The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed
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The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed book
One of the persistent delusions of mankind is that some sections of the human race are morally better or worse than others. This belief has many diﬀerent forms, none of which has any rational basis. It is natural to think well of ourselves, and thence, if our mental processes are simple, of our sex, our class, our nation, and our age. But among writers, especially moralists, a less direct expression of self-esteem is common. They tend to think ill of their neighbours and acquaintances, and therefore to think well of the sections of mankind to which they themselves do not belong. Lao-Tze admired the ‘pure men of old’, who lived before the advent of Confucian sophistication. Tacitus and Madame de Staël admired the Germans because they had no emperor. Locke thought well of the ‘intelligent American’ because he was not led astray by Cartesian sophistries.