SHAME: the impetus to change // KELSIE BALLESTEROS

Humans are flawed by nature; with our words and actions we consistently make mistakes that damage ourselves, others, and our world. Our selfishness often becomes the driving force, the loudest voice telling us what to do. We are guided by the pursuit of quick pleasure, which doesn’t always align with the morally upright decision. This reality could consume us, and our lives could be ruled by our shallow desires, however, man is more than this. Our consciences direct our choices back to goodness. One of the ways we recognize the need for change is through the feeling of shame.

In both of my CTW classes, we explored the idea shame, and its ability to cast doubt on what is popular and culturally accepted. The theme of my CTW 1 was Human, Animal, Machine and the concept of shame was implied in many of the materials we studied. For example, our discussion of Project Nim, a film which exposed man’s unfairness in the treatment of animals, captured and induced a feeling of shame among the class.

I felt pained to watch cruel product testing on helpless apes and their clear suffering, and I mentioned in a free response that “the film me realize how truly similar humans and animals are, especially with Nim’s clear emotions and expressions and the fact that he never forgot the sign language he was raised with despite being transferred to various owners.” The film showcased the shame felt by trainers and those who assisted in raising Nim as they realized that by raising the ape as though he was a human, they cheated Nim out of a fulfilling, natural life and created a depressed and volatile animal for the sake of scientific knowledge.

As a class, our numerous free responses in reaction to the film and shared the mixed sense of embarrassment and disgust for this inhumane treatment, especially when reflecting on the sale of apes. This practice was done for research purposes, a system that sends animals away for medicinal testing to facilities where they are handled aggressively and unnecessary pain is induced. A sense of shame hung in the air as we discussed this practice and it was inspiring as we determined to not allow this treatment to continue.

Our winter-quarter class also read Sherry Turkle’s Diary, which analyzed our unhealthy use of technology. She explained that our societal dependence on technology changes our relationships with others. Although the article was written in the 1980s, Turkle accurately portrays the diminishing ability of people to interact. Technology, specifically the use of handheld gadgets, even impacts how we deal with loneliness, as we constantly turn to our gadgets for entertainment rather than to loved ones.

Again, with our free writing responses, the feeling of shame developed as I understood that this reliance on machines cannot and “should not fully replace our relationship with humans”. Other issues that arose were that machines are starting to feel more real than reality itself as simulations continue to advance.

CTW 2 brought the greatest sense of shame as we read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. The blunt review of corporate farms stirred an intense shame toward the food we put in our bodies every single day because the inhumane, unhealthy, and unclean way meat is raised and processed. The most poignant part of this shame is that it is just enough to make us feel guilty as we eat our chicken sandwiches, but not quite enough to make us change anything. The vague sense of shame of something being wrong isn’t strong enough to trump our immediate desires for tasty food that will make us feel good.

The first essay I wrote for the second quarter of the CTW sequence focused on the deception that some retailers create with an asymmetric relationship between price and quality. Although I did not explicitly mention shame, the reader may experience it in learning that the things we buy are not always worth the price but are justified by a flashy brand name. I mentioned in my essay that we use “products (to) convey an individual’s wealth or importance.” This concept of status symbols is shameful because it turns a material good into a means to judge others and discriminate based on the possession of some good. Is a flashy logo or printed name really how we are determining our peers’ value? It’s a sad reality that requires a change. As more people recognize the absurdity of this standard, our culture can and will shift toward valuing compassion, acceptance, and understanding.


Works Cited

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.

Project Nim. Dir. James Marsh. BBC Films, 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. “Diary.” (1980s): 19 Feb. 2014. Print.


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