Wednesday, October 8, 2014

America the Shameless

It has to count as an important front in the culture war.

Serious culture warriors have always known that if they wanted to bring down the Anglo-American version of Western Civilization they would have to teach people to overcome shame… in the most literal sense.

Despite what many so-called experts think, overcoming shame means exposing your sexuality in public. It means publicizing your private parts. It means talking about sex openly, honestly and, dare I say, shamelessly. But it also means exchanging naked selfies… and saying that it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Surely, Sigmund Freud counts as a major progenitor of this madness. When Freud asserted that people suffer from neurosis because they hide and repress their sexuality he was declaring war on modesty, propriety and decorum.

At The American Interest, Adam Garfinkle (via Maggie’s Farm) finds today’s shamelessness rather offensive, and rightfully so:

I think public discussion of intimate sexual matters is unseemly, a word that has become as quaint as outlandish mass-culture fare has become hideously sexualized. I don’t care if the subject to hand is essentially heterosexual in nature, or homosexual, transsexual, omnisexual, multisexual, interspecies-sexual, or all the other kinds of sexual that I’m sure exist but know nothing about. I could not give a damn what consenting adults do with their genitalia in private, but I don’t need or want to hear about it in public—and these days you nearly have to hole up in a mountain cave somewhere to escape it.

Unfortunately, when people display their sexuality in public they become less interested in sex. Overexposure desensitizes, and once people become desensitized to one kind of stimulus they will seek other, less subtle stimuli.

Moreover, Garfinkle adds, we have developed an unhealthy fascination with deviant and depraved sexual behaviors. How many television shows have exploited the theme of child sexual abuse? How many times have we been told that we must deplore it with every sinew of our moral being?

Aside from the fact that these denunciations often look histrionic, Garfinkle adds that the more we hear about sexual depravity the more we believe that it is more prevalent than it really is. If that is so, people are going to think that such behaviors are the norm, not the exception.

Next, Garfinkle raises another intriguing point. While we believe that we are in the vanguard of a great cultural revolution—leading the world to greater tolerance and openness about all kinds of sexual expression--we rarely ask ourselves how we look to the rest of the world.

This follows logically. Losing your sense of shame means losing your sense of how you look to other people. If you want to expose your privates in public, you had best overcome your concern for your reputation.

As a general rule, people who do not have enough self-control to keep their pants on are not admired. The world will not want to emulate someone who fails to fulfill such a basic social duty. In fact, the world will think that shamelessness bespeaks decadence and that people who practice it are weak and feckless.

Anyone who believes that private matters define who he is will be less apt to honor his public commitments. He will be less trustworthy and less reliable.

Anyone whose private parts are exposed in public will lose the respect of others… even if he did not expose them intentionally. Celebrities are exempted from this rule because they function within a world of make-believe and pretense.

Garfinkle then makes a more telling point. How are we to win over hearts and minds in, for example, the Arab world when Arabs are horrified and disgusted by the modern American openness about all things sexual?

He notes that all Muslim societies maintain more traditional attitudes toward sexuality and marriage, but surely that is a distortion. By my understanding Muslim cultures, especially those that practice Shariah law are extreme, not so much in their love of modesty, but in their brutality toward women.

When Garfinkle asserts that modern Muslim attitudes towards sexuality are just like American attitudes fifty years ago, he ignores obvious dissimilarities. 

Surely, American women dressed more modestly five decades ago, but they did not wear veils or headscarves. And they were not forced to wear one thing or another.

Beyond the obvious fact that American women could vote, could own property and were free to come and go as they pleased without a male companion, Western women had a free choice of mates. America never had honor killings and American women did not suffer the indignity of the arranged marriage, to say nothing of being sold as child brides.

True enough, American culture is courting extreme shamelessness, but Muslim cultures, however much they appear to value honor and decorum are terrified that women might make their own free choices.

People who live in such cultures are probably not persuadable.

One understands that some Muslims might believe that women’s freedom will necessarily lead to a loss of a sense of shame and a sexual free-for-all, but that feels like a rationalization.

