Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Virtue of Shame

Everyday that my wife drives me to the metrorail stop, I am constantly reminded that people are rude, hedonistically selfish, and lack the one virtue that could save capitalism: shame. Shame, as defined by a dictionary, is "the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another." Feeling shame for something you do or for something someone else does is a perfectly natural human reaction to the idiocy around you.

In a sense, feelings of shame are what separate decent people from rude, intolerant, and downright unsettling individuals. You know the kind of people I am talking about. They are the ones who talk loud on cell phones, cut in front of you without using a turn signal, and behave like they are the only people on the planet.

The root cause of this is that a large portion of the population lacks shame. I don't know when we lost our shame, as a nation, but it has happened and now we most work to bring it back into the populace.

You see, shame is not necessarily a natural or innate feeling. It is a learned reaction to acts of depravity. It is the responsibility of parents to teach shame to their children. It is our responsibility as adults to shun acts of depravity rather than embrace them as a "counter-culture" movement. As far as I can tell, the so-called "counter-culture" is the culture these days. Fighting the Man is really being a square.

So please, whenever you see Michael Scott on The Office do something outrageously stupid or perverse, try and feel a sense of shame. I know I do. I have trouble watching the show at times. Yes, it's fun for laughs because it isn't real, but seriously, if someone behaved that way toward you, would you feel shame?

If you don't, then you are a borderline psychopath.