Guilt & Shame

Last week things seemed to conspire to cause me to write on a particular topic.  First there were a few comments on Mad Genius Club (which, btw, has a different post today and one that might be of some interest (or not)) discussing whether having over-demanding parents actually resulted in over-achieving children.  And then there was the comment here left by someone who thought I needed three thousand words on the subject of something I studied in college in far more depth than she seemed able to grasp.  At the end of it, and almost as a throw away, there was a bit about guilt which implied that guilt was always bad and that, of course, in the future, when we’re all like onto angels, no one feels any guilt at all.

So, let’s take these in turn.  Of course most of us think over-demanding parents are terrible.  I didn’t like them one little bit when I was little, and I don’t think I’ve grown to like them any better, even as I became one.  (Or did I?  The questions is “is it OVER-demanding?”)  Besides, there’s all the stories of stage parents, and what they do to the poor mites caught in the clutches of their overweening ambition.

But let’s start with that last.  Having been caught in the mad whirligig of what I’m assured is a saner version of the entertainment business (Ah!  Like a man running down the street in his underpants is saner than one running down the street in a fish costume, screaming “I’m a carp.”) I can tell you that even if you have genuine talent (whatever in heck that is) and even if you’re working out of your own ambition and not mama’s, it will still destroy you given enough time and indie not emerging.  (I’ve gone slightly mad.  It finally happened…)

What I mean is I don’t think it’s possible for a parent, particularly one who thinks their kids are geniuses in something related to show business, to apply that kind of pressure to a business that rewards in inconsistent and capricious manner, without making the child go completely insane.  I’m not even sure it’s possible for you to apply that kind of pressure to yourself over a few years without going completely and permanently insane.

Also, through years in gifted classes, magnet schools and several other places where the academically interested gathered, I’ve seen enough parents pushing their kids to do things they clearly couldn’t do.  That is bad, and that will break the kid.  As will pushing your kid into something they really have no interest in, no matter how gifted the kid is.  As someone who picked her degree not because of an overwhelming interest, I’m here to tell you it’s very difficult, no matter how “gifted” you are in the matter.  My interest was always in writing fiction, only being in Portugal at the time, I thought I couldn’t possibly live from it – but because it was “safe” since, if there were no jobs for translators/interpreters, it guaranteed a teaching career (and there were always jobs for that.)  I am not actually gifted in languages, but I am gifted in humanities, which means I only needed to study very hard in the language courses, and could “fake” the rest.  It was still hard to make myself do it, because I had no interest in it.

The human mind is a wonderful instrument for avoiding work, and when it doesn’t want to work, it’s very good at thinking up reasons why, including up to – for a book I really didn’t want to write (no, it’s never been published, long story) making me fall asleep whenever I sat at my desk.  Doing that through a whole degree is a pain. I’d never have finished if I hadn’t also been working part time.  Being half-dead in class helped.

So, yeah, pushing your kid into fulfilling your dreams is a bad idea.  And pushing your kid into having perfect As when they don’t have the capacity is a bad idea.

For the longest time, I thought #2 son was going to end up wanting a Classics degree, and I was prepared to tell him to at least take some tech thing on the side, like car repair, so he could make some money while translating from the ancient Greek for fun in the evenings.  As it turned out, he fell in love with the idea of aerospace engineering and that was that.  But the other was possible.

So, pushing beyond the kid’s limits will make your kid a neurotic mess.  So the key is to know what the limits are and push up to them and not further.  This isn’t as hard as you think.  If you’re an engaged parent and don’t have an ego the size of Pluto, you’ll know the signs you’re pushing too far too fast.

However, isn’t it best not to push?  Oh, heck, no.

Look, the other thing humans are really good at is not doing much of anything.  I know that I met just as many “brilliant wastrels” as I did “Overpushed not quite geniuses” in my school career.  You probably did too.  Which one does best as an adult?  It again depends on whether the people being pushed have a vocation and an interest.  And if the parents are stupid enough to push too far and break the kids.

But as for hearing your parents’ voice in your head telling you all your efforts aren’t “good enough” I know a lot of us live with it, and are fairly happy and fulfilled.  If it gives us that little extra edge, that is not always a bad thing.  After all, people who are too contented, do nothing.  And do they enjoy doing nothing?  In my experience, since the human heart is a thing of perverseness, no, they don’t.  They do nothing, and they hate themselves and others and go around complaining about everything and everyone and society too.  They are aware of wasted potential within themselves, they have never acquired habits of work because nothing was ever required of them, and they feel dissatisfied, but don’t know how to fix it.

Which bring us to this idea that the ideal society has neither guilt nor shame.  This is of course the idea of the noble savage turned on its head: in the perfect future, the perfect human has no complexes, no hang ups.  He sleeps with whomever he wants to, does whomever… whatever he wants to, eats whatever he wants to, and always feels in perfect joy and kindness with himself.

Of course, in the real world, savages have more taboos, more guilt and more shame than any more “civilized” human and imagining they don’t is a form of patronizing and often of racism. Just because their taboos and their internal mechanisms aren’t ours, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  For instance, if what I read about the Maasai is true, the women might seem care free and promiscuous, but actually their liaisons outside marriage must fit a certain age and social pattern or be very strongly frowned upon and punished.

In the same way, imagining a future where all of us are perfectly from all guilt and shame, is impossible if we still remain human.  We might feel guilt and shame about different things, but if you imagine you’re more free of hangups than your medieval ancestors, let me tell you, you’ve been sold a bill of goods.  Oh, sure, we don’t feel guilt (and certainly no shame) for breaking religious taboos we don’t have – say meat on Friday – but we do feel guilt over things that would puzzle our ancestors: leaving the light on too long.  Eating too much (unless, of course, they were very religious and the ‘too much’ rises to gluttony.) Throwing cans not in the recycle bin, or even littering something that – to judge by people in other countries still – they’d do carelessly and with no remorse.

Shame is simply a mechanism of social cohesion.  You feel you shouldn’t do this or that because “what if anyone knew?”

Sometimes it’s completely stupid or at least opaque to us.  For instance, where I come from, when all the clothes were dried outside, we had a line down in the patio for drying our undies.  Because the rest went on top of the garage, and people might see them, and it was a shame for people to see your undies.  Now, I think it would be more shame for people to think you didn’t wear undies, but that’s just me.  Maybe it was for people to avoid seeing their neighbors’ sprung elastic and parachute-like bras.  Maybe it kept people from dying of embarrassment in public.

But sometimes shame is useful.  Say that of your own you don’t have enough morals not to shop lift.  Say you think the corporations make too much money or whatever.  So you’re ready to bag that candy bar, but you think “what if I’m caught?  I’d die of shame being arrested.” And you don’t.

Shame normally ensures you follow social norms.  Its value is as good as the social norms, but insofar as it lubricates the gears of societal intercourse, it’s a good thing.  If it’s a shame to cover your behind on Friday, then by gum, go around without undies on Friday.  Yes, it’s stupid, but if everyone else is doing it, doing it too will make them happy and who really cares.  (Okay, me.  No one should have to see my behind.)

What about guilt?  Guilt is more serious.  Guilt is between you and your G-d, or if you lack a G-d, between you and your ineradicable beliefs, and in my case, “yes.”

I feel guilty if I injure another person, both because that’s against my religion and because it is against my principle of not hurting people (unless it is necessary to defend myself.)

Now how it’s dealt with is different if it is inadvertently or on purpose.  Inadvertently, my religion says I’m innocent (though I still need to think through the circumstances and avoid doing it again, if possible.)  My civic conscience gives me no such leeway screaming that “you should have known better, dummy” even if I did it inadvertently.

Do I walk around with a sludge of guilt?  Oh, sure I do.  All adult humans do.

Is this a bad thing?

Well, it depends, doesn’t it?  Feeling guilty because I trod on an ant on the sidewalk is probably stupid.  Feeling guilty because I failed to save a kitten born too soon and tossed out, and which I didn’t find is stupid too.  Doesn’t mean I don’t feel that guilty, but it’s dumb.

Feeling guilty because I didn’t do as well as I could for my kids is only good in the sense that I pause before I repeat the mistake.  (Though it might not be repeatable in this life, there’s always the grandkids.)

Feeling guilty if I’d committed murder?  Well, wouldn’t not feeling guilty be much, much worse?

Guilt of the stepping on an ant kind is not, no, going to make me insane.  Even guilt for murder wouldn’t, if I’d committed murder because I HAD to.  Yes, I’d still feel guilty, but it wouldn’t drive me nuts.

The idea that any form of guilt at all is bad and eventually makes you insane is a lie.  We all have guilt, even if it’s guilt over having guilt.

