The ‘Ressentiment’ Warriors of Real Estate

They’re the newest craze in fiscal irresponsibility. They’re the ultimate expression of immaturity and foolishness. They’re Sharpie Parties, and thanks to the power of social media, they’re soon coming to a neighborhood near you.

What’s a Sharpie Party, you ask? Well, it is mostly what it sounds like: a gathering of people armed with Sharpie markers and spray paint. What happens at a Sharpie Party? Well, like most parties attended by irresponsible individuals with more time than sense, they are accompanied by large amounts of alcohol consumption. But in addition to this, Sharpie Parties also have three particular objectives: defacing , damaging, and destroying. And what exactly is being defaced, damaged, and destroyed? The very house where the party is being held. Sharpie Party hosts are most often disgruntled tenants or homeowners who have been evicted or foreclosed due to lack of payment. Rather than admitting their own deadbeatedness, Sharpie Party hosts take their frustration with the lender out on the house, as if it’s the house’s fault they couldn’t make the payments. In other words, Sharpie Partiers remove all doubt of their irresponsibility and prove that they truly are deadbeats.

What is most interesting about this “fad,” is that attendees of Sharpie Parties are fairly easily tracked. Since most Sharpie partiers tend to be under 30—college-age and first-time homeowner-ish—their preferred method of invitation to and communication about the Party is through Twitter. Despite what they may think, Twitter is public information that can easily be accessed by anyone who wishes, including law enforcement. While there would be no way to prove, sans Twitter, who actually attended and participated in the house-destroying melee, the social media site makes it quite easy to identify who did. And because most twenty-somethings can’t resist telling the world what they ate for breakfast, they also can’t resist telling about the smashing good time they had at the most recent Sharpie Party. You see, social media IS good for something.

This “phenomenon” is nothing new of course. It is nothing more than another manifestation of what is called ressentiment. Notice that the word is not “resentment,” which seldom reveals itself beyond mere feelings of envy and anger. Ressentiment is much more than simply feelings; it is active in its role. Ressentiment says if I can’t have it, neither can anyone else. Ressentiment is not mere dissatisfaction with what an individual thinks to be an injustice, it takes it upon itself to do something about it. Regarding ressentiment, historian Herbert Schlossberg writes the following:

Ressentiment does much to explain the existence of crimes that otherwise are thought of as “senseless.” They are senseless from a materialist perspective because the criminal does not gain anything tangible from his action. But if he is striking at the object of ressentiment, his crime is as rational as if he had made off with the crown jewels. He has gained what he desired. Ressentiment values its own welfare less than it does the debasement or harm of its object. Many crimes of vandalism, brutality, and murder might be explained in that way. (Idols for Destruction, p. 52)

Most of the attendees of the Sharpie Party are neither envious nor ressentiment-filled. They are simply looking for something to break. However, the host—the homeowner or tenant—is the one who is really trying to make a statement. He views his own situation as one of someone else’s making (and sometimes this may very well be true) and he wants to express his anger and hatred by destroying the property in one last coup de grace—a symbolic “sticking it to the man.”

Unfortunately for these ressentiment warriors, they are really only sticking it to the rest of us, most especially to the neighbors of the now-destroyed house. It’s only another indication that the housing market is still correcting itself in ways that pencil-pushers and bean-counters never anticipated. Owning a home is much more than a financial obligation; it is a personal liability. Many young adults (even many “old” adults) are not willing or mature enough to handle this responsibility. Because of this, we have far to go before we begin to see “recovery” within the housing market.