It’s a cliché but the West’s secular post-religious dispensation feels very religious. Its values are opposed to the religion it displaced (despite it wearing the language of routed Christian morality like a skin suit) and the successful campaign against Western decency advanced a good deal on a Jewish critique of Christian shame as unnatural, taught to oppress and indulged out of inferiority, producing both psychological dysfunction and political repression. The American boomer was subjected to a lifetime of this conditioning. Here a film pilloried the Catholic Church, there one sent up the evangelicals; in the classic Carrie sexual shame produces supernatural retribution.
My impression is a psychotherapy-inspired theme critiquing shame as such rose with sixties counterculture and waned along with the sexual shame that was its central target. Shame made you sick, shame made you a bigot, shame kills they all but said once. Needless to say we, under the new regime, are inundated with shame. I would say shame has made a comeback but it never really went away. Shame is ubiquitous; the whole of woke ideology and practice is shaming, much of it a comic mirror-image of the old realm of the shameful: being a slut, or being obese are no longer shameful, but to find them shameful most certainly is. The grandchildren of the sexual revolution are very much into shame. But not all shame is equal.
Shame is currency in the political economy, sluicing through well-worn channels and trading on its own exchange market. Shame resembles a twisted financialization scheme, a negative asset shorting white America that doesn’t earn if it’s not churned. In the scramble for position, in the flight from white identity, even in the scrum for spoils among the non-whites, at the cesspools of “intersectionality”, the mantra is shame for thee but not for me.
The discrediting of shame (call it shame-shaming) has served its purpose, but shame remains, and it remains very useful. It’s as if there’s a more or less constant amount of shame in the collective Western breast, and it’s just a question of directing it. And now it’s directed in countless directions. Infinitely more and infinitely less free we are in this new arrangement. But the sexual revolution was a gambit, taken for a bargain: for our freedom we offered up sexual shame, thinking we didn’t need it, thinking the other guy was the sucker. And we got a palmful of magic beans for our patrimony. Sexual liberation is Western man’s mess of pottage.
So while the gaslit modern takes his sexual license for granted, as the natural order of things, the way his grandparents took sexual morality for granted, he takes for granted the new and multiplying restrictions. His shame, now conditioned to fix on other things, he doesn’t really question; society’s writ is the word of God, especially in a Godless world. Respite from the shaming grows more precious. The few lights on the plain, where dissidents collect to speak the truth under their breath, go out gradually one by one. The new religion does not endure village atheists.