Guilt is the electrical fence around your idea of how life should be lived (whether that idea is originally yours or received.)  When you touch it, or even approach it, you should feel the shock.  Its pain is less than what you’d feel if you went out into the open field and your life lost all goalposts and all moorings.

Shame is a small social kind of the same thing.  It’s the “did I violate a taboo of my society, which will cause people to shun me” whether the taboo is sane or not.  For instance, if I lived in Portugal I’d wash my sidewalks and front porch every week.  Not because I care but because “the neighbors will talk.”  It would cost me 2 hours a week, but it would keep me in good standing.

In a functioning, non toxic society shame keeps people doing things they might not naturally feel inclined to, but which in the end are good for the society itself.  Say, keeping the sidewalks clean.  Or keeping an eye on your kids, so they don’t wander about half naked in the street.  Or staying indoors instead of talking to boys out on the street, which might seem perfectly innocuous to you (We were talking books.  Sigh) but which will give you a reputation and make your eventual marriage harder.

Shame enforces the rules that allow us to live cohesively together.

Guilt enforces the rules – internal or external – without which we start doubting our own humanity.  (Note, I’m not saying those rules are eternal or even universal, but they are what reassures each of us we’re human among humans, and that we’re “good” for a definition of good.)

Now it is true there are people that feel neither guilt nor shame.  Weirdly, they’re not angels. They’re psychopaths.  The smarter ones, who wish to survive, learn to fake the normal feelings of mankind.  The ones who don’t, usually are heinous and remembered throughout history.

Our education system, having forgotten that we’re social animals and neither angels nor islands, seems determined to uproot both guilt and shame.  And a society with neither isn’t a society.  And if it works (it won’t.  People find new sources of guilt and shame.  See “judging” and “not recycling.”) that would be a way the world ended.

UPDATE: different post over at Mad Genius Club.

186 thoughts on “Guilt & Shame

    1. Guilt trips are different from genuine guilt. Yeah, that’s also an excellent motivator. The push that doesn’t work. For some things I push younger son in the opposite direction of where I want him to go… 😉

    2. Actually, there’s a bigger thought here. The old adage goes that if you want to be successful, you only have to be really good at one thing. I guess that this depends on your definition of “success”, doesn’t it? As I approach my 60th year, I’ve come to realize that I’m not very good at any one thing — I think I lack the application or drive needed to make that possible — but I am reasonably good at a number of things. I write reasonably well, I’m a good conversationalist and raconteur, I’m a pretty good scholar and so on. When I was younger, I wanted to be a) a world-class cricketer — not enough talent, sadly — and then b) a rock star — and not enough talent there either. No amount of practice and dedication could have got me where I wanted to go. In any event, I also discovered that single-mindedness is kinda boring, especially in the company of others; and I’m a sociable man who enjoys the company of others. So I decided to be at least competent in everything — I’m a good bridge player, darts player, snooker player, (and in my youth) squash and field hockey player. In other words, my goal has been to be good enough at something so as not to make a fool of myself. And that’s worked for me.
      When it comes to my kids, there are all sorts of other issues at play. I resolutely refuse to try and live my life through my kids, because it’s their life, not mine. So the Son&Heir, to give but one example, is a nationally-ranked pistol shooter, but I have never ever forced him to practice, or laid any guilt on him. All he’s ever got from me is that his success and failure will depend completely on his own efforts, even though I’ll support him every step of the way. So he failed to make Team USA for the London Olympics by a small margin — and his response was, “I’ll just try to make the next World Champs and 2016 Olympics then.” And if you don’t? “Then there’ll be other tournaments. And if I don’t make those, it means that I’m just not as good as the other guys.”
      A man should always know his limitations. Pushy parents don’t help that, they just make that realization occur more quickly — usually, with bad results..

      1. Depends on your definition of “pushy”. Mine could be called “setting standards” — the kids can (always could) try whatever they wanted, and we got them material and courses, etc) BUT if they came to me with something I wouldn’t say “Oh, honey, that’s the most wonderful” — I usually said “Uh, what about there? Couldn’t it be better?” That both showed them that there was something else to strive for and established trust between us. When I say “Wow, this is good” they BELIEVE it, because I’ve earned that trust.
        In the same way my parents said basically “You have a good enough mind, you should be able to make it through public school with nothing below a B.” A B got me “displeasure” — okay from mom it was bad. It involved screaming and I’d do anything to avoid it. From dad it was just a look. So, I usually had As. My best friend who was just as smart grew up in a family where whatever you brought home was “That’s wonderful, dear, I’m sure you tried your best.” No, she didn’t. Most of the time she scraped by with a C and there were a few Ds and Fs too. Which left her badly prepared for the world.

        1. So long as the parents correctly judge their child’s ability then it works. One of my friends from school was I believe persistently overjudged by his parents who thought he was a lot smarter than he was. This meant he could never please them as there was no way he could get As. Bs yes, As in maybe one area yes. But countered by Cs in other areas. Because he never got the praise he should have for his achievements I think he wasted most of his 20s because he rebelled good and hard against his parents’ wishes

          1. Yes, it does imply SOME clear thinking and not using the kids as extensions of your ego. My two are in some ways so… alien it cured me of it good and early. (But didn’t you say they were like you? Sure. Particularly the younger one. BUT also very not like me in weird ways. One of the things we had to adapt for, for instance, is the fact he HATES tests. He does okay with the little ones, but send him into an official– large room, proctor, etc — one and his mind goes into gibber mode. It’s getting better. Used to be he went in with As and came out with Ds. Now he goes in with As and comes out with Bs. I think it’s a matter of self confidence relating to early experiences. BUT we adapt and go on. And no, I don’t berate him. Only time I got on his case was over not turning in homework when he was much younger. He’d DO it, then forget to turn it in — which so so much like me it hurts.)

        2. I wasn’t “pushed,” but my parents did have high expectations of me regarding my education. Being a “brilliant wastrel,” I’ve had to push myself, really.

          Talent is trash without any effort behind it.

          1. See, now I have guilt for reminding others of their roundness, as well as my own.

            As my dear mother said, “Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.”

            Here’s to guilt being the kick in the pants some of us may need to become less “soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard.”

      2. While I dislike disagreeing with a man who is putting himself down, fifty years of attention to the music industry leaves me with the firm conviction that there is no minimum talent required to be a rock star.

        Unless you deem chutzpah a talent.

        Also, standards for “good enough” vary according to the league you are in. For some people, “good enough” in tennis simply means being able to get your serve in bounds on the proper side of the net and returning volley more often than not, while for others it means the occasional service ace and scoring off your backhand.

      1. My Mom (not jokingly) brings up the 24 hours of labor when she wants me to do something and then adds “if you love me.” There is a reason I don’t live closer to her and spent many of my years about 3,000 miles from her.

          1. I never do the “if you love me” — nobody does* and damned if I will give them the chance to demonstrate it by rubbing in salt.

            *Which is not to assert that nobody does, but that I live in the kind of household where such an obvious ploy insures an appropriate response.

  1. These bits about guilt and shame are almost directly to point on the story I’m currently writing. Bookmarked for future reference…

  2. (I’ve gone slightly mad. It finally happened…)
    Finally? You mad Portagee you!
    I always thought it was one of your more consistent and endearing qualities.

    1. I think the operative term here is slightly, which indicates an improvement on her part.

      I, on the other hand, am the most perfectly sane person in the world. It is everybody else who is askew.

  3. See, though I often disagree with you, hopefully in a constructive manner, the life lessons here are a major reason I read this blog. sheepishly takes off fish costume

    1. There was a stir a few months ago when Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother discussed child=rearing by Asian-American overachievers. Yet another book I intend to read when time allows but maybe never will.

    2. The eminent physicist Paul Dirac invited only his mother, not his father, to his Nobel Prize ceremony. His brother committed suicide.

    The eminent physicist Richard Feynman was encouraged by his father to take an interest in natural phenomena. He grew up into a more or less normal human being…more or less sane, anyway.

    3. The eminent mathematician Norbert Wiener survived a harshly demanding upbringing. He tells the story in the autobiography Ex-Prodigy and I Am a Mathematician. He also touches on the wasted life of the off-the-charts gifted William James Sidis, whose psyche did not survive a harsh upbringing by his psychologist(!) father.

    4. Among my siblings and me, the one who was spurned in childhood/youth as not having brains or talent became the most successful by far.

    5. Presumably studies exist of identical twins raised in different environments. I don’t know how enlightening they are.

    1. Actually a great part of what we did — besides the “you should be able to hit high B (though I never screamed about less when I understood — yes, there were justified cases– or… well, ever. the kids knew what was expected and they tried for it. If they failed, it wasn’t intentional.) because that’s important if you wish to go to college” — was KEEP the boys from getting too … nuts. Marsh has an obsessive personality. It’s important for him to, say, remember to wash, while he’s studying.

