Just Merveilleux

Life at № 42

My Very Own Question Time: On shame, guilt & victimhood

This has been on my mind for a while: How do the anthropological notions of Shame Society and Guilt Society – and the newer term (for a very old behaviour) Victimhood Culture play a role in modern politics?

If you don’t know those terms (in this context) here’s a summary:

Guilt is private, while shame is public. Guilt is intrinsic and endogenous, while shame is extrinsic and exogenous.

Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter) felt shame without guilt, while Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment) felt guilt without shame (for the first half of the book).

Your sense of guilt at committing an act is independent of your situation or what country you are in, while your sense of shame is highly dependent on the social situation around you. A castaway alone on an island could commit an act that would make her feel guilt, but nothing she could do would cause her to feel shame.

Paul Hiebert’s book (Anthropological Insights for Missionaries) adds a confounding religious twist to the definition in that guilt is supposed to be the internalization of sin (not shame), as well as an anxiety-ridden expectation of future (divine) punishment. But other authors (including E.R. Dodds, who formulated the distinction in 1951) take a more secular view of guilt societies as those driven by adherence to an internal moral code; the ‘higher power’ that has been violated may be an ideal residing in one’s conscience rather than (or in addition to) a divine being.

Full text here

Much has been written on these topics- stating that, for example, Mediterranean Catholic, Islamic and Anglo-Saxon English cultures are Shame Cultures. Modern Christianity is (allegedly) a guilt culture. Victimhood Culture, made popular by none other than early Christians themselves, is making a comeback. Whereas in Shame/Guilt cultures being a victim was a demonstration of weakness (particularly in Shame cultures)- victimhood is now enjoying a renaissance as a legitimate social role- across the spectrum. Lines have blurred.

How do you think that’s played a role in current party politics and did it have an effect in the Trump election? Consider what we hear in his message now in comparison to what Secretary Rice (of the same party) was saying a few years back:

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80 comments on “My Very Own Question Time: On shame, guilt & victimhood

  1. john zande
    November 11, 2016

    There’s no real question to be answered here, Pink, its obvious, but it is the beginnings of a conversation that needs to be had.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hariod Brawn
    November 11, 2016

    There are no victims in the U.S.A.; those who think they are just didn’t dream hard enough. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  3. dpmonahan
    November 11, 2016

    Curiously, if you go back and read the letters of, say, the martyr Ignatius of Antioch, he neither sounds nor acts like a victim.

    Liked by 2 people

    • At that point we’re still looking at the very formation of these cultures.
      How do you see the Scots-Irish (which you’ve mentioned before) in this dynamic? In that culture victimhood would be entirely unacceptable- so how do they reconcile that with support for Trump?

      Like

      • dpmonahan
        November 11, 2016

        They would have to disguise the victimhood narrative. It would look like “we were great, but outsiders took our jobs away”. Lets them hold onto pride while being a victim.
        Quite common really.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Ruth
    November 11, 2016

    Well, I have somewhat a different idea about elitism than does Hariod. 😉

    I think I wrote about this or possibly commented about it to one such elitist in the comment section. I don’t know if you’ve seen or watched any of Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs. But the people who perform “dirty jobs” are certainly not stupid people. For some reason in this country not having a college education = uneducated. People can go on and on about the fear, the xenophobia, the racism, the misogyny, and to be sure it is there. But it isn’t the majority of people, probably not even the majority of people who voted for Trump. That pocket of our society did support him. But classism also played a part.

    Middle and poor America, who have skills but limited opportunity really got slammed in this election cycle. They heard Trump’s message about bringing jobs back and felt and feel hopeful about opportunity. It’s the same thing that drove Bernie Sanders’ ride which ultimately failed. But if you supported Trump purely because you aligned with his version of trickle down economics, lower taxes, more jobs, I can’t fault a person for that.

    While I find what his “straight talk” gave license to those darker angels of our nature, he also promised prosperity and greater opportunity. Both sides want the same things, a good infrastructure, jobs, opportunity, and freedom. We just disagree with what that actually looks like and whose fault it is that we don’t have it.

    We do try to simply who is to blame. It’s really just a lot more complicated than that. And mostly, I think it’s we, ourselves, who might be at fault. Do we take the opportunities that are handed to us? Do we want to do the hard work required to achieve even a modicum of peace and safety? Or do we want someone else to do it for us and then when it doesn’t happen we can just point our fingers and complain?

