Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Shaming – The Up-and-Coming Control Lever

Someone figured out that most of us care a great deal what others think about us.  Our standing, amongst friends, co-workers and neighbors, has always been a strong motivator to self-regulate in order to maintain our good name and reputation. But what happens when that self-regulation is turned into a societal weapon against us?

In a recent Internet clip entitled, “How we’ll live in 2030,” sponsored by Wide Awake Media, from Australia, the information centered around “smart” technology which is being set up in order to change how we live, work and even act. One of these digital advances will be in the area of surveillance – using, for example, a technology which will, through face recognition, be able to actually spot a person jaywalking on a street. The idea will be to post the faces of violators in order to control behavior, as well as make others think twice in order to avoid being shamed for any indiscretions.

Does all this sound a bit dystopian and the stuff of wild imaginative paranoia? Well, although the actual technology may not yet be happening, the concept of shaming is definitely already being utilized. In fact, I can say that I personally experienced it recently.

It was just a few days ago, that I came home from having a delightful lunch with friends, when my husband advised me that our names and apartment number, had been recorded on our building’s WhatsApp chat group, along with the names of several other residents. This was done to let everyone know that, per “smart technology,” used by our homeowner’s association, all of us were delinquent for not having paid our monthly homeowners’ fees. The text was allegedly sent as a last warning preceding the intent to take legal action against us all.

This was not only a shock, because we always pay our bills in a timely manner. But, more than that, in my mind, this constituted a breach of my privacy as well as the privacy of others. If bill collection was truly the motivation for this message, why wouldn’t a personal phone call have sufficed?

Why should our names be put on a disreputable list for others to see. The answer is simple! It was done so in order to shame each and every one of us into paying our debt – not to mention sending a message to all the other building residents that if they dare to miss a payment, this kind of humiliation is what they can expect in the future. That was the purpose of the exercise. In psychological terms, it is called “priming psychology.”

Priming psychology, according to its Internet definition, is using a stimulus, word, image or action to change someone’s behavior. The site explains that we can prime someone in a way that will later influence their behavior. Of course, there can be positive results derived from trying to change someone’s bad habits in order to help them become a better and more functional person, but the same effect can be used to control someone if they think that shame, to them, will result.

In other words, a positive approach to behavioral modification has been adapted by those who are in the process of creating the new world order and daily reality which we will all soon be confronting. Naturally, these changes will be sold as “wonderful achievements and great advancements” all in the name of facilitating and easing societal compliance in an effort to create a better world. But don’t be confused for one moment. It is nothing more than a form of digital bullying in order to beat everyone into submission, lest your reputation and good name be sullied.

Another method of this shaming is taking place by way of “doxing” – the publishing of private information about an individual in order to embarrass them. However, at the moment, as vicious and violating as that act is, it only means something to those who are likeminded in their opposition of whatever it is that they find objectionable. While it is definitely concerning, the act of publishing private information tends to have a very repelling effect on a size-able portion of the population. But that is now.

Life, as we know it, is changing so rapidly, and technology even faster, all with a very calculated agenda which can no longer be denied or hidden, because many of these companies and agencies are already warning us, by way of boasting their accomplishments or aspirations. In short, we have a glimpse into what is coming down the pike. One example has been the WEF’s (World Economic Forum) 15-minute city video clip which can easily be accessed on the Internet. It prides itself on its projected plan to confine citizens, throughout the world, to a geographical radius of 15-minutes from where one lives, all in the name of environmental considerations.

Those who violate that limited distance will, undoubtedly, be shamed in one way or another, so that behavior modification can take place. The shame will also serve as a warning to others who might be tempted to copy such a daring act of defiance.

Shaming will surely be the ensuing consequence of those who are deemed to use too much electricity, too much water, eat the wrong foods, spend their digital money in objectionable ways, travel too much, and in many other innumerable ways. Similar to the resultant outcome that occurred, when we were all children, everyone will treat the offender as a pariah, making sure to distance themselves from such a bad person whose behavior fails to comply with the new norms.

At least in our case, the shaming ended up boomeranging on our homeowners’ committee the moment we were able to present them with receipts and canceled checks, showing that their bank had withdrawn our money. The demand, we made upon them, was to post a sincere apology on the WhatsApp group, stating that their “smart” technology was not so smart after all, as it failed to properly acknowledge our on-time payment. And so they did, taking on themselves all the shame – well at least part of it, because publicly posting our names should have never been an option from the beginning.

Shaming is a powerful tool, and, as things begin to close in on us more and more, perhaps it will end up becoming a badge of honor, letting everyone know that the so-called offender cannot be programmed into submission by the latest technology which is being created to invade our freedoms and liberties through the means of automated snitching.

It’s a sad day, in society, when shame technology will have the power to ruin the lives of ordinary, good people who were never meant to respond as robots but, rather, think and act for themselves.

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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