White Guilt, Self-Loathing, and the Therapeutic State

This is a continuation of free-thinking about the condition of western culture, and what Paul Gottfried, below, in a book of that name, calls The Menace of Multiculturalism.


Most dominant cultures do not end up in self-hate. They fight hard to maintain the authority and control that flow from their deep culture. That is what Rome did for a thousand years. One of the very large questions that historians will soon be trying to answer during what appears to be the clear and present decline of Western civilization, is “Why did the West turn against itself?” One plausible explanations is so-called “White guilt.”

In an interesting treatment, author Paul Gottfried argues that we have recently traveled from the managerial Welfare State of the first half of the twentieth-century, to the behaviour-and-attitude-controlling Therapeutic State of the present. This may be seen as a secular expression of our earlier Christian-based search for purity of soul and atonement for original sin. Due to the pervasive psychological weight of the latter, some have described all Christian societies as “a guilt culture” (in contrast to the frequent description of Islamic societies as a “blame culture”).

The process began with the Protestant Reformation in the early Sixteenth century. People often think the Reformation was a cry for release from religious authority and control. But it was the opposite. It was a puritanical protest against religious laxity and corruption. People began turning their backs on Church authority, because it wasn’t strict enough! Too corrupt. They began turning away from their church-mediated relationship with God, and yearning for an individual relationship with god and for spiritual salvation.

But No sooner was this right won, than a call went out for individual political rights, too. In that sense, modern democracy has been recognized by many historians as “a child of the Reformation.” For a as soon as it was realized that protestant religious fragmentation was producing a multiplicity of sects, a call for toleration arose, and it was not long before the right to an individual relationship with God was translated into an individual right to vote. People began to hear the phrase: “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Hmmm.

Then over time, as Western society became more secular and religion weakened, the emphasis began to fall on various human-rights crusades. Our present stage of attitude control and “political correctness” is enabled by an increasingly therapeutic State complete with purity-of-behaviour and re-education courses, sensitivity-adjustment units such as Human Rights Commissions (which seek to control, purge, and punish even internal attitudes or impure private thought and speech), and a politicized judiciary that sees its role as the purification of democracy (see chapter Fifteen of The Trouble With Canada … Still! for actual statements from Canadian judges to this effect).

In short, almost overnight the notion of sin as spiritual bad attitude, gave way to political and cultural insensitivity as bad attitude. The ancient search for religious purity and salvation slowly gave way to a yearning for psychic and even bodily purity, for “a mind cleansed of pathological thoughts.” Accompanying all this, we increasingly see an almost fanatical modern emphasis on bodily health, on pure “organic” foods, along with strident calls for environmental-recycling behaviour in all citizens! In no small way, the world-wide concern for cleaning up the garbage in the streets has replaced the prior need to clean up the garbage in the soul.

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