When the West moved from a predominantly Shame based culture (which is tribal) to a guilt based culture (Judeo-Christian) modernity ensued. Developmentally, guilt is a later, more mature (and more differentiated) affect than shame and cultures that achieve the level of guilt as a prime motivator are more successful in fundamental ways. This is, of course, quite condensed, and I will not here offer a short course on affect development, however, I will use the differences between the two cultural organizations to make certain points about the current battle between Israel and Hezbollah and the greater war between Islamism and the West.
Dr. Sanity offers this short-hand image to understand the difference between Shame and Guilt:
Shame is a global feeling: I am bad.
Guilt is a more delimited feeling: I have done something bad.
Because shame is about who you are, it is much more intolerable than guilt, which is about what you have done.
Notice as well that a fundamental difference between Guilt and Shame is the significance of the response to the views of the Community. In a person and culture with healthy Guilt, the primary motivator for the individual is internal; it does not matter to an individual whether or not the external culture recognizes them as guilty, it is their knowledge of their own guilt or innocence that matters. In a Shame culture, actual Guilt is immaterial; it is only being seen as guilty that matters. The Shame culture values appearance over reality, while the Guilt culture values reality over appearance.
[This is a tremendous over-simplification since there is no such thing as a pure culture of guilt or shame, but as a general framework for understanding culture, the concepts are quite useful.]
Judeo-Christian culture recognizes that all healthy adults have some measure of guilt. We feel guilt over things we have done and things we have not done; over our thoughts and impulses, as well as our actions. Some believe we are born with original sin, others that it is an inherent aspect of healthy psychological experience. All would accept that people who lack the capacity to experience guilt are outliers, Sociopaths and Malignant Narcissists.
Consider the Global War on terror, more properly, the global war on Islamic Totalitarianism, from the perspective of the current Israel-Hezbollah theater:
In a Shame culture, any atrocity is acceptable if the societal arbiters offer their blessing. Islam, in the hands of the neo-nazi Iranian mullahs, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian haters, condones the most egregious atrocities, including the use of human shields; during the Iraq-Iran war the Mullahs used children as human mine sweepers:
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. After Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 and the Iranians initially suffered military reverses, Khomeini recruited Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, and sent them to the front. There, they marched across minefields toward the enemy lines in human waves, clearing a path with their bodies. Every one of them had one of those Taiwanese keys hung around his neck…and the children were told that these were their Keys to open Paradise.
These children who ran to their deaths in suicide attacks were part of the Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini after the Revolution in 1979 and put on the front lines after the war began. The Basij Mostazafan--or "mobilization of the oppressed"--was a volunteer militia, most of whose members hadn't even turned 18 yet. They went by the thousands, willing martyrs for Khomeini and the regime.
Today the slaughter of the Basiji is a source of Iranian legend and national pride...believe it or not. Since the end of the Iraq war in 1988, the Basiji have vastly increased both in numbers and influence, as a cadre of loyal heroes of the Islamic Republic. They’ve been used mostly as religious police to enforce Sharia in Iran, and as Allah's own storm troopers against dissidents. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War…and is now the poster boy for the movement. Recruited from the more conservative and impoverished parts of the population (the exact social class Hitler used for the SA), the Basiji swear absolute loyalty to the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, Khomeini's successor. During Ahmadinejad's run for the presidency in 2005, the millions of Basiji all over Iran got solidly behind Ahmadinejad in every Iranian town, neighborhood, and mosque and pushed his presidency. He was their guy..and the regime's.
The events at Qana over the weekend are the perfect weapon for a Shame culture to use against a Guilt Culture. Babies, children, women, are by definition innocents in such an engagement. (Keeping in mind that in Arab culture, women are not considered responsible adults.) Whatever happened there, the initial reaction is the immediate use of the dead for propaganda purposes by Hezbollah and an almost equally reflexive attack on Israel by the press and many governments in the West. The Israelis, by their initial guilty reaction, (expressions of regret are admissions of responsibility, even if unintended; remember to the enemy it is only appearances that matter), lose the initiative and ease off the offensive.
Again, keeping in mind that this is only one theater in a much larger war, consider the battlespace. On the ground in Lebanon is the smallest part of the action. On the front pages of the world's press, on televisions around the world, there is the real action in this war; the manipulation of information, otherwise known as propaganda, is where the bulk of the fighting is taking place. This is where Israel and America are most restrained. A free and self-critical press is a great virtue bu in war, an obedient press that is part of your propaganda machinery is an advantage, as the events in Qana are showing.
