Monday, March 02, 2009


One of my regular readers, OBloodyHell emailed me this yesterday:

Carl, over at No Oil For Pacifists has a piece up about pork: Pork Update which deals with Obama's name appearing on an earmark, despite his promises that wouldn't happen. In the final bill, his name will be removed. That makes it "all better".

I quipped something to him about one of his points, and he responded with
> That's because us inside-the-beltway types think anonymity preserves ethics.

Which produced an interesting connection in my head to your piece on Shame Cultures.

The Left's response to ethical challenges maps into that layout box on shame/honor remarkably well -- and maybe, if you think about it, to the underlying mental gymnastics going on when the MSM doesn't "report" ethically inappropriate actions by Dems, as we all know is far more common than it ought to be. It does seem to me that the Left seems to think that by not reporting on inappropriate actions, that Their Guys are exonerated somehow. Think about Dan Rather's continued denial of his incompetent fact checking in this context, too.

What OBloodyHell is referring to is this table, which lays out the fundamental psychological differences between a typical "shame" culture and a "guilt" culture:

Let me review the key differences between the two types of cultures:

In both cultures there is no problem if both parties believe that the individual is NOT GUILTY. If both parties believe that the individual is GUILTY, again there is agreement and in that case the guilt is punished.

The difference in the two societies lies in the other two boxes in the matrix (in red).

In a guilt culture, when an individual believes he is NOT GUILTY, he will defend his innocence aggressively despite the fact that others believe he is guilty. In this case, the individual self is strong and able to maintain an independent judgement even if every other person is convinced of his guilt. The self is able to stand alone and fight for truth, secure in the knowledge that the individual is innocent.

The guilt culture is typically and primarily concerned with truth, justice, and the preservation of individual rights. As we noted earlier, the emotion of guilt is what keeps a person from behavior that goes against his/her own code of conduct as well as the culture’s. Excessive guilt can, of course, also be pathological. I am solely referring to a psychologically healthy appreciation of guilt.

In contrast, a typical shame culture what other people believe has a far more powerful impact on behavior than even what the individual believes. The desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has the side-effect of giving the individual carte blanche to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved.

Additionally, it may be impossible for an individual to even admit to himself that he is guilty (even when he is) particularly when everyone else considers him to be guilty because of the shame involved. As long as others remain convinced he is innocent, the individuals does not experience either guilt or shame. A great deal of effort therefore goes into making sure that others are convinced of your innocence (even if you are guilty).

In general, it has been noted that the shame culture works best within a collectivist society, although it can exist in pockets even within a predominant guilt culture.

I think OBloodyHell is definitely onto something here.

Ask yourself how a typical Republican responds to scandal, for example. He is capable of feeling both shame and guilt about his behavior, whether it is in the public or personal domain and frequently this acknowledgment of his behavior leads him to resign. He has high moral standards that he expects not only of himself, but of others and is ashamed when he violates them; even more so when the knowledge of his violation is made public (which Democrats can always count on the press to do).

Remember, shame--especially in limited quantities--has facilitated civilized conduct and made both individuals and cultures behave more appropriately. Healthy shame keeps us in touch with reality, and reminds us of our limitations, faults, and humanity. When experiencing healthy shame an individual may not be very happy to have embarrassing weaknesses and defects made obvious, but this awareness is insightful and humbling. As long as an individual is capable of self-doubt and self-reflection about his behavior; he is able to remain open-minded and willing to search for a better understanding of himself and others.

Guilt is an emotion that rises after a transgression of one's own or cultural values. Guilt is about actions or behavior; while shame is about the self. There is an important psychological difference in saying to someone that their behavior is bad; as contrasted with saying that they are bad. The former leads to guilt; the latter to shame.

The purpose of guilt is to stop behavior that violates a self, family or societal standard. Guilt keeps score on excesses or deficits of behavior deemed undesirable and is expressed in regret and remorse.

But many Democrats and certainly most leftists are completely shameless in the sense that they will never ever, for as long as they can possibly get away with it, going to admit to bad behavior. And in those rare cases where they simply cannot wiggle and maneuver and lie and deceive; or self-righteously tell you how wonderful they really are and all the wonderful things they have done; they will simply pretend they are still virtuous and have been victimized in some way.

This is, of course, typical of most narcissists; and without a doubt, narcissists and liars and cheats exist on both sides of the political aisle. But a narcissist in a guilt culture behaves somewhat differently than a narcissist in a shame culture.

If you recall, the other day I quoted a very perceptive thought of Siggy's while talking about the neo-Marxist economic modus operandi: "Conservatives believe they have better ideas. Leftists believe they are better people."

This is extremely relevant to a discussion about the differences between the Democratic Party culture (which has become primarily, though not exclusively, influenced by the political left) and the Republican Party culture (which is predominantly influenced by conservative ideas and values).

Eventually for the shame-avoidant person, reality itself must be distorted in order to further protect the self from poor self-esteem. Blaming other individuals or groups for one's own behavior becomes second nature, and this transfer of blame to someone else is an indicator of internal shame.

