When should we feel guilt and collective guilt?

Dustin P. writes to me:

I would enjoy a blog post discussing under what circumstances you feel guilt, and how you respond. I am especially interested in instances where you feel a portion of some collective guilt – family actions, neighborhood failures, national politics. 

I’ll focus on the social, collective, and intellectual sides of this problem, rather than my own (numerous) personal failings.

I feel the most guilt when eating the meat of intelligent animals raised under poor or tortured conditions.  I am not opposed to all meat-eating per se, but most meat-eating in today’s America does not meet satisfactory moral standards.  I still do it because I am not that good a person, at least not in this regard.  I am struck by the title of the forthcoming book by Frans de Waal: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

I don’t feel so much collective guilt about the course of history.  None from my Irish or Irish-American backgrounds, in part because I know very little about my ancestors.  I also don’t feel personal guilt for earlier history, such as the genocide against Native Americans.  I don’t feel responsible for it.  Perhaps irrationally, I do feel some guilt for Americans being such world bullies, even when that is necessary or beneficial for the broader fate of civilization.  I feel that indirectly I partake in that, if only by representing what are broadly American points of view in global settings, including on this blog.

I feel guilt for not giving more money to poor people, even though a) I probably give more than average to poor people, typically in Mexico, and b) I don’t hold an extreme Singerian view about our obligations in that regard.  I still feel I am failing at the margin.

Overall it is possible that I treat guilt as many voters treat gasoline prices.  I am perhaps overly bothered by fairly visible, repeated small transactions of a rather obvious salience.

So now, as a result of thinking about this blog post, I feel guilt about my guilt.

But only to a point. Furthermore guilt is often a substitute for action, rather than a spur to action, which gives me further reason to feel guilt about my guilt, though not in the right action-inducing way.

Comments

eh,
If people wanted to read your blog. comments etc they would head to your blog. Its a pity you don't feel more guilt about foisting yourself on the readers of this blog.

Karma is a motherf _ cker.

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Imagine how you would feel if someone else, like Megan McArdle, posted 6 of the top 8 comments because "you have to advertise". You'd be like "I know about you already, shut up!" People who advertise when they're not wanted are the ones who force highway beautification laws, no-call lists, and spam prosecutions, just to shut them up.

What's wrong with Megan McCardle?

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"I do feel some guilt for Americans being such world bullies": it might be more sensible, if you insist on feeling guilt about this, to concentrate on a sin of omission, namely that that ability to bully the world has not been put to a use as good as (in an obvious comparison with another world empire) the suppression of the international slave trade. What equivalent might there have been today?

But such guilt could at most make sense, I suggest, for the actions or inactions of your own generation. To hold yourself responsible for the actions of people long dead doesn't make sense, does it?

Oh, I think WW2 puts us over the Brits slave trade thing in terms of who did more for the world if we're going to compare two instances. A peaceful end to the Cold War. Stuff like that.

WW2 eh? Was that when the US got in to stop Hitler when he invaded Poland? Oh no, you sat that bit out. Sat it all out in fact until the Germans declared war on you after Pearl Harbour. In that regard no different to the Soviets, who also spent more blood and treasure in grinding down the Wermacht.

The Soviets DID NOT sit it out until Pearl Harbor. They actively allied with Hitler to divide up central Europe and synchronized an invasion with him. Of course, once Hitler betrayed them (no honor among thieves), they sacrificed more than any other country to beat him. Yeah, compared to Stalingrad, D-Day was a sideshow,.

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I'm really tired of British ignorance - Congress gave the order that the US was to prepare for war in Europe in Oct. of 1940. The Congress repeated that order in Nov. of 1941.
The US was in far worse shape than the UK due to the Great depression - the UK gave up trying to get back on the gold standard in 1931, whereas the US was trying to keep the international financial system functioning.
Despite the terrible shape of the US economy the Americans were financing both the UK and the USSR, and it was private donations of guns from US citizens that equipped the UK Home Army.
As for the Soviets and the huge losses they incurred, maybe the blame lies with Stalin for purging the generals during the Great Terror?

"Congress gave the order that the US was to prepare for war in Europe in Oct. of 1940."
A whole year after the war started
"The Congress repeated that order in Nov. of 1941."
A few days before Pearl Harbor.
If not for Pearl Harbor, America's Congress would be ready to gladly watch Hitler and swallow all of Europe (more than two years into the war!).

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Stalin did not occup an abandoned Poland. Molotov Ribbentrop divided eastern europe into Soviet and German territory. It clearly anticipated German/Russian invasion. The Soviets were responsible for the lion's share of the war effort, but they aided the Nazi rise as well. Any account of who bore the burden of WII has to be balanced by an account of who aided the Nazis- a net cost measure of the WWII.

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Russia didn't spend more in Treasure.

As for blood, why should the Allies apologize for fighting more efficiently? Should they have exterminated all their best commanders? Massacred all their civic leaders? Destroyed their economies? Allied with the Nazis and failed to prepare defenses? The allies reduced fatalities by better leadership and patriotic, motivated military forces (that's generous to the British and inaccurate as to Australians), economies that produced material and by prepping against (not with) Nazi aggression.

Russia was not an Ally so much as a forced co-fighter. They didn't share intelligence, barely coordinated operations, imprisoned U.S. Pilots and took zero responsibility in Asia. Had they declared war against Japan earlier that would have save hundreds of thousands of lives.

The U.S. was the only combatant that wasn't trying to conquer other peoples to add to an empire. (Taking the Commonwealth as a British led whole).

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You miss the point. Defending yourself is a duty: the question is whether the US has tried disinterestedly and successfully to do good by its own lights. You may not agree with the evangelical Anglicans' hatred of the slave trade, but it certainly led to a disinterested desire to do good, which was turned into a successful policy. Whether US citizens should feel guilty about their country's failure to do anything equivalent is probably a matter of taste. I'd say they needn't. I suppose they could reasonably feel guilty of the American tradition of passing off foreign policies of ruthless and unenlightened self-interest as being something else, but I again feel that they needn't: it's hardly a uniquely American trait. Nor is there much point in feeling guilt about how reckless and foolish her policies have often turned out to be; regret might be reasonable, though.

I'll exempt from these remarks Reagan's decision to genuinely try to end the Cold War; that was self-interest, no doubt, but I'd say it was an enlightened self-interest. He was rewarded by rather unexpectedly winning that Cold War. Well done, that man. Maybe Truman's decision to try to defend Korea could also be classed as enlightened self-interest, but I'm probably in danger of praising policies that achieve complete or partial success, rather then for their intrinsic nature.

I greatly admire the British war on slavery, it's unprecedented.

However, from a very early point the US threw in for the allies in WWI and WWII, sending munitions on easy terms and smuggled aboard passenger ships. It broke the blockade (including by issuance of military threats to Nazis that off the wolf pack. Our sanctions antagonized the Japanese greatly. The Krauts of WWI exhausted themselves in fruitless offenses because they knew the yanks would be coming over there. In both cases, the U.S. had chosen sides, committed itself and transformed its economy and military well before the date of entry.

