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Social Attitudes and Shame

by Christopher Chantrill
August 17, 2006 at 11:10 am

EVEN THOUGH young people in Britain today are regularly drunk as skunks, university students would never think of driving drunk, claims Mary Ann Sieghart. “What a change in a generation!” she writes.

And social attitudes have changed for the better in other areas, too. People are abandoning their SUVs and recycling. It is not so much that the law has changed as a kind of “social revolution that may well save our planet.”

This social revolution is a tribute to the power of shame. It used to be kinda cool to drive drunk and get away with it. Today it is shameful. And as for failing to recycle! In Seattle we are well on the way to making it a crime.

Maybe there are other areas where the power of shame could save the planet.

Russian immigrant Julia Gorin clearly wants a social revolution in attitudes towards abortion. On the website of Ms magazine, she notes, you can sign a petition. “I had a abortion.” Bully for Ms.

But Julia Gorin narrowly escaped being aborted thirty years ago. It was only due to the nurse at the Soviet abortion clinic “who sensed a tinge of reservation [in my mother] and kicked her out.”

Just as well, because Gorin’s only sister was killed in a car crash in 2000.

How about setting up another petition, she suggests helpfully: “I was nearly aborted!”

One of the proud boasts of the twentieth century was its conquest of shame—or rather sexual shame. But it is clear that in the most progressive circles where sexual shame has been most thoroughly banished a host of other shames has been created: environmental shame, sexual harassment shame, SUV shame, racist shame, patriarchal shame, even glass-ceiling shame.

We conservatives should learn a lesson from this. As the consequence of legal abortion becomes more and more clear to women—and in the case of Julia Gorin’s mother it is a lack of “close people,” children and siblings, in her life—it will create an opportunity for another social revolution.

We should learn a lesson from the liberals. The key to a social revolution is not in changing laws. It is in changing attitudes.

We should work to change hearts and minds, and make abortion Safe, Legal, and Shameful.

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Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.


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What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Sacrifice

[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values


Pentecostalism

Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


Government Expenditure

The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America


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©2007 Christopher Chantrill