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     May 12, '14

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Guilt and shame in Crimea
By Friedrich Hansen

East and West are still far apart in terms of the degree to which the visual sense and the culture of images dominates everything. Mass tattooing is just the latest Western fad and this phenomenon can help to explain the globally unstoppable growth of an industry firmly attached to a shame culture. Corresponding to this development is the Exodus from the West to the East of older cultural institutions of the guilt culture such as the Christian churches, that depend more on the ear and voice.

Christian churches are clearly migrating from developed Western economies to emerging ones because there is fresh demand in Asia, African and South America. This gives us a rough measure of the growing East-West and North-South gap with regard to the

visible and outward shame culture as opposed to the audible and inward guilt culture. It is worth noting that Islam which is much closer to the shame and honor culture (think of honor killings of daughters who dare to assert their own will) is migrating in the opposite direction and settling primarily in the West. Could this reveal a deeper affinity between both shame cultures? Ask yourself why liberals seem to have no qualms with the dire predicament of women under Islam.

Now one crucial feature of culture is of course the role of sublimation and learning versus immediate satisfaction of instincts or in other words the capability to postpone pleasure and reward. From antiquity onwards this feature has marked the leading nations in terms of culture and civilization. Once brilliantly accomplished by Judeo-Christian institutions in the West the underlying secret was a culture of guilt and forgiveness and of curbing the inevitable habit of scapegoating. All human beings were regarded equal in relation to God. Yet the more recent Western agenda of equality is obsessed with visible outward signs of gender neutrality under the tyrannical rule of the eye.

We are seeing now that free speech is thwarted in the name of same-sex issues and global warming. Words are being used as weapons in the liberal PC-tyranny (James Kalb, Liberal Tyranny, 2008) invented to establish a supposed pathology of the white, heterosexual and colonial male. As a result many Judeo-Christian denominations in America are now discussing a full retreat from the civil marriage business altogether in order to avoid being forced into participating at the terms of LGBT activists. [6]

In order to fully understand the consequences of the descent of the West from a guilt to a shame culture we need to remember the basics. As everybody knows, Adam and Eve discover their nakedness and guilt only after they were overtaken by instincts and ate from the forbidden fruit. Temptation was always triggered by the eye sight and punishment followed suit through the inner voice.

Just in time, Adam and Eve hearken to God's voice revealing to them the lifelong consequences of their transgression and their expulsion from paradise. The relentless visual temptation of males by uncovering of the female body in the Western mass media has taken its toll and produced the abomination of Internet pornography and the normality of rape. This clearly reflects the sinking into a shame culture and it keeps arousing unmanageable mass instincts resulting in drug fueled abominations and crime.

The shame culture, represented in antiquity by Athens in its highest form, is spontaneous and wedded to the aesthetics of the moment. It therefore does not fully anticipate the consequences of misdeeds and lacks the sense of time and reflection, as Oswald Spengler and Soren Kierkegaard showed us long ago. Freud's unconscious also lacks the dimension of time. This can be explained by the dominance of vision over hearing and therefore the privileging of space over time. By contrast time is consecrated in Judeo-Christian culture and forms the basis of all things holy: the Sabbath, the days of Festivals, the role of learning from history in the biblical narrative.

The Babylonians worshiped the stars, The Egyptians the sun and Scarabeus but the Jews worshiped abstract time. Even kosher food consumption is soaked by rules containing time frames meant to insure the postponement of pleasure. It is in this sense that Genesis provides us with the evidence of human equality through freedom of choice - attesting to the time-saturated inner voice of conscience that every human being can feel and is free to follow. Thinking of psalms and music we realize that voice as much as hearing is ruled by time and rhythm.

In addition equality based on personal conscience and choice allows us to mend our ways. It requires repentance and acknowledging of personal guilt which is eventually opening up the way to forgiveness by the victim and redemption through (God's) grace.

This can be described as the pivot of a civilized and therefore superior guilt culture that is able to avert revenge on a regular basis. In this sense all cultures are not equal, far from it. An obvious failure to achieve such outcomes is evident in the case of islamist terrorism and Islamic infighting between Shia and Sunni. The guilt culture tells us to grow up and do the right thing regardless of Orwellian devices watching over us and beyond the shame and vanity of heroes and honor culture that exposes us to others needlessly.

