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The Islamic Blame Game. "Shame culture" vs. "Guilt culture"
shark ^ | February 14, 2003 | Mordechay Lewy

Posted on 02/14/2003 5:03:59 PM PST by dennisw

The Islamic Blame Game

A recent Die Zeit essay by Mordechay Lewy explains some of the fundamental differences between the Judeo-Christian west and the Islamic east, and it's all about guilt and blame -- The west has a "guilt culture" (accepting one's own guilt), while the Arab / Islamic world, which Lewy calls the Orient, has a "blame culture" (blaming others). I summarize and/or quote key portions of the essay:

Lewy examines the key question: why is it that the west can produce so many intellectuals such as Susan Sonntag, Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy who are so ready to criticize western civilization and blame the United States for the problems in the Islamic world. The latter, on the other hand, accepts little responsibility for its own inadequacies, and instead embraces conspiracy theories that typically blame the west.

Lewy identifies eight principle reasons:

1. In the Orient, one's own guilt and inadequacies are always assigned to others. Self-criticism is seldom practiced. The ability for self-correction is accordingly limited.

2. In the Orient, the preferred role is that of the victim. Conspiracy theories are forged to rationalize this behavior.

3. Islam does not have the concept of "original sin" and therefore no historical tradition of collective guilt.

4. Islam does not promote the formation of free will and individual responsibility. In the Islamic notion of man, free will is subordinate to Allah's all-encompassing pre-ordained plan.

5. In the West, there is a tendency toward the avowal of guilt, whether rightly or wrongly. Therefore the role of culprit is readily adopted.

6. The guilt society in the West promotes self-criticism, and also the capacity for self-correction.

7. In the modern West, the religious-based notion of "original sin" has been secularized to some extent, and also expresses itself in acceptance of blame for the Islamic-Arab world.

8. In the overt or covert conflict between the two cultures, the West cannot operate with a free hand, by virture of its own self-imposed moral constraints. These self-imposed restrictions will be interpreted as a weakness by the aggressive blame society of the Orient. They will not be respected in conflict situations, but exploited.

Islam does not have the same concept of original sin as in the West. The expulsion from paradise was not a key experience in the Koran. Allah forgives all sins, large and small, if the sinner shows remorse and willingness to change. In the Koran there are no explicit battles between good and evil. In western tradition, Satan can lead men astray (the Faust motif). In Islam the devil disarms himself voluntarily so that he cannot exert any power over man. A practicing Muslims becomes certain of attaining salvation, solely by fulfilling Allah's commandments. This spares him the moral dilemmas that are inherent in Christianity. In the Islamic view, guilt is an entirely personal burden, that can be lifted by the strict ritual adherence to Allah's laws. The Muslim Orient knows of no collective guilt that is passed from one generation to the next.

In the West by contrast the Christian idea of original sin has become an integral part of the civilizational understanding. The original sin has been secularized. One feels guilty for being rich, even when one's wealth is earned through hard labor. Likewise one feels remorse over the use of force, even when it is legitimate force. Anticolonialism, anticapitalism and the anti-globalisation emotions are also fed from the such feelings of guilt that one feels toward the third world. Despite its oil wealth, the Orient is also depicted as a victim. And that is why it is absolved of its role in the violence. Financial contributions to developing countries serve to pay off the guilt. The Islamists abhor the democratic values of man-made origin and therefore stand in contrast with Sharia which descends from God. But if they themselves are politically persecuted, they don't hesitate to denounce the undemocratic treatment and to appeal to human rights. Some guilt-aware westerners are easily taken in by this hypocrisy.

