You Shouldn’t be Ashamed

I’m approaching the halfway mark in a book I’ve waited four months to read. The book discusses shaming and its significance in our specie’s history. At this point I am convinced that the concept of shame is the most powerful socio-emotional weapon we have as a population. Imagine all of your inner most insecurities finally blossoming into the public eye and not only must you have to cope with what people might be thinking, the people have already spoken and have disagreed with your stance on a topic. Public opinion, as subjective as it may seem, has a permanent effect on others if enough people share the same view. An important part of shame is the number of people who cast judgement resulting in the shame of an unfortunate party.

Pop culture has a plethora of examples of celebrities popular and unpopular in a publicly shamed episode once every so often. As devastating as this may seem, the author begins to explore the type of behavior that create negativity in a strong amount. There is something about when groups of people get together, a type of cognitive dissonance takes place and the attitude is no longer the attitude of an individual, but of a group. Two completely separate trains of thought.

It is unfortunate that the internet (certain social media circles) have turned into a metaphorical thunder dome nowadays. With people becoming more and more critical about what is said and sometimes what is simply implied. Here in California the spotlight is on police officers in the mainstream news media. I will not site a particular case or occurrence. I am simply making an observation on what happens when individuals act in a certain way whether it be good or bad, the public eye attempting to make sense of what they have just witnessed (which sometimes isn’t the sole perspective of an entire story) then making rash decisions based on little information that would not hold up among a jury of peers. I’m all in favor of holding a strong opinion about any topic. What gets me is the people who act on those uninformed opinions (often times getting others to join them in that person’s personal outrage)and cause a tremendous amount of suffering towards another.

The book also gives an example of a situation in which shaming does arguably have a place. The justice system may have it’s share of flaws, however, some judges take it among themselves to seek alternatives to incarcerating the masses. Having seen the harm shaming can do to people, I see this act as justified when it comes to legal matters in which there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that someone deserves to be shamed. In the instances that shaming has been delivered as punishment (reducing the financial penalty from 10,000 to 900-ish dollars to be carried out by writing one dollar checks to the family of the victim a drunk driver has hit and killed) the culprits have admitted that the act of shaming invoked the worst feelings imaginable, have shown the be the most beneficial in the long run, and resulted in the least amount of repeat offenders than traditional incarceration.

Social power among groups of people can be a powerful tool. Mostly when dealing with people in similar classes as that of your own. We seem to underestimate the damage it can do. People’s lives have been ruined over something that was said (a constitutional right mind you) out of context. For people to realize this and to continue to do so for whatever types of gains one might be aspiring towards, (insert psychological interpretation mentioning this like “projecting” or “repression”) is sickening and arrogant. We as a population have more power than we are lead to believe. Reading this book has made me more aware of the harm we can cause towards others and to take a step back and realize the consequence an opinion I have gained in a short amount of time can do to another human being such as yourselves.



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