Discussion on Charles Murray’s essay in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. He writes
It is condescending to treat people who have less education or money as less morally accountable than we are. We should stop making excuses for them that we wouldn’t make for ourselves. Respect those who deserve respect, and look down on those who deserve looking down on.
And Paul VanderKlay responds
Now of course we’re into our “ought” voice. I’ve been thinking a lot about stigma, shame and culture lately. Wish I had more to say.
The entire shame thing carries with it an assumption of a common culture. Jonathan Haidt‘s work illumines how different our actual cultures are; what binds us is the sacred. Now here is the interesting aspect, Murray assumes that these working class folks belong to his tribe (and in his book, his “Fishtown” is rather ethnically or at least racially homogeneous). Given his other work, such a position could be reasonably read as a kind of lament for the decline of white (maybe ethnic) culture.
Also, the emergence of a “why bother” culture, independent of its origin, would seem to reflect a certain conviction about economic stasis: it’s same as it ever was, thus one does not change. The driver of shame is aspiration. But what if you have the sense that things are basically stacked against you? then the culture of poverty takes over. There is an obvious point of engagement for the Church here: not to mark the shame, but to claim the possibility. Might even be a bit of the political there, too but I’ll leave it for now.