What if the US had not done that? What if it allowed you fools to fight WWI to the bitter end? Would the peace and weariness that followed saved millions of lives?

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WW2 wasn't done for the world, it was done for the US.

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White guilt is the worry that your ancestors were too ethnocentric. Jewish guilt (as in Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint") is the worry that you aren't ethnocentric enough for your ancestors.

Steve I can reassure you that millenial Jews feel absolutely no identification with Roth's 1970s Jewish guilt (which is best portrayed in Goodbye Columbus).

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It always comes back to da jooos.

It always comes back to da jooos.

Isn't the concept of collective guilt a Judeo-Christian thing? Buddhism doesn't even acknowledge the concept of guilt. Useless emotion.

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Isn't there a difference between guilt in terms of culpability versus in terms of bearing responsibility?

Let's say I wake up one morning and find $100,000 on my front doorstep, and I keep it without reporting it to the police. I invest that money and my family benefits. Nicer home, better schooling for kids, overall better financial security, etc. Good stuff.

20 years later, I am told, with indisputable evidence, that the $100,000 I found on my doorstep years ago was given to me by a distant relative, who beat and robbed an innocent man to steal his life savings of $100,000, then left it to me. Furthermore, this innocent man's children are now living in substandard conditions, in large part because of this great loss their father experienced 20 years ago.

It goes without saying that I am not culpable for that man's suffering, nor for the suffering of his children. Even more so, but still worth saying, my own children are not culpable for their suffering.

But is it beyond reason that I should consider myself, a beneficiary of their suffering, somewhat responsible for the rectification of this wrong? In exactly what way, I do not know. Should I return the $100,000 to him and his children, supposing I still have that amount to give? Should I give 20 years interest as well? Should I provide some sort of extra compensation for the particular suffering caused by their sudden destitution? Or all? Or none? The inescapable conclusion is that I have a responsibility to right a wrong from which I benefited, but how to do so?

Yeah, probably you should give that guy's grandchildren a casino or preferential access to elite universities and high-status jobs

If you are talking about Native Americans I see your point on preferrential access to universities etc. But as far as I know, nobody gave them Casinos, except as an investment.

If the natives are smart enough not to have stupid gambling laws on their lands, then how is that their fault?

Because, if you don't want gangsters and ugly kitsch in your town, you're 'stupid'.

Could be worse. We could let casino moguls dictate middle eastern policy.

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"Let’s say I wake up one morning and find $100,000 on my front doorstep, and I keep it without reporting it to the police." Since you knew it wasn't yours, isn't that theft (at least in some jurisdictions)? If so, you ought to feel guilt: your decision, your responsibility.

Sorry, my point was rather irrelevant to yours, which is that you unknowingly gained directly from the theft of an innocent man's savings, and that might plague your conscience. Your instinct to wish to rectify the matter is noble. Perhaps you replace your charitable contributions for the rest of your life by gifts to the wronged man and his family. Perhaps you do more.

Since problems of this sort - where the facts are certain, and the gains and losses are recent and indisputable - are atypical of life, I'm not sure that resolving the conundrum would be of much practical use anyway. For what it's worth, carry on the logic: what if it is not you but your grandchildren who unravel this sad tale. What are their responsibilities?

On second thoughts, are you certain that "I am not culpable"? Suppose you'd gone to the police; the police might have recognised the money as being the notes stolen from the innocent man, and identified the obvious link, your crooked relative. The money might have been returned to their rightful owner. Then you would have been culpable, wouldn't you?

I think the question of grandchildren and their responsibilities is particularly interesting because it could go both ways. On one hand, the distance between the original act of beating and theft has increased, thus seeming to reduce the responsibilities owed by the beneficiary's grandchildren. On the other hand, the impact of that one time "unfair transfer" would have compounded even more by that point. Maybe that extra $100,000 bumped you into a home in a better school district, resulting in your kids going to better universities and getting better pay and so on and so forth for their posterity. Perhaps the reverse was true for the victim's children - poverty can be a vicious cycle. That seems to imply that the responsibilities have changed, but have not lessened. In fact they have accumulated interest.

I don't think you'll get a lot of sympathy for the "poverty can be a vicious cycle" sort of thinking here. Victim blaming seems far more in vogue (rarely framed as "i know it's hard but please try" more often as "people make stupid choices and pay consequences, and history is irrelevant to the present").

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What about the grandchild who inherits money that wouldn't have been available but for your pocketing the windfall? That grandchild accordingly falls into temptation and becomes hopelessly alcoholic. Should he hold responsible the original owner of the money for being so feeble as to allow himself to be robbed?

I doubt if time can be trusted to amplify the debt of honour. It's more likely to attenuate gains and losses. Entropy, you know.

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If he's a hopeless alcoholic, you can probably just buy him a bottle of whiskey or two and he'll call it even. Alcoholics can be bought off cheap like that.

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I'm not sure where the law would stand on this one, but for now lets assume you could stand cold-hearted with the law behind you and refuse to move a finger or a dollar to rectify the situation. Surely the likelihood of this happening (as opposed to returning at least some part of the money) depends on many different factors that would sway your emotional perception of the matter.

First there's the connection between yourself and the victim. If you know it's your best friend's brother who was beaten and robbed, you may act differently than if it was a stranger from another city. Maybe the same is true of foreign victims versus fellow citizens.

Then there's the connection between yourself and the original perpetrator and his/her motives. If the violent robber was your brother, you may feel more responsibility than if it was a stranger. Similarly you may feel more responsibility if the perpetrator specifically wanted to benefit YOU as opposed to simply dropping the money on your porch out of fear.

If you look at the case of white and black Americans, I think you find that 1) white Americans don't often feel to be part of the same community as black Americans (they wouldn't say as much, but studies on social interactions show this to be generally the case) - this would decrease the feelings of responsibility towards rectifying past wrongs, and 2) common portrayals of American history focus so much on violent slavemasters and vicious racists as the scary bad guys that it's actually quite easy for most white Americans to feel themselves distant from that. Yes their northern textile mills relied on cheap Southern slave-picked cotton and yes there was de facto segregation in many northern cities, but those aren't popular conceptions of the sufferings of black Americans and so white Americans who are more directly involved in this way do not feel connected to an obvious perpetrator.

I think that, for White and Black Americans there is a much simpler explanation, Whites don't see how they have "benefited" from the presence of the Blacks. They think America would be a much richer country today if it had never imported any slaves, that the costs of the Black population have far exceeded it's benefits.

That is a good way of putting it. I'm not a good enough economist to judge the accuracy of that belief, but I would feel comfortable saying it underlies most of white Americans' thinking in terms of responsibilities to black Americans.

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Everyone struggles to some extent.

So, when someone says "white priviledge" a lot of white people will get angry and say "I struggled too, therefore is it untrue that you could possibly have to struggle harder." And if you point out studies where people with black names get fewer callbacks for job interviews, they will blame the black people for not choosing white names, and still uphold that white people don't have it easier than blacks, even when all else is equal.

