This is sort of pertaining to social issues and unrest, when I get to my last thought... but my wish is more to explore it in a philosophical way,
rather than stir up (more) political conflicts.
I grapple with cultural clashes all the time, in the country I live in. Ultimately, my analysis of the contrasts has for aim the synthesis of them in
my own behaviors and perspectives - to become more tolerant, more understanding, and behave in ways which are adapted and efficient in relations with
So on one hand, pointing out differences seems like I am trying to separate, though the goal is to become more aware of self and others in order to
see where and how we can be more harmonious.
One aspect I grapple with is the repeated impression of a lack of internal conscience in this culture. I mean, they have a saying, "Ni vu, ni
connu". I've been shocked to see people lie and even counsel me to lie in order to gain advantages for myself. People react to my surprise at such
counsel with a shrug and "nobody will know so it doesn't matter".
I realize that I often come off as incredibly anal to them. I've listened to french people joke that americans are so obsessed with honesty and moral
rightiousness they are complete idiots.
I ressemble that remark. I can't sleep at night if I feel I have done something immoral or unethical - even of no one else knows! -Likewise, if
everyone thinks I am guilty of something and I know I am not, I feel no discomfort, and will defend myself if accused.
I finally feel upon the description of "Shame societies" and "Guilt societies". I doubt cultures can be cleanly separated this way, more likely
measured in degrees and in relation to other cultures.
The Guilt culture relies upon an internalized authority and judge.
Paul Hiebert characterizes the guilt society as follows:
Guilt is a feeling that arises when we violate the absolute standards of morality within us, when we violate our conscience. A person may suffer
from guilt although no one else knows of his or her misdeed; this feeling of guilt is relieved by confessing the misdeed and making restitution. True
guilt cultures rely on an internalized conviction of sin as the enforcer of good behavior, not, as shame cultures do, on external sanctions. Guilt
cultures emphasize punishment and forgiveness as ways of restoring the moral order; shame cultures stress self-denial and humility as ways of
restoring the social order. (Hiebert 1985, 213)
Heibert characterizes the shame society as follows:
Shame is a reaction to other people's criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations
others have of us. In true shame oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing
what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one. (Hiebert 1985, 212)
This describes very accurately the clash I find myself coming up against often! Behaviors that seem completely irrational to me suddenly come into
focus when looked at this way. Lying stealing or cheating is all "right" to do, if it saves face and you avoid be ostracized by the community. It is
important to conform, no matter what the cost.
In other words, the authority is out there - not within.
Many latin cultures like this seem to come up as Shame based, and I have seen that it offers some comforts. Responsability is shared and diffused, no
one ever has to shoulder it alone. Victimization is a legitimate excuse "I had to because I was told to " actually works here in all sorts of
This puts into a comprehensable framework of understanding a lot of my personal challenges. But I am writing up here actually because it spurred
another branch of thought-
I tend to see the american culture from my stand point - as it was when I grew up and as a young adult. The emphasis upon thinking for yourself and
being and individual that was pushed so hard upon as kids, in cartoon and such- to keep us safe from the Communist contagion...
But it kind of seems like this is currently changing, no? With social media, especially. It seems to me (perhaps I am wrong) that people are falling
into radical sides on all issues for fear of not fitting in with the group. Getting a lot of attention on twitter and facebook is more important than
feeling in tune with your own conscience.
The authority lies in the likes, not your own soul.
Is that a mistaken view of current social movements in the US??