Individual shame or collective guilt

Posted by Tory Historian Sunday, March 16, 2008 ,

The launch of Jeremy Black's "The Curse of History" was a good deal of fun with an interesting exchange between the author and the dedicatee, Peter Lilley MP.

Professor Black said in his speech that while individual shame was the cornerstone of our culture and development - without shame there can be no atonement and no change - collective guilt was meaningless and harmful to society.

Mr Lilley agreed with it broadly but added an interesting caveat. As he is proud of his country and its history, he said, so he feels it possible and necessary to feel ashamed of some of the less salubrious episodes of the past.

This would indicate that there might be such a thing as individual shame for the collective past or, even, collective shame. That, of course, is not the same thing as collective guilt, let alone any need to apologize or excuse for perpetual victimhood.


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