Success for me, but not for thee — the secret of guilt culture


Neoreaction stands out among right-wing movements because it is essentially a toolkit of arguments to use against the vast flood of liberal propaganda in which we are immersed constantly. Liberalism has dominated the discourse for 226 years by generating a constant flood of “new” ideas which are picked up by compliant voices among intellectuals, media and the arts.

One of the best arguments to come from Neoreaction is the notion that liberalism operates mainly by “virtue signaling,” or allowing preening individual animals to show how good and moral they are by repeating the right dogma. I propose a more radical amendment: liberalism is virtue signaling in order to throw others off the scent of success, which is achieved by conservative methods.

In addition to explaining the somewhat schizophrenic nature of liberals, who tend to embrace realism when it concerns their own profits but publicly condemn realism and preach liberalism, this theory explains the utility of liberalism: it enhances success by allowing individuals to hide their actual motives behind flowery words, like politicians donating a few bucks to the poor and grafting millions behind the scenes.

Interesting, Tom Wolfe covered this years ago as part of his analysis of how competition for social status as a means of distinguishing the individual from others is the basis of all contrarianism, which is the essence of liberal thought. In other words, people hope to get ahead by loudly endorsing dogma that makes them seem different and unique from the rest of the herd:

Status groups, Weber contended, are the creators of all new styles of life. In his heyday, the turn of the 19th century, the most stylish new status sphere, no more than 30 years old, was known as la vie boheme, the bohemian life. The bohemians were artists plus the intellectuals and layabouts in their orbit. They did their best to stand bourgeois propriety on its head through rakish dishabille, louder music, more wine, great gouts of it, ostentatious cohabitation, and by flaunting their poverty as a virtue. And why? Because they all came from the bourgeoisie themselves originally and wanted nothing more desperately than to distinguish themselves from it. They seldom mentioned the upper class, Marx’s owners of “the means of production.” They seldom mentioned Marx’s working class, except in sentimental appreciation of the workers’ occasional show of rebelliousness. No, as the late Jean-Francois Revel said of mid-20th century French intellectuals, the bohemians’ sole object was to separate themselves from the mob, the rabble, which today is known as the middle class.

I thought bohemia had been brought to its apogee in the 1960s, before my very eyes, by the hippies, originally known as acid heads, in reference to the drug LSD, with their Rapunzel hair down to the shoulder blades among the males and great tangled thickets of hair in the armpits of the women, all living in communes. The communes inevitably turned religious thanks to the hallucinations hippies experienced while on LSD and a whole array of other hallucinogens whose names no one can remember. Some head–short for acid head–would end up in the middle of Broadway, one of San Francisco’s main drags, sitting cross-legged in the Lotus position, looking about, wide eyes glistening with beatification, shouting, “I’m in the pudding and I’ve met the manager! I’m in the pudding and I’ve met the manager!” Seldom had so many gone so far to feel aloof from the middle class.

While this seems like competitive behavior, it more resembles compensatory behavior of the form “If I can’t get to a good place, I’ll at least be a big fish in a small pond.” No one seriously doubts that the West is in decline any longer, although they will not admit it in public because that makes it look like they are complaining in order to excuse their own failures. There is no longer an expectation of a good life for people here other than materially (desirable zip code, fancy car, good money). They accept that, and then try to make themselves seem important. To such a person, posturing becomes the basis of all their acts, with it becoming important to demonstrate moral and social pretense that affirms their role. A status-seeking person will never complain about a bad meal, or a ding on their bumper, or someone slowing them down by moving slowly, because to demonstrate pretense they must show that they are masters of their time, that a few hundred dollars are “nothing” to them, and that they are altruistic, egalitarian and moral potlatch-givers who expect everyone else to screw up and in response just pat them on the head and say, “There, there, good little serf.”

This compensatory behavior consists of not going to war against the problems that make the West slide into oblivion, but trying to be the most important fish in the pond left by the collapse. Their pretense is such that they do not even bother to note the decline, but wave it off like an undercooked soufflé as if to say, “Well of course society is self-destructing my dear, it’s what these little monkeys do. In the meantime, I’m getting a promotion and a BMW that runs on used cooking oil.” Wolfe was followed by David Brooks who wrote one of the most important books of our time, BOBOS in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, showing how these new pretentious citizens replaced the old Western European order back in the 1960s by using the pretense of liberalism. What to know why today’s SJWs, hipsters, nouveau riche and status climbers all employ public and hyperbolic liberalism? Because it worked last time.

