Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

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SaulChanukah

Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by SaulChanukah » Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:22 pm

Our society thrives on embarrassing others. It’s time to stop

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Imagine what the world would look like if the news media and popular culture would carefully observed the Torah's commandment not to embarrass someone else in public. Our Sages actually compare it to murder, noting that when someone is embarrassed all the blood drains from their face.

Many of the daytime talk shows and reality TV would be gone. Even American Idol would cease. The Star and The National Enquirer, People magazine and US would likely fold. Airwaves would go silent and newspapers would shrink even further than they have already.

Of course this is a fantasy. We've become a society that thrives on embarrassing others – it's entertainment! A world where reporters complete to find the juiciest tidbit about a celebrity.

In the process, we all pay a price. We lose our sensitivity – and don’t even notice. We embarrass others without even blinking an eye. We hurt relationships, we destroy communities. And we aren’t even aware of what we’re doing. We’ve become immune. We take that way of conversation, that sense of humor, that meanness, for granted.

And it’s up to us to turn the tide. While the Torah prohibits all forms of embarrassing others, some seem particularly egregious: teacher-student, parent-child, and husband-wife (or vice versa) come to mind.

Teachers: The few teachers who embarrass their students give all others a bad name. They have the power to shape young souls and any humiliation of their pupils is an abuse of their authority, with the potential for long-term disastrous consequences.

I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t confront the high school teacher who told my daughter that her question was like that of a 3rd grader. Aren’t we supposed to encourage questioning? Ethics of Our Fathers teaches us that a bashful person can’t learn. I comfort myself with the rationalization that I don’t think my daughter was hurt by it (except perhaps in her loss of respect for the teacher) because she had enough support at home and from her friends to recognize how inappropriate his response was. She had enough confidence to ignore him. But what about the girls who don’t?

Parents: Unfortunately parents are notorious for embarrassing their children in public. Some of it seems so innocent: “Play piano for the guests.” “Show them how you speak French.” Yet it takes a toll. Our children are not circus monkeys.

Some parents think it’s cute to tell stories about their children’s past adventures. But the kids frequently find those tales utterly humiliating. We should not use our children’s lives as conversational gambits or sources of amusement.

Obviously, the worst type of parent-child humiliation includes actual insults, yelling and constant berating. All the ways in which parents compare their child’s behavior to others, attack them for actions, grades or words or make them feel “less than” are in violation of this Torah prohibition.

Marriage: I heard a radio talk show host once suggest that the worst thing one spouse could do to another was to humiliate them publicly. It’s possible there are other behaviors that make it onto the “worst” list but this is certainly up (or down) there. We can start with yelling at your spouse. Whether in public or private, this is a humiliation. We move on to insults, cutting remarks, nit-picking, and even sometimes teasing (which frequently contains a hurtful truth). All of these behaviors embarrass our spouses, hurt them and our relationship.

Maybe everyone’s doing it. Maybe your wife laughs when you poke fun at her. But inside she’s crying.

We’re not used to living with this level of sensitivity. We’re not used to a world where it’s better to shade the truth than embarrass someone. We’re not used to tailoring our speech to the needs of others, to being self-censoring. We’re not used to celebrating and reinforcing the dignity of the human being.

If we really think about it we would see that ultimately the person we’re embarrassing the most is ourself!

Teresa B
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by Teresa B » Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:29 pm

I noticed a reference to a talk show host. I used to hear "Dr. Laura" occasionally on the radio. Ironically, as a self-proclaimed counselor, she was a would-be rabbi who constantly cited the Torah and the Ten Commandments, but her big schtick was to humiliate and scorn her callers. I guess she forgot to read that commandment.

Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

SaulChanukah

Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by SaulChanukah » Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:32 pm

Teresa B wrote:I noticed a reference to a talk show host. I used to hear "Dr. Laura" occasionally on the radio. Ironically, as a self-proclaimed counselor, she was a would-be rabbi who constantly cited the Torah and the Ten Commandments, but her big schtick was to humiliate and scorn her callers. I guess she forgot to read that commandment.

Teresa
Well, she is a convert to Judaism, there is much she doesnt know.

Cosima__J

Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by Cosima__J » Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:08 pm

Some examples of embarrassing others would be all those "tell all" books that the public seems to love to read. How many books have been written by former trusted lieutenants of politicians and other famous people. And what about the wives whose famous politician husbands were unfaithful. Eliazbeth Edwards wrote her little tell all tale about her husband's infidelity with Rielle Hunter and Jenny Sanford decided she just had to go on TV and tell Barbara Walters all about how her husband Mark Sanford (Gov. of South Carolina) had an affair with his Argentinian "soul mate". What these poor women don't seem to realize is that in their efforts to shame and embarrass their straying husbands they are shining an embarrassing spotlight on themselves. Why not just divorce them and take them to the cleaners?

