Rivalry & Ressentiment

Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality describes two moral positions:

  • Slave morality: the morality of the weak (plebeian).  It has as its basis ressentiment, or resentment for the strong – a deep feeling of bitterness that one gets while looking up at those (presumably) better than them.  The efforts of the weak are futile, stagnant, and mostly helpless.  The weak are always preoccupied with the strong.  The weak’s preoccupation manifests itself in hatred.  Hate is always for the weak.
  • Master morality: the morality of the strong (noble).  The strong hate no one, for no one is worth their hate.  They go about their lives at the top without a care in the world for those beneath them. However, the strong do have contempt for these lesser beings.  Contempt is marked not by deep feelings of bitterness or loathing, but instead by laughing indifference.

Nietzsche was not one for talismanic theories of morality/ethics. (*)  While other of his ideas can be pretty obscure, his moral categories are pretty darn intuitive IMHE, and perhaps even more so when examining attitudes between fan bases.  Support for how intuitive it is can be found in Mr. Hart’s “little bro” comment, and the MSU fan base’s general reaction to it.

Our Relationship with the University of Michigan

I see too often in my fellow Spartans the first type of morality, an inferior morality.   (See lesmanalim’s post for at least one prominent example of things to avoid).  But what basis is there for this disposition? 

We have fine academic institutions, great athletics programs, and plenty of tradition.  All of us chose Michigan State because, for whatever reason, it was the best situation for us.  Perhaps it was our famous horticultural/agricultural programs, education program, our business program, our top notch study abroad program, or our strong international student program.  Maybe it was our beautiful, expansive land grant campus.  Maybe it was to work with a certain professor or group of professors.  Maybe it was to follow in the footsteps of a parent or grandparent.  Maybe it was some combination of these.

Maybe it was our basketball program, which within the past few years has been acknowledged as the best overall program in the country.  Maybe it was our hockey program, which won the NCAA championship in 2007.  Maybe it was our football program, with strong traditions and pedigree, a recent B1G championship, 10 wins out of 14 games against Notre Dame, and 3 straight wins against Michigan – two programs at the top of college football’s list of most successful (“winningest”) programs.  Maybe it was one of our many other varsity sports, the many accomplishments for which can be seen here.  

Whatever the case, we can proudly affirm our accomplishments and our experiences at Michigan State University. 

No Looking Up

In other words, none of us should be looking up at anyone.  If anything, we should see our peers – whether at Michigan or Notre Dame or any other school – as equals or inferiors.  The most proactive and arrogant (not a pejorative use of the word, BTW) of us will lean more towards the latter view, while the more diplomatic of us will lean towards the former view.  Whatever the case, we do not look up

UM should be the center of our attention only on the weeks before and days our teams play them.  When we win, we should move on to the next opponent.  When we lose, we should congratulate and act with class.  Moreover, we should not celebrate UM’s losses, and certainly not more so than our wins. 

We should respect UM as a good school with a good athletic program.  We should not be constantly preoccupied with them, as this only manifests ressentimentWe do not resent – we have pride and respect.  If you can’t muster respect, then try laughing indifference/contempt, not hatred and preoccupation. (**)

Without a Care in the World

In this light, I cannot find any reason to care at all about Mr. Hart's comments.  I didn't care at the time (why should I?); a fortiori, I don't care 4 years and 3 wins later. (***)


(*) I’m lookin’ at you Kant, with all your categorical imperative nonsense. 

(**) They are fundamentally different.  Contempt is quiet and thoughtful; it never picks fights but always finishes them (and then laughs, though with reserve).  Hatred is loud, abrasive, inconsequential, and careless; it picks fights but can’t finish them.

(***) Note that it wouldn't matter even if it was instead 4 years and 3 losses later.  The man has achieved no relevance or authority beyond being some running back who played for some MSU opponent.


This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.

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