Wolfe again on compensatory behavior:

Even before I left graduate school I had come to the conclusion that virtually all people live by what I think of as a “fiction-absolute.” Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world–so ordained by some almighty force–would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles. Politicians, the rich, the celebrated, become mere types. Does this apply to “the intellectuals” also? Oh, yes. . . perfectly, all too perfectly.

What he has described above is pretense. You set up values that benefit you and make you look like the center of the universe, and then act like these are universal truth, which allows you to retaliate against anyone who does not accept them as if they attacked you. It is both passive-aggressive behavior and the “Begging the Question” fallacy in behavioral form, and the more pretentious and unrealistic it is, the more you force others to recognize your importance and grant you social status.

This explains the combination of nanny-style Agony Aunt and Berkeley radical that defines today’s liberals. From Brooks:

Bobos turn out to be the parsons of the pubic region. Nearly gone are 1960s traces of Dionysian wantonness. Instead, “Play Safe” and “Play Responsibly” are the slogans that are repeated again and again in sophisticated sex literature. The practicioners talk so much about how healthy it all is you’d think they were doing jumping jacks…Today’s Marquis de Sades don’t want to create an immoral underground society. They’re not trying to subvert normalcy. They’re trying to join it. They want to win mainstream acceptance and so gain a respectable place in the middle-class world.

To them, ideology itself is a means to an end of raising their status, justifying their lifestyle as necessary, and showing higher pretense than others thus making them look appealing and powerful as people. It is no different than birds puffing up their feathers before a fight, or monkeys posturing before throwing feces at one another. It is one of the oldest animal processes and no amount of layers of business clothing, perfume, Marxist theory, or even hip club lingo can disguise the raw animality of it.

If we decode liberals in this way, we see them as not outsiders trying to take over our society, but insiders trying to hide their own middle class origins and rise above them with pretense and the social boost that having the right opinions gives in liberal circles. If you look through media, government, entertainment of much of business, you will see the reason that liberals like Masons or Toastmasters remain popular: liberals helping liberals get ahead by promoting fellow liberals above everyone else.

Looking at this psychology through other eyes, we come to the question of guilt, shame or pity culture — from a post over at Dividuals:

Basically, it is about prestige. When we argue we have a moral obligation to do X we are saying we should deduct prestige points from people who don’t do X…the West is a guilt culture, not a shame culture.

As shame is basically low social prestige, it is fairly obvious how shame cultures really work like this.

For a guilt culture, the simplest explanation is that guilt is internalized shame, and thus the idea of moral obligation is internalized shame, internalized prestige loss, you feel bad about yourself if you did something bad, thus basically reduce your own prestige points in your head even if nobody else did.

This is probably a good thing, at some level. Installing a prestige policeman in everybody’s head.

The distinction between guilt and shame cultures strikes me as nothing more than a gap between pre-emptive mental process filtering and post hoc behavioral filtering. In guilt cultures, people use compliance as a means to get ahead, as if in a free market; in a shame culture, the only consideration is getting caught. If you look at shame cultures worldwide, whatever their average IQ, they have less of a strong middle and upper echelon level of intelligence than we do (still) in the West. These are cultures where it is acceptable to destroy certain individuals when they are caught doing wrong because they become token sacrifices and scapegoats.

Let us look at the successful psychology of guilt culture in what Vaclav Havel calls “post-totalitarian” systems:

THE MANAGER of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.

Obviously the greengrocer is indifferent to the semantic content of the slogan on exhibit; he does not put the slogan in his window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer’s superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogan’s real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer’s existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.

Guilt cultures control everyone. We all want to rise, so like Havel’s grocer, we clearly signal our obedience to the dominant paradigm of liberalism. Our modern SJWs for example form a shame culture as a means to guilt culture; SJWs gain personal prestige for shaming others. Thus we see that the guilt-shame distinction really gets in the way of seeing what is actually happening here: whether by consuming others (shame) or censoring themselves (guilt) modern people are raising status, and raising job prospects, through liberalism. That is all it is: a giant street gang where the secret handshake involves repeating something you read in The New York Times or Salon. When you join the gang, the gang will help you out and defend you, and you can gain power in the gang by doing audacious stuff. The kids of a century ago who lit firecrackers under police horses and became legends on their blocks are the kids of today who go on Twitter and Tumblr to demand that people stop using gendered pronouns.

