the satisfying purity of indignation


Senior Member
This is a paragraph from Mr. Obama's speech:

Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach -- condemnation without discussion -- can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

Could anyone explain what "the satisfying purity of indignation" means?
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    If you refuse to negotiate with repressive regimes, you can take satisfaction in keeping yourself pure by expressing your indignation in this way. You aren't in any way involved with the repressive regime, or with the bad things they do. You can just think about how right you are and how wrong they are.

    That is the satisfying purity of indignation.

    However, Mr Obama thinks that you need to have dealings with any regime that you hope to change. You can't think you are too good to talk to them.


    Senior Member
    In addition to Cagey's excellent explanation, a little historical background is offered in support:

    In the U.S., some government officials and many of their strident political and ideological supporters have condemned other nations, coining names such as "Axis of Evil" and "rogue state" to apply to those states. There has been limited diplomatic interaction with those states, while the people who disagree with their policies make loud noises about how awful they are, and how they must abandon their policies to conform to what the critics want. The criticism is noteworthy for its self-righteous indignation, together with an assumption of moral superiority.

    All of that one-sided bellowing has yielded next to nothing. Mr. Obama is stating the obvious: if you want to alter somebody's behavior, you need to do more than assume a posture of superiority and shout condemnation; you must engage with your adversaries if you wish to influence their actions.
    < Previous | Next >