Saturday, June 29, 2019

Shame on Us

We are an amazingly diverse species. Our diversity and adaptability has allowed us to survive and then thrive, spreading over this planet of extremes. Interestingly, the fact that humans have moved to those less comfortable parts of the planet might come from our tendency, as a group, to drive away those who are most diverse; those who are not 'like us'. The most diverse, and therefore, the less desirable folk became pioneers.

Ironically, one of the last great migrations, the one from Europe to North America, fuelled, at least partially, by religious persecution, seems to have given rise to one of the less tolerant populations of the world. 

Historically, those who are different, even if their differences cannot possibly harm others, were liable to be treated badly. That word is taking the place for a variety of ways we treat those seen as other.

A good example of treating someone badly is enslavement. After all, why not take advantage of being in the group with more power, to get others to do all of the work you would rather not do? Better still, make them do it for free, and while you are at it, give yourself a real treat and do unspeakable and harmful things to that slave under the pretext of superiority. Holdover behaviours in the present from times of slavery in Canada and the United States are subtle and pervasive, but I digress. Hold that thought ...

Badly might mean assuring those whose diversity makes them part of the LGBTQ spectrum live in shame, and if possible, making laws to control them, just in case they don't care what you think. 

Religions have used the laying on of guilt to assure what they see as proper behaviour. Of course, threating hell and other sorts of fire was their technique of choice up until the 17th century. Religions were in the vanguard in the area of law-making, telling the "faithful" that if they gave comfort to those diverse folk, they would be treated to the same sort of punishments. These days, churches that specialize in shaming members into toeing the line are by far the most popular and rich, while liberal churches have found their congregations dwindling. 

It seems to me that rather than being angered by seeing someone who is of a different from them in some way that truly shouldn't matter at all, people should get angry at others who do really stupid things, such as throwing their rubbish onto the street rather than putting it into a garbage container. Maybe that person who leaves their shopping cart in the middle of a parking spot or in the roadway instead of putting it where they found it should be shamed for treating the rest of us as though we don't matter.  

Perhaps we should shame those who carelessly reflect the failings of our past, bigotry large among them, in their behaviour today. Personally, I wish it was possible to lay a bit of 'shame on you' on people who try to control how others live their lives. Shame on anyone who advocates cuts to public education and medical coverage while at the same time telling us they are "pro-life". 

Better still, get upset and shame someone who writes silly blog posts, railing against human behaviours that may be so entrenched into our cultures that we cannot hope to leave them behind. 

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And for something to lighten the mood, a cartoon by Paul Kinsella

History of Religion


  1. So difficult; so difficult. The problem is that I am in agreement with you - except for the matter of pioneers. NASA keeps firing them into space, but they keep coming back.

    Naming and shaming seems to have a very limited effect on the behaviour of people. It may even become a 'badge of honour' so to speak. And where does one stop?

    I suppose there must be a balance. The more we evolve, the more our [their!] attitudes and behaviours devolve. It's really too hot to think any further.

  2. Hi Deanna,
    An interesting post that I would struggle to answer unequivocally- for I think it depends on the historical period involved. Migration, as you may well know, was initially motivated by climatic necessity. Remarkably we adapted but in the process nearly became extinct.
    Pioneers are such diverse groups, we find some surprising outcomes. You may be interested to know my great great grandfather was a pioneer, who figured prominently in a region researched by New England University, whose findings show those early communities abandoned all their previous English and Irish cultural inhibitors and or prejudices. No police, church or schooling saw them revert to a far more liberal attitude in existence. But then those that followed in subsequent generations reverted back to the homeland’s Victorian moralistic point of view.

    In the end I think it depends on being open minded and not being enslaved by ideas and religious views because it’s up to us. One culprit is the enslavement to biblical texts as if they all must be the word of GOD. For although you can talk about some inspirational passages, others are divisive and unhelpful. Try having a conversation with a fundamentalist about that. I’m sure you wouldn’t. Another reason is the uncertainty factor in employment and wealth inequality which ignites an unhealthy nationalistic stance and intolerance to minorities.
    Best wishes