Now for the “Success for me, but not for thee” part: at the same time these people are using liberalism to advance themselves and push down others, they are also using it to conceal their greatest secret. If they are succeeding, it is with conservative methods and principles, but they must hide these because they are unpopular, so like the politician kissing babies they make a big public show of liberalism, and then in private, act as conservative as possible. As a mainstream source notes:

Greg Gutfeld says conservative principles are more common than you think in professions sometimes identified with liberals—music, exercise, and cooking. “If liberals applied their no-score, no-winner, no-loser belief system to their hobbies and professions, they would fail miserably,” says Gutfeld, author of “How to Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct.”

The best thing about liberalism is that it is old. Ancient, even. 1789 was its first real formulation, but the disease had been festering for some time. People like me argue that liberalism came about because the West overpopulated itself with idiots after sacrificing too many of its good people to fight off Mongols at the same time it became diverse from too much trade, but the gory truth is that every society faces this high noon. If you do not purge the idiots, outsiders, perverts, fetishists, neurotic intellectuals, criminals and grifters among you, they eventually gang up on you and win out by superior number.

Luckily the situation is easily changed — from Dividuals again:

Thus the only potential for true change is to change how prestige is assigned. I mean, prestige is assigned by e.g. socially valued achievements, but also by moral arguments, such as “we have a moral obligation to do X”, thus doing X is high-prestige and not doing Y is low-prestige.

When a civilization shifts from an individual-based model to a culture-based model, these guilt/shame/blame/pity feelings get redirected into a singular question: “Did you uphold the culture?” Since culture takes the form of values, honor, pride, behaviors, aesthetics, customs, and includes in itself things such as civilizational goals, this serves as a non-intrusive control mechanism that harnesses these weird animal impulses and directs them toward a positive end. With individualism, we get animals competing for pretense; with culture-based societies, as known in Nationalism, we have individuals competing to achieve things that benefit all people in past, present and future of that society.

Wolfe himself affirms this with a nod to the rising prevalance of Nationalism in societies where people are not divided against themselves by competing for status:

More recently, I returned to Washington and Lee for a conference on the subject of Latin American writing in the United States. The conference soon became a general and much hotter discussion of the current immigration dispute. I had arrived believing that, for example, Mexicans who had gone to the trouble of coming to the United States legally, going through all the prescribed steps, would resent the fact that millions of Mexicans were now coming into the United States illegally across the desert border. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. I discovered that everyone who thought of himself as Latin, even people who had been in this country for two and three generations, were wholeheartedly in favor of immediate amnesty and immediate citizenship for all Mexicans who happened now to be in the United States. And this feeling had nothing to do with immigration policy itself, nothing to do with law, nothing to do with politics, for that matter. To them, this was not a debate about immigration. The very existence of the debate itself was to them a besmirching of their fiction-absolute, of their conception of themselves as Latins. Somehow the debate, simply as a debate, cast an aspersion upon all Latins, implying doubt about their fitness to be within the border of such a superior nation.

In other words, identity works not just because it is a motivator, but because it motivates people to act in their own interests. Who cares what’s fair? Get more of us here!

As modern society crumbles from within, not only Nationalism but every form of “birds of a feather flock together” is rising. People are grouping together by ancestry, values, caste and moral system as they anticipate the acceleration of decline.

This shows the importance of Nationalism as the vital cornerstone of a successful society. With Nationalism, people work toward values; without it, they become chaotic beings competing with each other to see who looks coolest according to an unrealistic and delusional ideology. Others argue that we need conveniently one-step fixes like a restoration of religion, and a return to pure capitalism, and while we need those also, they will get nowhere without a return to rigid nationalism. Only the group with an unbroken identity can construct for itself a society that does not tear itself apart from within.

What we see with modern liberalism is merely more of the tearing-apart: people who have given up hope on a future, trying to make themselves more important now, so they can justify their inaction in the face of obvious problems. As history shows us, most great empires go out that way, not so much in flames but falling from the pages of history and resurfacing centuries later as third-world ruins.

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