Saturday, October 8, 2016

#282 / It's That Shame Old Thing

I read The New York Times each morning, and I recently discovered a couple of copies that I had set aside. I think I must have done that because I had read something that I wanted to think about. 

For instance, David Brooks wrote about "The Shame Culture" in his column published on March 15, 2016. I wanted to think about that.

I kind of liked Brooks' column, at least for giving me something to think about. I am generally not much of a Brooks' fan. In his column, Brooks differentiated a "guilt" culture from  a "shame" culture by referencing the anthropologist Ruth Benedict. "In a guilt culture," he said, "you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you." Brooks went on to talk about how the all-pervasiveness of social media has "created a new sort of shame culture." Social media, in other words, has stepped into the role of community, and lets you know what you should be ashamed about.

Brooks pretty much deplores this new reality, and he ends up coming down hard for what might be called "traditional morality," which I think means that Brooks is opting for the desirability of a "guilt culture."

If we’re going to avoid a constant state of anxiety, people’s identities have to be based on standards of justice and virtue that are deeper and more permanent than the shifting fancy of the crowd. In an era of omnipresent social media, it’s probably doubly important to discover and name your own personal True North, vision of an ultimate good, which is worth defending even at the cost of unpopularity and exclusion. 
The guilt culture could be harsh, but at least you could hate the sin and still love the sinner. The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.

I, personally, don't think that either guilt or shame should be the basis of our "culture." How about acceptance and forgiveness (for both ourselves and for others)? 

I could go for a culture based on that!

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  1. Thank you for the insight. Further, I think guilt calls for self-correction as a means to re-join the community at large. Shame of the sort referred to here, calls for ostracism and alienation, which I feel are contributing to rising rates of suicide, addiction, extremism and "lone-wolf" violent crimes. I don't have any statistics or studies to prove these claims, but I do have 3 decades of experience and observation working with addicts, felony offenders and people with mental disorders.

  2. I definitely appreciate this thoughtful comment!


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