• William Knight

Should we banish shame?

Have you ever suffered from that spine-creeping human condition known as shame? You know, when your friend tells you your dress has been tucked in your knickers all night, or you send a porno-pic to your vicar by accident, or, in my case, when my mother asked me if I still had diarrhoea in front of two girls I rather fancied. These are terrible human tragedies. Every single one takes the strength of a four Weetabix breakfast and the courage of an All Black to get over.

It's awful. Let's get rid of shame.

Potentially shameful events are only getting more common and more intense. Our shaming possibilities has been opened up by technology like a tin of tomatoes is opened by a saw.

Think about it. Thirty years ago it wasn’t possible to come home drunk and insult your entire address book or flame a thousand people who happened to read the same newspaper. No. In black and white times, if you came home drunk you might have made a phone call to your mates, but you’d have been hard pushed to write a letter -- even a postcard -- and send it off without writer’s remorse kicking in -- you’d have had to have stayed drunk all weekend and staggered determinedly to the post box on Monday morning.

Not so anymore. OMG. Oh no. Today, shame stalks every late-home semi-drunk or bad-day moaner like rain clouds over a British fete. It lies in wait, whispering, notifying, tempting. It sends Facebook messages, and tweets, it brings opinions to your phone and stupid comments to your laptop.

And Shame does this to goad a response. It taunts and provokes, it wants you to overreact.

It wants you to make your shameful response and send your overreactions and bigoted views out to the world, to your family and friends, to your followers and neighbourhood watch group. Shame wants the world to know all the deepest, worst thoughts you have ever held, those thoughts that only pop up on your worst days and most drunken nights. It wants to make them public, and for your spine to tingle with embarrassment while you collapse in a crimson heap. It wants your shame to go viral.

Making a mistake on such a shameful level was always possible, in the pre-internet good old days -- we all get runny-sphincter from time to time and we all hide dreadful thoughts that we don’t want made public -- but you couldn’t make a global arse of yourself in anything like the same way as is possible now. Now it is simply too easy to externalise your wretched humanity.

And yet, Shame defeats itself, if it thinks the internet is a road to universal embarrassment. To cope with Shame’s shenanigans, we desensitise ourselves to other peoples awful words and then we see nothing wrong in joining the circus with our own narrow views. The boundary of acceptable behaviour has shifted. Shame has been banished.

Slowly, inevitably we are all becoming unacceptable in what we say online, what we post and what we think. We are shameless and we are blameless. But when we are all unacceptable, there is nowhere left to be accepted. We are lost, lonely and afraid, with only our technology and angry feeds to keep us company. What a price freedom from shame.

On second thoughts, let’s keep shame.

#shame #

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