremely touchy: faced with all the activities he cannot undertake he considers that, at the very least, he ought to be compensated by benefiting from them. He therefore considers it a proof of obvious malice that he is not loved, that he is not fed. The man of ressentiment is the man of profit and gain. Moreover, ressentiment could only be imposed on the world through the triumph of the principle of gain, by making profit not only a desire and a way of thinking but an economic, social and theological system, a complete system, a divine mechanism. A failure to recognise profit - this is the theological crime and the only crime against the spirit. It is in this sense that slaves have a morality, and that this morality is that of utility (BGE 260). We asked: who considers action from the standpoint of its utility or harmfulness? And even: who considers action from the standpoint of good and evil, of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness? If we review all the qualities that morality calls "praiseworthy" or "good" in themselves, for example, the incredible notion of disinterestedness, we realise that they conceal the demands and recriminations of a passive third party: it is he who claims an interest in actions that he does not perform; he praises the disinterested character of precisely the actions from which he benefits.10 Morality in itself conceals the utilitarian standpoint; but utilitarianism conceals the standpoint of the passive third party, the triumphant standpoint of a slave who intervenes between masters.
The imputation of wrongs, the distribution of responsibilities, perpetual accusation.
All this replaces aggression. "The aggressive pathos belongs just as necessarily to strength as vengefulness and rancour belong to weakness" (EH I 7 p. 232). Considering gain as a right, considering it a right to profit from actions that he does not perform, the man of ressentiment breaks out in bitter reproaches as soon as his expectations are disappointed. And how could they not be disappointed, since frustration and revenge are the a prions of ressentiment} "It is your fault if no one loves me, it is your fault if I've failed in life and also your fault if you fail in yours, your misfortunes and mine are equally your fault." Here we rediscover the dreadful feminine power of ressentiment: it is not content to denounce crimes and criminals, it wants sinners, people who are responsible. We can guess what the creature of ressentiment wants: he wants others to be evil, he needs others to be evil in order to be able to consider himself good. You are evil, therefore I am good; this is the slave's fundamental formula, it expresses the main point of ressentiment from the typological point of view, it summarises and brings together all the preceding characteristics. This formula must be compared with that of the master: / am good, therefore you are evil. The difference between the two measures the revolt of the slave and his triumph: "This inversion of the valuepositing eye... is of the essence ofressentiment: in order to exist, slave morality always first needs a hostile world" (GM 110 pp. 36-37). The slave needs, to set the other up as evil from the outset.
Gilles Deleuze/ Nietzsche and Philosophy/Characteristics of Ressentiment
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