by Milo Clark
(Swans - August 28, 2006) Many, many people on this sad, sad earth know and use shame as a powerful civilizing tool.
When I was a kid, if I goofed, other kids would saw their index fingers and chant, "Shame, Shame, Shame on you!" And I would feel awful then make sure not to do that boo-boo again. Haven't seen kids doing that in a long time, though.
In Japan, corporate executives and bureaucratic department heads still resign over a scandal. In a public ceremony, they stand, half-bowed, head down, glum faced, hands to their sides, and admit their shame.
Bali, Indonesia's island gem, has a very strong culture, half-Hindu and sort of Buddhist but very Balinese. Everywhere there are statues, carved figures and other representations of their shame figure. Kneeling, back arched to its knees, head down, arms clutching legs. Shame is stronger than arrests, trials, and prison terms.
A shamed person does excruciating penance. There are formal ceremonies to beg forgiveness, which is readily given in accord with tradition. A very, very gentile society. Calm and quiet. Yet, there are grand festivals of fun and frolic. Great arching bamboo poles with banners and pendants colorfully decorate the roadsides.
Everywhere there are shrines. Each with a small statue or icon. Every day, women tend the shrines with flowers and water, cleaning away the old, refreshing the new. Without great wealth, Balinese people live rich lives.
What has happened to shame in the once United States of America? Whether Delay or Lay, Poppy, Jeb or W, Cheney or Rummy, maybe Bill, et al., when was the last time any showed shame for their actions?
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