Guilt, as I've noted before, is the great vulnerability of the Western world. I'll pass up an explanation of why for today, but the validity of this statement is made ever so clear by the fact that political types rise to power by championing one class or another of victims, portraying everyone else as somehow guilty. It works brilliantly and regularly, all across the West. Bizarre and openly unbalanced people leap into power this way.
Guilt makes Westerners behave very stupidly. It has brought them low and could extinguish their civilization altogether. I don't think it will go quite that far, but I'm an optimist.
A Complaint Doesn't Make Us Bad
There's a lot to say on the assumption that we have to be perfect (we don't even know what perfect would look like), or that one error negates all the good we've ever done (neither Moses nor Jesus taught such a thing), but those aren't our central points for today. Our immediate subject is this: We've played directly into the hands of guilt-slinging power addicts, simply because it seemed a little easier.
That was a serious error. So, let's get clear on something: The only way to be completely unassailable – where no one can slap blame upon you for anything – is to be dead, or very nearly so.
A major part of the insanity unfolding before our eyes rests upon a ridiculous fear that someone might say we were bad.
Please understand that being blameless is impossible. And I'm not talking about human ignorance and frailty. We surely don't posses perfect knowledge and we do make errors, but even if the opposite of that was true, the guilt-slingers would still win if we kept responding to them. The line from Thomas Jefferson makes the point beautifully:
There is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive.
Even perfect actions can be spun in some way to make them sound bad. Understand, please, that for political types, this is their job. They work at it full time, just like you work at your job.
Our Western civilization, alone in the annals of human history, defeated slavery on a civilizational scale. Rome left some twenty million slaves behind, and the Europeans of the supposed dark age – and for moral reasons – eradicated the plague of slavery over the next few centuries. Western civilization was also the seat of the great scientific advances of the past few centuries. For where, after all, did airplanes, cars and antibiotics come?
And yet, Westerners very easily believe that they are the great disease upon the planet.
This happened for definable reasons, and our civilization, like every civilization, has included bad things, but this situation is borderline insane. Incompleteness and error are just the present human condition, as G.K. Chesterton noted so memorably:
Not only are we all in the same boat, but we're all seasick.
Very few of us still have a gut sense of cultural confidence, and so I'll give to a few lines I took from someone who remembered it:
The future was ours.
We looked out for each other.
We were proud of who we were.
Honest cultural confidence is not "we're above those rotten others," but simply "we're pretty good." That's a healthy thing, and a solid base for improvements.
Stop thinking that you have to be unblamable, because it's impossible, and because it makes you easy prey to power-mongers.
If you make a mistake (and you will), fix it and move on. If your friend does, try to help him or her fix it. But stop responding to people throwing guilt at you as a weapon.
Someone who gains power from your guilt is someone you should ignore. They have no moral standing whatsoever. Stop imagining that they do. Take their blows and continue as you were.
Make your self a better person and work to make the world better, but not out of guilt or a belief in some essential lack. Make the world better because you want a better world. Do this for yourself, your family and friends, and even for those who attack you; or at least for their children.