That having been said, there are some pretty good non-racist arguments in favour of the idea that the US would have been better off if they had never imported slaves.

And if you point out studies where people with black names get fewer callbacks for job interviews,

Relatively few people work in the rarefied circumstances of that particular study, which made use of fake resumes which incorporated supposed Ivy League degrees (submitted to highly selective employers like investment banks). Use a little imagination: they get a resume from D'shawn Jefferson (which isn't a black bourgeois name) and they call the alumni office at Princeton to verify the degree and come up with a dry hole.

I doubt that many employers verify credentials until the hiring stage (and most don't verify at all). It would be too time consuming to verify credentials at the pre-interview stage.

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We get diversity! And everyone knows diversity is the best thing ever. Nothing can be good if it is not diverse! Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Russian, Jewish, Lebanese, these are not groups which make us Diverse! Only blacks, with their magic diversity midochlorians, can bring balance to our nation and Diversity to the homes and hearths of us all. Also, doesn't count if they have ideological beliefs which are not hardcore leftist. This should go without saying. Thomas Sowell doesn't bring any diversity, and neither does Clarence Thomas, Allen West, Mia Love, Ben Carson or any of the rest who might have voted Republican once.

Shaun King? Now there's some Diversity!

Tarrou - I suggest that you read up about the Ideological Turing Test (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideological_Turing_Test) before telling us what sort of stupid ideas you believe other-minded people actually hold.

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There is a principle of property rights called adverse possession [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession#Theory] under which, if you have been using and possessing property as though it were your own, then after some period of time, the property becomes, in fact, your own. It is a type of statute of limitations on unexercised and undefended property rights. Morally, an intuitive notion of natural property rights would seem to argue for preventing "long-lost heirs of any former owner, possessor or lien holder of centuries past [coming] forward with a legal claim on the property".

That would only work if the original owner never asserted his property rights, also called abandonment. Otherwise, what distinguishes that person from a thief that secretly stole a thing from someone who didn't notice for a long time, perhaps because they had it locked up for safekeeping and presumed it still in their possession?

You do not lose a property right just because you do not "sufficiently utilize" the property. That would be an arbitrary test, anyway. You utilize the thing however you see fit, and the property right only transfers upon a contractual exchange or if it becomes unclaimed through either abandonment or a lack of heirs.

Yes, that's pretty much how adverse possession works. If the original owner is attempting to evict you as a squatter, then the property doesn't become yours. It only becomes yours if you manage to live on a piece of land for a long period of time without the owner noticing and disputing your possession. If you as owner fail to notice that someone is living on a piece of land you own, and has been there for 10 years, that's basically abandonment.

Again, that's an arbitrary test. Why not 9 years? 15 years?

Abandonment is to give up a thing completely. Simply not-noticing someone is living on land that you still claim is not a good measure of giving up completely. An owner who discovered such a person does not lose his right to the property after any period of time as long as he is still alive and claims the land. The owner doesn't even need to dispute the person living on his land to retain his property right. He can notice one day and decide not to dispute for as long as he wants (in which case he would actually be committing an act of charity). At the point he disputes, the squatter must leave.

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Guy de Maupassant touched this in 1884:

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Neck.shtml

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No, since you've already spent the $100,000 you should tell your distant relative that you're broke so he can go out and beat and rob another guy and then send you another $100 grand.

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Giving 10% is the standard Schelling point at which you can stop feeling guilty about not giving more.

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Nobody in charge of a policy institute can ever afford to feel guilt, and expect to keep their position when the reasons for their guilt are a conflict with what the institute's supporters demand.

Which pretty much explains the sidestep into personal failings, which is a neat way to get around the question. Personal failings need not lead to guilt, after all - though is humble bragging something to be guilty of? Guilt involves one's actions (avoiding the whole commission/omission distinction), those for which one is responsible. Thus the neatly performed sidestep.

I wonder if the typically German criminals who were criminally running VW feel any guilt? Germans seem to have a lot of things to feel guilty about, and are clearly far inferior to Americans in almost every way.

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Guilt is part of our moral module in our brain, placed there by evolution in order to allow us to work in small groups. It's the mechanism that reinforces a tendency, for instance to share your food or not to harm members of the group, that benefits the group. So you feel guilty when you do something against group norms. Other people though can hack this feeling to get them to do things that advantage them - for instance raising their status in the group. So people have developed mechanisms against this hi-jacking. However in the modern world, especially with the new communications system, these mechanisms are being overwhelmed. You can't hide yourself from guilt makers as easily.

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Is there any difference between eating animals and eating the plants that these animals feed on?
Either way the animals are not alive.

Ultimately we can either eat (consume resources) or not eat and make these resources available to other species.

If you count raising the thing as +1 and killing it as -1 then there is no difference.

You are still missing the point. If you were to read the comments on your comment, you might understand.

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Rofl no

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What's better, a life of torture or never being born?

It's +1 -1 if they have a decent life, not if they live a horrible existence.

People who are born to a life of torture can always choose to end it. They virtually never do. Not even prisoners kept in lock down for 23 hours a day.

That suggests to me that being alive, in virtually any state, is better than dead not alive.

Cows, chickens and pigs are not self aware enough to dream up the notion, let alone have the ability to pull it off. The conversation is animals, not humans.

And also, people in prisons are very much kept away from things they could use to commit suicide.

They can also look forward to the prospect of eventually enjoying freedom when they are released, which does not apply to factory farmed animals.

The only way i can think of to resolve the matter experimentally would be to provide all lifetime sentence prisoners with easy access to self-applied lethal injection, and to see if they use it. The savings could be enormous, but it would be opposed by those who think it's horrible as well as those who see suffering as important to the concept of punishment/justice.

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Keep going...

how much of what we project onto animals as suffering is simply a mistake of anthropomorphism?

As far as I can tell, humans have a much, much richer mental life than other animals and, consequently, a much, much greater ability to suffer.

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Sure, a cow doesn't experience the anguish of not knowing where its next meal will come from like a human would. But to pretend that mammals raised in factory farm conditions don't suffer to an extreme degree is basically denying that they have the ability to experience even superficial pain, more or the less the same way humans do.

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B D - I do wonder. But I don't think many meat eaters like to dwell on the question.

Dogs? Of course they can suffer a lot, even just from lack of companionship, as any pet owner can easily attest. Cows? Are they too dumb to suffer much? Chickens and other birds? By the time I get to fish I stop worrying and just enjoy the meat guilt free.

Are We Smart Enough To Know Animals is a title I recently came across which might provide insight for this. http://www.amazon.com/Are-Smart-Enough-Know-Animals/dp/0393246183/. Don't think I'll buy the book though.

In short, I think many animals are far more capable of suffering than many would imagine, but agree that anthropomorphism will lead the activists to significantly miscalculate in the other direction. I also strongly agree with your last sentence.

