Wikipedia, the much-used and somewhat fragile Internet repository of encyclopedic knowledge, takes a partial swing at "exceptionalism" as follows:
Exceptionalism can represent an error analogous to historicism in assuming that only peculiarities are relevant to analysis, while overlooking meaningful comparisons. "[W]hat is seemingly exceptional in one country may be found in other countries." As indigenous peoples explore their respective cultural heritages, their seeking to be separately classified or newly-understood may be a form of exceptionalism.In ideologically-driven debates, a group may assert exceptionalism, with or without the term, in order to exaggerate the appearance of difference, perhaps to create an atmosphere permissive of a wider latitude of action, and to avoid recognition of similarities that would reduce perceived justifications. If unwarranted, this represents an example of special pleading, a form of spurious argumentation that ignores relevant bases for meaningful comparison. [Italics added]I guess what brought this to mind was a BBC story about a German who, alone among all other journalists, spent six days with Islamic State adherents in Mosul, Iraq, and then reported his assessments to the BBC. Among other things, Juergen Todenhoefer noted:
[He] said he found IS followers highly motivated and supportive of the group's brutality....
"They are so confident, so sure of themselves. At the beginning of this year, few people knew of IS. But now they have conquered an area the size of the
UK. This is a one per cent movement with the power of a nuclear bomb or a tsunami."...
Fear, said Mr Todenhoefer, appeared to be an extremely powerful deterrent....
He said he reminded the fighters that most chapters of the Koran began with the words "Allah... most merciful".
"I asked: Where is the mercy? I never got the real answer."
that have laid forceful claim to an exceptionalism ... Japan invading China in 1937; Hitler invading Poland in 1939; the U.S. 'pacifying' the American Indians or the Philippines ... pick your exceptionalist poison.
But the wider, exceptionalist political scene, for all the huzzahs and lamentations it may cause, seems endless and irremediable outside of letting one bloodbath or another run its course.
Still the same is not always true for the individual who has the capacity to investigate and rein in in a personal life what public and political life simply cannot seem to refrain from. It is dangerous and difficult and sometimes unutterably lonely, but the exceptionalism all of us may enjoy laying claim to from time to time deserves a careful care. True, perhaps, that I am the finest thing since sliced bread, but how exceptional is sliced bread? And, while effective in one sense, how well/peacefully does a lifestyle based in fear work?
The willingness to take on the exceptionalism in a wider world is fine. But the willingness to take on the exceptionalism in the bathroom mirror is probably more concretely productive.
It's just the best course I can think of.