    2. 5. Presumably studies exist of identical twins raised in different environments. I don’t know how enlightening they are.

      Don’t know about twins, but my great uncle was raised as a lone child away from the family (very long story), and he is as leftwing thinking as his brothers were (one blacklisted for a bit for being a commie). But he was as artistic in his own way as they were … his being music and photography as opposed to sculpting, painting and animation.

      1. Google “twins raised separately” some of the results are fascinating. Makes one wonder if we aren’t seriously underestimating the influence of genetics.

        1. I’m fascinated by watching #2 son grow up. He’s somewhat like me, but only because I take after dad. He IS my dad, a man with whom he’s spent a total of maybe two months cumulative in his entire life. I don’t know if I should wish he find a girl like my mom or not. I can see where they’re better together than apart, mind you…

    3. “a harsh upbringing by his psychologist(!) father”

      It is my life’s goal to get legislation passed which would make it mandatory for all economists and psychologists to wear wizard’s hats when out in public, because their so-called “sciences” are nothing more than guesswork backed by anecdote.

      1. My great frustration is that economics is a science, but it’s rarely treated as one by its practitioners. If you are not going to subject your theories to rigorous experimentation and throw out ones that don’t empirically work, then what you do should at best be considered a branch of philosophy. The current state of affairs is akin to having the majority of medical practitioners hawking homeopathy.

        1. I am currently reading (as my ongoing non-fiction alternative reading) Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society. (Yes – it has been out a while; some books are to be savored.)

          I find it impossible to believe that Sowell and Paul Krugman are in the same profession. I cannot decide whether it is an insult to Sowell or to Economics, or both.

      2. YES. Well, I dated the son of an economist and he was more screwed up than psychologist’s sons. And I don’t know who coined it, but children of psychologists are best defined by the phrase “nooooo, not the peanut butter jar!”

        1. John Ringo, I believe: in the Ravencon after-report.

          I went to school with a large number of college prof kids. The joy of growing up in a small college town I guess. Ed professors’ kids had some odd ways of handling life. Not what the parents were intending, I believe. (I pray).

        2. See above note: Intellectuals, as a class, are defined by their distance from reality. But the problem is not with the intellectuals, it is with the society that tolerates, indulges and even encourages their irresponsibility.

      3. I know it’s anecdotal, but every child of psychologists I’ve ever met was extremely disordered. I know of one exception, and he taught as a substitute teacher in American Public Schools. No I’m not sure he’s an exception so much as a sleeper case. 😉

  4. I haven’t fully absorbed your post yet since it’s past 11:00 PM over here and my brain is trying to shut itself down, but I’m rather strongly reminded of Dr. Sanity’s blog post from several years ago about shame cultures and guilt cultures — the operative point being which of these two is the primary mode of operation for people in those cultures. Rather than try to summarize her post, I’ll just link it:

    The diagram about the different reactions of a falsely-accused person in a shame culture vs. in a guilt culture is particularly fascinating. But since, as I mentioned, it’s past eleven at night in my timezone, I’ll just put this link up and let others talk about it, and I’ll join the conversation once I’ve slept.

    1. Does some quick sums and figures you must be in China or Korea…

      To add to your fascinating link (and all the various links from it) I present this one –

      As that article suggests “shame” and “guilt” in the ways that Sarah uses them, just aren’t comprehensible to some other human cultures. Sadly it seems like the current western academic “liberal” crowd seem to have adopted the mores of Arabia, even if their taboos and the like are different. And that explains why modern day political rhetoric is so broken. Those of us who have the traditionl “western” ideas of guilt and shame can’t understand those that don’t and vice versa.

    2. You beat me to the post, Robin. I thought of Dr. Sanity’s guilt/shame axis too.

    3. I respect a lot of people. I admire few.

      Pat Santy is one of the few.

      Here is her account of her behavior during the Challenger disaster. She sacrificed her prospects of becoming an astronaut in order to minister to the distressed.

      Hopefully commercial spaceflight will get her up there.

  5. Next to “brilliant wastrel” in your encyclopedia, is there a picture of a bald, mustachioed, chubby, cat hair covered guy? Asking for a friend …

      1. I wasn’t pushed as a kid. It was multiply determined. No work habits + minimal brain dysfunction= poor student. I fulfilled my family’s expectation that I was stupider than my brother and my sister. My brother and sister thought that since I had minimal brain dysfunction that I was retarded.

  6. One reason I will never be a politician in a democratic society is that -despite missing the facebook age when it comes to college and stuff – there are way too many people (and some photos that I have yet to locate) that tell tales about me doing inappropriate things. I mean loudly shouting “make way for the penis!” while being chased by a 50′ one in the Bay to Breakers race probably counts me out of most political races these days, though it was probably more sane than the “salmon” who ran upstream to “spawn”.

    It seems to me that while we have benefited from losing the more puritan ideas of upstanding moral life, the boomers threw the baby of basic civilization out with the uptight bathwater. No matter what you think of Christianity, the patriarchy blah blah blah, the combination of the 10 commandments, Jesus’ glosses on them and the code of chivalry (in a sort of watered down way where we ignore the whole ‘courtly love’ bit) were a pretty good moral compass. In fact 99% of the time for 95%* of people, following them makes you happy, successful and generally pleasant to your neighbors. Unfortunately because said 1000+ year old morality failed to take account of the fact that it, as developed over the years, failed to be perfect for 100% of people 100% of the time, certain smart arses chucked the whole lot out instead of doing some surgical work so as to support ideas like homosexuality is normal for some people or that, just possibly, Christianity might not be the only way to god.

    Sadly, it seems that they failed to realize that a mostly good, even if slightly flawed, moral compass is better for people than an amoral compass that rewards words rather than deeds

    *statistics courtesy of WAG productions. E&OE, YMMV and other disclaimers

    1. One reason I will never be a politician in a democratic society is that -despite missing the facebook age when it comes to college and stuff – there are way too many people (and some photos that I have yet to locate) that tell tales about me doing inappropriate things. I mean loudly shouting “make way for the penis!” while being chased by a 50′ one in the Bay to Breakers race probably counts me out of most political races these days, though it was probably more sane than the “salmon” who ran upstream to “spawn”.

      *double-checks that it was, indeed, San Fran where this happened*

      Sounds like cultural sensitivity to me.

    2. 1. You mean…you were young and stupid back when you were young and stupid? OMG!

      2. Seriously, my eyebrows would go up if you ran. I’d scrutinize your vita more closely than usual. It would be reassuring to see you having gone out of your way to perform good works. I wouldn’t categorically rule out voting for you.

      3. Spitzer, Sanford, Weiner…and Slick Willy, of course, back in the day.

      Misconduct that used to destroy political careers nowadays only gets you a timeout.

      4. Pretty soon not even a timeout will be expected. (Per Garry Studds and Barney Frank, come to think of it…)

      1. And, of course, the textbook case, Teddy Kennedy.

        Kennedy, Studds, Frank…I guess the rote rules don’t apply to MA’s level of enlightenment.

          1. Er, the shark missed me, probably because sharks are attracted to the motion of their prey whereas I was stock still looking clueless.

            1. Your search – studds site:accordingtohoyt-dot-com – did not match any documents.

            2. barney frank site:accordingtohoyt-dot-com: 7 hits, but most or all by commenters.

            3. capenews-dot-net:: EDITORIAL: Studds, Frank, And How Far We’ve Come. Nope.

            4. Boston Globe’s obit:

            He publicly disclosed his sexual orientation after a former congressional page, then 27, said in 1983 that he and the congressman had a sexual relationship a decade earlier, when the page was 17. The House censured Mr. Studds for sexual misconduct.

            Living in Cohasset, he first ran for the 10th district seat in 1970 and nearly upset Hastings Keith, the Republican incumbent. For the rematch, he learned Portuguese, the language of many voters in the district, and became fluent in ocean and fisheries issues that affected many constituents.

            Interesting, but I don’t picture you as an ethnic loyalist. (Nor, hopefully, am I.)

            5. Please clarify.

            1. I was going for the vile pun. “Stud” and “Barney Frank.” Look, bud, it’s late on a very busy and oddly fruitless weekend, I’m tired, you’re reading too much depth into my jokes.

              1. shrug I’ll keep that in mind.

                Yes, you sound frazzled. Hope you feel better. Good night.

                  1. A hit, a very palpable hit…A touch, a touch, I do confess…

                    The bog-dammed women are taking over the planet. mock(?) scowl

            2. A guess:
              Stud: male
              Frank: um… definitively male.

              At least you didn’t mention an infamously tin-eared photo sharing politician. (sharing images of that part with that name… oy.)

