WHERE’S OUR SENSE OF SHAME?

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Insight - An­drew Fiala is a pro­fes­sor of phi­los­o­phy and di­rec­tor of The Ethics Cen­ter at Fresno State: @Phi­los­o­phyFiala

Some peo­ple seem to lack a proper sense of shame. They do things in pub­lic that should prop­erly be kept pri­vate. That's a prob­lem. But this prob­lem is made more com­pli­cated by the fact that shame is so­cially con­structed. What is shame­ful in one cul­ture may not be so in an­other.

Con­sider the swim­suit. Old-time swim­suits look silly in the era of the thong. But there was a time when men swam nude in some pub­lic pools. And while some peo­ple are em­bar­rassed to wear a Speedo, you can't play wa­ter polo with­out one.

So­cial norms shift. So does our con­cep­tion of the ideal body type. This is also true of sex, gen­der, race and a bunch of other things. Tat­toos used to be for bik­ers and sailors. Now they are for grannies and cheer­lead­ers. What was once shame­ful is now ac­cepted.

These shift­ing norms are dif­fer­ent from the sta­bil­ity of moral­ity. Fash­ion changes. But hon­esty and courage do not. Con­cep­tions of beauty change. But the idea that each per­son has dig­nity re­mains fun­da­men­tal, even though we strug­gle to re­mem­ber that a per­son's value has noth­ing to do with their body type.

Fat-sham­ing is not only mean, it is based upon a strange view of free will. We think that weight is only a mat­ter of will power. But in the long run our bod­ies are ul­ti­mately not un­der our con­trol. We age, get sick and die. Our bod­ies be­tray us ev­ery day in small and large ways. In­stead of shame, we could all use more sym­pa­thy.

So rather than sham­ing peo­ple, how about loving them? An in­clu­sive love should wrap its arms around each of us. Love be­gins with hu­mil­ity about our own im­per­fec­tions. And love val­ues peo­ple as they are, rather than as we want them to be.

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