    Liked by 5 people

    • Do you see that divide as terribly clear in the US? I never saw class in America anywhere near as important as in Europe or Latin America.

      Like

      • silenceofmind
        November 11, 2016

        Class in America is a new phenomenon brought about by the Democrat Party.

        They have always wanted to make America just like Europe.

        Ask your buddy John Zande.

        He wants the US to be more like those rich and wealthy Latin American superpowers, Venezuela and Argentina.

        Like

      • Can you look at any topic at all without framing it in a way where two opponents are trying to destroy each other?

        Like

      • Ruth
        November 11, 2016

        Absolutely there is a clear divide and, contrary to the opinion below, there have always been classes. It’s not some new phenomenon. You have the ultra rich and celebrities which are the American Royalty. Then you have the middle class and then you have the poor. The middle class is disappearing and you have left a working poor. The working poor are paying the taxes to fund the non-working poor, infrastructure, entitlements, military spending, etc. The reason Donald Trump won’t show his taxes is because he has, legally and rightfully, used every loophole available for corporations to avoid paying taxes. Warren Buffet has even expressed that he pays less taxes(percentage-wise) than does his secretary. So all this bluster about the corporate tax and lowering it to help corporations means what? That the government will now owe them a refund? Subsidize them to operate? We do that for some corporations and businesses already.

        This is what I mean. The right and the left just have very different ideas about how to achieve what it is that we want.

        Liked by 1 person

      • But currently isn’t the word elite just being used to mean the opposition? When SOM calls any of us the *elite*, it’s actually meaningless. BTW you’re welcomed to debate with SOM if you like- I personally don’t because I’ve never gotten anywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ruth
        November 11, 2016

        Context is king.

        What most of the middle-class here would call elites would be those with a college education who seem to think if you don’t have a college education you’re unintelligent. It’s more of an attitude of being better than. I do feel that drove the vote, at least in part.

        The polls divided people into whites, blacks, college educated whites, college educated blacks, white women, black women, college educated white women, college educated black women, white men, college educated white men, and then the various latino/a, Asian, etc. categories.

        Then those who are not college educated were referred to as “uneducated”. It began to be used as synonymous with uneducated=stupid. It angered large swath of people who don’t feel that they are uneducated nor stupid simply because they didn’t go to college. And I can’t say that I don’t understand that.

        I am in no way elite. The only person in my family going back three generations to go to college is my younger brother and my younger sister. I have valuable job skills and I do well for myself, but I’m not elite.

        No, there’s no debate to be had with SOM. He’s not even here to do that. You can’t debate someone whose only reply is “fascists!”

        Liked by 2 people

      • That’s interesting because I have a formal education but I wouldn’t call myself part of any elite. In my lexicon the fact that I clean my own bathroom and cook automatically disqualifies me.
        Anyway, this dynamic you mention is very interesting. The new meaning of elite is in essence condescension- which I admit must make me the Supreme Leader of the Elitists 😀

        Like

      • Ruth
        November 11, 2016

        The new meaning of elite is in essence condescension- which I admit must make me the Supreme Leader of the Elitists

        Well…pretty much. 😀

        Are you condescending to everyone who doesn’t have a formal education?

        Like

      • Of course not! Although I’m often condescending in general. I’m interested in ideas (and how well they’re expressed)- not formal education.
        I don’t know the educational background of anyone here, but I do feel SOM is an idiot. GodlessCranium isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer either. For all I know they have postgraduate degrees 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ruth
        November 11, 2016

        In it’s use for those who condescend to others based on education and/or perceived stupidity because of ideological differences the term elite is used as a pejorative.

        The term is also used in the manner you described. Someone well enough off to have a housekeeper or a gardener would also be considered elite. Just not rudely condescending unless, of course, they were. They might still be resented, though, because of their silver spoon status.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your first paragraph is the one that interests me most.
        Aren’t the cases of sexism, racism or homophobia more than ideological differences? They question the very citizenship of people in society.

        Like

      • Ruth
        November 11, 2016

        Definitely and deserve all the condescension and derision they get.

        When I’m talking about ideological differences in that first paragraph I mean differences in ideology regarding the economy, how to govern, interpretation of law and the Constitution. Maybe philosophy would be a better term?

