These words were uttered by down-on-his-luck cabaret singer Carol Todd (Robert Preston) in Blake Edwards’s immortal film Victor/Victoria, one of my all-time favorites. I recently posted this quote on Facebook, amidst other words of rancor not so clever as those penned by the late Mr. Edwards, because someone had told my wife and son they should be ashamed of their behavior.
“Why?” you asked. (Well, some of you did.) “What did they do?”
It doesn’t matter why, because my wife and son had done nothing to be ashamed of. In all of human history, nobody ever did anything worth being ashamed of. That doesn’t mean nobody in history ever did anything immoral, unethical, or downright awful. We know they did. We established public education and TV news so that everyone would remember that they did. It just means that there’s no reason for those people who did wrong to feel ashamed, because feeling ashamed doesn’t accomplish anything.
In fact, I don’t think shame is a feeling. Not a natural one. It’s a dirty, useless, stupid pseudo-feeling that hurts people and ruins lives, without ever righting a wrong or salving a hurt feeling.
I hate shame.