I was thinking today that contemporary politics is all about guilt and shame.
For example the Green movement is driven by guilt and shame at the industrial revolution. For the Greens, the industrial revolution was something that simply covered the world in soot and carbon dioxide. The industrial revolution was a mistake of the first magnitude. It wasn’t something to be proud of; it was something to be ashamed of.
There are plenty of other things to be ashamed of as well. If your country ever had an empire (like the British empire, for example), that’s also something to be ashamed of. The empire builders just went round the world planting their flags in the ground and stealing the land from under the native inhabitants feet, mowing them down with cannons or machine guns if they fought back.
And then if your empire exported Christianity with legions of missionaries as it expanded, well, that was cultural imperialism, and something else to be ashamed of. They should’ve let the natives worship their own gods.
And if you used slave labour to work your colonial plantations, that was also something to be ashamed of.
And if your slave labour plantations grew tobacco or sugar, that compounded the offence even further, and added a further layer of guilt and shame.
It’s the Greens and the progressive left who feel the shame and guilt most strongly, and who have confessed to these crimes, and who have resolved to never do it again. And that’s why the left occupies the moral high ground. For with their confession (and their forgiveness) of guilt they’ve been able to convert their shame into a powerful new sense of moral superiority over the shameless and unreconstructed right. Because the right are unashamed. The right are proud of what their forebears did.
And the left feel that they need to do penance, and make reparations. They feel that they need to compensate all the people who got trampled over in the past. If the past was male-dominated, now women’s rights should take precedence. And there should be positive discrimination in favour of previously reviled or excluded minorities. And all religions apart from Christianity should be given priority – so hallal meat in supermarkets. And the borders should be open for anyone to enter.
It was probably much the same during the fall of the Roman empire. Romans probably felt thoroughly ashamed of their thousand-year empire, their colonies, their armies, their roads and bridges and laws. They probably welcomed the Goths and Vandals into the empire, and threw open the gates of Rome to them. And the shame and guilt probably never left them for the next thousand penitential years, until the Renaissance revived pride in the achievements of the ancient world – just as Europe began its own imperial expansion across the globe.
Guilt and shame will be the death of Western culture – unless a few people start arguing that there’s actually nothing to be ashamed of, and the industrial revolution wasn’t a mistake, but the single most beneficial event in human history, which raised living standards all over the world onto which it was very forcibly projected, and very quickly replaced the small power of human slaves with the far greater power of countless multi-horsepower engines, and is now doing the same for both communication and calculation with countless computers and cell phones. For it’s a continuing, rolling revolution. It’s not over. The real shame should be laid upon all those who would turn their backs on it, and fail to seize this astonishing moment in history.