Guilt and Shame

Higbee’s and Jensen’s list of 20 ways to influence people includes “guilt.”

When people feel guilty, they try to make up for it by doing things they believe are righteous.

There’s an interesting passage in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in which a character admits that the government didn’t pass all of its regulations because it wanted everybody to follow them, but because it wanted everybody to break them, so that they could threaten absolutely anyone they wanted with jail time.

Even if they hadn’t done it for that reason, I suppose it would help them to be able to threaten people like that, anyway.

And even if you think that religions aren’t trying to make people feel guilty, it sure helps them to have a bunch of guilty people, since that makes those people controllable as they seek for absolution from their spiritual leaders.

Why, I suppose if you were trying to make people controllable, you might tell them it was wrong to do very common things that it would be very difficult to avoid doing.

Or you might tell them to do things that people mostly don’t enjoy doing. And then you might tell them that if they aren’t enjoying them, and feeling wonderfully uplifted by it all, that they’re still doing it wrong.

Now, they’re pretty much guilty all the time. You just have to remind them of it, and then they’ll do whatever you want.

And if it fails, and they do it all and enjoy it? Well, then you win, anyway, don’t you?