Contemplating Shame ~ Consumentality ~ The History of Stuff

IMG_2231I wanted to jar you out of your “shame” mentality with the title (s) . Did I succeed? Only time will tell. It seems like an unrelated and possibly unintelligible grouping of words and discourses. The title may only make sense at the end…but we are at the beginning… and, we are really going to dare to talk about the evil, nasty, oft-vilified  word SHAME.

Anyone who know me, knows one of my mantras.

“If I do something shameful, I ought to feel ashamed.”

You can insert he/she/it does…They into the sentence at  will. Anyhow, I am absolutely confounded by our shame doublespeak. A little obsessed, some may say. Suddenly, eliciting shame in an individual, who has acted shamefully is tantamount to dribbling hot oil in an infant’s eye. “There will be lifelong injuries if you shame your child.” We live in a world where everyone gets a medal because we are so frightened that our child will feel the shame of being a failure or getting picked last at P.E. It is abusive for your child to feel this sort of shame in any way, shape, or form.

We also live in a world where there is “fat shaming” and “skinny shaming” to be fair, rates of LGBT suicide are anywhere from 6%-8% to who knows how much higher than other kids. There is a lot of shame rolling around in the Ethernet but it all seems so wrong.

What I want to do with this series of blogs is to question this doublespeak idea of shame. I want to attempt to locate our brand of shame in time and space, specifically in the West.  I will use the concept of Western culture knowing the rottenness of that word, and using it anyhow. Of course, “the West” is not homogenous. Of course, saying “the West” posits that there is an “other” outside of “the West”. I use the idea of Western Culture because it is indelibly tied to consumerism and corporations in a way that culture groups outside of the West are not. That is not to say that those cultures are not tied to consumerism and corporations in their own way…just not in the way that people living in Western culture, mostly in America, are.

Again, back to the title, it crops up that somehow “the West” and consumerism and corporations are tied to shame. Yes…yes…we will get there. I thought that just as Foucault started with Discipline and Punish (1977) and then in the lectures in the years following grew up Governmentality, I would start with the tool, shame and grow it up to Consumentality. I am not positing myself as Foucault…Hell, No…he is a genius.  This whole “shame” thing is a rabbit hole. I invite you to jump down, as scary as it is and rattle some deeply entrenched cages.

Some future blogs that I want to cover in some interesting fashion in the series are:

  • Foucault-Governmentality-Discipline-Knowledge/Power ~ Consumentality-Shame-We Are Known
  • Difference between Guilt and Shame – Semantics or Linguistics?, Is there bad and good shame? can we apply shame incorrectly? (inefficiently? hurtful to our soul? add your adverb)
  • Short History of Shame
  • Shame as Parental Control ~ Primary for Regret/Remorse
  • Shame/Guilt in the church
  • The Shame Swap – Individual vs. Corporation
  • What happens when we flip flop?
  • Places of Resistance
  • Taking back shame ~ Empowerment
  • Does this point to an even larger perspective, beyond shame.

Before I end this little introduction, I want to position myself in this conversation. Within the next couple paragraphs I will use my own words without adherence to the particularity I will use them in later discursive language.

With that said, I don’t live with deep shame. I have experienced shame many times. At times these experiences were of my own creation. For example, when I was around seven, I had an older friend who was super into shop lifting. She would just take candy from supermarkets willy nilly. At that time, it had never occurred to me to steal from a store. I don’t know why it didn’t, but it didn’t. First, I wasn’t allowed to go to Alpha Beta, but we went anyway. We had an empty back pack ready for the stolen candy. I participated and stole my favorite candy…A Golden Almond.

Problem was, I was immediately ashamed. We didn’t get caught. Nobody ever found out. Yet, I was wracked with guilt and shame. It was so bad that I never ate another Golden Almond again. (Another random picture for you to digest. hee hee)

IMG_2233

There were times in my life when I behaved shamefully and I did not feel shame. My bad behavior continued unabated until….something else shoved me off my high horse…or not.

I am an Episcopalian, so we aren’t a crew into guilt and shame but I grew up Latter-Day Saint (Mormon). Somehow, shame needs to be fitted into the world of religion, as well.  I am deeply invested in my spirituality and my church family.

On the other side of things, I acknowledge a different ubiquitous shame. I can, at least, see it. That is the shame of our consumer world to be good consumers. This shame takes on a wide range of shapes from shame about your credit report, to your drug use, to your sexual orientation, to your weight, to your workout schedule. Especially, if for whatever reason, you are unable to embody consumentality, this shame takes over the shame of having done something shameful.

There is more to this shame thing than meets the eye.

Come along and see what we can learn about ourselves and the world around us when we dare to examine the scary concept of shame in our culture.

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Maria on April 29, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Rachael,
    I was just having a conversation about this a couple of weeks ago with a friend who is a life coach. You would have thought my acceptance of shame was “tantamount to dribbling oil in an infant’s eye.” She was adamant that shame causes lifelong damage, whereas, I believe that if someone does something wrong, shame is not a bad emotion. It relates to accountability, remorse, and guilt. These are not negative emotions, but rather they are emotions that prepare people to live within a society and play their part.
    That being said, the idea of “fat shaming,” “skinny shaming,” and the like is another form of bullying. Being ashamed should happen when someone does something wrong, not for being who they are.
    I look forward to more of your posts.

  2. Mallory Trapnell on April 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Well said! I look forward to reading your future posts!

  3. […] is my second essay in my series about Consumentality….I didn’t feel like we could discuss this new concept one second longer without a bit […]

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