Monday, January 09, 2017

On Group Shaming

What I have noticed - to our detriment as a society - is a slow transition away from an individual sense of shame to a group culture of shame.

Shame has become something which the individual is feeling less and less.  People are no longer ashamed (as individuals) of things that them have done.  Instead, we try to shame the group.

It is terribly easy, of course to do this:  one need not know the individual or their circumstances, one can merely say (on the basis of any number of features which make someone a subculture) that they are "X", and as "X" they should be ashamed.

While not a sociologist, I have to ponder where this comes from.  It was not always so:  while individuals were responsible as part of the group, shame was individual in nature:  in Ancient Ireland shame by the bardic class was considered a disgrace and in fact used as a tool to goad individuals into action, and the culture of bushido raised individual shame to hyper-inflated levels.  Even today in Japan, it is not unusual to see a high ranking government official or CEO resign as the result of failure which they take responsibility for.  But somewhere - somewhere recently - something seems to have changed.

I wonder if it finds its root into the mode of thinking to which our society seems to have moved, where the individual is in no way responsible for their actions but the forces of the society around them are.  Combine this with a child raising philosophy in which the child is never "wrong" or "bad" and in which there is little to no difference noted between those that make effort and those that do not and the result could be where the individual is never responsible for their own behavior and thus, never needs be ashamed of it.  Shame is for the forces outside, never for themselves.

I would argue that this issue has been some twenty to thirty years in the making and has reached a fever pitch within the last five; I would also argue that we will see its power greatly diminished in the not so distant future.

Group shaming works for a time -  we  are, for the most part, a people who want others to think well of us.  For most, to have something shame based thrown on them  provokes the not-unsurprising response of saying "No, I am not" and then taking action to demonstrate it. To have those we know think otherwise - to somehow have them think less of us because we are seemingly associated with what has a publicly antisocial or retrograde sound to it - forces many to immediately and reactively seek to do what we can to turn aside this bad association or character.

But after a time, the group shaming loses power.  The shaming tends to become not something truly designed to invoke a change but rather a phrase or a weapon.  Suddenly those whom it is flung against begin to look at themselves and the nature of the accusation and say "No, I am really not that at all".  At first they perhaps just silently let it slide by, but maintained long enough, they begin to push back on those that make the accusations.  At this point, the attempt to shame loses its power.

The other factor that individual shame ultimately comes down to the fact that the individual knows they should be doing differently and are not.  But in group shaming the attempt is to make the individual feel the shame based on the perception that they act a certain way based on their "group", whether or not that is true.  

But what happens when the individual realizes they are not at the mercy of another and if not guilty themselves of the accused actions, have no sense of shame?

"The pain in Philip's eyes was real.  A year ago, (Hank) Rearden would have felt pity.  Now, he knew that they had held him through nothing but his reluctance to hurt them, his fear of their pain.  He was not afraid of it any longer....They had known what to fear; the had grasped and named, before he had, the only of deliverance left open to him; they had understood the hopelessness of his industrial position, the futility of his struggle, the impossible burden descending to crush him; they had known that in reason, in justice, in self-preservation, his only course was to drop it all and run - yet they wanted to hold him, to keep him in the sacrificial furnace, to make him let them devour the last of him in the name of mercy, forgiveness, and brother cannibal love....He stood there like a scientist studying a subject of no personal relevance whatsoever.  There, he thought, was the final abortion of the creed of collective interdependence, the creed of non-identity, non-property, non-fact:  The belief that the moral stature of one is a the mercy of the actions of another."

"But he was through with granting respect to any terms other than his own."

- Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)


LindaG said...

I remember when a woman having a baby out of wedlock was unheard of. Now she is basically encouraged to do so with welfare. Welfare has also destroyed American families by encouraging single parent families. Then the children suffer for lack of, mostly, a father figure.

Taking God out of the family, and out of America has hurt America greatly. People say they can be good without God; but that doesn't seem to be the case in America right now.

Now you have a bunch of stupid 'celebrities' who think they know what is right for America. I wish they would leave like they promised. But they lie like all liberals lie.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

D'Tocqueville said that America was great because it was good. Someone else - I forget whom - said that the less good people are, the more laws are required.

Anonymous said...

Aren't these comments shaming? Did you read the blog?