        Like

      • Are you sure it’s worth your time to argue with Godless Cranium? The feminist/snow story he’s talking about is pure spin. You see, the *fact* is Sweden has seen record snowfall this year. About 10 days ago they got 15 inches of snow on a single day. That’s a 111 year record. Anyone watching the news in Europe has heard about it. The idea feminism has something to do with it is simply ridiculous.
        The sites GC gives as references are either recycled news sites (like The Local) or extremist right wing platforms (Lifesite/Breitbart.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • john zande
        November 22, 2016

        Wait… what? Feminists are responsible for the snow?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Indeed, my friend. Our sceptic circle has been infiltrated by an idiot: https://godlesscranium.com/2016/11/22/basing-policy-on-genitalia-doesnt-work/

        Like

      • john zande
        November 22, 2016

        Breitbart, that’s trustworthy.

        Well, Oxford did select Post-truth as it’s 2016 Word of the Year

        Liked by 2 people

      • And after Breitbart it was Lifesite 😀 All he’s missing is realtruenews.org

        Liked by 2 people

      • john zande
        November 22, 2016

        …and The Onion 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ruth
        November 22, 2016

        No, no I’m not.

        Like

      • I’ve been watching his descent into Alt-right territory for a few weeks now. People who buy into that sort of argument don’t really understand logical progression. To b honest they don;t really understand basic logic.
        The Swedish policy to focus on walkways and bike paths was because that’s what the majority of the population uses (+63%). And men drive more than women, so women will benefit marginally more. I do mean marginally. But that’s as *feminist* a policy as discounts on dish soap.

        Like

      • Ruth
        November 23, 2016

        I thought that’s what I was trying to say. Most of his arguments back to me didnt seem like arguments against what I actually said but rather something entirely not what I said. I couldn’t tell if he really didn’t understand what I was saying or if he wasn’t bothering to read what I wrote. *shrug *

        It just seemed to me that because it was pointed out that women might benefit more it stuck in his craw. Because obviously if it benefits women more that’s bad, bad, bad.

        I’m not sure what happens in Canada but it has been my experience that Europeans walk A LOT more than Americans. Hell, we get in our cars to drive two blocks to keep from walking.

        I think he might be underestimating the number of cyclists/pedestrians versus drivers in general.

        Liked by 1 person

    • silenceofmind
      November 11, 2016

      Ruth,

      Where have you been for the last 8 years?

      Obama has been in power for the last 8 years.

      He was supposed to fix everything.

      Why do you fascists blame your failures on people who have had nothing to do with the problem?

      Like

      • Ruth
        November 11, 2016

        SOM,

        I won’t respond to you again. So listen close this time.

        I didn’t blame anyone. You obviously didn’t even take the time to read what I wrote.

        The right is doing the same thing the left did 8 years ago. They are looking for a Savior. There ain’t one. If you read what I wrote you’d realize that I was talking about personal responsibility and accountability and not assigning blame to others and finger-pointing.

        Now, I will not call you any name. But a fascist is the farthest thing from what I am. You know nothing about me at all. I am an Independent. I believe in personal accountability, fiscal responsibility, and personal autonomy.

        I disagree with an extreme right. I disagree with an extreme left. I realize that there is a need for a social safety-net while at the same time recognizing that there is waste and fraud.

        You do not seek to have genuine discussion, nor genuine understanding. You are exactly what accuse everyone else of being. You seem to think you have all the answers, that you are the smartest one in the room. If we disagree with you we are wrong.

        You call us fascists to shut down any possible productive dialogue, so you don’t have to try to put yourself in another’s shoes, so you don’t have to even consider another opinion. So consider the dialogue closed.

        Liked by 5 people

      • silenceofmind
        November 12, 2016

        Ruth,

        I call you fascists because that is what you are.

        If someone like me is honest enough to tell you the truth about yourselves, maybe a few of you will wake up and smell the coffee.

        “Never gain.”

        Those words mean something.

        Like

      • agrudzinsky
        November 12, 2016

        Liked by 2 people

    • Hariod Brawn
      November 12, 2016

      Ruth, regarding ‘elites’, then I think you missed the joke – see above.

      Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 12, 2016

        P.S. On your point about the need for dialogue:

        Like

  5. silenceofmind
    November 11, 2016

    Here is what’s going on:

    Young NAZI’s going about their work for the Democrat Party.

    Like

  6. violetwisp
    November 11, 2016

    Indeed, we shouldn’t bother striving for a fairer society because people moan regardless. Victims haha. They’re just not motivated to succeed!

    Liked by 2 people

    • john zande
      November 11, 2016

      and BOOM! she’s back!! 🙂

      Like

      • violetwisp
        November 11, 2016

        I’ve just been missing Pink and his cute opinions.