                1. Truth, fiction, stranger than, #umptysquat.

                  Related: I grew up knowing Batman. He was a cranky old man…. (Bill Batman. It’s a family in south-eastern Oregon.)

                  1. ROFL.
                    I should point out when Wiener disgraced himself I was in Portugal. I was reading news (Instapundit) on my kindle and suddenly roared with laughter at the breakfast table. So I had to explain it to my parents, who were aghast and convinced I was joking.

  7. Our education system, having forgotten that we’re social animals and neither angels nor islands, seems determined to uproot both guilt and shame. And a society with neither isn’t a society. And if it works (it won’t. People find new sources of guilt and shame. See “judging” and “not recycling.”) that would be a way the world ended.

    That’s what it pretends—Everybody’s a winner! Everybody gets an award! Kumbaya!but actions belie it. In elementary school, there is the war on boysterousness. In high school, there is poison like A People’s History of the United States. If the recent incantation, “white privilege”, hasn’t made its way into the curriculum yet, I expect it will.

    NB: By scorning concoctions like “white privilege”, I am not claiming that society is fully equitable or free of bigotry. On the contrary. My point is that “progressive” attempts to create so-called fairness using the force of the State are likely to make things worse, perhaps catastrophically worse.

    1. I’m fairly sure you meant “already have made things worse, perhaps catastrophically worse.”

      1. Yes, I meant already have made things worse, thanks. Afaic things went off the rails when “equal opportunity” was supplanted by “affirmative action”.

        As for “catastrophically worse”, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet, and hopefully won’t. There is little limit to how far the supposedly “compelling government interest in diversity” can be pushed.

        Affirmative action lures students from schools where they’d succeed to universities where they underperform? No problem: just make the “benefits of diversity” (and “fairness”) mandatory throughout the economy and society. Etc.

        I hope such insanity won’t happen, but I’m not going to assert it won’t happen.

  8. Guilt is something I seldom feel. Used to say never, but my definition of guilt has been modified.

    Anyway, the reason I seldom feel guilt is because as far as I’m concerned, whatever I’ve done that folks think should involve guilt is something I thought was the right thing to do at the time I did it. From my viewpoint, I don’t think guilt should involve what others think. There are things I regret doing for sure. Many of those things were inadvertent. My efforts to change what I did that caused the inadvertent event are real. In many cases, those changes result in the event not recurring.

    As for things I do feel guilt about, they’re always things that seemed right at the time, yet they violated my principles for living a good life. My definition of a good life, of course.

  9. I still feel ashamed that I haven’t had more sexual encounters in my life. The idea that it’s perfectly acceptable to start getting acquainted with a member of the opposite sex by having sex, and the rest could then come later, was already the norm here by the time I hit my early 20’s, only I was never comfortable doing that. But saying that got you teased, and most guys just went looking for more accommodating women if they got being rebuffed even for one evening, much less several days (especially since I never was one of the prize individuals – I did get more than one comment along the lines that somebody like me just couldn’t afford to be that choosy, or that hard to get). One of the reasons why I just gave up and settled for being a confirmed spinster (I rather like that word. Bachelorette sounds funny, and single sort of too clinical). If I had really wanted children I guess I would have kept on looking, and sleeping around no matter how uncomfortable I was with that, but I never had any real wish for kids so opting out seemed like the best alternative.

    But yes, I do feel somewhat ashamed over how little I have done that, and used to be very unwilling to admit to it. Especially since if I do say how little people seem to mostly have the reaction that it’s completely abnormal (especially the complete abstinence for now about half of my adult life), and what’s wrong with you?

    There is always shame, and shaming. So once it was for women who had sex outside of marriage. Going for the idea that there is no shame in that unless you already are married, or in a committed relationship with one man, well, maybe that was not that bad an idea, but it did lead to the idea that the single woman who does not sleep around is the weirdo, and will then be shamed.

    1. When usurers tell their gold i’ the field;
      And bawds and whores do churches build;
      Then shall the realm of Albion
      Come to great confusion.

      Sisu, kiddo.

    2. “Spinster” is my word of choice, too. I don’t think I’ve ever really dated (long story not worth telling), but I heard from plenty of college and grad school associates who got irritated with the pressure to “perform.” Male and female, interestingly enough.

      1. I’m not sure how true the usual idea that men have always been expected to have sex is, and that male virgins have always been the butt of jokes, I have never tried to look at that, but presumably, if more or less true, back in the time when the ‘good girl’ was the one who waited at least he didn’t get pressured, or dumped, by her if he didn’t perform, and most of the teasing or shaming was from other guys and the fewer self-confessed bad girls, not from everybody like it’s likely to be now. So yes, probably more pressure for men too now.

        1. As a man who’s made a deliberate choice to remain a virgin until I’m married, I can tell you two things: one, male virgins do get mocked, and two, I don’t give a damn. The people mocking me for my decision either have no clue why I’ve chosen it, in which case they’re fools; or they do understand why I’ve chosen it and are mocking me because they want to make decisions like mine unacceptable to others, in which case they’re knaves. And I don’t listen to the opinions of fools or knaves, nor do I allow their opinions to affect me. The only people whose opinion I care about in this matter are, in order of priority: God, myself, and my future wife. The fools and knaves can take their opinions and shove ’em.

          1. Before I concern myself about being mocked I consider the source. Tis no shame for a swan to be mocked by ducks.

        2. The idea that most guys are very experienced, while at the same time most gals are inexperienced, has never rang true to me. I mean think about it, there are approximately the same number of males as females, for the above to be true those few gals that aren’t inexperienced wouldn’t have time to sleep they would be so busy giving the guys experience.

            1. Ah, but one experience does not ‘very experienced’ make. Those gals would have to be busy every night to make it true that most guys have slept with a lot of different girls, while most girls have not. I deduce that at least one sex, most likely both, are lieing about their degree of sexual experience.

              1. A little lying is probable– and a decent population of “counting different” (those who want big numbers: anything where they, um, get their jollies counts; for those wanting small numbers, only coitus with jollies counts)– but the assumption that a very small number of women are sleeping with a very large number of men makes the surveys make sense. I KNOW of women who would “service” dozens of men a night, in the same room; I do not actually know of men who would have more than one woman a night when they don’t pay for it.

        3. BTW, this expectation is largely a cultural thing, with a smattering of nature to it. I don’t know of any large scale cross-cultural anthropological research on the matter (and from what I gather the field has become I wouldn’t trust any such research any way.) But I recall learning that a study was done around American WWII bases in England over frictions arising that discovered the problem stemmed from American culture having taught that it was up to the girl to “draw the line” limiting male sexual aggression, while in English culture it was the boys who determined how far they were willing to take responsibility for. So there is at least one example of a culture not expecting males to be “experienced.”

          Much of the current attitude derives from setting a value on ourselves based on our sexual attractiveness, the demand for us in the sexual marketplace. This is why one recent study found “hot” girls had fewer sexual partners — their being “hot” enabled them to demand a higher fee for their company.

          Then there is the little reported fact that for all our enlightened sex education one thing they don’t teach is how to say “no” — much less why you might want to.

          1. What you say about hot girls pretty much fits my experiences back then – the expectation seemed to be that because I was not I was pretty much supposed to take any comers, or close to it, if I wanted to find a partner. Because I didn’t I was stuck up and too choosy for my own good because the reputation of being difficult also cut down the offers. Why bother with somebody who would not give, and was not worth the trouble of prolonged effort when there were even somewhat hot women around who’d probably would say yes sooner.

            1. Alternatively, why settle for a man whose only interest in you is as a biological vibrator? What people tend to overlook is that such a culture is demeaning to men as much as to women, even if they feel less used.

              I sometimes worry that we are living in a world where the flavour “cherry” is what you taste when you bite the red lifesaver in the “5 Flavors” roll and they will disdain the pie, the tart, the Kijafa, the myriad other far more complex flavours that truly comprise the concept “cherry.”

              (Yes, I see what I did, using “cherry” as that flavour — but I couldn’t think of an example for strawberry now that “Runts” candy has remixed their assortment.)

              Culturally we have reduced “love” to its simplest, basest, most transient aspect and declared the other aspects illusion.

              1. Heh. There may be something of a joke in the fact that my whole legal first name actually is also the older (no longer used) Finnish word for ‘cherry’.

                1. And no, technically, in the old sense, I’m not a virgin, just so inexperienced with full coitus that I probably count as one by the modern consensus, at least that version of that consensus most often seen in media. And I pretty much do regret those few times because I forced myself through them mostly because I was ashamed of not having done it by a relatively advanced age. No, no heavenly choirs or anything even close, it really is not worth it unless it’s with a partner you really want to do it with.

