Thursday, February 26, 2015

Can People Recover Their Honor?

(Reclaimed from Bubblews, where this "Bubble" appeared on 7.31.14. Image credit: Taliesin at Morguefile,, shared this image of a redbud tree, in folklore a symbol of shame.)

People often use the word "honor" to refer to displays of appreciation for something someone else has done. That's not what I have in mind. I'm talking about our internal sense that we have done what we should have done, first, and other people's perception that we have done what we should have done, second.

According to Ayn Rand's philosophy, a sense of honor is the only measurement people need to behave according to "unsentimental" "Objective morality." Rand apparently believed that a sense of honor is hard-wired into all humans.

According to more recent studies cited by Susan M. Cain in Quiet, Rand may have been objectively wrong. Hereditary physical traits shape a healthy introvert personality, but are extrovert personalities defined only by the lack of these traits? Some researchers think that what makes people extroverts is failure to develop what these researchers call "a sense of shame." Whether it's described in terms of honor or shame, the point is that extroverts allegedly blunder through life without knowing when they're doing the right thing, except as what they do earns rewards or punishments from other people.
How accurate this is, I don't know...I'm just glad I'm not an extrovert.

Yesterday, those of us who use Chatabout were informed that that site has just arbitrarily decided to halve payments that several people had already earned under the terms of their original contract. Today we're seeing threats that BubbleWS may, at some point in the future, stop paying us altogether.

I was appalled to see some Chatters posting that they'd "eventually get used to" receiving only half their original pay...which was low enough. As if they hadn't noticed that, even if they can afford to sit around Chatting for hours, many people who use Chatabout can't. Several Chatters have major disabilities, and not all of them even get pensions. So these pathetic brainwashed people who just parrot the words they've heard from their psychiatric social workers are saying that they are willing to "get used to" enabling someone else, who's neither poor nor disabled we may be sure, to yank the lunch money out of some hungry wheelchair dweller's hands.

That's not something I want to "get used to." That's not something I think we should tolerate for a minute. People should be finding out where Chatabout headquarters are and picketing those headquarters, 24/7, demanding that the site owners pay every writer what s/he has earned.

How can that demand be enforced? In a democracy it certainly ought to be enforced by laws that give corporations no privileges above those of ordinary individuals. The law ought to state that until Chatabout has made every possible effort to pay every Chatter the amount they originally offered, plus a fee for their inconvenience, the owners of Chatabout will have their assets seized and sold and, if necessary, their wages garnished.

But, as we all know, corporations exploit loopholes in the law...such as the fact that poor people, especially those with disabilities, aren't likely to file a lawsuit to recover five dollars, which is the amount most of us lost. So what should all of us be doing about people who lack a sense of honor? In an enlightened society we don't kill them, at least not right away. We try, first, to correct their behavior by stirring up their evidently defective sense of shame. In other words we "shame" these people. We make it painfully clear to them that we no longer trust them to do the job in which they behaved shamefully. We don't have to hate them; there may be other jobs they can do very well. But we want everyone to know that what they did was shameful and cannot be tolerated.

A good example might be former President Richard Nixon, who cheated at the game of politics and got caught. Apart from that he may not have been an outstandingly bad man, or even a bad President, but the United States made it very clear that Nixon's behavior as President was tacky and would not be tolerated. After a few years of public disgrace, Richard Nixon became a reasonably successful novelist and enjoyed an active and prosperous old age.

A business not far from here provides a locally known example. After abandoning his first wife, who really was old and sick, and shacking up with a younger woman, a certain gentleman had his turn to be dumped. His first wife was willing to take him a nurse. He talked about this with other people, of whom I was one, and concluded that for him to recover his honor, he would need to go back and be a nurse to his first wife. He did. He is a respected church member and business owner today.

I was greatly surprised when Google + recommended former Congressman Newt Gingrich as a connection for me. I didn't think of him as a Googler. I also posted, a few years ago, that I didn't think a man who abandoned a sick wife for a younger woman was a viable candidate any more. (Michael Moore once did a comedy bit about Elizabeth Dole being a younger second wife. She was, but from what I've heard former Senator Dole's first wife was the one who left him when he was injured.)

Later, I was informed that Mr. Gingrich was a prime funder for some conservative web sites where I sometimes post. How bad is that? I don't think it's bad at all. Left-wing web sites have George Soros and his Tides Foundation; right-wing sites could use a similar godfather figure, and Newt Gingrich, with his proven record in campaigning and politicking, might be excellent in that role. I certainly wouldn't mind having him as a Google + connection.

But here's Chatabout, making its display of tackiness more brazen than Nixon's. What should we do with Chatabout, unless and until we get a clear legal ruling? E-kill the site. Until Chatabout atones for its sin of trying to cut payment down to 1/2X by paying its writers 2X, don't visit the site, don't advertise on the site, and don't link to the site. Shame the site. Publicize the real names of its owners, and make it widely known that anyone who does business with them is enabling shameful, unethical behavior.

People have committed suicide because they were being shamed. On the other hand, more intelligent people have straightened out their behavior, done things that deserved respect, and recovered a respectable position in society, after being shamed. If the rest of us get over our squeamish feelings of false humility and do our part to shame those who behave shamefully, we may actually help more of those people restore their tarnished honor.

[I stand by what I've said. When people try to make up for the damage they've done to others, we should forgive them; when they don't, we should shame them. And of course, in view of recent developments, everything I've said about Chatabout here goes double for Bubblews.]