Monica Lewinsky has made a stir with her TED talk on cyber bullying and shaming in general. There are lots of reasons to think about this, and she tends to treat it as a moral issue. Fair enough. But it is more than that.
Shaming is a tactic that humans have employed for as long as we have been communicating. It is a disciplinary tool. Remember the practice of being put in the stocks? Public humiliation, it was thought, would improve behavior.
The key was that the shamer should have the authority to shame. Then the shaming was about enforcing generally accepted norms. But our modern society no longer works quite this way. Our communications are far more free than they used to be. We can “say whatever we want” and we do so. And we shame each other.
It is important to keep in mind that doing this has effects beyond the communication itself. Those effects tend to promote rather than diminish personal conflict. And they tend to diminish the creative aspects of further exchanges.
In other words, it helps make us stupid. Well, go for it if that is what you want to be.
I am running off to teach the final day of conflict management today and I leave you with one thought.
It is simple but not easy to transmute tension into laughter. And it is in laughter that we find creativity.
I have been crossing my fingers as the fighting in Kobani has dragged on. The ISIS fighters, after all, had almost overrun the city. The kurds were fighting for their lives. And meanwhile, the Turks just watched from across the border.
Well, the kurds have gotten help – resupplied from the air, Turkey allowed kurds to cross the border to help, and US air strikes stopped the advance.
And now it seems that the kurds are on the attack – pushing ISIS out of the parts of town that it occupied. Wow!
There is a conflict management lesson here. Getting through conflict — especially crisis — requires grit. You know grit when you see it. And the kurds in Kobani have it. Demonstrating grit has a side effect. your opponents have no choice but to respect you for it.
But grit is not just about fighting. Sometimes you need it just to help people. And in Ferguson, Missouri, while demonstrators locked horns with police, a local institution showed a lot of grit. The Ferguson Public Library stayed open and offered essential community services. God bless ’em!