Teresa B
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by Teresa B » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:53 am

Cosima__J wrote:Some examples of embarrassing others would be all those "tell all" books that the public seems to love to read. How many books have been written by former trusted lieutenants of politicians and other famous people. And what about the wives whose famous politician husbands were unfaithful. Eliazbeth Edwards wrote her little tell all tale about her husband's infidelity with Rielle Hunter and Jenny Sanford decided she just had to go on TV and tell Barbara Walters all about how her husband Mark Sanford (Gov. of South Carolina) had an affair with his Argentinian "soul mate". What these poor women don't seem to realize is that in their efforts to shame and embarrass their straying husbands they are shining an embarrassing spotlight on themselves. Why not just divorce them and take them to the cleaners?
If those men had not humiliated their wives in the first place, the embarrassment would never have occured. Don't blame the women in this case--they may have done better not to publish the books, but they were acting out of a degree of humiliation that it's hard to imagine.

Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

moldyoldie
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by moldyoldie » Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:45 am

Saul, I'm bookmarking this thread...thank you. There's much I can say on this topic from personal experience; I've been both a victim and unwitting perpetrator. I've also been witness to some dreadfully callous backstabbing, which is not your topic, but can ultimately be as embarrassing to the victim. Frankly, I've learned to live with the maxim that one tends NOT to beat a dead horse; i.e., most such treatment, even in good humor, can usually be ignored since it's likely borne of ignorance or envy.

However, you cite the popular example of American Idol. Supposedly, it reflects the necessary "weeding out" process to separate "imagined" talent abetted by "imagined" aspirations from "actual" talent, those with special God-given gifts fostered by the right encouragement and hard work. Are you saying this is best done in a private, closed setting and not on the public airwaves? I would tend to agree, but those who choose to participate might think of it as a serendipitous opportunity, one where the public ultimately decides and not some stuffy A&R person. (I hope I didn't just embarrass someone. :oops: :P )

I've watched the show only sporadically. I was initially taken aback by Simon Cowell's blunt, yet knowledgeable assessments of genuinely sincere performances, but I'd also imagine it's a case of "someone has to do the dirty work".
"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time."
- Steve Wright

Alberich
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by Alberich » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:57 pm

The question of the moment - the momentous question - is: Does Saul Chanukah have a job? What does he do with his life - besides flood this site with his monomaniacal screeds? Wouldn't it be interesting to know?

Of course, he will respond - as he often does - "none of your business."

But I wonder if he spends all day playing piano, doing computer art, and reading the Debka file. Or is he gainfully employed and does he have a productive place in society?

Hmmmmm......

jbuck919
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:29 pm

Alberich wrote:The question of the moment - the momentous question - is: Does Saul Chanukah have a job? What does he do with his life - besides flood this site with his monomaniacal screeds? Wouldn't it be interesting to know?

Of course, he will respond - as he often does - "none of your business."

But I wonder if he spends all day playing piano, doing computer art, and reading the Debka file. Or is he gainfully employed and does he have a productive place in society?

Hmmmmm......
Look, folks, Saul should not be subject to questioning and speculation that any poster, including myself, might resent if it were directed at him or her. We should all be allowed the dignity of only sharing as much of our lives as we care to. The last thing anyone needs is to be put in the embarrassing position of having to choose between interpretable silence, an evasive answer, or saying bluntly "it's none of your business" when, in fact it is none of our business.
Last edited by jbuck919 on Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Barry
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by Barry » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:32 pm

jbuck919 wrote: Look, folks, Saul should not be subject to questioning and speculation that any poster, including myself, might resent if it were directed at him or her. We should all be allowed the dignity of only sharing as much of our lives as we care to. The last thing anyone needs is to be put in the embarrassing position of having to choose between an evasive answer and saying bluntly "it's none of your business" when, in fact it is none of our business.
Well said.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Ralph
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by Ralph » Wed Mar 24, 2010 7:31 pm

Barry wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: Look, folks, Saul should not be subject to questioning and speculation that any poster, including myself, might resent if it were directed at him or her. We should all be allowed the dignity of only sharing as much of our lives as we care to. The last thing anyone needs is to be put in the embarrassing position of having to choose between an evasive answer and saying bluntly "it's none of your business" when, in fact it is none of our business.
Well said.
*****

Agree fully.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

Jean
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Re: Our society thrives on embarrassing others It’s time to stop

Post by Jean » Wed Mar 24, 2010 7:53 pm

I agree with the content of much of Saul's post (Torah reference aside, as it doesn't matter), especially with regard to teachers who humilate students as a method of encoragement to the student or others (if one is to believe that there is a decent motive behind it....which I doubt most times.) Teachers who do this should be throttled and removed from the profession imo.

However, in the case of public figures, Idol contestants etc... they knowingly open themselves up for this sort of thing. Although I often find it tasteless, it is permission based, so my sympathy is limited.

I think this tendancy to poke at others, even in ugly ways, is a result of a basic human nature tendency to want to exert control over others by making them feel bad or be embarrassed. Not unlike the urge to stop and take a gander at an accident scene.
Something that can and should be controlled, but is hard to do sometimes.

As for whether comments regarding Saul personally in this thread, simply out of line in every way.
Saul is an active contributing member of this community as as such is entitled to the same treatment as everyone else, and being questioned as he was above antithetical to the concepts and intent of online social networking. I most certainly do not like everything (or hardly anything) Saul posts, but that is irrelevent.
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. - Albert Einstein

I haven't got the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out - David Sedaris (Naked)

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