Hide of Highlight

I learned from a decorator, that if you have an unsightly fixture like pipes sticking out in a room, you have two choices, you can either hide them or turn them into a feature. People are the same. When there is an aspect of their lives or reputation, about which they are ashamed the two natural responses are to try to conceal or play up the feature in order to compensate e for the discomfort. In previous generations and among traditionalist groups today the prevailing rule was that anything that could cause embarrassment or shame should be hidden at all costs. This protected people’s honour and ,  and prevented harm from gossip and the destruction of reputations. It also protected perpetrators and imprisoned and disenfranchised victims of private crimes who were locked behind a toxic web of lies, guilt and shame.  Family’s lies and secrets imprison people for generations, because the rules and the interactions that are shaped by those rules remain even when the reasons for them are forgotten. When people know that they have to be suspicious and evasive, but do not know the context that led to the rule, they become that way in all circumstances. When you do not know what you are supposed to be ashamed of then you keep safe by simply being treating everything as a potential source of shame and keeping your true motives, needs, feelings, desires and intentions conceal for fear of one of them being “wrong” and causing you disgrace.     The dynamic does not necessarily start from abuse. People can develop this shame from having grown up poor or from emigrant or refugee parents and from feeling like aliens or outsiders who did not quite belong. On the other extreme, you have a culture today that is characterised by a conspicuous absence of modesty. The disclosures on reality and talk shows can make the most seasoned host squirm with discomfort. The candour on social networking sites show that the boundaries’ between even peoples private inner emotional and mental space has been smudged to the point where it seems that the internet is becoming one big shared consciousness, one big mind with everybody like individual computers plugged into and connecting through the same virtual mental server.   The same applies in dress where some of the world goes around heavily draped and others walk around as close to naked as you can go and still avoid arrest. What has been lost is the middle ground, as defined by words like tact, nuance, discretion, modesty and good taste. The challenge is to reclaim the balance of knowing what to share of ourselves for the good while honouring and protecting the mysterious and the sacred.

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