Eileen F. Toplansky
James B. Twitchell in his 1997 book For Shame: The Loss of Common Decency in American Culture asserts that “we are living in shameless times,” as compared to when he was growing up in the 1950s, when “public drunkenness, filing for bankruptcy … drug addiction, hitting a woman, looting stores, using vulgar language in public, being on the public dole [and] getting a divorce” were considered shameful, and “most of these reflected concerns about limiting individual behavior within a group.”
What once was considered a private matter now results in haphazard public defecations. San Francisco currently boasts a “poop map” as the city reports a 140% rise in feces. Taboos that used to entail modesty have disappeared.
Instead, according to Twitchell, shame has been “redirected to trivial concerns,” and Americans have lost their “receptiveness to shame.” Promoting unwed teenage mothers and not hectoring their “reprobate companions” barely raise eyebrows. Twitchell asks, “Why do we not excoriate the unwed teenage mother?” Instead, we are privy to a television show titled Teen Mom.
When Hollywood folk have children out of wedlock, they are praised, but “all hell would break loose” if someone were caught wearing mink or baby seal. Our priorities have been turned inside-out.
In the Jewish Press of July 20, 2018, author John Rosemond explains how psychologists have long accepted the idea that a child’s bad behavior is nothing more than a symptom of some emotional tension and that punishment would only make matters worse. Thus, by “pseudo-intellectual alchemy, a misbehaving child was transformed from a perpetrator into a victim deserving, not discipline, but great understanding and sympathy.” Such beliefs “absolved ill-behaved children of responsibility for their various anti-social outbursts[.]” Shame is not an obstacle to self-esteem, as many would assert; instead, “shamelessness becomes a cultural toxin.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the term “Defining Deviancy Down” to describe how we legitimize behavior previously regarded as antisocial or criminal.” When dysfunctional becomes the norm, the functional turns abnormal. Consequently, there is nothing unseemly about a so-called comedian holding up the decapitated head of a president, and there is nothing improper about inviting someone to a dinner only to bash her publicly and expect her to sit and smile. Obama created a scenario where minority students would be held less accountable concerning school disruptions, therefore delinquency and school violence increased.
In just the first year after Obama in January 2014 issued his new discipline guidelines – which came with threats of federal investigations and defunding – schools saw more than 160,000 ‘physical attacks’ on teachers across the country.
Pointing this out results in being called a racist. The R-word is used so frequently that it has lost its actual meaning.
In order to distract from behavior that hurts the community, language is constantly corrupted with such “psychobabble as ‘codependency’” and “edubabble as ‘invitational education,’” resulting in the destruction of any real meaning in language.
In Moynihan’s Summer 1993 article in The Public Interest, titled “Toward a New Intolerance,” he emphasizes that “most importantly, and absolutely essential is the decline of family.” Thus, in 1943, the illegitimacy rate in new York City was three percent. In 1992, it was 45 percent. Two thousand ten statistics indicate the following:
Racial or ethnic group
Percent of births considered “non-marital”
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
American Indian and Native Alaskans
Moynihan cites correspondence he had with Justice Edwin Torres, who had been raised in the barrio on 108th Street in New York City. Torres emphasizes that “a society that loses its sense of outrage is doomed to extinction.”
Yet, broad scale social regression appears to have taken center stage in this country.
Shelby Steele points out in Shame: How America’s Past Sins have Polarized Our Country how black conservatives are viewed as “opportunistic or, worse, self-hating, and sycophantic” rather than as voices that may hold a different point of view. Shame is not used to create cohesion; it is used to divide America into balkanized political camps and to denigrate black Americans by smothering their individual voices.
It is, however, not viewed as shameful that anti-Semitic, American-hating individuals run for political office. In addition, criminal behavior is excused. In the past, Marion Barry, former videotaped crack-smoker, was re-elected as mayor of Washington. Clinton, a serial rapist, is welcomed to McCain’s funeral, as is his wife, who as a “manifest felon” is the epitome of every unscrupulous behavior and trickery she can get away with by committing fraud, harming American lives, and lying to the American public.
Farrakhan, who hates whites and Jews with a vengeance sits comfortably in the front of the McCain ceremony and no one bothers to comment about his odious deeds. Michelle Malkin eloquently describes the crass and despicable behavior that characterized the John McCain and Aretha Franklin funeral services.
Twitchell speaks about “intellectual shame.” Grades that were meant to be a catalyst for improvement become meaningless in a world where any interpretation of a subject is no better than another. Then grades are eliminated; standardized tests are no longer mandatory, or scores are manipulated depending upon the ethnicity of the test-taker.
More recently, the University of Houston, Texas’s third largest university, has been stonewalling allegations that a school superintendent plagiarized the doctoral dissertation he submitted as a student at the university’s College of Education.
Rutgers athletics football program was rocked when law enforcement announced that six active players were among ten people charged with a string of crimes around campus including home invasions and aggravated assaults.
At all levels of education, standards have precipitously dropped, academic expectations are lowered and campus groupthink reigns supreme as “institutions once devoted to the pursuit of truth and the free exchange of ideas now engage in the infantilisation of students.” The “crucial ceremonies of adult decency” are lost.
In 1974 Eric Hoffer penned a piece titled “Long Live Shame!” wherein he asserted that “there is one dangerous threat that no society can escape: namely, the recurrent threat of disruption by juveniles as a young generation passes from boyhood to manhood.” In his cogent piece, he writes:
Shame, far more than guilt, involves an awareness by the individual of being watched and judged by the group. It is to be expected, therefore, that the more compact the group, the more pronounced the sense of shame. The member of a compact group carries the group within him, and never feels alone.
Yet Woody Allen saw “no moral dilemma whatsoever” in having an affair with the 20-year-old adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, with whom he’d raised a family.
Then there is the disgusting display of Harvey Weinstein, who seemingly can never control himself.
Powerful people continue to be duplicitous and get away with it. We are still awaiting the truth about Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and Huma Abedin’s Muslim Brotherhood connections.
Then there are the social media moguls. According to a report in The New York Times, Facebook began granting inappropriate access to personal information of its users to third parties around ten years ago, yet in front of Congress, Zuckerberg fudged this information. This graphic puts a lie to Zuckerberg’s mealy-mouthed assertions.
Should we be surprised that young people have little respect for any societal rules? The fact that nothing is sacred, that all taboos are to be dismissively diminished has created a scenario where young people have no support net to fall back upon.
If America returned to a time wherein bad manners and crude and lewd behavior were considered verboten instead of being applauded and protected, perhaps a #MeToo Movement would not have been needed.
Forty-five years since Hoffer wrote “Long Live Shame” his words are quite prescient.
In this country at present the inability of adults to socialize their young has made it possible for juveniles to follow their bents, act on their impulses, and materialize their fantasies and the ‘result has been a youth culture flauntingly shameless.’
Consider the vicious attacks on people and property that are countenanced, certainly rarely stopped as Antifa, and Black Lives Matters and their ilk run roughshod in the country. This is not an assertion of civil liberties. It is pure violence, plain and simple. College administrators watch while their universities are trampled upon.
This confirms another Hoffer assertion: “[t]he disconcerting thing is that loss of shame is not confined to juveniles.”
Shame properly used is “how a sense of decency is developed.” It protects the group from the dangers of individual excesses. It is a balancing tool that keeps people accountable.
In classical Greek mythology, Aidos was the “goddess of modesty, shame, reverence and respect. She was a companion of the goddess Nemesis. As a quality Aidos was the feeling of shame which restrains men from doing wrong, while Nemesis was righteous indignation aroused by the sight of wicked men receiving undeserved good fortune.”