Howard M. Solomon: 'What a Shame You Don't Publish': Crossing the Boundaries as a Public Intellectual Activist
The possibility of shaming exists wherever values are being contested, not only in campus politics, but also in national politics. Within the last ten years, ultra-conservative politicians who are battling to "reaffirm traditional family values" and to "revitalize America" have seized upon ritualized government-imposed shaming (e.g., the reappearance of chain gangs in Alabama, William F. Buckley's proposal to tattoo people with AIDS)3 as weapons in their arsenal. This should not surprise us, but it should trouble us. Shaming rituals divert public attention away from troublesome social realities and towards scapegoated victims; they propose simplistic, dramatic, emotionally charged solutions to complex issues. Historically, conservative societies have used shaming rituals to enhance the authority of those in power and to resolve conflicts in the moral realm. In simple terms, the formula has been: "The greater the shame of the Other, the greater our honor."