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Against Shame and Shaming

October 2, 2016

We should all stop feeling ashamed, and stop shaming others. This page is part of the episode of Trump and his abuse of people, including body shaming. I’ve thought a bit about shaming on earlier pages, regarding the sense that some white working class persons have, that they are being shamed by liberals (they resist by calling that, being PC); but now I need to think about it more fully for a couple of pages, trying to pin the thing down.

It seems to me that shaming is a major feature of American culture. Maybe that’s because, believing in shame as much as we do, we know that, as a society, we have a great deal to be ashamed of. So, given the magnitude and degree of difficulty of the problem, I’m starting to address it in a goofy and risky way, with three illustrations: Lucifer, Hitler, and Trump. That might not work; so on the next page I’ll try, more conventionally, to say what I think it’s all about, and how it’s such a psycho-pathology of our democracy.

Case 1: When the all-knowing, personally disinterested but entirely benevolent Archetype finally had to put its foot down, did it shout, “Lucifer, What in God’s name is the matter with you?! How many times do I have to tell you? We do not shit in the living room! What a royal Fukkup you are! You should be ashamed of yourself!”?

No, it said, “Lucifer, my man. You know this, but just so you’re clear on my thinking, conscious attention to other people, love, beauty, goodness, and truth, are so necessary to a healthy and peaceful life, that if you set yourself totally against them, you have to live in the messy darkness of the unconscious. You’re going to hate that, but, as my prophet W will say (if he gets it right), ‘Election has consequences.’ Get thee hence. Oh, but everything changes, so I hope you will try to keep constructively in touch—by way of archetypes or something.”

Oh course even that approach didn’t do much good, at least in the short run, but it allowed the Arch to keep its sanity, without doing even more damage to Lucifer, cutting him off from all possibility of evolving. At the same time, it was easier for the Arch to take that approach than it is for us, because it knew Itself so well that It did not project. For a human, Lucifer would be the perfect projection screen.

Case 2: And did It say, “Oh. My. God. Adolph. You little fukk! Well, I never thought anything good could come of you. Now I wonder why I ever even created you. You are a complete disgrace. You would be laughable if you weren’t so unspeakably evil. You are everything a human being should not be. You’re worthless. I give up. You simply should be ashamed, forever.”

No, It said, “Adolph Hitler. If a person completely refuses to know, practice, and teach the truth about himself and others, in the living/loving circle of being and humanity, if he violates that all-encompassing embrace, he becomes pure unconscious identification with the ruling archetype of evil, Lucifer, he makes of himself its image; and if he gives that archetype a grand human stage on which to act itself out, he visits unforgiveable suffering upon the face of the earth, until the image exhausts itself in warfare, and his heart has turned to lead.”

I don’t know what It said to Hitler; but I know It said something, and It wants me to keep listening.

Case 3: “Donald J. Trump! What, in the fukk! is the matter with you?! Can’t you get anything right? What would your father think of you? And your father’s father! * You slob! You weakling! You failure! You fake!  You…you…you….And that hair! Have you lost all sense of shame?! Pay attention! Donald! Sit still! Control yourself!”

No, It says, “Trump, sit thee down for a moment and take stock of the person whom you care most about. Try to see yourself as I see you, or as the great America author, Hawthorne, would. Maybe it’s not too late. Right now, at the end of a long career of abusing people, you have achieved one meaningful thing. You have made a narrator’s list with the devil and Hitler; you come in third, but at least you’re ahead of Mussolini. Yes, you have mental-emotional disabilities, and that hair doesn’t really do it, but hurting people so much, and threatening, believably, to hurt people much much more, does not make you lovable, to others or really to yourself. You’re going to lose this election, but that’s not the end of life. Make a new start. ‘To thine own self be true, . . .’”

So I hope that illustrates the principle of the thing. It is possible (and more prodective) to name the wrong, rather than shame the wronger. On the next page I’ll try again.

* T’s grandfather immigrated to NYC in 1885, the year that Howells pub. The Rise of Silas Lapham. It was “the gilded age,” the time of the “robber barons” and the complication of morality by Big Money. This New Yorker article, by the historian, Ted Widmer, about Friedrich Trump does an excellent job of pointing out the historical parallels with grandson Donald. I especially like Widmer’s phrase, “their mirrors to make everything seem even larger.” And he even mentions the Lenape people.

Readers who liked Lapham also liked Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.

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