Understanding such forces is crucial in attacking issues such as gun control, which are completely out of control. Even though the vast majority of both NRA and non-NRA gun owners are for tighter gun control laws, fear and shame are still the primary factors driving gun ownership to record highs. But fear and shame cannot be approached directly, for one is generally too ashamed to admit one is ashamed!
If shame is indeed one of the most powerful unconscious forces behind so many of our failed attempts to curb our most pressing social problems, and if it is difficult to approach directly, then how can we confront and combat shame itself?
There are at least four different ways, none of which are sufficient by themself. The first is obviously books such as Gilligan’s, which point out the complex factors and overall patterns responsible for shame. Sadly, because they confront shame too directly and are largely cognitive in nature, they reach only a very small percentage of the population, mainly highly educated liberals, who are already less prone to shame. Nonetheless, they are necessary even if they are not sufficient. Without understanding the factors responsible for shame, it is extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, to fashion truly effective ways of combating it.
The second way is of course individual therapy. Again, this only reaches a very small percentage of the population, mainly highly educated liberals. And, it does not treat a whole society therapeutically that is suffering from shame.
The third of course is ongoing, sustained programs and efforts in education. The earlier and the younger we intervene with children the better. But imagine the howls of protests from conservatives who are already paranoid about “government stealing the minds of children.”
The fourth is the most effective. It consists of carefully orchestrated public service campaigns that feature prominent, charismatic figures from all walks of life (business, entertainment, sports, politics, etc.) that have successfully faced and overcome shame. Powerful personal stories are the main ingredient. And, of course, celebrities are the story.
Ian I. Mitroff
Adjunct Professor, UC Berkeley
April 25, 2012
Confronting Shame-Based Politics: The Biggest Challenge of All
[I would take issue with his unsubstantiated assertion that gun owners are for tighter gun control laws and that shame is an issue in gun ownership. But I won’t out of fear he would put me on a list such that I would end up in a death camp instead of a reeducation camp or psych hospital should he and his kind ever achieve the power they desire.—Joe]