The dictionary defines shame as – noun “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.”
Often seen as a word it can also refer to a sense of being, a cognition as well as a condition. A realisation that one has been less than and an admission of guilt expressed in remorse.
Shame is often ignited by feelings of “embarrassment, dishonor, disgrace, inadequacy, humiliation, or chagrin.” When one is cognizant of shame that person feels humiliated and ostracized, a pariah.
Shame can also be assigned where the community looks upon an action as abhorrent and the person complicit in that act is said to be shameless or is shamed. Which is why we say “shame on you” to people who have done something regarded as below the mark and deserving of condemnation.
Auguste Rodin, the sculptor who gave us the famous painting of “The Thinker” also has another sculpture called “Eve after the fall”. In the all-white marble piece Eve is represented with her arms hugging herself with her head bowed in an attitude of shame and regret.
In traditional Igbo society shame was contrasted with the word “ugwu” meaning pride not to be confused with “ugwu” meaning hill.
Ugwu is the pride that ennobles, the self-referential cognition that imbues honour. It is ugwu that will stop a man from defiling a child or sleeping with his neighbour’s wife. It is also that emotion that leads men of pride who have been accused of something heinous to commit suicide where the sense of shame is so over powering there is no longer a reason to go on living.
Many societies and cultures privileged shaming practices and the aim was really simple; by shaming, the individual is exposed to public ridicule while the community which has been desecrated by the shameful act is exonorated and cleansed.
The concept of shame is not peculiar to the Igbos. There are other cultures where people who have been accused of horrible things commit suicide in order to protest or prove their innocence. It is also sometimes an admission of guilt and appeasement.
Japan presents a good example. In Japan military commanders who lost battles preferred to commit harakiri or sepu ku, a kind of ritual suicide which admitted defeat while also denying the victor his victory.
That ancient custom remains today and Japanese politicians are notorious for committing suicide where shamed and before they can be arrested and tried in an act of public naming and shaming.
In 2007, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries minister in Shinzo Abe’s government committed suicide after being accused of financial malfeasance. He hanged himself hours before he was due to face a parliamentary grilling.
A few weeks ago in America, Rep. John Ratcliffe, Donald Trump’s nominee as Director of National Intelligence came under fire from Senate Democrats over reports that he embellished his credentials. Ratcliffe wasted no time in refusing the appointment.
“While I am and will remain very grateful to the President for his intention to nominate me as Director of National Intelligence, I am withdrawing from consideration.”
That is a man with shame.
But there are men without shame, they are called narcissists and the dictionary defines a narcissist as “a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.”
Narcisists believe that they are always right and that the world revolves around them.
To ground this in recent national context, Biodun Fatoyonbo reflects the attitudes of a narcissist and he has displayed narcissism by 1. Returning to the pulpit one month after Mrs. Busola Dakolo accused him of abhorrent acts and 2. By his refusal to appear before probe panel set up by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN).
No Friend No Foe is unconcerned with whether he is guilty or not. That is for the police and the courts to decide. Our concern is with the perception his return creates of a man without scruples and who believes that he is right, above the law and beholden to no one.
A few years back, after being accused by another young woman of having had extra marital sexual relations with her, Biodun Fatoyinbo promised a robust reply. It never came.
That Sunday morning upon his return to the pulpit, he is believed to have delivered a sermon titled “Sudden Victories” in which he was reported to have said “As a Christian, you must face opposition. If God, who is holy and faithful has enemies, you are sure going to have.”
Shame is that thing that differentiates us from animals and it is shame that keeps a man no matter how horny he is from copulating in public the way a dog would.
Biodun Fatoyinbo, I am afraid to say, does not know the meaning of SHAME.