Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Shame: I Said That!

...but not that well.

Late last year I wrote a couple of posts on the subject of shame... including Have You No Shame? and a follow-up called Louts on Airplanes.

Yesterday, Mary Kathrine Ham's column crafts a much better description.
Shame is a virtue—one of which we see entirely too little these days. It’s an unpleasant emotion, yes, but it can yield great things. It can be what makes us take responsibility for wrongdoing, change old, bad habits and avoid falling into new ones. It can be what makes us see a mistake for what it is and never make it again. It used to be that if you couldn’t muster your own healthy sense of shame that society would make up for it in most cases by telling you when you should hang your head a bit.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, we spend so much time making sure no one is “stigmatized,” that we tend to forget that some things deserve a stigma. A good old-fashioned stigma can be useful.
I wish I said that.

Ham's example is much better, at least as far as I can understand why some folks might want to have sex in an airplane (and I have no idea how someone could actually spend government assistance on lap dances). She doesn't rest on one example either:
Excusing fraud produces more fraud. We saw such a pattern play out this week in the fake-and-decidedly-inaccurate scoop from TruthOut’s Jason Leopold about Karl Rove’s imminent indictment. The indictment turned out to be non-existent, and Leopold’s investigative techniques deceitful. Nonetheless, Leopold stands by the story and TruthOut stands by Leopold.

Is there any doubt that this kind of dishonest reporting is partly a result of the lack of professional shame exhibited by the likes of Mary Mapes and Dan Rather? After their laughably sourced Texas Air National Guard hit piece on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, both journalists won prestigious Peabody awards for their work on another “60 Minutes II” piece. Neither has backed off of the assertion that the substance of the National Guard story was accurate even if the documents are questionable (or, as the rest of us call them—forgeries).

Leopold will undoubtedly use a version of the same argument, and he can hold out hope for success with his upcoming memoirs ala other should-be-ashamed notables as Jayson Blair and Jessica Cutler. Shamelessness can get you on the road to a very lucrative career these days.
Luckily for me, I've never really pretended to be a very original thinker or writer... so I'm sure folks excuse my parroting and my "did you hear this" posting.

However, I suspect that at least some of the apparent increase in the lack of shame is looking back selectively at our own history. So much seems to have repeated itself, and continues to repeat itself. Corruption, vice, and wickedness brought about the end of the Roman empire (at least in part)... and that wasn't the first, nor was it the last.

Of course, that doesn't excuse the lack of shame.


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