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Public Shaming

Throughout time,  the practice of public shaming and punishment has been part of the fabric of human socialization and integration. It began in communities as social development incorporated norms based on gender, caste system, status, religion, etc. It wasn’t always used to punish an offender. It was many times utilized to exemplify the power of […]

Throughout time,  the practice of public shaming and punishment has been part of the fabric of human socialization and integration. It began in communities as social development incorporated norms based on gender, caste system, status, religion, etc. It wasn’t always used to punish an offender. It was many times utilized to exemplify the power of authoritarian rule that one person or group of persons had over others. Public shaming often happened to females in cultures, for reasons that are still incomprehensible in today’s world. In this day and age, we have expanded public shaming through all aspects of media, and these days with digital media being the main avenue of communication around the globe, shaming has taken on a whole new persona. Recently the news has been covering a story surrounding a college admissions scandal involving two high profile actresses among CEO’s and others. I have witnessed the amount of shaming that has taken place throughout various news outlets and media sites. I find it fascinating that throughout history, it seems easy for many of us to align ourselves with those who seek to perpetually shame another for their faults. Shame is a pervasive collective wound in today’s world. We find ourselves powerless against an emotion that leaves us without an identity when we come face to face with it. It is far easier to project our shame onto others who commit faults than to deal with our own mistakes and errors. Shame then becomes a divisive tool against humanity, against each other. against ourselves. It is one thing to use someone’s mistakes to set an example for all of us to learn from. And yes, everyone should face consequences when mistakes are made so they can learn from them; so we can all learn. But as a society, we cross a health boundary and enter into uncharted territory when we perpetually shame others to the extent of psychological and emotional annihilation. What do we have to gain by continually shaming persons for their crimes against humanity? By doing so, does it make us feel more in control of our own inner shame? Does it make us feel more powerful being out there in the world? Continual public shaming can contribute to a variety of psychological and physical disorders, Yet we don’t take that into account when we partake in a ritual that truly destroys a person’s identity, sometimes leaving them with little recourse to even understand the crime they committed and atone for it. As a society, identity has become pivotal in our survival. It takes but a moment for someone’s identity to be ripped away from them from public ridicule, not even allowing for the perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions as they are too involved in surviving the shame. If we want to allow those who make mistakes or commit crimes to understand the wrongs they have done and make amends, perhaps we should begin by taking responsibility for our own shame and make the effort to change the world by not contributing to a practice that has destroyed individuals and cultures throughout time.

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