Hotel Concierge: Shame & Society

This is a linkpost for https://hotelconcierge.tumblr.com/post/173526578129/shame-society

As seen in one of Scott's linkdumps. I thought it was interesting enough to deserve discussion here.

Scott's comment:

Hotel Concierge, everyone’s favorite Tumblr cultural commentator who is definitely not secretly The Last Psychiatrist, has another magnum opus out – Shame And Society. My favorite excerpt: “Make no mistake, the performative sadness is not consequent to the pursuit of hedonism; it is a justification.” Deserves a lot closer reading and more discussion than I probably have the time and energy to give it.

The thing is long, and at times intricate. It meanders a lot and you're left wondering what point is being made and how it relates to the bigger picture. Yet it made all kinds of light bulbs go firework in my head, and if only on the strength of the connections that are being made between disparate culture-war memes, I would recommend this piece.

It's almost impossible to summarize, but I'll give it the old college try, focusing on the big picture and the parts that had an impact on me. It's probably partly wrong.

Broadly, the piece is about the fetishization of surface behaviors, and how society (in a broad sense — Moloch) encourages this. We require signalling (checkboxing), and we're on a path where these requests become more and more intricate and demanding. As a result, we spend most of our time performing. The concierge ascribes this to a transition from metis (“hard to express,” “local,” “accumulated, experiential knowledge”) to episteme (“top-down,” “abstract, generalized, theoretical knowledge”). The global culture swallows the local cultures. " Checkboxes become more granular and the list of permissible narratives shrinks. Everyone sends the same signals so the signals lose meaning." Shame is a force to coerce you into the checkboxes, the real heroes are those that require the least amount of coercive shame. You can avoid shame by performing guilt. But perversely, the causality reverses: guilt sanction cruelty rather than absolving it.

Then there's a long discussion of kinks (fetishes). They were never so well accepted than they are now, especially by women. These kinks (e.g. BDSM) were traditionally male fetishes but have shifted. Men sometimes come to resent them, because while they were previously an affirmation of power, once they become requested they become another act that one has to perform. There is a rather interesting take on the effect of all these required performance have on men in particular. There is guilt, because these are things they aren't supposed to want. Then there is resentment, because in the place of a power fantasy, or worse, in the place of a place of full honesty and acceptance, they are once again faced with expectations, asked to perform.

The post ends on a positive note. It is possible to change the situation, but for that we have to change the incentives. We have to be true, at our own expense, and to forgive. Not much operational details here, but maybe it's worth thinking about what those could be.

Have a pleasant read!

2 comments, sorted by
magical algorithm
Highlighting new comments since Today at 6:21 AM
Select new highlight date

One interesting example of the same dynamic is medicine. Evidence-Based Medicine is all about checking checkboxes and ignoring metis in favor of episteme.

Prediction-based medicine would allow medicine to be practiced in a way that rewards metis.

Very true, hadn't thought of that. Maybe that's one of the reason for the success of alternative medecines? That even though they're not backed by evidence, they feel like metis, or maybe they even work in circumstances that are hard to abstract / generalize. Or maybe it's just that the placebo effect is easier to kick off in these circumstances.