        Liked by 2 people

      • john zande
        November 11, 2016

        Elbow to the head!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • In case you commented without reading, let me explain: I’m comparing the behavioural/ideological shift in the American electorate. One of the constants in the Trump voter discourse was their perceived oppression. That’s incompatible with the traditional guilt/shame cultures mindsets. So I’m actually asking how the shift occurred. Nothing more.

        Like

    • Who do you think I might be criticising?

      Like

      • violetwisp
        November 11, 2016

        It looks like you’re trying to take this new fangled concept of fake victimhoom (ie ‘let’s ignore or attack anyone who complains about the way they’re treated in society)’ and apply it to Trump voters, in an attempt to demonstrate that they too are beneath contempt. What we lose here is the ability to accept that many sectors of society face systematic discrimination that ensures the same type of people remain disproportionately in positions of power.

        I like the post though, there’s a lot to ponder. Bisous, mon ami. 😀

        Like

      • I’m not making a value judgement. I’m trying to identify the ideological undercurrent of their position because it’s de-facto incompatible with their previous narrative.

        Like

      • violetwisp
        November 11, 2016

        I confess to commenting on a skim read and looking for cheap shots. It’s an interesting angle.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I presumed you were angry based on the picture/quote 🙂

        Like

  7. Cara
    November 11, 2016

    There are those who PLAY the victim when in fact they’re the instigator/agitator, and there are those who really have been victimized but don’t allow that to define their existence.

    Liked by 4 people

    • So you think the Trump voter has a misguided sense of victimhood? Perhaps based on the narrative they’re hearing?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cara
        November 11, 2016

        The Trump voter has a misguided sense of victimhood based on the narrative they’ve been telling themselves.

        Liked by 4 people

      • Ruth
        November 11, 2016

        The do. They believe they’re victims of all sorts of things. They’re victims of the government, victims of the poor, victims of job theft. You name it. It’s just that they can’t see themselves as playing the victim every bit as much as they blame and claim that the left does it. The extreme left and the extreme right are very much two sides of the same coin.

        Liked by 1 person

      • silenceofmind
        November 12, 2016

        Cara,

        I am a Trump voter.

        We are not victims.

        We are Americans.

        Americans are famous for their can do attitude.

        It is the Democrat Party who has divided the country into Blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, Rich, Poor, etc.

        All of whom feel victimized.

        Like

  8. Clare Flourish
    November 11, 2016

    If we listen, lots of people are willing to tell us whom we should feel contempt, anger or resentment for. I feel intense shame about being queer and not a lot of guilt about anything, I am the beneficiary of a good free education and the expectation that I would go to University, and the feeling about what it is to be British has changed a huge amount since I was a child. I am little more likely to be more right about any of this than anyone else. I can’t wait to see what happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Clare Flourish
    November 11, 2016

    Oh, and it’s not sure she said that: http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=88796

    Liked by 2 people

  10. belasbrightideas
    November 11, 2016

    OMG, lines having been blurred is an understatement, but a good and valid statement, nonetheless. Shame, guilt and victimhood are Huge issues with Fundamentalist religions, for example. After all, one cannot be indoctrinated if one is empowered. If I cannot be shamed or made to feel guilty (which I cannot), then I must take responsibility for my choices and their consequences. I cannot blame God or my addiction/s or whatever. This is living with eyes wide open, and not sure most people are willing to go there. So yes, I do think these three are huge factors in the recent election debacle. People who want government to (oh, gosh, let’s use a random word here) do the *righteous* thing, to play the Patriarchal Savior … well, these people are necessarilly going to be hugely deflated when asked to collectively and actively care for one other in an inclusive way (What? I am not special? I am not chosen because I belong to [insert name of organization]!?); when we are asked to accept our role in degrading the environment, society, a broken political system … whatever … Well, then, let’s make America GREAT again! Remember the good old days when women knew their place and we weren’t made to feel so damn uncomfortable when 2 girls or 2 guys walk down the street holding hands … and … nobody told us it was wrong to suspect and report those with darker skin coloring wearing (gasp) hoodies … and … gosh. Then you left us with Rice’s “aggrievement and entitlement” and one could go on and on about Those consequences. Well. Sterling post, MM. Truly.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I chose this angle because I think the religious mindset has a whole lot to answer for here. From the misogyny to the Saviour, to redemption- all imagery and messages middle America is at home with. I imagine it played a much larger role than the economic situation in America (from the perspective of economic statistics at least)