Spengler voices beliefs that many share, that the West could easily win this war, but won't commit the requisite force to do so.
Israel's strongest move on the chessboard would be a massive armored incursion into Lebanon to crush Hezbollah combined with limited strikes against Syria. These would be costly in terms of human life, but that is the bill due the devil for fleeing Lebanon six years ago. The Israeli population longs for normalcy, and is loath to sacrifice its young men, a fact with which Hezbollah taunts them. It is far from clear whether Israel will convert a subtle but fundamental change in the regional balance into a strategic breakthrough.
Washington's best move would be an ultimatum to Tehran with a deadline for dismantling its nuclear-weapons program, followed by aerial attacks in the event of non-compliance. Rather than engage the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Washington should take the opportunity to destabilize it. Rather than attempt to hold together its Frankenstein monster in Iraq, it should partition the country. Sunnis and Shi'ites already are fleeing mixed neighborhoods and agglomerating into sectarian strongholds, and a broader population exchange is the best formula to suppress bloodshed.
Spengler is partially correct but he misses the point that in Guilt based democracies, such (apparently) unprovoked and disproportionate exercise of power by the West would never be tolerated by the people who would be left burdened by the guilt. The surest way to lose in the long run is for the United States to act overly aggressive in the short run. Remember that 9/11 is now almost 5 years away, there have been no major terrorist atrocities in this country since, and too many people believe that terrorism had now descended back to the level of nuisance, rather than existential threat. Israel, which is under existential assault, cannot destroy Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran by itself, and therefore, is loathe to suffer significant casualties in the service of a respite. If they cannot destroy Hezbollah, there is no point in fighting past a ceasefire, at this time. (It seems likely that the Israelis will continue and expand their offensive, but it is important that they do so within certain narrow parameters which will allow for the ongoing support of the American government. That means, keep the real fighting somewhat hidden and avoid too many more Qanas. It also would be facilitated by further exposing Hezbollah's human shield, and worse, tactics; I will return to this shortly.)
Consider what Hezbollah, Syria and Iran have to accomplish in order to win. Hezbollah needs to survive, which means Hassan Nasrallah must be able to be seen in public with cheering crowds. It would be ideal to be in Beirut, but Damascus may have to do. In any event, if any yellow flags survive in Lebanon, they will tout it as a great victory. Syria also has to survive. If their military is decimated by Israel in a battle of armed forces, they will lose. They also need to be able to resupply Hezbollah and support enough terror in the region to keep people on edge but not enough to cause a reaction. Finally, Iran wins if they get a nuclear bomb and the appearance of the ability to deliver it.
The West, including Israel, can only win if Hezbollah is destroyed, Syria has regime change, and Iran is stopped from getting the bomb (which implies regime change at some point in the process.) Until Iran is beaten, any victory over Syria and Hezbollah is merely temporary and partial.
The most powerful weapon the Islamists have is the guilt of the West. Actually, I would amend that a bit. There is a strain of shame in the West that must be taken into account, since it is so instrumental in aiding the enemy.
Europe has a thousand year history of tormenting the Jews. Anti-Semitism in Europe survives even in the relative absence of Jews. Europeans are tormented by their own shameful complicity in the Holocaust (as has been said, Germany will never forgive the Jews for the Holocaust.) Shame is such a horrendous emotion that people will do almost anything to avoid the feeling. This can include honor killing of a female relative after she has been raped. Remove the source of the shame and you no longer feel the shame. Europe has gone far toward ethnically cleansing themselves of Jews; they very easily fall back into the comfortable position of blaming the Jews for their shame and using the Jews' guilt to rationalize their own shameful behavior. Thus, a "distinguished" back bencher in England can find the moral equivalence between the Israeli behavior in Lebanon and the German atrocities in the Warsaw Ghetto. [HT: Augean Stables]
Sir Peter Tapsell is, if the phrase is not a contradiction in terms nowadays, a distinguished backbencher. He first entered the House of Commons in 1959. Noted for his grand manner, he is the longest-serving Tory MP.
At foreign affairs questions in Parliament on Tuesday, Sir Peter rose. He wanted Margaret Beckett to tell him whether the Prime Minister had colluded with President Bush in allowing Israel to "wage unlimited war" in Lebanon, including attacks on civilian residential areas of Beirut. These attacks, he added, were "a war crime grimly reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter in Warsaw".