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But to pretend that mammals raised in factory farm conditions don’t suffer to an extreme degree is basically denying that they have the ability to experience even superficial pain

That's a lame anthropomorphic opinion asserted as fact. How do you know open range isn't more miserable and terrifying? On a feed lot the food and water is steady, their companions are nearby, and the elements are moderated.

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I don't think all factory farms are the same, either. I remember Mike Rowe visiting what looked like some pretty big hog farms and turkey farms on Dirty Jobs and neither of them looked like the animals were really suffering in any way. How do you define what is a factory farm vs. a family farm, anyway? Seems like it's a loaded phrase meant to evoke an emotional response, like "big business" or "wealthy corporations." Kind of a bogeyman, in other words.

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Nah, on factory farms the animals are physically restrained, confined, etc. The inability to move, stress positions, that are painful. That's not anthropomorphic opinion--it's fact. Mammal pain is well-studied, not something made up. Go kick your dog if you don't believe me.

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@Jeff, yes, I am sure there is a gradient and that there aren't simply two kinds of farms: good and bad (factory). That said, we know there are a heck of a lot of farms that anyone could look at and pretty well know meet the definition of factory farming. Part of the problem is that, aside from chickens, there is no transparent methodology to rate the conditions in which the animals are raised.

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@Gale

Measure cortisol levels in the blood or physical health or intelligence tests under free range vs factory conditions. There should be data collected to objectively judge "happiness".

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Fear of the unknown is inborn, and overcoming it is very difficult. Most people are scared to make speeches too.

And do those prisoners have access to the kinds of tools they could use to kill themselves?

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I can't tell if someone in this thread is making the argument that life (even under bad circumstances) is better than no life at all. If that's the case, I imagine that comes with a disclaimer that this only applies to animals and not humans - and I'd be curious what is different about humans to make that distinction.

If you are saying this is true for humans and animals, then looking at a hypothetical couple that decides to have a baby and then after 6 months eat it - that would be a much more moral choice than a couple choosing not to have a baby - because life is better than no life. Obviously, I don't think life is inherently better than no life, as I don't see any evidence of suffering for the infinite number of beings that are not existing right now.

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You seem to be speaking as if feeding animals versus humans a zero sum game, but to me there's no reason there can't be enough food for animals and humans.

Actually I'm confused by your post and wonder if I'm misunderstanding it?

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He didn't have a full stop after "eating meat". Importantly, he added: "animals raised under poor or tortured conditions", meaning he doesn't have a problem with the death of the animal (as I read it). Perhaps your comment wasn't a comment on the original post, but a slight tangent?

I share this idea with Tyler, which is why most of the meat I eat comes from here, in the Driftless region.
http://www.mastodonvalleyfarm.com/

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I am not a nut, but I think the way farm animals are treated now is something I feel guilty about, and try to avoid (by paying more for more humane products) where I can - although I eat a lot of things that I know are inhumanely raised, too (I'm getting better (as are the options), but I'm too lazy and it's out of sight/mind enough to live up to what I know I should do, at least as a consumer, which is boycott, if not do something actively). I think it's ok to kill animals to eat, but not to mistreat them. I think in 25 years we're going to look back on this with a lot of shame.

"it’s ok to kill animals to eat, but not to mistreat them."

Some people might categorize killing a life as falling under the category "mistreatment"..... that could be considered the ultimate 'mistreatment'.

And Rusty is not one of them. Nor am I.

What is your reasoning for not classifying killing as mistreatment? I'm assuming you think killing a human would be mistreatment (correct me if I'm wrong) even if you did it so fast they had no awareness of it. Why are animals different in your opinion- intelligence?

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"Perhaps irrationally, I do feel some guilt for Americans being such world bullies, even when that is necessary or beneficial for the broader fate of civilization" - really? I can't think of any occasion where being a bully has been necessary or beneficial. But the bully obviously thinks differently. Enjoy your police republic while it lasts. It's just a shame it'll take us down with it

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What about feeling collective guilt as an American for Guantanamo? I know you've praised Guantanamo Diary on this blog.

Anyone American citizen who feels guilt from the actions of morally corrupt politicians needs a reset. You are responsible for your own decisions. Unless you made the decision to open and maintain Guantanamo, then you have nothing for which to feel guilty.

I would suggest participating in the electoral process that places these morally corrupt beings into positions of authority and power is also an action for which to feel guilty. Most Americans have been programmed to believe the opposite, which speaks to the success of the government's propaganda.

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"Contrition" is the thing to feel instead of "guilt,"

We are meager beings. We do not meet our own standards for ourselves, we depend on other things (social conventions and institutions, traditions, forgiveness and indulgent support of certain individuals, and what I would call divine grace) to accomplish anything at all.

Well said.

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Being a vegetarian gives me enough karma that I can do anything I want and not feel guilty

Why do you hate lettuce? It wants to live just like anything else.

Stick to fruit. Fruit wants to be eaten. You gotta eat the seeds though. Also, no toilets.

I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals, I'm a vegetarian because I HATE PLANTS. Those nasty, silent, scheming vegetables. Exterminate the brutes!

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Every acre of grain grown for human consumption displaces an acre of habitat that supported THOUSANDS of indigenous insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds,and mammals.Calories of sunlight hitting arable cropland is very much a fixed input of food production.

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I am perhaps overly bothered by fairly visible, repeated small transactions of a rather obvious salience.

It seems that for people who do not adhere to some kind of overarching moral code (whether religious or secular), pangs of guilt and moments of empathy are what determine their notions of ethical behavior these days.

This is disturbing because feelings of guilt and empathy are so easy to manipulate ...

It's the other way around. Religious moral codes are an attempt to classify feelings of guilt and empathy, which emerge from (anti-)social interaction.

There are no religious codes against eating vegetables that I'm aware of, but if tomorrow scientists discovered that plants suffer horribly when cooked, religion would attempt to provide a method of acting ethically.

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An interesting topic for economists to study quantitatively is the payoff from generating feelings of guilt in other categories of people. Judging from the lists of demands of the Black Autumn protesters on college campuses, for example, they are looking for economic payoffs in the form of sinecures and the like. It would be informative to tabulate the monetary payoff from this strategy and compare it to the negative effects, such as encouraging more irresponsible and self-destructive behavior on the part of blacks.

Be more self-aware.

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Since collective guilt matters so much should cultures in Africa and indigenous America feel guilty that they have contributed so little to humanity's progress in science, medicine, technology, literature, philosophy and basic yet factual knowledge of our world and history?

If we are going to quantify these things, can a net positive contribution to the welfare of humankind really be a cause for guilt, while an absence of any contributions be a justified claim for reparations.?

Yeah, colonize them, kill many of them, and then demand reparations for not contributing enough within short generations after we start moving towards less colonial relations.

It will surely help to cultivate good relations. And the reparations transfers will additionally make it easier for them to contribute in the future.

I think corn, potatoes and the blues (later developed into jazz) is good start.

Them?

Humans have been colonizing and killing each other since forever. Only very recently, one culture emerged with a principle that such wanton savagery was unjust.