Most psychological theorists (Erikson, Freud, Kohut) see shame as a more “primitive” emotion (since it impacts one’s basic sense of self) compared to guilt, which is developed later in the maturation of the self. Without the development of guilt there is no development of a real social conscience.

Hence, we see Republicans as a group are far more likely to resign positions when their unethical or immoral behavior is exposed.

Democrats don't tend to do this. In the first place, they will not even acknowledge a "scandal" unless it remains in the national media for an extended period of time (they hope it will go away, and if it does, then they can continue to go about their business as if it never happened). They can always count on the MSM to minimize the damage--even not to report it at all if they can.

Thus the first and foremost rule: if no one knows about their shame, then it doesn't count and they can continue to pretend they are innocent. Just think of the likes of Charles Rangell; Chris Dodd or Barney Frank. Could a Republican politician ever recover from being responsible for the death of a young woman while he saved himself and didn't even report the accident to the police? Yet, someone like Ted Kennedy is now a revered senior statesman on the Democratic side of the aisle. No one talks of his crime. Do you imagine Larry Craig--whose indiscretion hurt no one-- could ever make a comeback like that? Not on your life.

No, because Democrats, on the whole, firmly believe that they are "better people"--i.e., more loving, more compassionate, more intelligent etc. etc. ad nauseum; they go to great lengths to avoid shame; and hence, to avoid responsibility for their behavior. For every corrupt Ted Stevens, there are at least three John Murthas, Charlie Rangells, and William Jeffersons.

They lie, they deceive, they distort. They take kickbacks and are self-righteous about how innocent they are. They vow to eliminate pork, but think all they have to do is take their name off the bill they support and they are in the clear. They wonder what the meaning of "is" is. They insist they" did not have intercourse with that woman" because rhetorical maneuvers are a key postmodern method to avoid having to deal with shame and oral sex isn't really sex anyway. They deny deny deny, and they pretend that they are innocent victims of vast rightwing conspiracies or, as in the case with ex-Governor Blagojevich, they emphasize what "champions" of the little guy they are. They ignore facts and when that doesn't work, they are prepared to ignore the whole of reality itself. Because the cost to their fragile self-esteem if they are discovered is far too catastrophic.

Republicans tend to be amused when they watch Democratic scandals unfold--they, at least have few illusions about human frailty. Democrats, OTOH, immerse themselves in an orgy of self-gratifying excitement and jubilation when they hear of a Republican who fails to live up to the morality he espouses. "HYPOCRISY!" they scream in delight, cheered by the fact that they can once again feel superior.

Their own hypocrisy is another matter altogether and the mental gymnastics in which they engage in order to avoid coming to terms with their own imperfections is...well, it would be amusing if they didn't get away with it so often. But since most journalists are now immersed in leftist culture, they also think of themselves as "better people" and thus, can't allow one of their cultural brothers or sisters to make asses of themselves.

Why, that would be like criticizing Mohammed for sleeping with a 9-year old! It just isn't done in a shame culture, especially one based on the writings and behaviors of the aforementioned Mohammed. Instead, you make sleeping with a 9-year old one of the highest moral virtues of the culture.

In the Arab/Islamic culture one of the ways that those who fear shame protect their fragile self is to subjugate those who he perceives as weaker. By doing so, he can rationalize that he is superior to the subjugated individual. In fact, this is the only way he can maximize his honor.

The Democrat/leftist ummah has developed a rather clever way to do this in the western world: they constantly create victim groups that they can feel superior to and "champion". All that is required is for those groups to remain perpetual victims and constantly complain about their downtrodden state so that the elites of the left can show off what better people they are. They have even created a complicated victimhood heirarchy to deal with competing victimhood claims; and when push comes to shove--i.e., when Democrats or leftists do something wrong, immoral, unethical, or even evil--they can always claim to be victimized themselves. It's a nice little scam they've got going on the side to maintain their shame culture.

Another way understanding this "shame and guilt" culture distinction is that, those who will do anything to avoid shame, have bought into psychological denial big time; their emotions and the need to feel good about themselves have become more important than reason, truth or reality.

This is the same psychological maneuver that allows people to claim they are champions of free speech, as they diligently work to silence anyone with views that differ from their own. Inevitably, it leads to complete intellectual and moral bankruptcy. Where once they stood for freedom; they now enable dictatorships and apologize for tyrants. Where once they sought to bring justice to the world; they now defend horrific acts of mass murder and enslavement. Where once they rightly demanded equal opportunity, they have embraced all kinds of racial quotas and discriminatory practices and demand equality of outcome. Where once they sought to empower the weak; they are now instrumental in maintaining and expanding their victimhood.

After all, how can you be a “champion of the oppressed” unless you maintain and nurture an oppressed class that will always require your services to help them?

This psychological maneuvering is no different from that of certain male religious fanatics to believe that by subjuging women and making them invisible, they are virtuously protecting society from the evils of women's sexuality; when what the society really suffers from is the evils of their own perverted sexuality. They delude themselves--and sometimes the women--into believing such nonsense so that they can maintain the illusion of being honorable men.

Because they persist in believing that they are "better people", the Democratic Party has had little choice but to descend into the immature, anti-reason and anti-reality behavior of a typical shame culture.

You can think of it as the "Arabization of American politics".

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