      Liked by 1 person

      • belasbrightideas
        November 11, 2016

        Absolutely. And don’t forget the party line of The Church (whichever Fundamentalist denomination fits). I know for my Mormon relatives, the church’s stance is the final word. Their mantra is, ‘Choose the right.’ Yet that ‘right’ is predetermined for them. Abdication of personal responsibility seems a weight lifted for most. And so it goes. Aloha, MM.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Aloha? Ooh that’s amusing! My parents have had a house in Hawaii since I was little. My younger brother was born at the Kapiolani Medical Center 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • belasbrightideas
        November 11, 2016

        Oh, fun! Well, we live in Hawaii and have for nearly a dozen years. Add to that 2 years 20+ years ago (returned to ME for kids to finish education – public ed sucks here, big-time). Aloha is a way of life here on the Big Isle. Not so on every island anymore, sadly. But here it is alive and well 😉

        Like

  11. Carl D'Agostino
    November 12, 2016

    Just about every subset of US population feels they are the victim. One set that includes many others is the working class whose taxes pay for everything while so many ride free,.

    Like

    • silenceofmind
      November 12, 2016

      When the taxpayers of a nation can be classified, as a “subset of US population,” something is terribly wrong.

      President Trump is going to declassify the American taxpayer.

      That is one reason why he was victorious.

      Like

      • agrudzinsky
        November 12, 2016

        SOM, can you remind me how much taxes has THE Donald paid in the recent few years? Because I forgot.

        Liked by 1 person

      • silenceofmind
        November 13, 2016

        Agrudzinsky,

        It is my hope that THE Donald paid as little in taxes as was legally possible.

        Like

      • agrudzinsky
        November 13, 2016

        One of his returns shows a 900 mln loss, if I’m not mistaken, which could have enabled him to legally pay no taxes between 1992 and 2010 (18 years). What makes you think that he will change the system from which he benefited? And if he slashes taxes for everyone, how is he going to avoid bankrupting the government and pay for the entitlements, defense, and pay off the debt? He’ll probably have to dramatically reduce the government agencies. I think he’ll start with EPA. Anyway, we have 4 very interesting years ahead.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. makagutu
    November 12, 2016

    Was Ancient Greece a shame or guilt society?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The original theory is they went from shame to guilt as philosophy developed.

      Like

      • makagutu
        November 12, 2016

        I know this is not the import of the post, but I think how these two themes play out has a lot of influence in our lives from dress to basically everything else.
        Great post mate

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had hoped someone would the comments in that direction 🙂

        Like

      • makagutu
        November 13, 2016

        A local example, I don’t think our politicians suffer guilt or shame. They are indifferent. Steal from public coffers and go to the electorate for votes.
        The Greeks of Lycurgus days I think felt shame, for example, if they went stealing and were caught. Stealing itself, I think among young boys, didn’t bother them. Being caught was the problem.
        A second example: there is some shame in being poor but not guilt. I am not sure if this is the case everywhere

        Liked by 1 person

      • silenceofmind
        November 13, 2016

        Mr. Merveilleux,

        Where do you people come up with this nonsense?

        Greece was a collection of city states each with its own culture.

        Athens went from smart to stupid and finally got put down by the Spartans.

        Like

    • silenceofmind
      November 13, 2016

      Ancient Greece, like much of the world of Antiquity was a bully society.

      The strong ruled the streets and the battlefields.

      It was a shame if you were weak.

      Weak people were guilty of being, well, being weak.

      Like

  13. Scottie
    November 17, 2016

    Pink ( I have seen others refer to you this way, hope you won’t mind if I do ? ) Can I ask a off topic question. I come to your blog often. I notice you take time to respond to S.O.M. comments. You treat him rather decently compared to what he has said about you and your other commenters. I have already told him in the few exchanges we had that I felt him a troll, and on my own blog wouldn’t permit him to personally attack any other commenters. He never again attempted to comment on my blog. He only seems to blog where he can attack. So my question is this…. You are a thinking individual who seems well educated and rather accepting of equality, so why do you put up with what seems a clearly troll attacking your other commentators this way. Thanks. Be well. Hugs

    Like

    • Hi, Scottie
      I try not to interfere with the comments. I think it’s important for people to have a look at the arguments and even the tactics of the people leaving comments and then decide for themselves.
      Personally, I think people looking at Som’s comments will see them for what they are.

      Liked by 2 people

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