Now, instead of looking at the long arc of human development and celebrating this achievement, you and so many others have decided that we ancestors of the people who created this breakthrough are to be judged guilty - by our own principles - while all other ancestors of people who didn't develop these principles are to be deemed victims.

My kids are mixed race. Perhaps they can hang their head in shame for the crimes of their white ancestors on Monday, and demand reparations on Tuesday.

You make good points in this second point and frame the matter quite differently, but the direction that (I assumed) you were leading into with the questions seem offensive. I may have misinterpreted where you were going with it - perhaps you were just intending to provoke thought.

In my opinion, feeling guilty (let alone facing reparations) for the technological/political failures of one's forefathers is even more ridiculous than feeling personal guilt about winning in a game (war and colonization) that we now mostly agree is savage.

I don't think anyone should be hanging their head in shame. Just not trying to pretend that history didn't happen (I don't suggest that you are one of these people).

Let's celebrate the end of colonialism, and not try to pretend that history is irrelevant to the present (i.e., not ignore that "they" are so far behind because we won, then extracted most of the surplus from them - i.e., practiced colonialism).

I tend to think of it as follows: "True, we colonized you and raped the earth, but look at all the wonderful technological advances we made with all the spare time the intellectuals/inventors/workers/businessmen had. Let's let bygones by bygones and enjoy the mutual prosperity we can all enjoy." I think most sensible people are willing to leave the past in the past, but few people who belong to the groups that got screwed historically are willing to tolerate pretending that the bad stuff didn't happen, or that it didn't damage their prospects for a long time. (And to that last point, I predict that some folks on this board will struggle to resist the temptation to blame the victims, both for historical wrongs inflicted upon them and for the present situations, for some sort of inferiority on their part).

I love how there's only two groups of people, evil oppressive western colonialists, and the poor benighted taken-advantage of non-westerners. What about countries which were never colonized, but are still backward and poor? Can we feel like they ought to step up their game? How much imperialism is enough for us to think that it's the only reason things are bad in a place? And what about the rough correlation between how heavily a place was colonized and how advanced their economy is today? India suffered far more under the British boot than did Sudan........and yet......

What about nations which themselves were horrible colonialists, but are still backward and relatively poor? Say.......Turkey?

Yes, let's not ignore history. That would lead to the inescapable conclusion that the world domination of the US is by far the lightest touch and most conscientious yet. A low bar, admittedly. It's not that we're so great, just better than everyone else. And it might lead to the conclusion that colonialism, for all its crimes, might have benefited some groups quite a lot.

As an aside: "raped the earth" is one of those phrases that marks you as an unserious and juvenile debater. Much like "Well, the Dictionary says...."

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Why is it normal to ask the ancestor of a white Latvian in America to compensate an ancestor of a Ghanian who may have had a slave-holding great grandparent and arrived in America post Civil War.

But it's provocative if that Latvian descendent turns around and says my great grandad was Freidrich Zander and he came up with the first liquid fuelled rocket. Please reimburse me for a percentage of all benefits from satellites.

Charging innocent people with sins from the past that weren't sins in the past and are only sins today because the allegedly guilty person's ancestors deemed it so - is lunacy.

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Tarrou - re: evil us versus benighted them:

Compare this to "America will save the world from the evil Muslims/Communists/(anyone who's very different)." Thing is, your complaint represents a vast misconception. Most people who complain about colonialism will readily admit that there are a lot of other problems in the world, both historically and in the present. Rather, as the civilization with the most power to change things, it reflects more of a "with power comes responsibility" sort of thinking (a line of thinking which also motivated many to endeavour to destroy their cultures to become "better" like us - residential schooling in Canada being an example that I'm most familiar with).

In pointing out the apparent "evil us, benighted them", I don't think you're trying to change the subject from the matter of history, but this is the effect that it often has. I don't think you're trying to paint people into simplistic corners, but this is how it can come across. It often turns into "but Mao/Stalin/Atilla/Hitler were worse, so shut up", which I think is very weak, since we shouldn't compare ourselves to the very worst people of history to avoid facing up to our own history.

"Raped the earth" I knew would ruffle some feathers. But this reflects the way that, I believe, many "primitive" cultures feel about it, some of which practically worshiped nature (various forms of animism and polytheism). I guess I overlooked that it would also completely discredit anything I say to an anti-environmentalist (not saying you're one). Perhaps "massive exploitation of natural resources", but that's viewed as an unambiguous good by many capitalists and an unambiguous bad by some others, and completely fails to capture the feeling held by those who might feel most in need of an apology.

Finally, the correlation between how heavily colonized a place and how well they are doing now can be easily explained. First, they colonized coastal areas. They stayed there for longer and hence were more heavily colonized. Now, since these areas are coastal, they have an advantage in accessing international trade, and can therefore develop faster.

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Finally, the correlation between how heavily colonized a place and how well they are doing now can be easily explained. First, they colonized coastal areas. They stayed there for longer and hence were more heavily colonized. Now, since these areas are coastal, they have an advantage in accessing international trade, and can therefore develop faster.

What are you talking about? Nearly all states in the Far East have a coast and a long one. So do all the major South Asian states and a couple of the minor ones. As for Tropical Africa, the entire kit-and-kaboodle bar the Sudan and the Horn was taken over by European powers in the span of just a few years.

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At the very least, Native Americans ought to feel collective guilt for wiping out North America's megafauna: mammoths, giant beavers, giant ground sloths, etc.

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You mean like some of the dying technics (and I think other textile technologies) the Europeans learned from the indians in South America? Or would you say that is just a trivial contribution compared to, say, teaching so many in the world how to kill others very efficiently (just to pick another contribution by "the west").

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Guilt arises from knowledge; knowing what we did was wrong, or what we failed to resulted in an injustice. Easy enough to understand at the personal level, but hard to grasp collectively. We grow up enjoying first world comforts, not understanding how they are derived from past injustices or current unequal trading contracts. I increasingly find it hypocritical to enjoy sophisticated products yet not wanting the diseconomies from extraction and manufacturing, knowing fine well millions have lower quality of lives to satisfy my demands. I can only aswage this guilt by supporting higher standards right down the supply chain.
By the way I do not dismiss the power of apologies for historical injustices. Tony Blair's apology for the British handling of the Irish famine had a profound impact on how modern Irishmen and women regard their neighbours; powerfully illustrated by the respect God Save The Queen was listened to at Croke Park- of all places!- ahead of a rugby international.

Assuage.

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Shouldn't you feel guilty about funding brutal dictators when you buy gasoline? The fossil fuel trade seems to me to be the slave trade of our times:

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Oil-Tyrants-Violence-Rules/dp/0190262923/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450696453&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+oil

Then one should feel guilt for every good and service consumed.

Also, there's an irony here, because if your guilt makes for less demand for the goods and services you consume, the people you feel guilty for screwing over will actually end up out of a job, and thus worse off.

You could easily have said the same for not buying from, for example, apartheid South Africa.

