by Dr Airdre Grant
I WAS in a car accident just before Christmas. I was not injured, only shaken. It was new car and I had had it two hours. I asked the tow truck driver if this was a record. Oh no, he said cheerfully, 15 minutes is the record for crashing new car.
We laughed but it got me thinking about how much how much society operates on cooperation. Think about - we propel a heavy object at speed and we maintain our safety by cooperation and sticking to one side of the road. We expect others to do the same.
Everything in our world is based on written and unwritten rules of cooperation. These codes keep us running fairly effectively as a group and we don't like it when the rules are broken. Robbery, murder, fraud - acts of non-cooperation. We don't like cheating, we don't like lying and we are very, very touchy about sexual misconduct and power abuse. But I wonder how many small acts of bullying and non-cooperation go on daily?
One of the main tools to deal with acts of non-cooperation is social shaming - through the courts mostly. But the biggest and most popular method is media shaming. A bad review on a platform like Trip Advisor or Google is an act of public shaming. There are few boundaries on them and the codes are unclear. The internet is a slippery beast
Sometimes pubic shaming goes well when the system has failed a person and they reach out for support in social media. It can be very effective. Think online petitions. Sometimes people go too far (think trolling) and then get publicly shamed about their abuse of the tool.
The Jerry Springer show is an example of a place where people are encouraged to publicly shame. This is tabloid television, described as perfect for those who like to watch road accidents. People are encouraged to behave in ways, borne out of frustration, righteousness and rage, that the show has security guards to stop guests attacking each other. It's popular viewing and has been going for 25 seasons. May be this is a good thing. Maybe it's important to have a place to vent and carry on? Maybe it serves a great purpose in our messed up world? Perhaps if people vent on a screen, they won't carry out acts of rage on the road, in schools in the workplace? It's a long bow, but worth a thought.
Cooperation, rules and generally getting on in life is negotiated territory and we do it on a daily basis. Am I naïve to believe that we mostly people operate on a live-and-let-live basis? Even as I write this I know there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise - think acts of terrorism, cruelty and unjust wars. Yet if I didn't hold onto that belief, how could I go about my daily business in peace and confidence?
I heard a woman say about life and other people, if it's not your dog, don't walk it. This, I thought, was such a great motto. Do what you can to cooperate, clean up your mess, take responsibility and importantly, mind your own business. I'm working on it.
Dr Airdre Grant is the author of Stumbling Stones A path through grief, love and loss published by HardieGrant