Evolution Diverted proposes that humiliating conditions imposed on humanity early in our existence produced oversensitivity to the affect of Shame. Societies having rarely learned to deal rationally with Shame, ways to escape its feelings became the norm. They play a major role in our dysfunction. The maneuvers meant to evade the Shame-based emotions are categorized into four types: Attack-Other, Attack-Self, Avoidance, and Withdrawal. (There’s an appendix in the book discussing these defenses in depth.)
Since this new coronavirus is the third virus in recent memory to originate in China, it’s not surprising that intense Shame flooded the Chinese people over the outbreak. In the first article in this series, we discussed the initial use of the defense of Avoidance by party officials and local authorities.
That attitude in the leadership was soon followed by Attack-Other in the population at large…with hearty support from the government. Xenophobia became rampant, with utterly irrational thinking leading to the shunning and forcible quarantining of foreigners. The attitude became so corrosive that companies from other nations with facilities in China were soon considering repatriating their Chinese operations. Sadly, the xenophobia had a racist component: people from Africa living in China often found themselves viciously shunned.
Attack-Other behavior in relation to Covid-19 was, of course, not restricted to China. In India, Muslims were soon accused of being a source of infection, leading to an increase in Hindu attacks on them. In Great Britain, cellular towers were set on fire, recent technical advances being rumored to enhance vulnerability to infection. In the U.S., absurd conspiracy theories directed at Bill Gates drew huge followings, while the president, a man with no tolerance for Shame-emotions, modeled Attack-Other for the nation by directing his ire at China, the W.H.O., state governors, the press, et al.
The earliest mass appearance of the Attack-Other defense was in the wars of the gods of Mesopotamia. The enjoyment of life for the people of a Mesopotamian city relied on their enthrallment with the culture’s prime focus of interest, its deified supreme ruler, their city’s Anunnaki lord. If the positive affects of Enjoyment and Interest, wrapped up in loving devotion to their god, were ever seriously impeded, the affect of Shame would be roused, since Shame is experienced when the positive affects are interrupted. That’s what took place in Mesopotamia whenever lusts for power and wealth in the lords of two different cities would lead to war. It then would be easy for each god (and the king serving him) to whip up Attack-Other hatred in the city’s warriors.
The communal path from Shame to Attack-Other has been well travelled ever since. Of course, we are responding to the pandemic with other negative affects, like Fear and Distress. Yet Shame causes us the most trouble, via the dysfunctional defenses, like Attack-Other, that we use to keep from dealing with the awful feelings it involves.