                  1. A greatly under reported fact is that the most satisfactory sexual relationships occur between long-term committed* relationships.

                    The NY Times recently reported on the “hook-up” culture in an article that acknowledged the young “ladies” had to get drunk before “scratching their itch” with guys whom they admitted they wouldn’t be able to stand having coffee with while sober. The Times apparently considered this laudable.

                    *N.B., a “committed” relationship does not have actual commitment unless the partners are married.

                    1. BTW – it should be acknowledged that for purposes of promoting abstinence it is essential that the spokesperson look as if abstinence is a choice, not a fall back position.

                      Sad, but that is how the world has fallen.

                    2. Look, I’ve been married 28 years (next Saturday) and I like sex as much as — maybe more than — the normal woman. BUT the idea of the hookup culture makes me physically ill. EVEN if I could have my 20 yo body back. NOT the idea some women choose to do that, but the implied “push” that they “should” do that or there’s something wrong with them. It was there before, but now it’s all-pervasive. And when you take in account women “attach” much more through sex, etc. it makes me go “DUH no wonder almost all the girls the boys date/are friends with are on meds.” Eh.

                    3. To quote a country song:
                      It’s the fear of being alone.

                      I’ve talked a lot with my ladies who do stuff.

                      It’s better to be a blow-up doll than to be alone.

                    4. Whether you’re with a blow-up doll or role-playing the blow-up doll*, either way: you’re alone.

                      It is just enough easier to lie to yourself that most can get away with it.

                      *Not that there is anything wrong with that. So long as you understand what you are about.

                    5. RES wrote “with guys whom they admitted they wouldn’t be able to stand having coffee with while sober”

                      Um, sorta. A lot of this behavior is covert, so it’s hard to be sure, but from what’s visible, one night stands sure don’t seem to be just with random men. A woman might not be able to stand having coffee with a particular member of the winning football team, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be much more interested in having sex with him than with anyone who seems to be realistically available to her for an honestly committed relationship, or for that matter with a particular man she has currently tricked into a “committed” relationship. Some ONS choices can be shortsightedness or laziness or confusion on women’s part, but some of it looks like a reasonably clear-eyed tradeoff wrapped in the usual human layers of rationalization. (This is of course not original to me, it is a cliche in cynical men’s blogs, and it resembles behavior observed by biologists in other animal species in which females get male investment in caring for their young.)

                    6. The men’s blogs always seem weird to me for ONE thing — they don’t apply to Odd women. As in, at all. In fact, I find them useful reading because it helps me understand NORMAL females — I never could.
                      Odds, by definition are outside the alpha-omega hierarchy. It’s part of the reason they don’t “get” us. Some of us have learned to “pass” in it, but we’re still weird enough that any stress and they turn on us.
                      So reading them explain things like why I hate working in an office full of women or why some female groups went on an all-out war against me, even though I was — as far as I could tell — perfectly happy to ignore them. (And yes, once they obtrude on my attention in an unwanted way and make it impossible to ignore them I HAVE to destroy them. If the alternative is to knuckle under, I’ll fight total war, because I can “pass” as alpha — but I’d much, much rather be left alone and go my own weird path outside the hierarchy.)
                      But Odds are by definition “goats” among the sheep — and our mating patterns follow no logical pattern. There are descriptions of this phenomenon, but not enough, possibly because there are very few of them.
                      One thing — even among odds, women like to marry “up”. It’s just the qualities we’re looking for are different than among normals. Perhaps less so for me, because I was explicitly looking for a man who could stop me when I lost control — something very rare, but it does happen — and have enough strength for me not to walk all over him since I can fake alpha really well — because I was tired of that (and had, in confusion dated someone who was not stronger than I, only bitchier.) BUT the “up” quality I was looking for was a mind better than mine.
                      Anyway, so it seems to me reading the men’s blogs that sometimes they’re telling Odd men to fake the hierarchy, and that’s not even close to the way to attract Odd females.

                    7. I understand the problem for Odd women as you stated it… I had the hardest time finding a guy because they were either too weak (mind or body) or had been trained in feminism. Ugh. I finally found someone who could stop me from being me– when I got mad. I wouldn’t say that he has a better brain (we have different strengths), but he is a better leader than I am… I just have followers and don’t know how I got them…while I am doing my own thing. He also knows how to get the better outcome when dealing with people. I get him to tell me the best way…to do things.

                    8. Oh, yes — the training in feminism makes otherwise good men about as effective as wet kleenex. “Whatever you say dear, I wouldn’t want to oppress you” — when in fact I sometimes need to be told “Are you out of your ever loving mind?” or “Why don’t you give it a try? What can you lose?” or even “You misinterpreted that.” Or, when I start berserking “Stop it. Now.”

                    9. That article made clear that the impossibility of emotional attraction was an element of the relationship. Had the author of the article been male it is likely there would have been wide-spread denunciation of it as misogynistic, portraying women according to the most cynical male blog stereotypes.

                      There has been much written since, challenging the authenticity of the article and the accuracy of its reporting as representative of the actual campus population. Of course, as it was published in the NY Times it must be true*.

                      *For certain values of true.

    3. Pohj, as one who’s had more than a few (50+) of the above, let me tell you right now that about 80% of them were not memorable, and the only ones which were, were with someone I deeply cared for. I don’t think you missed much.

      1. If you wouldn’t eat food that tastes like crap when you’re not starving, and if you wouldn’t willingly drink horsep*ss instead of good alcohol, why on earth would you want to sleep on the first date (or ever) with someone you don’t particularly like, and who doesn’t particularly like you?

        You are a quality person, Pohjalainen, and you deserve a quality person who loves you and wants you for always. Anything less is a waste of your time and your heart.

        We are all quality people, and none of us should be desperate enough to pretend that sh*t is a steak. Not respecting your own innate dignity is the shameful thing.

        1. Yeah, what she* said.

          * It is she, right? I lose track sometimes. Part of the problem of having friends you’ve never met face-to-face is that our brains are designed to remember faces, and when you only know someone as a name without a face associated to that name, the brain has a lot less “hooks” to hang memory onto.

        2. Thank you. Unfortunately it also means that now, past fifty, I’m still alone and likely to stay that way the rest of my life. I do regret that sometimes. Not always, though. I’ve seen enough failed marriages and I do think it’s probably still better to be alone by yourself than alone while tied to somebody with whom you don’t have much of anything in common. One of the other reasons for opting out was my inability to find anybody with similar values. Probably my own fault, I do dislike confrontations (temper, and berserking, I don’t behave well in them) and early on got in the habit of wearing a mask and rarely spoke what I really thought of things. I suppose it’s always possible that if I had I might actually have discovered somebody similar.

          1. Unfortunately it also means that now, past fifty, I’m still alone and likely to stay that way the rest of my life.

            FWIW: judging from the Maurine Dowd (sp?) screeds I’ve gotten second or fifth hand, that happens with those females that DO put-out. They just get used like a blowup doll in the meantime.

            1. And who knows? Sometimes fate has something beautiful just around the corner that you never see coming. At fifty or so, the advantage of cuteness is gone, and all women except those who are mostly plastic, are all more or less blah. It’s the mind and the heart that count then.

              1. One of the greatest lovestories of my childhood was a great-uncle and his best friend’s widow. They were both widowed way before I was born, and as best I can tell the “most” they ever did was always be there for each other.
                He passed about three years ago, less than a year after she did.

                Twenty five years of devotion and love is nothing to sneeze at… I never knew she wasn’t his wife until someone talked about “Don’s girlfriend, Fern.”

                1. I found the love of my life at 38. No reason you shouldn’t find yours at 52 or 64 or 75.

          2. I, also, am likely to stay that way.

            It has been a few years since it started to occur to me that I’m rather set in my ways and would find it difficult to upend them to the extent necessary if I did find someone.

    4. In my own experience, male-female friendships when one or both are virgins are far more relaxed and easy-going (especially when the friends are in their teens and twenties), and inclined to treat each other as people first.

      When a good buddy in college confessed to me that he was a virgin (he and his fiance were saving themselves til marriage, and marriage til they graduated college), he treated it like a shameful secret and expected me to make fun of him. I surprised him by being so enthusiastic when I straightened up and told him that was utterly awesome, and I meant it. But seriously, the willpower, the honesty, the faithfulness and thoughtfulness of that? That’s rarer than a man in a million. And his fiance knew I’d sooner die of guilt and shame than ruin such a rare and good man, and could chase us off to go shoot each other with paintballs or stay up in a study session until 2am. She never doubted him for a moment, nor was jealous toward me (unlike other girlfriends of buddies, who’ve been convinced I was out to steal “their man”.) And when they married each other, I was outside with the car paint and helping string up the tin cans to rattle along the undercarriage, so the best man didn’t get oil on his rented tux. Great times! Awesome people!

