22 November 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday November 21, 2007

Stop embarrassing the public


We need to restore a sense of public shame. We need to define it, and we need leaders who live and behave in an exemplary way.

I WAS observing recently how different people had different definitions of shame. Most define it as a sense of embarrassment when something they cannot control happens.

For instance, one person said it was what he felt every time he saw a foreign tourist go into a public toilet. Another said it’s when she can’t repeat what she just said in front of her kids.

I was curious about this because of the way the word “shame” kept coming up in relation to recent events.

There were some people who felt shame that Malaysians had taken to the streets in protest because they felt that this was “uncivilised’ behaviour.

Then there were others who saw shame in the opposite perspective: they felt embarrassed that their fellow citizens were treated so badly by the authorities. Surely, they said, we have become civilised enough to tolerate dissent without having to react to it with violence.

Thus “shame” and “civilised behaviour” appeared on both sides of the fence.

Then there were those who felt embarrassed and ashamed that a politician could expose himself as an inarticulate buffoon on international television.

Herein lies the puzzle: how is it that poor performance can invoke pride rather than shame? Is that symptomatic of something else these days?

In the old days (which didn’t seem too long ago), people did not talk about parts of the body or bodily functions in public, especially at inappropriate moments.

But these days we get parliamentarians and other public officials making crude remarks, almost always about women’s anatomy and bodily functions, without even so much as turning the slightest shade of red.

And what do their audiences do when they hear this? They giggle and laugh.

Perhaps, secretly, the mostly female audience felt shame and embarrassment but because they are dependent on male authority figures for their positions, they say nothing and play along instead.

And in so doing they betray their own sex once again.

How little we value our dignity.

These are the times when I feel so old-fashioned.

Which people may find ironic considering that I am accused of being shameless a lot of the time for wanting to talk about sex education for young people and about how to make sex safe.

But the one thing one never does when educating others about sex is to make it crude, because that’s what turns people off. Appropriate terminology and approach is key.

But outside of the educational context, when the intention is to humiliate, referring to the anatomy is crude and unnecessary. People should be embarrassed not only to have to listen to it but also to even mention it.

Thus I wonder at what point will we decide that our tolerance for such crudeness has finally reached its limit.

When are we truly going to censure public figures who talk trash regardless of their station in life? When are we going to shame them into stopping?

Instead we see endless displays of shamelessness.

There are public figures who build humongous mansions with unexplained funds and then try to look charitable by inviting orphans for a one-night stay. I blush at the thought of it; how come they don’t?

Others, obviously endowed by the thickest of skins, buy support by giving out honorifics even to those who patently do not deserve them or even have criminal records. Not an ounce of shame whatsoever.

Everyone else laughs at them but they actually think they are being exemplary human beings.

No shame in the least about redefining humanity as being corrupt. Incredible!

Maybe I should develop a thicker hide.

But the thing is I have a young daughter who reads the newspapers and I wind up red-faced when she asks me how come these people she reads about do and say things that I have always taught her not to.

Although not everything gets into the newspapers (perhaps their limits for shame are lower than the people they cover?), my daughter sometimes hears my friends and I talking about the latest public embarrassment.

How do I explain these to her?

We need to restore a sense of public shame.

To do that, we need to define it and we need leaders who live and behave in an exemplary way.

We need leaders who have a sense of diffidence and restraint, who understand that they can’t say one thing and do another.

Who do not treat the public as if they are fools who will take anything they dish out.

That time is no longer far off because we, the public, are beginning to feel we no longer want to be embarrassed.