Likewise, Muslims use conspiracies as consoling explanations for strokes of fate, which are due to God's inexplicable wishes. If a Muslim is dealt a hand from Allah that he can't influence, he doesn't take any responsibility for it. And thus arose the tendency to explain events as the intervention of outside forces, rather to attribute them to one's own shortcomings.
Why yes, Lewy's framework of guilt and blame does help explain of a great deal of Arab and Islamic behavior which doesn't otherwise seem rational to many of us here in the west. It also explains a lot about the behavior of the left-wing self-blamers and victimologists, which doesn't seem rational either.(Thanks to German reader Tobias Kuhn for suggesting this article)Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at February 14, 2003 06:57 AM


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs

1 posted on 02/14/2003 5:03:59 PM PST by dennisw
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To: dennisw
Being a Westerner, I "blame" the Easterners. I just can't get away from that. Its not my fault. It's their fault. They are the ones that flew the jets into the buildings.
2 posted on 02/14/2003 5:10:09 PM PST by montomike
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To: dennisw
This is a good article, its defective English notwithstanding.
3 posted on 02/14/2003 5:11:30 PM PST by aruanan
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To: dennisw
I think the premise is inaccurate. The operative difference is in that a westerner feels personal guilt at having done something wrong. The Asian feels shame at what others will see as his weakness or failure to maintain the norm. That is why arab brothers kill their sisters if someone else has done something to the sister or just talked about doing something to the sister. That brings shame to the sister's family because the sister is the object of ridicule or is seen as transgressing the family's honor. Thje sister does not feel guilt for doing something that is wrong, that is against nature, she feels fear and shame at becoming the object of blame.
4 posted on 02/14/2003 5:47:57 PM PST by arthurus
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To: dennisw
Something to it. But the author fails to differentiate between a healthy Christian sense of guilt at having done something wrong, and the perverted sense of guilt felt by some modern non-Christians. Sonntag and Chomsky, for instance, do NOT feel guilty for any sins they may have committed. Maybe they've told lies or committed adultery or the like, but they don't care about that. Instead, they profess to feel a sort of ideological guilt about things their fellow Americans have done. Bill clinton was the same way, never apologizing for his own sins or crimes, but constantly apologizing for the supposed sins of other people. Typically he went to Africa to apologize for American slavery, and never mentioned his own deep responsibility for the massacres in Uganda.

You might say that that is the typical left-liberal position. Blame somebody else; tax somebody else.

Besides which, the distinction anthropologists draw between a shame culture and a guilt culture is overdone. Most normal people feel guilt and/or shame, depending on which is appropriate.

The only statement here I agree with without qualification is this: "Islam does not promote the formation of free will and individual responsibility. In the Islamic notion of man, free will is subordinate to Allah's all-encompassing pre-ordained plan." This is very true. Arabs have no sense of personal choice, free will, or personal responsibility. That's one reason why they are incapable of building a democracy.

5 posted on 02/14/2003 6:01:05 PM PST by Cicero
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To: dennisw
How about sick, primitive, jealous, bloodbath culture?

That's a far better description of the middle east except for the shining light of Israel. The few sharp empires they once built were dragged down into the sewer by the festering advance of that seventh-century religion of primitive savagery that crashed some planes (that they would have no hope of ever building) into the twin towers.
6 posted on 02/14/2003 6:52:58 PM PST by Thorondir
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To: dennisw
These points are very interesting, but anthropologists usually distinguish between Western guilt cultures and Oriental SHAME cultures, where the prospect of "losing face" is so terrifying that it enforces self-discipline.

For those interested, there is one book that FULLY explains liberal (and leftist) guilt and self-hatred. As far as I know it's the only book ever written with this as its sole topic. The title is GUILT, BLAME, AND POLITICS, and the easiest way to see it is to go to any search window and paste in this ISBN number: 0966694309

The Amazon page has a very comprehensive summary of the book's contents. (I wrote it.) If you're looking for ammo to use in flame wars against lefties, there's plenty in my book: HUNDREDS of names of ultra-rich liberals and rich leftists, all documented. (This is how I prove my thesis.)

Allan Levite
7 posted on 02/15/2003 11:04:08 AM PST by allan1969
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To: allan1969

Guilt, Blame, and Politics

by Allen E. Levite

Paperback - 259 pages (October 30, 1998) Stanyan Press; ISBN: 0966694309

"In Guilt, Blame, and Politics, Allan Levite turns Marxist class theory on its head by suggesting that it is the guilt of the affluent class, not the struggle of the working class, that is most responsible for modern socialism. It is a compelling theory, well-researched and entertainingly argued." --J. Neil Schulman, author of Alongside Night, Stopping Power, and other works.


8 posted on 02/15/2003 11:11:22 AM PST by dennisw (
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