Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Death of Shame

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:

Peter Dorman
Nov. 11, 2018

In any society not in a state of civil war, shame is a powerful force, perhaps the most powerful. Individuals or organizations caught cheating, lying or otherwise doing evil, when exposed and called out, are expected to be embarrassed. They should repent their sins and promise to make amends. Other than pure coercion, what else can disarm those who violate the norms of society?


All of this depends on the biological mechanism of shame to kick in: those whose hidden misdeeds have been exposed should feel disarmed and admit defeat. It isn’t enough that they be reviled by other members of the community; if direct coercion is unavailable for any reason, it is only the shame response that makes exposure a force of justice and not an empty gesture.

But the shame response shouldn’t be assumed. In fact, what evidence we have suggests it operated only within limited circles through most of human history. Liars and cheaters were accountable to their peers but not underlings or outsiders.


those of us who are disgusted by the shameless behavior of those in power should have no illusions. We won’t get them to back down by uncovering further evidence of their misdeeds, although evidence remains the basis for rational judgment and should always be sought. Only greater political power will overcome shamelessness.

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