  10. Getting rid of old standards involves secretly building new ones while pretending that no standards exist. Hence, “don’t judge me!!!1111!!11” and “you’re a bigot because [point of disagreement]” being uttered by the same person.

    1. The gimmick is to contrast the existing standards and their increments with the paradise you will create if given enough power. Fabricate a dichotomy between the status quo and utopia.

  11. Now it is true there are people that feel neither guilt nor shame. Weirdly, they’re not angels. They’re psychopaths. The smarter ones, who wish to survive, learn to fake the normal feelings of mankind. The ones who don’t, usually are heinous and remembered throughout history.

    Probably, someone has already said something like this… but maybe that’s part of why we have silly social things.
    If every culture has some things that don’t make sense when you think about them, even for the most normal, then the culture can accept those who are not normal.
    Someone is born without the shame/guilt ability? Well, if they’re willing to do the Cultural Norm Silly things, then they can be trusted not to violate the BIG stuff.
    Somebody born Odd? You find out early, with the silly stuff, and double-check they won’t embarrass you about big stuff, too.
    Somebody one of those who gets kicks out of breaking rules? You find out before someone’s dead.

  12. Your point about guilt and shame reminds me of something that one of Lois McMaster Bujold’s characters said about reputation and honor, “Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.” (taken from memory so possibly reworded.

  13. ” Like a man running down the street in his underpants is saner than one running down the street in a fish costume, screaming “I’m a carp.”

    Before deciding the man running down the street in his underpants is insane; look behind him and see what is chasing him. Just possibly you might decide he is insane to have hesitated long enough to put on underpants.

    1. Maybe he was being chased by a guy in a fish costume, screaming “I’m a carp.” Or by a bunch (school?) of guys in fish costumes.

    2. Heh. I’ve seen that first one once. A young guy sprinting down a city street around sunrise (in that case that was about four in the morning – Finnish summer), barefoot and naked except for his underpants which he had to hold up by both hands while running.

      And a bit later I saw him sitting on some stairs with a fully dressed girl, earnestly talking.


      I still do hope at least one of them had the keys.

  14. So, um, where would “sacrificing a baked potato to the full moon by defenestration” come in on the spectrum? Asking for a friend. Alcohol was not involved. Allegedly. If it even happened, which it didn’t.

    1. As long as I’m not standing on the other side of the window I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. Everybody knows they should have been fried instead of baked anyways.

    2. I harvested my first potatoes Friday and sacrified my first fruits as hashbrowns. Maybe I should have tried the defenestration thing instead….
      Sane? who cares if its sane. Does it work?

  15. Over demanding parents are, by and large, less of a problem than under demanding ones, who tolerate (encourage) their children becoming parasites (or predators) upon the larger society. One of the reasons for my antipathy for much of what passes for Progressivism is its regression to a society of lords and thralls. I much prefer the symbiosis of free market capitalism for reasons both practical and aesthetic.

    One person’s over demanding father is another person’s encouraging da, just as one person’s tiger mom is another one’s high expectations fan. As all parents and all children are different each from the other, not all parents will be the “right” one for each of their kids. Some will set the bar too high, some too low, few “just right.” Get used to it; the Earth sucks — it is what keeps centrifugal force from flinging us all into space.

    The sensible parent (oxymoron alert: nobody willing to take on the task of parenting in this day and age is sensible) will set expectations based upon a realistic appraisal of a child’s abilities and talents, encouraging them to push themselves to improve while making clear that parental love is not conditioned on success. Easy-peasey, eh?

    1. The sensible parent (oxymoron alert: nobody willing to take on the task of parenting in this day and age is sensible) will set expectations based upon a realistic appraisal of a child’s abilities and talents, encouraging them to push themselves to improve while making clear that parental love is not conditioned on success. Easy-peasey, eh?

      I guess we were not sensible. We adopted 3 kids when I was 50. One turned out terrific, one we got a restraining order on, one is very difficult to live with. The kid with the restraining order is now living in our guest house and I like him a lot. The difficult one is still difficult although he’s living at home (very temporarily, we hope). We love them all. Easy-peasey, No!

      1. I think RES was being ironical. Ours are biological and sometimes they still stump us. BUT it’s easier if you do pay attention to the kids. Which I think you did — you just had a difficult set. A lot of parents don’t seem to, though.

        1. The kids original parents (one mother & three fathers) had decided it was better to party hardy, than take care of the kids. The kids became available when the oldest, at 4, asked a neighbor for food because her mother had gone to a party three days ago and wasn’t back yet, and the food was gone.
          Yeah, I’d say the biological parents didn’t pay attention to the kids. The first father couldn’t ’cause he was in prison, the second father didn’t want to because it interfered with his drug habit, and the third father accepted sex in lieu of money in exchange for drugs.

        2. Ironical? I don’ t’ink so. Simply noting that being noble is rarely sensible — and that being sensible is not always the most important purpose.

  16. As for anybody wanting a society without Guilt & Shame (sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it? Go ahead, write their slogan) wants what never was and what cannot be. Guilt and shame are essential elements of definition of a culture and their elimination is like removing eggs and cheese from omelets: I don’t know what the result is, but it sure as h-e-double toothpicks ain’t an omelet.

    When one states that a society without guilt and shame are a goal, keep tight hold on your wallet, they’re trying to sell you paradise on the installment plan, where you never reach it until you’ve finished the payments and you’ll never finish the payments because there is always a little bit more that needs to be done.

  17. It is a pity I am late to this discussion, (and out of time to write much in depth). I have been meaning to write a post about guilt, shame, and authority for some time. (Ever since that mandatory “ethics training” class last year where the subject came up, and my unique perspective lead the class to conclude I was some kind of dangerous madman.)

    1. I got strange looks [redacted] years ago in college when they were looking at ways to clarify the honor code. I suggested “I will not lie, cheat, or steal. I will not tolerate those who do so.” They wanted a long discussion of what honor meant, since there seemed to be some confusion among the incoming students. To cap off the semester, a senior was expelled the day of graduation because she cheated on a final exam in a desperate attempt to get a 3.0 and pass the class (so she could graduate).

      1. From the Texas A&M student handbook: An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do.

        Seems pretty straightforward to me.

        1. Apparently it’s too straightforward for this college. They’ve cooked up, er, sorry, sorry, devised an honor pledge that sort of wanders around the idea that it’s wrong to lie, cheat, or steal. And now they’re focusing on “working with” students who “don’t understand” things, and trying to give second chances, and fuzzy bunny luvvy please don’t to that again, mkay? Or at least that’s what’s in the alumnarum magazine (plural genitive of alumna).

          1. Probably written by the same folks who decided homework didn’t need to be graded in public school because, gee, it might make someone feel bad because they didn’t do the assignment and scores don’t need to be kept in games because everyone is a winner and there can never, ever be a loser. Sigh.

            1. If “everyone is a winner” then in truth everyone is a loser. All suffer the deprivation engendered by loss of a major impetus for improvement, especially those most needing to improve.

              1. If we’re all special, no one is.

                The Hoyts when Marshall is engaged in designing some machine for a school project: “Come in second, come in second.”

    2. Sorry – overlong post

      How to explain this ethics thing: It didn’t have anything to do with lying, cheating, or stealing. It was a pretty bizarre, but pretty fundamental and charged philosophical disagreement that I had with my ethics training class.

      The case study that sparked the debate was this:
      The American society of something or other (American Anthropologist’s Guild, basically) disbarred and pursued some sort of civil damages and career blacklisting against some anthropologists who signed up as military liaisons during the early part Iraq/Afghanistan wars. The Army wanted people with expertise in how the people of these countries, including the terrorists, would react to things. The anthropologists agreed and joined units deployed to these territories. The anthropologist’s guild was in a snit because their code of ethics forbade members to aid causes that would end up harming/killing people.

      “Okay”, I said, “I can see why the anthropologists guild might want to kick them out of the guild, but it’s a little crazy that they then try to forbid these people from working in their field and sanctioning their skills.”

      That apparently wasn’t what we were supposed to take away from this at all. The anthropologists in question acted unethically, according to the teacher, because they failed to uphold the code of ethics of their profession.

      “Wait a minute”, I said (at this point, I really should have gone chameleon and refrained from exposing my thoughts), “the (organization) speaks for (organization), not everyone everywhere who might happen to have a particular skill set. The anthropologists in question obviously didn’t feel that the mission was unethical, because they freely signed on for it. Now if they can’t also be members of (organization), that’s one thing, but everyone chooses the causes and outfits that they personally agree with to sign on to. I don’t see where anyone should *forbid* them from pursuing a legal cause.”