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Cowen (and commenters) may be confusing guilt and shame. Guilt is the feeling one gets for having done something wrong to another, while shame is a painful feeling about how we appear to others and doesn't depend on having actually done something wrong to another. Or stated another way, guilt arises from having inflicted pain on another, while shame is felt in relation to oneself. Hence, guilt is far more likely to result in remedial action, while shame often does not because the pain is personal. People with personality disorders (e.g., narcissism) often have profound feelings of shame but little concern for others.

Good comment. I don't feel any collective guilt.

I might feel a certain amount of shame. Although, maybe I shouldn't. In a just world, how I appear to others would not be affected by my race, ethnicity, or nation. I would not be implicated in any crimes because there would be no collective entities that anyone would recognize me as belonging to.

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I never feel guilty for anything I haven't done directly myself. Ashamed, maybe, but never guilty.

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I'm from peasant stock. I don't feel any collective guilt, nor do I think the world owes me anything.

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Tis the season! Wash away some of your guilt here:

https://www.givedirectly.org

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Let's all celebrate our tender and fragile feelings now. It helps to justify doing the same thing all over again.

This is frankly a stupid question. I reject the premise entirely. Guilt is a personal thing in response to stupid things that we do personally, a response from our conscience to what we do. It keeps us within limits of behavior.

Collective guilt or guilt for what someone else does is always an emotional game imposed to bring us to an end we would rather not do.

So the US did things. Why? Obama feels guilt about Iran 1956. Why did the CIA do those things at that time? It was covert, didn't require Congressional approval, and it was possible. Obama felt so guilty or carried such national guilt that he entered a pretty useless agreement with Iran. Yet he commands drone attacks for the very same reason; covert, not requiring Congressional approval, and it is possible. Equally useless as a strategy, but the reasons Iran 1956 happened are the very same reasons he does what he does.

The guilt thing is a manipulative scheme to enable him to do things he couldn't do otherwise and to justify doing things he shouldn't do.

If he was smart, and he isn't, he would recognize the mistakes of the past as patterns that are very similar to what he faces today, and do differently.

It is also a scheme to blame others for your own stupidity. Look a squirrel! It is far easier to face the vaporous past of a century ago, to rail about flags and symbols of something long gone. We should all wallow in guilt over what was done long ago and we can't do anything about. That is far easier than actually facing the reality of what we are doing right now that would require a re-thinking of assumptions and doing things in a different way. Maybe the answer to Chicago african american murders is to not vote Democrat in the next mayoralty election, and not vote for any alderman or ward who has any connection to the party who has held power in the city for a long time?

It is much easier to blather on about guilt. In fact, guilt is a bludgeon to rally the troops and beat down anyone who dare challenge your position.

Do I feel guilty? I will after I chase you away with a stick and happen to catch you and break your patella. Otherwise none of your gd business.

It was 1953 and it's a bit incredible that the CIA, given the dearth of Farsi speakers in this country, had the whrewithal to be more than a supporting player. They certainly haven't done anything so deft since.

Yes, it was mostly a British intervention.

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Did Obama's guilt extend to China, France and other security council countries (plus the EU) that also are party to the agreement?

Since the EU is closer to Iran and thus more vulnerable, did they feel even more guilt, which overcame their feelings of vulnerability?

Your comment reminds me of the post today about the danger of Occam's Razor.

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Since there's no going back in time, the real issue is the silly, jingoistic expressions of moral superiority that infect the culture, the playing of the national anthem before sporting events being the most disgusting. A new one should be composed that says, in effect, "Since we couldn't convince you of the merit of doing it our way, we were forced to kill you."

Audibly laughing :)

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What if you're objectively morally superior?

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The national anthem they play before sporting events ("The Star Spangled Banner") was written during and concerning an invasion of our own country by a foreign power, it's not jingoistic at all. And the alternate ("God Bless America") has nothing military or violent in it at all. Your quasi-anarchist Sitting Bull schtick is hilarious.

But the military did pay the Milwaukee Brewers $55K to play "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch... so presumably there is *some* relationship there...

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Who cares when or why Francis Scott Key's words were added to the music of an old English drinking tune? What significance does it have in the prelude to a hockey game played mostly by Canadians, Swedes and Finns? If it's so important maybe they should play it after every goal is scored. Probably be a good idea to play it after each home run, too.

Sure chuck, the US is awful. And you're still here because.....?

...I haven't eliminated preferential handicapped parking and catch-and-release fishing.

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Is there a reason to think most Americans think about historical guilt with respect to whole racial groups at all? I would guess most people don't spend any time thinking about it, and that their attitudes toward blacks are determined by other stuff.

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There's a sort-of big social picture aspect to this question. Suppose I tell you about some country in which everyone is obsessed with historical wrongs--every child in Tribe A can list every massacre, double-cross, and screwing-over their tribe has gotten from Tribe B, stretching back centuries, and every child in Tribe B can do the same. Perhaps Tribe A is on top, and so many members of that tribe also think a lot about their collective guilt for those centuries of successful screwing-over of Tribe B.

What do you imagine politics look like in that society? When it comes time to decide how to deal with some current problem (recession and unemployment, global warming, too much deficit spending, whatever), do you think they'll do a good job addressing the current issue, or will they spend so much energy trying to deal with evening up the score on the historical record that they don't do a good job addressing the issue?

My mental picture of such a society is that it's likely to be a place with horrible collective decisionmaking, lots of tribal identity driving everything, and a pretty good chance of falling into civil war. That makes me think that a huge focus on historical grievances probably isn't a great thing for society as a whole.

For example, consider our society trying to address poverty. My best guess is that we do better giving money or services to poor people to address poverty, rather than deciding how much money/services to give to people based on how badly their group has been shafted in the past.

Or consider trying to address global warming. You can kind-of imagine some kind of carbon tax working for that, but it's hard to imagine how it would become more likely to work out well if we incorporated historical guilt into it--say, exempting people who are registered members of Indian tribes.

In what situations would the society's decisionmaking be better (in terms of ultimate outcome for everyone) if the society gave a lot of weight to historical grievances?

Another great comment. Also think about who benefits from all the grievance mongering, at least in the short term. Identity politics seems to me to be a terribly short sighted and demagogic means to achieve electoral victories.

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I hear you re: meat-eating. The funny thing is I've developed a reputation for kindness to animals because I'm nice to dogs and help them live better lives. But I'm not really kind to animals generally at all, and won't be unless I modify my diet dramatically, and pay attention to my companion animals' diets as well.

You can also be kinder to animals without modifying your diet. You can stop wearing leather, wool, silk and stop using cosmetics tested on animals. Lots of humane alternatives in these areas.

You could even modify your diet without giving up meat - just replace some of the chicken you eat with beef, and that will reduce the total number of animals suffering from factory farming.

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I also don’t feel personal guilt for earlier history, such as the genocide against Native Americans. I don’t feel responsible for it.

Why should you? There was no 'genocide'.

"There was no ‘genocide’."

Of course not. There was just a war for land and the more numerous and better armed side won.