Beyond the evidence of the victory of left-wing deconstruction to thoroughly deconstruct all reason, this shows the loss of moral compass of so many Europeans when the Jews enter the picture. (We also need to factor in the very real fear the Europeans feel from the millions of angry, unassimilated Muslims in their midst, and their dependence on Muslim oil as motivators.)
Compound traditional anti-Semitism with residual Shame (and hatred of the cause of the shame, the Jews) and add residual Guilt (Europe, having given up on religion, are left with secular guilt instead devoid of a loving and forgiving G-d, a poor trade in any reckoning) and there are potent forces, expressed through the media and elites, which believe their safety and security lie within allying themselves with those who would kill them.
Even within Israel there are those who succumb to guilt:
This week, many different rabbis were trying to posit what poor behaviors of Israel and the Jewish people was the "reason" for the current war. Was it the "Gay Parade" scheduled to march in Jerusalem? Was it the lack of modestly dressed people? Previous Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was asked this exact question this past week -- and he angrily answered as follows:
I suggest that instead of people trying to accuse the Jewish people...and being prosecutors against them...they should adopt the opposite strategy, and be advocates of the Jewish people. Look at the tremendous outpouring of love and concern for the Jews of Northern Israel...what a wonderful people the Jewish nation can be.
The vast majority of Israelis finally recognize their danger (raining rockets will do that to a people) but until quite recently a large proportion of Israelis chose to believe that it was their behavior (occupation) which was causing the hatred toward them,rather than their existence; this was Guilt writ large.
Now, the question properly is how can Israel and by extension, the United States, hope to win a war in which substantial portions of their own population and the populations of their natural allies (as per Tom Lehrer, "our current allies, like Germany, and our traditional allies, like France) do not believe we are morally in the right.
There are a number of ways in which we can win without apocalyptic destruction, if our leaders are skillful enough.
One is to use the power of our Army of Davids to expose the story which our lazy, guilt ridden, and foolish media somehow consistently seems to miss. Richard has a post up at EU Referendum that shows the biosphere at its absolute best. If you have not seen the pictures he has complied, you cannot imagine that you know anything about the atrocities at Qana.
And the news continues to accreted. Democrat asks if this is The Qana Reich stag Fire?
Tiger Hawk on Hezbollah: Fighting to the last Shina in Lebanon.
Alexandra has this:
There is no question that the MS machine is working very hard at producing over and over again the same images of the bodies of women and children taken out of the block of flats in Qana, rigor-mortis and all. It is an absolute public relations win hands down for Hezbollah, a coup d'état, and a set back in public opinion, which is now being milked for all its worth.
If only we had been shown the video of Hezbollah launching rockets either from or immediately next to blocks of flats was shown...
In the field our troops must fight with one eye on the enemy and the other on the enemy's propaganda facilitators, ie, the press. A picture that puts someone like Nasrallah in a shameful light is worth a thousand laser guided missiles in this war. By all accounts, the Israelis have learned a great deal; their war is being fought in a stealthy manner. They have suspended air strikes, but from various accounts are proceeding to kill many, many Hezbollah fighters on the ground. An over confident Hezbollah thought they could fight against the Israelis on their own, well prepared turf, and are being decimated.
Ultimately, Israel cannot win this battle because the (guilt obsessed) media and the Shame culture they are fighting will not allow it; however they can operationally damage Hezbollah enough to remove them from the field for a time and perhaps, destroy their ability to threaten Israel in the near future. If they damage Hezbollah enough, the Lebanese army, or a multi-national force, will be able to police the Hudna. In the meantime, in the weeks ahead, while the diplomats deplore the violence, accuse the Israelis of all manner of atrocity, and try to design a lasting Peace, Israel will have a relatively free hand to continue the process of killing Islamists and degrading Hezbollah.
Eventually, Iran will need to be dealt with, but that cannot and should not be Israel's responsibility.
If Israel does proceed to effectively destroy Hezbollah, Iran will be faced with the task of accepting the loss of face that would occur with their helplessness or intervening more overtly on the side of Hezbollah. This would likely be the Mullah's final miscalculation since a Guilt Culture can only respond with violence to a provocation; signal guilt prevents unprovoked violence but an adequate provocation will open the flood gates.