      One of the classmates claimed that it was analogous to doctors taking the Hippocratic Oath. If you don’t take the oath, you can’t practice medicine, period. (What about Army combat medics? If they are combatants, they obviously can’t use the red cross/etc, but what prevents them from trying to save the lives of their platoon?) (I’ve never understood the “mandatory professional oath” stuff either.)

      I asked why this organization in particular gets to decide what ethics everyone else has to follow. They provided some other example about the bar association, then said that you can’t just let people decide what is right and wrong on their own.

      Then they said something to the effect that one of these days they will make a real profession out of engineering, and no one will be allowed to practice engineering unless they are a member of the professional engineering society and follow the code. Professions are more than just careers and education, you see. You have to obey what the profession decides is right.

      “Whoa. I’m not an engineer because I’m a member of some guild organization, and I’d never want to be. My eight years of education and my skills qualify me to be an engineer, and my ethics and conduct are between me and my employers. What gives some third party the right to decide what I do with my talents?”

      “*Your* talents? Excuse me, *YOUR* talents?!”, one classmate exclaimed. “The profession *gave* you your talents. What gives you the right to decide what you can do with them? We educated you, we *made* you, you can’t just run off and betray your profession. It was a condition of ever deciding to become educated in this field.”

      “It wasn’t any condition I ever agreed to.”

      “Your agreement wasn’t necessary. That is what ethics is about!”

      “I don’t understand why anyone would *ever* substitute the judgement of a 3rd party for their own independent understanding of right and wrong. (I mean internally, not as a result of force and social constraints). Why would you ever let anyone else decide this for you?”

      At this point they were all staring at me like something that crawled out of the bathtub drain. “Oh my GOD, he’s some sort of sociopath!”

      (I’m not. I feel guilt if I’ve done something that *I* understand to be wrong (to have hurt someone, etc), I just try my best not to feel guilt/shame *on command*. Though apparently something very different is going on in my head wrt ethical reasoning than those of my peers.)

        1. 1. And budding totalitarians. Possibly I should have omitted “budding”.

          2. They are making the case for forbidding you to emigrate with your “their” skills.

          3. How far has this gone? Is this kind of brainwashing now part of a technical education?

          4. To dignify with a response what needs no response: You pay for your training with cash or with barter services like being a TA, research assistant, etc. You do not owe lifetime servitude to some self-appointed professional mafia.

            1. As for #3 – it was one of those random classes coughed up by bureaucracy and possibly someone’s prior incident. Other than not violating the academic code of ethics which we *did* agree to (basically, no plagarism, no falsification of research data – that sort of thing), this class is just a box to check.

              This isn’t the only time I’ve encountered serious moral/ethical weirdness from others though.

          1. In many cases, yes. Worse the less technical it gets. There have been multiple stories of teacher training and nursing programs refusing to admit / kicking out / refusing to certify those who don’t enthusiastically support the Party.

        2. No, I can totally appreciate how “ethics” is now defined as outsourcing your personal decision-making process to a third party that has zero accountability to you as an individual but has complete power over whether you’re allowed to practice your chosen profession.

          Yeah. Nothing to see there at all.

          Hey, how close do you think SFWA would get to that, given the opportunity? > >

          1. It was some years ago when I read a book by a medical “ethicist” who solemnly observed that a baby born alive after a botched abortion looks to the untrained eye like a premature baby.

          2. Anyone seriously interested in the topic of “forced” ethics should be reading the Human Exceptionalism blog by bioethicist Wesley J. Smith at

            Recent posts discussed:

            Physicians who legally cooperate in patient suicides or who refuse wanted care have almost absolute protection from lawsuits and criminal culpability, while their colleagues who provide medical end-of-life treatment face can be held liable if they violate the usual legal “standard of care.”
            No Legal Immunity For Death-Deciding Docs!

            as well as:

            the prevailing opinion among the medical intelligentsia views patient “choice” as a one-way street. Choose to die, and the decision is sacrosanct. Ask to live and–well, it depends on what the “experts” think.

            For example, Futile Care Theory seeks to grant hospital bioethics committees and physicians the right to veto such patient decisions.
            Legislated Advance Directives to Live Could Be Ignored


            Parents are being “steered” towards aborting babies with disabilities without proper information on the alternatives available to them, it adds. In extreme cases it has led to foetuses being aborted purely because screening has detected a cleft lip or club foot, conditions which can be dealt with after birth, according to the committee.
            Late Term Eugenic Abortion for Cleft Palate

            Under Obamacare it is likely that no physician who does not subscribe to the official medical ethics code will be eligible for payment from government compliant policies. After all, you don’t want your tax dollars going to unethical “doctors”, do you? /sarc

            1. Which is one of several factors leading to the rapid rise of cash only and/or concierge medicine… at least for those who can afford it.

              1. Which I’m sure they will attempt to ban shortly, after all the only reason they would be asking cash payment is because they are hiding something.

                1. The French Revolution imposed the death penalty for asking whether a customer would pay in their paper money or real money, worth something, from before the revolution.

                  The problem with the ban is that, of course, it can hide something. A great deal.

      1. I find it a useful technique in such discussions to accept their premise and then hang them from their own contradictions.

        For example, in the Forties and Fifties many professional organizations in the United States included anti-communism clauses in their codes of ethics. Thus anybody expressing sympathy with communism or communists deserved to be blacklisted. After all, under their advocated principles the minorities have no rights which the majority is obligated to respect.

        That is one reason (of many) I am not allowed out in public.

      2. Some of the work I do is in a regulated profession, which includes a code of ethics we are pledged to uphold. I hate the regulation, but I find our code a light burden, if any at all – most of it is already covered by the legal requirements (ie most violations would be a crime) and the rest is essentially “behave like a professional”. The only governing body is the government panel that oversees licensing, which has typical bureaucrat problems but no partisan political or cultural issues that I’m aware of. As long as there has to be an interfering third party, I can live with that. I still want to see it unregulated, but then I’m an admitted extremist in that regard.

        1. None *yet*.

          The whole PE thing sort of bugs me, because it presumes to extract rent from our talent by acting as a gatekeeper over and above our demonstration of mastery of our art.

          So far, everything is reasonable. I’m not about to plagarize/falsify research data, or build things that will kill people (at least, not if you’re not on the business end of it), etc. But one of these days they may decide (quite arbitrarily, as they’ve positioned themselves as an arbitrary gatekeeper) that extra “loyalty” is required.

          1. Oh there are issues, and I imagine they could get worse. Until a few years ago, our profession was under the control of $Gov_Agency_A, where all the related/similar professions still are, but (as I was told) $Gov_Agency_B bought a bunch of state legislators some very nice lunches and dropped a few “suggestions” and now we’re under their jurisdiction. *spits*
            Reputation is already huge in our business – we’re not the sort of industry that advertises publicly. That reputation ought to be enough to keep us in line. Most employers would make sure their people were properly trained for liability if nothing else, and the rest wouldn’t last long. Up the Free Market!

  18. For some reason, it’s not letting me post replies. Don’t know if that’s a wordpress snafu, if it’s a block on me (how have I offended thee, oh proprietress, and how may I make amends?), or what.

    Anyway, in case this goes through, I’m trying to find an appropriate response to pohjalainen’s comment above about feeling shame over not having enough experience “in the sack”.

    And the appropriate response that I keep coming up with isn’t shame. It’s anger. It may be the clearest justification I’ve ever seen for “righteous” anger.

    And I think about my own daughter, and the pressure that I’m sure she’ll be put under. Kiddo’s got a good head on her shoulders, and good friends, but she’s still early teens, and high school starts in two months. If anyone, I mean ANYONE tried to put that kind of shame on my daughter, first – it wouldn’t work, because I think we’ve done a decent enough job of inculcating Judeo-Christian values in her and we continually shore that up. Second, it would result in me probably doing grievous emotional and psychological (but hopefully not physical) harm to that poor unfortunate soul who ventured into such territory.

    I mean, I grew up with a parent who was a master of cutting language. And I’ve tried for YEARS to keep that side of myself bottled up. Someone tries to pull that with my kid? A great black hole in my chest will open up, and woe unto that poor, poor fool, because I will let fly.