Exposure to European germs killed 80% [or more] of all Indians killed and this was not intentional because the Europeans lacked the germ theory knowledge to know what they were doing.

They weren't doing anything other than interacting. The Spanish and English could have set up factory colonies on the coast and done nothing but trade and the eventual effect of contact would have been the same. (The notion anyone has a clear ideal of the 15th century population of the Americas is not credible). There wasn't much of a war, either. In North America, settlers just pushed disconnected Indian bands out of the way, much as the Indian bands had pushed the antecedent populations out of the way. In Mexico, Central America, and the Andes, the current phenotype is predominantly Amerindian, i.e. they are still there.

Also, the plains Indians horse culture wiped out a lot of preexisting tribes, horses having been introduced by Europeans.

Apaches were wiping out tribes of Pueblo indians in Arizona not long before Spanish missionaries arrived.

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Some of the Europeans knew they were selling blankets infected with small-pox virus. But still this is way over-inflated as a claim of genocide. Those small-pox blankets didn't travel all over the continent, and there were many other means for small-pox to spread that weren't intentional.

Also, the Native Americans gave the Europeans Syphillis, so I think the score is pretty even on the disease-vector front.

I mean, the Europeans knew enough to know that the blankets a sick person had slept on would spread the disease, which is why they wanted to get rid of them. They didn't know about viruses. Selling them to the Indians was more profitable than burning them, and weren't much concerned about whether it killed a few of them.

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The Holocaust wasn't a genocide either. After all, they didn't finish the job.

Nathan, people get sick and die from microbes to which they have no immunity. There have also been instances where people were wiped out by massacres (or with industrial methods as in 1938-45). Non-puerile people understand the difference between the two.

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I feel guilty about not doing more to support eugenic trends, especially in my own society. I think our descendants are going to hate us forever for importing NAMs. Looking back from 21XX the entire idea will seem like one of the greatest crimes in history.

And all for what? To avoid social shame. To advance in our careers. Our ancestors who braved the cold north, brutal warfare, and harsh Malthusian conditions to create our genetics end up losing it all so that we can be "goodwhites".

There are people out there actually building a wall or running for president. Doing something to prevent the apocalypse, enduring the slings and arrows the Cathedral has to throw at them. I don't even live up to a Steve Sailer who makes a career of spreading the word.

Honestly, I still give charity to people I know a shouldn't, who shouldn't be in the gene pool. I volunteer at my church and that mostly goes to help NAMs. It disgusts me, I'm giving away my grandchildren's future so I don't have to do things I'd find uncomfortable. Or because the whole situation seems so hopeless I focus only on the people in front of me even knowing what I'm doing condemns my society more generally. No different then a mob boss who is nice to his family but pays for it all by exploiting the greater society.

Most of us realize, probably accurately, that trends and forces totally outside of our control determine the flow of our society. Going up against those forces had almost no chance of succeeding, so we don't bother. What a way to live though, what a statement about the insignificance and depravity of man. There's a spark in all of us that wants to do the right thing, even if we know it can't succeed. Somehow that defiance is what makes us human, and in a weird way only societies in which enough people feel that way can break out of the cycle of 'defect-defect'.

You need to start a race war to feel better.

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Sometimes you cannot figure out if something is a satire or not.

Isn't that called Poe's Law? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

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I hear you.

I say just have a nice family and protect them and do what you need to do. Don't seek to get credit. Just do what every right thinking man would do in these strange times. Enjoy life.

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>> Our ancestors who braved the cold north, brutal warfare, and harsh Malthusian conditions to create our genetics end up losing it all so that we can be “goodwhites”.

They are dead, they can't lose anything anymore.

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I think all our feelings of guilt are dulled by the knowledge that the world is a hard place. Some of us may be lucky, and per Pinker and Rosling, it may be getting better for billions of people (and animals), but it is still a hard place.

See also the rise of flakka in South Florida.

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Crop animals [cows, pigs, chickens] are not intelligent. Basically flora on legs.

They certainly lack any ability to know they are being "tortured", other than a crude response to actual pain. I blame Disney for the false belief that TC has.

Agree that cows and chickens are pretty dumb, but aren't pigs considered fairly intelligent? I eat plenty of them but just curious if what I heard is true.

How do pigs stack up to dogs, cats, and other 'pets' in terms of intelligence?

I also don't think intelligence is the only thing that matters, and I don't think most people do, which is why we wouldn't accept non-intelligent humans ending up with the same fate as farm animals.

That's actually what I heard, that pigs were as trainable and intelligent as dogs, and some keep them as pets. Saw one on a leash the other day, cute as hell.

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Why am I not surprised you're from Ohio?

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Cows are perfectly intelligent, particularly socially, and are known to have best friends. Pigs are at least as intelligent as dogs, while even 'dumb' chickens have been found to recognise each other among groups of up to 100.

"They certainly lack any ability to know they are being “tortured”, other than a crude response to actual pain."

Yeah, a response to actual pain is no reason not to inflict actual pain. Sound logic you got there.

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He may not like me saying it, but Dr. Cowen's pre-confession conscience is almost perfectly formed according to Christian Orthodoxy. He correctly rejects or isn't obsessed with collective items which are excuses to avoid dealing with our own failures. Collective problems are eschatological problems for God to work out in His way and time. He recognizes the actual effects of personal dullness in poor stewardship of animals which is something that we are responsible for, and in our consumption choices can do something about. He also identifies another thing we are actually called to do - charity - and personal failure in that regard. (The orthodox faith really doesn't care much about philanthropy. It cares about your reactions to those that are in your life or cross your path. Charity is not about the person receiving, but the heart of the person giving.)

The Orthodox response to such a confession would be the pronouncement of personal grace in Jesus Christ, and the charge to change one's life in accordance with the confession. No guilt about guilt, you are free, go live better. See you again next week until the eschaton.

Sadly most confessions, and even most church direction about it, fall far short of this.

+1

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"I feel guilt for not giving more money to poor people"

Mr. Cowen's current level of donations to the poor reflect how much he thinks he ought to give,
balancing his economic interests with those of the poor. If he really thought his giving was too
low he could simply give more. Perhaps saying that he feels guilty about not giving more is a way
of broadcasting what a sensitive and thoughtful person he is.

+1

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To the person who said that Reagan "won the Cold War," let me note that the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union came to an end during the G.W.H. Bush presidency, not that of Reagan, much as he may have laid the groundwork for that.

On the matter of guilt and shame, I think the most important aspect is that the former is internal whereas the latter is external, concern about what others think of one. It has long been argued that guilt is more western, especially Protestant, whereas shame is more eastern. Howver, I do not see any different incentive to action for either. There are lots of people sitting around feeling guilty about things who do nothing about it. OTOH, in Japan a shamed leader used to commit suicide, and now will will stand before the public and make a very deep bow and then resign their position, whereas in the US our misbehaving leaders rarely resign, indeed make a public apology but then stay in their positions, run for reelection, and so on, all with full expectation that they should be let off the hook.