By contrast the Islamic and declining postmodern Western shame culture are both genuinely narcissist and wedded to honor (gay pride, sexual identity, rogue Islamism), prone to revenge and luring us into intolerance. The honor mechanism to achieve justice is bound to the moment and comes in manifold variations of revenge, leading to endless symbolic and sometimes real killings. This is why we are seeing so many character assassinations or ad personam assaults in the rough postmodern media world.

A truly archaic revenge culture has survived in the Italian Mafia originally emerging in the "Greek" mezzogiorno of Southern Italy. Since Roman times Italy has always been ahead of the rest of Europe and the spread of the Mafia beyond the alps confirms this. It is about to submerge Europe into a shame and honor culture. [7]

Biblical Genesis already went far beyond the shame and honor culture by providing ways of liberating the fixed relation between sin and sinner. By that, Genesis created the Jewish personality. It allows the sinner to redeem his or her sin and gain forgiveness by the victim through fair compensation, complemented by God's blessing. It is decisive that the sinner after redeeming his transgression becomes a new person - someone else, enriched by this experience of guilt. Otherwise, interpersonal justice would not be possible. This might be called the genius of Jewish culture.

By contrast, the shame culture is unable to detach the sin from the sinner and sticks to inveterate personal identity and honor, which condemns everyone to be the same prone to inescapable revenge. The postmodern sexual identity culture follows this pattern for it melts sin into identity. While Jewish redemption is channeled through the link between inner ear and the voice of conscience, revenge in the service of honor is obviously channeled through the eye.

In short and admittedly simplified here, we can state: ancient Greek attributes such as extroversion, visual place (Hic Rhodos, hic salta), pride, beauty, tragedy and theatre, celebration of the moment and multiple gods for any occasion appeal to the eye. By comparison, traditional Jewish features such as reflection and introversion, time-awareness, humility, the strong sense of history, the penchant for narratives, the Holy Scripture, the ban on images, the one invisible God are all appealing to the ear.

Importantly the SCHEMA, the cardinal Hebrew prayer, is silently said to the inner ear with covered eyes, soliciting the devout: "Hear oh Israel! Your Eternal God is one." The bend of the knee and bowing of the head complement the humility of the prayer.

This brings us back to the Crimean War, lost by Russia in 1856 together with, for a period, Sevastopol and access to the Mediterranean Sea. Luckily in that deal and ever since, Russia has kept the Orthodox dominance over the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, so to speak the pawn of the Christian guilt culture (Simon Sebag Montefiore: Jerusalem, The Biography, Phoenix 2011, p 417).

How fitting then that we are seeing Moscow to become a major stronghold of resistance to the global spread of the LGBT agenda. For Moscow will later this year be hosting one of the largest international conventions on behalf of the family, if this is not prevented by the European sanctions regime. [8]

It does not surprise anyone that Israel has become the focus of clashes between guilt and shame culture, the latter being represented by the irreconcilable, identity addicted Palestinians which became a nation only after 1967. The new Palestinians are whipped up incessantly by the Arab world that needs Israel as a scapegoat for homegrown trouble. Blaming others as a default reflex in politics is the hallmark of any shame culture. However Israel's position as an embattled nationality connects it to the geopolitical shift eastward that is also heralded by the Crimean crisis. First emerging in the 19th century Europe as the norm, disparate nation states got a boost with the Ukrainian crisis and Russia reasserted itself as a leader for the nations know as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).

Last not least despite being part of the Western world, Israel has opted for a conspicuously neutral position in the Crimean crisis so far, tacitly underwriting the geopolitical shift to the East. By implicitly distancing itself from Europe Israel points to a failure of the EU as international player and peace mediator. The Crimean crisis means that in the multipolar world of the future, Israel as a nation state is likely to gain and the spurious European Superstate continues to look weak.

1. Back in the USSR?, The Times of Israel, April 30, 2014.
2. Germans Shun Comparisons Between Hitler and Putin. What Are They Avoiding?, Tablet, April 23, 2014.
3. China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years, Daily Telegraph, April 19, 2014.
4. Hillary Clinton compares Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler's in Nazi Germany, Press-Telegram, April 3, 2014.
5. The Principle of Equality Turned Upside Down, European Dignity Watch, February 19, 2014.
6. The Church and civil marriage, First Things First, April 2014.
7. The investments of Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) across Europe - Maps, Organised Crime Portfolio, March, 2014.
8. The World Congress of Families' Russian Network, February 2014.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Dr Friedrich Hansen is a physician and writer. He has researched Islamic enlightenment in Jerusalem and has networked on behalf of the Maimonides Prize.

(Copyright 2014 Friedrich Hansen)

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