“The Shame Culture” David Brooks, The New York Times, 15 March 2016

“Some sort of moral system is coming into place. Some new criteria now exist, which people use to define correct and incorrect action. The big question is: What is the nature of this new moral system?”

Many people now watch what they say for fear of contravening the generally acceptable norms, because they face severe consequences if they do. There is now a new basis to judge the correctness or incorrectness of an action. Andy Crouch in  a recent article in Christianity Today, makes the distinction between the shame culture and the guilt culture. In the guilt culture, a person is judged good or bad by what his or her conscience feels, while in the shame culture a person is judged good or bad by the society. Social media has given a new dimension to the shame culture. People desire to acquire fame and recognition from society. They do not want to be neglected or condemned by the group. This gives rise to a certain behavioral pattern: people praising others because they want to be praised in return; some people dominating a group and condemning those against their group code; some people fearing that their group may be condemned or be disrespected, demand instant respect and recognition and react violently if they are critisized. To criticize or condemn a group, especially in terms of morals, is the worst sin anyone can commit today. The modern shame culture differs from the traditional shame culture. While the opposite of the traditional shame culture is honour that of the modern shame culture is fame. Inasmuch as the new shame culture might seem bad, it is not entirely bad. It could serve to re-inforce a communal spirit, so that extreme individualism is prevented. On the other hand, the new shame culture makes people insecure, since there is no permanent standard of judgment, since people can be oversensitive and over-reactive. It is important to have a permanent standard of justice rather than shifting to please the majority. This would help to prevent constant anxiety in society. Although the guilt culture may seem harsh it is still better because it is the act that is condemned and not the person who commits the act.


“The Shame Culture” David Brooks, The New York Times, 15 March 2016


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