Tuesday, August 15, 2006


For anyone who desires real peace in the middle east, it must be extremely disheartening to see thugs like Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah and Assad assert that they have achieved a great victory over Israel with regard to the current UN-brokered ceasefire. On TV, the scene abruptly shifts to the explosion of joyous fireworks over Beirut that proclaim an historic victory for Islam as women and children dance in the streets; when days before we were shown by the same media the pathos of dead children's bodies pulled from wrecked buildings; and the suffering of horribly victimized Lebanese, defeated and dispirited by the vicious bombs of the Israelis.

Let us put aside for the moment a discussion of whether the claims of victory have merit, since I believe it is far too early to be able to assess what may yet happen in Lebanon and how the situation will unfold. The ultimate victor and loser remains to be seen and a case could be made at this moment for either outcome.

Instead, let us consider how a shame culture--like the Islamic states and terror groups involved in this conflict--deal with success and failure.

For a typical shame culture the most important issue--indeed the issue that trumps truth or reality every time--is what people believe.

What others believe to be true has a far more powerful impact on behavior than what any particular individual believes; since the desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else, is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This need to avoid shame motivates the individuals in the culture to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved.

It also motivates them to do whatever is necessary to give the impression that honor has been preserved.

As long as others in the culture believe that honor has been preserved, then neither the individual or the group have to experience either guilt or shame. It is not surprising therefore, that a great deal of effort and planning goes into making sure that others are convinced of your innocence (even if you are guilty); your victimization (even if you are the oppressor); and your victory (even if you are the loser).

Since shame cultures work best within a collectivist/totalitarian framework, it is often fairly easy to manipulate appearances in order to avoid shame and claim honor has been preserved. When you control the media and/or the social structure; have unlimited money and sophisticated tools for the development and dissemination of propaganda, then it is even easier.

It is an absolute cake-walk if you also happen to have a bunch of useful idiots managing the media of the enemy you hope to shame and give the appearance of defeating.

Remember, in this kind of culture, nothing is more important than making sure you do not experience feelings of humiliation and shame.

We see hints of the profound reservoir of shame that already exists within the culture in Nasrallah's references to humiliating defeats in both the near and distant past of Islam's history; and his insistence that this time, they have achieved an "historic victory". It is this reservoir that is the psychological motivation that drives the continual denial, delusion, paranoia and projection of the culture, and which keep it mired in a medieval time-warp.

In a true shame culture, the goal is not necessarily to win a war, particularly since maintaining conflict with the traditional enemy--i.e., the "Jew"--is part of what is perceived as an "honorable" way of life, and should never really end. The primary goal of Hezbollah (and Hamas)is very simple: to impose shame on Israel.

As long as they do that, then they have "won" by their standards. Faking photographs to demostrate the evil of their enemy; hiding among women and children to force the enemy to kill those same women and children; transforming every loss of personnel into a condemnation of Israel for attacking "innocents"--all these tactics serve the purpose of shaming the enemy and inducing guilt.

Thus, by these standards, the new barbarians of the Islamic world, know they cannot lose in any conflict with the west--no matter what the reality is.

By these standards, all that is required for them to proclaim victory is to avoid shame and make their enemy feel it instead.

By these standards, they will ALWAYS--always-- be psychologically empowered, encouraged; and reinforced in their delusions of grandeur--not to mention in their violent, aggressive and barbaric behavior-- by any compassionate or concerned humanitarianism on the part of their despised enemies; by any cessation of conflict before they are utterly and complete defeated; or by any attempts on the part of the west to negotiate a real and lasting peace.

Such are the everyday delusions of a shame culture.

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