No one is shameless, Leonard Lopate and his listeners learned two days back when the WNYC radio host talked to NYU Assistant Prof. of Environmental Science, Jennifer Jacquet (PhD) about her book, “Is Shame Necessary, New Uses for an Old Tool”, due out Monday. (I’ll bet Dr. Jacquet won’t be “Assistant” for long.)
What I heard on the show was that shame is an underutilized tool that can be brought to bear on otherwise unresponsive corporations and governments (anyone know any of those??) and has been successfully deployed in environmental campaigns such as some of those waged by Greenpeace. Shame may have played a role in the Supreme Court’s Roper v. Simmons decision, which held that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid the execution of offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed. For certain individuals and under certain circumstances, shame is worse than death. Shame is not always an appropriate tactic (for me the village stocks in colonial New England would be an example of that) and is to be differentiated from guilt, which in some situations may be a better motivator than shame, say with alcoholics. Shame and humor go well together. Shame in the face of national outrage played a role in Komen for the Cure Foundation’s course reversal on its initial decision to stop providing grants to Planned Parenthood because of abortion policies. The anti-Israel-aid billboard campaigns in California and Colorado reported in Mondoweiss and elsewhere are first and foremost a campaign to address the woeful ignorance of the US population on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but shame is an element of that campaign too.
So, I am wondering could activist opponents of Zionism and its repression of the Palestinian be putting shame to better use and really test Dr. Jacquet’s assertion that no one is shameless, and what a test it that would be for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government. I for one don’t like shaming or otherwise discomfiting other people, but the situation in Israel and the occupied territories is so desperate, horrifying and has been going for so long that any tool that will permeate the heads of Israel’s supporters here in the US and perhaps effect change seems good and worthwhile to me.
Dr. Jacquet will be speaking at the Brooklyn Public Library on Sat. Feb. 28, 4 PM, if you want to sharpen your shaming knives.