Why I Miss Judgmentalism and Social Stigma
America was better off when bad behavior bore a social stigma. The once frowned-upon became understood, then tolerated, and finally, embraced. As a result, our culture is dying because raunchy acts and evil people are now protected by the assumption that to stigmatize an immoral act is more disgraceful than the act itself.
Social stigma is neither bigotry nor prejudice. Bigotry is defined as the stubborn intolerance of beliefs or opinions that differ from one’s own. Prejudice is the condemnation of an individual based upon appearance, race, social class, or level of functioning. Social stigma is a form of collective peer pressure that discourages acts that are destructive to individuals or the community at large. Social stigma in Western cultures is usually based upon Judeo-Christian moral code which is intimately tied to both civil and religious law. The gradual banishment of bigotry and prejudice indicates enlightenment. Conversely, jettisoning social stigmatization of immoral behavior has eliminated many of the boundaries critical to healthy families and prospering civil society.
Having a career in Special Education I often find myself shielding my charges and their families against bigotry. Those with disabilities have long been victims of abuse and discrimination. But even in my lifetime, the understanding of and compassion for individuals with special needs has greatly progressed. Special Olympics has fostered a public mindfulness of the humanity of people with disabilities, with an invitation to get involved and fall in love with its courageous participants. The brain-child of Eunice Kennedy Shriver , Special Olympics has been the single most-effective weapon against disabled prejudice in America. But let’s be clear, such prejudice is not social stigma. There is a difference between rejecting an individual based upon fear and ignorance, and a common attitude that rejects immoral and harmful activities.
Out-of-wedlock pregnancy, just a few decades ago, was considered problematic at best and reprehensible at worst. “Bastard” bore a painful and insulting connotation. The social stigma attached to sexual relations before marriage, unwed mothers, and babies born without the benefit of married parents provided an effective barrier to casual sex for young men and women alike. Abortion on demand, and now secret abortion via prescription, has minimized the immediate consequences of sexual immorality. Young men easily shrug the burdens of fatherhood when young women are happy to turn to government assistance, and often, serial boyfriends to fill the voids where husbands and fathers should be. It’s obvious that children born into such dubious circumstances would be better off if social stigma effectively discouraged the sexually immoral conduct of their parents in the first place. Until people begin to feel ashamed about what they are doing to their children, impelling them to first create a marriage before they create a family, such tragedies will continue.
The first rule of correcting errant human behavior is to make the consequence of an action more uncomfortable by degree than the benefit that comes from the behavior. Women should be made to feel pangs of reproach for having babies without husbands and burdening society with their poverty. Young men who are hooking up and making babies should be made to feel remorse for the women they harm, the babies they leave behind, and themselves as they abdicate their identities as providers, protectors, and fathers. Social stigma should provide both a deterrent to and an uncomfortable consequence of reckless conduct. Such stigma should be reflected in a complete reversal of welfare and tax policies which currently reward women who have babies outside of marriage and which punishes couples who marry.
There was once a profound social stigma in this country associated with Communism. But with Marxist philosophies dominating many of our institutions, including the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, that too has given way to tolerance and embracing. Sexual immorality, perversity, extremist doctrines and Communism are not separate issues, however. They are intimately connected, and as they have been advanced in our society through Leftist policy, the social stigma which once fortified Western Civilization against such dangerous movements became a thing of the past.
The mere mention of pedophilia, sodomy, bestiality, and other forms of perversion was once sufficient to shock ordinary people. These perversions have been justified in a variety of ways–usually as consensual acts between loving individuals, or “victimless crimes.” The truth is, all are profoundly immoral, destructive to the spiritual health of society, and roundly condemned by God. But incrementally such things have lost their negative connotations, and become de-stigmatized. First, sodomy was declared legal where once it was considered a crime against nature and society, then it was accepted as an alternative lifestyle, and now, to many, it is the equivalent of holy matrimony.
Social stigma has a place in a moral society, but it can also promote a more healthy society. The obesity “epidemic,” a touchy subject for many, is a 21st Century phenomenon. Everyone knows that obesity is co-morbid with diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, arthritis, etc. But advocates of “fat acceptance” have convinced themselves that obesity is in the eyes of the beholders, and fat is only a problem for those who stigmatize the porky. As obesity has become more accepted and common, the general health of the population has declined, and it is predicted that this fat nation will have a median life span shorter than that of the preceding generation.
Political Correctness has removed positive cultural pressures that once nudged us into greater conscientiousness and accountability, and applied the “tsk tsks” of disapproval to open expressions of Christian faith, and individual thought contrary to its narrow definitions of “tolerance.” Overturning damaging social trends requires that we name that which is bad, destructive, and evil. Social stigma is one tool with with which those things can be defined and discouraged.
by Marjorie Haun 5/7/14