The larger problem is that when other nations see America revel in decadence they conclude that America is a weak and declining nation.

Surely, Vladimir Putin does not respect America. In part, he does not respect our current president, but Barack Obama was duly elected by the American people, and for reasons that had nothing to do with competence or the ability to command respect.

Anyone who believes that a President Hillary will command more respect needs some serious educating. A woman who owes her career to her ability to suffer repeated humiliations at the hands of her shameless husband will never be respected as a world leader.


Ares Olympus said...

re: When Freud asserted that people suffer from neurosis because they hide and repress their sexuality he was declaring war on modesty, propriety and decorum.

Did Freud assert this? Doing a quick search I find this quote at least that sees neurosis as a an ego-adaptation to reality. This quote at least doesn't says that neuroses should be "corrected" by removing all suppression.

“Recently, along quite speculative lines, I arrived at the proposition that the essential difference between neurosis and psychosis was that in the former the ego, in the service of reality, suppresses a piece of the id, whereas in a psychosis it lets itself be induced by the id to detach itself from a piece of reality."

I wonder if the questions of shame and shamelessness can't be answered in the general case, without considering the individual.

I mean I've heard it said that children who are sexually abused often become sexually active much younger, and so if that sexual expression is CAUSED by sexual abuse, then it's going to mean something very different from someone without that abuse.

When I think of shame, I think of like John Bradshaw's work, in relation to family systems, and addiction. In such families "keeping secrets" becomes a necessary skill of survival, and it might be once a person escapes that system, they go overboard in the opposite, and start pretending no secrets are good, and that their discomfort will be lifted if everything can be put out in the open?

So it might be "toxic shame" and "shamelessness" are two sides of the same coin, opposite reactions to pain?

Stuart, regarding your closing assertion "Anyone who believes that a President Hillary will command more respect needs some serious educating. A woman who owes her career to her ability to suffer repeated humiliations at the hands of her shameless husband will never be respected as a world leader."

That sounds like a blog topic in itself. But I admit I don't know what it means.

In the proper "toxic shame" family world, everything is good as long as everyone keeps quiet. In the proper "shameless" family world, there's no such thing as boundaries, and you are not allowed to have secrets, and others have the obligation to expose your secrets to "liberate" you from their powers.

Politics might be a sort of tribal affair, where you learn whether it is safe to talk about your tribe member's transgressions. And maybe the "ideal" tribal attitude is to pretend away all the shame on your tribe and project it onto your rival tribe?

Hillary may or may not feel humiliated by her marriage. She may or may not have chosen to stay married if she didn't have political ambitions. But what we SEE in the political world, what we call shame and shamelessness, might as easily be called "projected shame" and "projected shamelessness", and you'd be saying as much truth.

If it seems "shamelessness" is a political asset, its because visible shame can be exploited by those who want you to fail.

I guess I like Jung better than Freud because there wasn't this great need to label the universe as a certain way, or judge things from one point of view, filtered by who knows what hidden projections.

The question for me is how humans carry passions without being consumed by them, without identifying with them. So language that can express the reality of behavior without needing to shame it or claim to understand it, means reality can be seen, and then individual human conscience can work with it.

I don't know if Hillary will run for president, or could win the presidency, or could manage the job. It seems to me that the left/right tribal projections and hatreds now are so great, that no one can be trusted to be an unbiased judge of reality.

Back to Freud, perhaps its not neurosis but psychosis that is guiding everyone now?

Illuninati said...

Westerners have distorted views of Muslim society. Muslim sexual propriety is way way over hyped. Muslim wives are cloistered for simple evolutionary reasons - so the men can know who the babies belong to. Beyond that they are sexual savages.

Muslims have never minded naked or half naked women - as sex slaves. The women in the Muslim slave markets were routinely displayed naked with their private parts open to inspection and palpation by prospective buyers. Right now, Yazidi and Christian women are serving as sex slaves to Islamic Jihadis. The same applies to African women who are slaves to Boko Haram.