Filed under: brave new world | Tags: alan jacobs, cabinet magazine, culture, guilt, in the garden, shame
In his essay In the Garden, Alan Jacobs discusses the biblical origins of shame. The quotation excerpted below distinguishes between shame and guilt cultures. He tells us how the guilt culture is confessional; the act of confession gives release from the pain of transgression. A shame culture, however, doesn’t see the transgression as a problem unless, of course, it is revealed.
Since the 1940s, anthropologists have distinguished between shame-cultures and guilt-cultures. People who belong to the latter suffer from an inner sense that they have transgressed some immutable law, and the hiddenness of that transgression can intensify the pain: thus the feeling of relief that can accompany confession in such cultures. But in shame-cultures, exposure is the great evil: not to transgress, but to have one’s transgressions revealed. Thus in the Iliad, when Andromache begs her beloved Hector to stay in the city rather than return to the fighting, he replies that he cannot, for the shame of doing so would be too terrible.
-In the Garden, Alan Jacobs, Cabinet, Issue 31, Shame, Fall 2009
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