    1. I have not blocked you. WordPress is WEIRD.
      However, let me assure you even in my day, in Europe, I often LIED about how much experience I had because to be a virgin past about 14 was weird and shameful. Yes, even in “socially conservative” Portugal, at least in the educated class. At the time I just thought it was the way it was. Now I find it horrible. (And I didn’t even get kissed till months after my 18th birthday.) I think that social pressure is forcing women into very unnatural ways. Yes, there will always be sluts. There were in Victorian England. I think it runs about 8% of the population, and some of them managed to put on a “respectable” front. I don’t particularly care, and I don’t think we should scorn them, either. They are who they are. But why should the 92% who aren’t like that be forced to feel guilty and shamed? And for the record, this inverse morality has applied before. Upper classes in Rome and upper classes in the Regency if the books tell the truth, where women had to pretend to have lovers, otherwise it was embarrassing. Even if they really were faithful to their husbands.

      1. Sachary, try to support your daughter so that not only she won’t feel shame, she won’t fake or hide her personal preferences either. Would probably make it easier for her to find a suitable partner. As said, I faked I was okay with that culture, but since I really very much wasn’t that drove me away from the whole trying to meet men thing after a while. If I had been a bit more open with what I would have preferred maybe I could have found some man either willing to play it that way – and there had to be at least some who actually were looking for a wife they could trust around, and what ever other recommendations I might have had that would have been at least one – or perhaps somebody who would also have preferred to do it that way.

        Okay, I’m also an ODD which is a problem in itself, but still, not hiding would probably have made for better odds.

        Heh. I would probably have been very easy pickings for any man who would have bothered to do a bit old fashioned courting – walks in the park, meetings in cafes, movie dates, occasional flowers kind of thing, with no talk when I’d be willing to do it at least for a few months, and not necessarily even meetings in his or my place at first. With that behavior he could have looked like anything and been a lot dumber than me, maybe even a card carrying communist with a Che and hammer and sickle posters on his wall, and I probably would not have cared. Anybody I could have relaxed with, with no assumptions or preying in as to experience, or lack of, and no pressure to perform, just giving me the time to get to know him first, and giving me the feeling I could trust him, and that he was perhaps even interested in me as a person, not just somebody who could scratch his itch. Could have asked me for anything after that. 😀

        As far as I understand it has gotten at least somewhat worse here too since my youth, and I’d probably ran even faster if I was young now.

        1. The kiddo (whom I refer to online as Queso or the Queso Kid)… I don’t know if I’d necessarily call her an odd, as the youth culture moves ever more in the direction of enjoying things that back in the day were the sole province of Odds. Or at least nerds, as I can visualize the Venn Diagram where there’s maybe less overlap than I might have thought originally. The kiddo has been watching Naruto since she was three and we were reading the subtitled Japanese to her. And now she loves steampunk, zombies, and giant robots (She loved Pacific Rim).

          But she’s also been taught and trained from an early age to throw an elbow when appropriate. And she has the benefit of being in a segment of the local culture (small, but fierce) that emphasizes the importance of marriage, family, chastity in both sexes, etc. We had a conversation in the car that started with me about to put on a podcast of something or other and telling her “prepare to be lectured about the Constitution,” to which she replied “I’d rather YOU lecture me about the Constitution, Dad.”

          Okay, maybe that’s the thing that defines her as odd. “Asks to be lectured on the U.S. Constitution by her father.”

          On knowing how I’d react to someone pulling that kind of rhetorical/cultural bullying, though… the closest I ever got to a “workplace incident” was a couple years ago. I was on a legal document review job here in the area, and somehow the topic of raising kids and dating came up. At which point, I explained the rule for our family was “no dating until sixteen, and no sex before marriage.” Well, you would have thought I’d admitted to beating her with a stick, the way one of the people in the room responded. “You can’t do that! You can’t repress her! Her confidence, her expression, blah blah blah” at increasing volume and intensity. Which conversation ended with me saying “Look, not to put too fine a point on it, but she’s NOT YOUR KID.” Luckily for everyone, embarrassed silence ensued, and I did not have to open up the black pit and release whatever that thing is that I keep bottled up.

          I’ve got to find a better name for it than the one we currently use. Black Tongue? Rhetoric Hulk?

          1. The Daughtorial Unit has complained that the contemporary culture has removed from young ladies the defense of “I’m saving that for marriage” as a polite alternative to “With you? I’d rather do without.”

            I would also point out that a daughter who can’t find a way around such parental restrictions as you’ve enumerated is either too timid to be allowed to roam free or happy to make use of the available shield.

            As for co-workers concern over repressed kids, it is funny how they have no concern over kids being pressured to engage in activities in which they aren’t interested — like playing the violin, or dancing ballet, or playing sports or swotting to get into a top school or …

            1. I think (hope) she takes after me. I was the “good” kid growing up – didn’t mess around, didn’t drink, didn’t party. And everyone knew it. Which meant I didn’t get invited to parties… ah well, I still had fun.

              My biggest vice growing up was riding around on a three-wheeled ATC. Which really should have killed me on two occasions, perhaps three. So, I figure if I keep her off motorcycles, I’m halfway there.

              > ** > RES commented: “The Daughtorial Unit has complained that the > contemporary culture has removed from young ladies the defense of “I’m > saving that for marriage” as a polite alternative to “With you? I’d rather > do without.” I would also point out that a daughter who can'” >

            2. Have you read A Return To Modesty by Wendy Shalit? You might find it interesting. It hits on that defense.

              1. I remember when it was turning up at various sites and magazines, including a Hillsdale Im Primis “article.” Very well developed thesis, ignored (suppressed) by the MSM because it didn’t fit their agenda definition of what women should want.

                Daughtorial Unit arrived there first; I don’t know whether she found Shalit a kindred view — D.U. isn’t particularly interested in whether anybody else concurs in her moral views. Beloved Spouse and I long ago concluded that the daughter’s moral code was imprinted in her original issue hardware and consists of two colors: Black & White.

          2. “You can’t do that! You can’t repress her! Her confidence, her expression, blah blah blah” at increasing volume and intensity.

            This kind of response is extremely telling. I would bet money that the person in question:

            1) is female,
            2) had early sexual experience, and
            3) at some level she won’t admit, regrets it.

            The third point is the kicker. If it weren’t for that regret she can’t admit to, she wouldn’t have reacted that strongly. Because, you see, if your daughter following the “no sex before marriage” rules ends up as a repressed psychological basket case, then it would retroactively justify her promiscuity.

            Too many pronouns in that sentence. I’ll start calling your daughter D and the harpy at your workplace H. If D ends up a repressed basket case, it retroactively justifies H’s early promiscuity, and it makes H “okay” and “normal”. But if D ends up quite happy, and — even worse! — in a healthy marriage where she and her husband greatly enjoy sex with each other, then it proves that H really should regret her earlier choices, because they’ve left her with less than she could have had.

            So, am I right about the gender of H? (You probably wouldn’t know about #2 and almost certainly wouldn’t know for sure about #3, so I can’t ask about those.)

            1. You are correct as to the gender. It gets a bit more complicated, as apparently she was a little heavier in her younger years, and when I knew her she’d managed to shed those unwanted pounds, and was quite striking. Which I imagine was generating some interest that may not have been there earlier. At least not to that degree.
              None of this should be surprising in a culture where sex has become the sine qua non of human experience and one of the “legitimate” foundations of a person’s identity. (In addition to race and gender.)

              1. So, regret the other direction, then. “If I’d had that opportunity when I was younger…” Along with a wholesale buying in to the cultural lie that says that fun sex ends when marriage begins, so it’s only in your teens & twenties that you can experience the really good stuff. A lie which, to be fair, has some truth in it — there are too many marriages where the husband, the wife, or both, get lazy and stop trying to make themselves attractive for their spouse. (See for the female version of this; I don’t have a good illustration of the male version.) But there are plenty of married couples (including, from all evidence, many of those commenting here) who can attest that sex with the same person for 20+ years just keeps getting better.

                So what H is regretting is an illusion, and there’s a better reality that she could have if she tried for it. But that would require deprogramming herself, which, alas, she seems unlikely to do.

                1. All very logical, and quite likely true, but if I was in Zachary’s position I’m afraid by response to ‘H’ wouldn’t have been nearly so flattering and understanding.

      1. Plus typing problems, Zachary, not Sachary. Been having more of those than usually for a couple of days. Probably migraine, I have also had some distortions of the visual field which are connected to them – I have the painless version, I get the migraine auras and most of the other symptoms, but usually no actual headache.

        1. since they come and go in less than a day, that’s good. You would have had to be some kind of emotional roller coaster to ban and unban that fast.

          1. Well, I’ve been known to spam comments while trying to reply, but that has to do with hand/eye coordination, the old glasses and lack of caffeine 😉 But if you ever see a comment flicker on and off and on, that’s what’s happening.

        1. That is because you insist on belittling the hostess. WordPress is like the government; it is just protecting you from yourself.

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