Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Humiliation - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.52
Meditation VII.52 - Humiliation - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Another may be more expert in putting down his opponent;(1) but he is not more social, nor more modest, nor better disciplined to meet all that happens, nor more considerate with respect to the faults of his neighbors.(2)
(1) Nothing brings more disgrace to a human being than the deliberate humiliation of another person or community. Degrading remarks, debasing humor, or belittling comments about our neighbors, friends, opponents or enemies bring nothing but shame to the perpetrator. It is irrelevant whether these remarks or actions are based on facts or not. Actions like these are designed to bring attention to the perpetrator at the expense of the target. This thoughtless behavior is very common in the modern world particularly in mean-spirited "cringe" or "humiliation" comedy. The behavior plays out in our stereotyping of individuals and groups because of their color, or race, or age (adults belittle children and younger people belittle older people), or nationality, or sexual orientation, or economic class, or disability, or education, or gender, or intellectual ability. The holocaust involved the deliberate humiliation of an entire race. Putting others down for any of these reasons is profoundly oppressive and blatantly against the will of nature. Those who have been humiliated often begin to believe in the stereotyping labels and internalize the oppression which leads to further self-abasement, depression, and in the extreme to suicide (gay teen suicide attempts are four to six times that of heterosexual youth). These actions are fundamentally antisocial and dishonest and represent a total abandonment of reason. In Meditation II.16 (see p.61 in the book) Marcus refers to the soul of anyone who acts in this way as an "abscess and a tumor on the universe."
(2) In fact anyone who acts in these ways is in truth anti-social, immodest, undisciplined and insensitive to the faults and flaws not only of his neighbor but of himself. This is a powerful message. Bring the filter of this meditation to the actions and tactics of religious leaders, political leaders, business leaders, the dynamics of the workplace, and to the world of gossip as played out today in certain forms of comedy, in degrading forms of "reality" television, and in unmediated areas of the blogosphere. What good does humiliation achieve? What purpose does it serve? Who benefits from these injustices?
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.