To the person who said that Reagan “won the Cold War,” let me note that the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union came to an end during the G.W.H. Bush presidency, not that of Reagan,

The salient arms control agreement went into effect in 1988. The law preparing for multi-candidate elections in Soviet Russia was enacted in December 1988 and the elections held in March 1989. The Polish Round Table Talks were completed in April 1989; the initial planning began in September 1988. Opposition parties were legalized in Hungary in January 1989. And so forth.

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"To the person who said that Roosevelt “won War War II,” let me note that Berlin fell and the war with Japan came to an end during the Truman presidency, not that of Roosevelt, much as he may have laid the groundwork for that."

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Not sure if I would buy the book, largely because I think I already agree with the underlying premise. It might be interesting to compare it with the work from Daniel Pavinelli though.

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Serious question: how can you feel guilty about eating animals, but continue to do it? It seems to me you're an intelligent person and that therefore cognitive dissonance shouldn't be a problem....

In addition, you can't stop wars, you can't stop being white, etc.

You can go vegan.

I understand the moral imperative behind not eating meat, but veganism seems silly. Is it really so bad that we milk a cow or three?

Yes, yes it really is.

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For the same reason Catholics can feel guilty about masturbation but keep on doing it. Human nature.

By human nature you mean inability to control the id.

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How can a drug addict feel guilty about lifting $20s from this mother's purse for smack, but continue to do it?

Are you saying we're all addicted to animal products (but more precisely, fat and dairy)?

Bingo.

If you define addiction the way the anti-drug folks, then meat addicts are far more hopelessly addicted that many "addicts". Many meat addicts can't go one meal without meat, without thinking like they have been grievously deprived of something critical.

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I think its fair to say that pretty much every global citizen should feel some collective guilt over North Korea. Imagine if the holocaust continued unabated for more than half a century, simply because it was too messy and complicated to do anything about it. I would guess in a hundred years, world society sticking its head in the sand over the atrocities of the Kim regime (even to the point of making it a recurring joke), will be one of the biggest black stains on our age.

It's a buffer between the US and China in the only place where they would feasibly have land armies across the border from each other. The suffering of the people of NK is real, but arguably doing nothing may be effective in preventing an even worse catastrophe from occurring.

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I feel guilt for not buying a subscription to Reason magazine, or donating to their web-a-thon.

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I gave up pork gradually a few years ago - first, did not buy it at cheap stores, then did not buy it at less cheap stores, then did not order it at restaurants, then took only small servings when offered at homes, then asked for something else on those occasions when it was offered. After several years, I do not miss it, I have it by mistake every once in a while (Swedish meatballs, potstickers) and I do not feel like I have been missing anything much - I recognize the taste, as an intellectual data point, but I do not feel any more regret than if I had given up, say, nutmeg, or anise, or listening to Telemann while dining. I did have a couple of slices of bacon last year: and with an instant intuition similar, I believe, to that felt by those dogs who can smell cancer, I could immediately feel that my stomach would hurt a little and my skin would soon feel a little greasier than it should. Anyway, I would not mind, if I became a gourmet diner, or a popular chef with near encyclopedia knowledge of good meals, having wild boar in those dishes (Peking pork in plum sauce and a Northern Italian hunter's dish whose name I forget) which are swine based, but I am not likely ever to become a gourmet diner, and there is no chance I will ever become a popular chef with near encyclopedic knowledge of gastronomy. I don't think pork is good for me, or for most humans. Another commonly eaten food in the United States that is easy to forego and which should not be eaten is lobster (how can it not seem somehow wrong to eat something that remembers what life was like before you were born? -as de Nerval almost said, comparing a lobster to a canary and a poodle: lobsters neither sing nor cuddle, but they know the secrets of the sea).

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There were Indian removals in the US enacted and implemented by the federal and state governments. The German government wanted to remove Jews from German territory, which expanded with German military victory. There was nobody to take the Jews however, and unlike in the US where the Indians could be removed to the western frontier, the Jews couldn't be simply driven east, as it was occupied by a hostile state with which Germany was at war, and its territory was being targeted for German acquisition. So to remove the Jews, the German government forced Jews into camps. Germany's reversing fortunes in the war resulted in fewer resources to maintain the war effort and its population, and its Jewish prisoners suffered accordingly from the decline in resources and were also euthanized. The same would have been happened for the Indians slated for removal from eastern US lands, and even for the Japanese in internment camps in the US during WWII for that matter, even though the Japanese had not been targeted for removal. If the US had started losing the war, or if there had been an Axis invasion of the US mainland, and the resources available for US war effort and population had declined and become more precarious, resources for the Japanese internees would have declined as well and been less prioritized, resulting in disease, hunger, and death for the internees. Furthermore, they may have been euthanized in such circumstances or have been the target of vindictive reprisals.

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There were Indian removals in the US enacted and implemented by the federal and state governments. The German government wanted to remove Jews from German territory, which expanded with German military victory. There was nobody to take the Jews however, and unlike in the US where the Indians could be removed to the western frontier, the Jews couldn't be simply driven east, as it was occupied by a hostile state with which Germany was at war, and its territory was being targeted for German acquisition. So to remove the Jews, the German government forced Jews into camps. Germany's reversing fortunes in the war resulted in fewer resources to maintain the war effort and its population, and its Jewish prisoners suffered accordingly from the decline in resources and were also euthanized. The same would have been happened for the Indians slated for removal from eastern US lands, and even for the Japanese in internment camps in the US during WWII for that matter, even though the Japanese had not been targeted for removal. If the US had started losing the war, or if there had been an Axis invasion of the US mainland, and the resources available for US war effort and population had declined and become more precarious, resources for the Japanese internees would have declined as well and been less prioritized, resulting in disease, hunger and death for the internees. Furthermore, they may have been euthanized in such circumstances or have been the target of vindictive reprisals.

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I personally do not feel any "collective" guilt, for any reason. This is mainly because I think the whole concept of "collective" guilt is bogus. People should not be held collectively responsible for the actions of their family, race, or nation, and expecting them to feel guilt over those things is immoral. If we don't punish the son for the sins of the father, we likewise don't expect the son to feel guilty for the sins of the father. Expecting all white people to feel collective guilt over slavery is just as bad as punishing all black people because blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime. People are individuals and deserve to be judged as individuals, not by the sins of those tangentially related to them by nothing more than skin color. The whole concept of collective guilt commits the same cardinal error as racism - it judges people according to the group they belong to instead of their individual merits.

I thought this was an issue Western civilization had resolved a long time ago.

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Has anyone produced a paper on the cost and opportunity cost of the western allies siding with the Soviet Union instead of Nazi Germany? If we can predict the climate 100 years from now, surely we can measure this. Who are the winners and losers?

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"Perhaps irrationally, I do feel some guilt for Americans being such world bullies, even when that is necessary or beneficial for the broader fate of civilization. I feel that indirectly I partake in that, if only by representing what are broadly American points of view in global settings, including on this blog. :.." So you want to apologize for the US like the POTUS?....

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We are all guilty. IMHO Universality is needed.

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