On the Effects of Humilation
October 6, 2013
Jews put humiliating someone right up there with murder. To some this may seem a little off. After all, you can live through being humiliated. There are many reasons for likening humiliation to murder, but here are two. The first is that if you’ve ever been humiliated you’ve felt the blood leave your face making you look dead and wish that you were. Second, humiliation does something to your soul. It temporarily knocks a little hole in it, and you have to work at getting it back.
There is a big difference between being embarrassed and being humiliated. Being embarrassed is something you do to yourself; humiliation is something that someone does to you.
Whenever you put yourself in front of a group of people you run the risk of embarrassing yourself. You might not be as prepared as you should be, something might have happened or health issues you have no control over might mess up your timing, a million things could happen, you might walk out on stage with your dress tucked into your panties or trailing a piece of toilet paper on your shoe. All of these things are risks you take when you decide you will have a life that includes talking to large groups of people. What you shouldn’t have to worry about is being humiliated.
There are people who will make it their life’s work to humiliate other people, and they always have an excuse for doing so. Really? Because at the end of the day it’s mostly just mean and callous. What do they not understand about that?
Twice in the last six months I’ve had people humiliate me in front of huge rooms full of people. One happened when I was Toast Master. I’ll admit there was a moment when I was just in the weeds, but I could have got the audience back if it weren’t for a guy I had already introduced and who was on stage with me who decided that what I really needed was to be put in my place by him since he was obviously so much better and more successful than I was. He assumed this no doubt because he didn’t know who I was. But here’s the thing — I had no idea who he was, either, and had never encountered any of his work. After he decided to dress me down in front of a room full of people I could care less. Later he told me he had decided that since my brand of humor seemed to be poking fun at others that I would have a sense of humor and he was just trying to help. Of all the people who saw him do his little dance, only one person thought he was trying to help — the rest all thought he was being a douche.
Hold onto that thought.
At World-Con I was on a panel with two other women. I was speaking for all of a minute when they decided I was the dirt beneath…way beneath…their feet. The moderator — a writer who had just sold her first book to a major house — decided to put me in my place early on and keep me there. She said something with the sole intent and purpose of making me look small and insignificant, unread, and basically stupid to the audience. You see the panel was on CJ Cherryh’s world building. Since the woman has been a close, personal friend of mine for a couple of decades, and since I had just done a panel two months before with her on world building, I thought my insight as to how her process actually worked might be interesting to the fans. But no! I didn’t understand that being on the panel would require re-reading every book CJ had written a week before hand and memorizing the names of every character and the plant life on every world. I stupidly thought the audience wanted to know something about CJ, when clearly what they really wanted was for two people who don’t know her at all to expound for all but ten minutes of the panel on what they thought of CJ’s worlds and how they had used this knowledge to help their own writing. Every question I was asked by the moderator put me on the spot because I hadn’t studied for the test. Finally, I basically just sat there and let them spout all the knowledge and inane details they had memorized to do the panel. I didn’t say much, and everything I said only confirmed in their minds of my two “colleagues” that I was an unworthy idiot. I felt completely humiliated — which was their intent. Ten minutes before the panel ended, they finally asked the audience for questions, and what do you know? Most of the questions are asked of me and when the panel let out those two bloated egos left together and I was followed out by a group of fans who — lo and behold — really just wanted to know things about CJ.
In both these cases I initially felt completely humiliated. In the first instance, I was humiliated to the point that I went to my room and hid. But in most cases the people who saw how I was treated didn’t feel like I deserved to be treated that way. In both cases, the majority of the people who walked out of those rooms did so not thinking that I was an idiot, but that the other people were just mean and frankly out of line.
So, when you set out to humiliate someone in a public forum what really happens is that you wind up making everyone think you’re a douche. Even if the person had it coming, even if they’re a dick and deserved it, the fact that you found the need to make them look bad in public makes everyone forget anything they might have done that was “wrong.”
People get on each-other’s Facebook pages and try to make the person whose page it is look like a dumbass… What’s that all about? It’s their page. If you’re highly offended by what they’ve said, then by all means go to your own page and make a counter post. But how dare you dress them down on their page, on their post, in front of their friends and family! People feel safe doing crap like that in the virtual world because after all it’s not the same as getting in someone’s face where if you try to make them look too bad they might punch you or yell. It’s never, ever, all right to purposely humiliate another person. Not in front of a room full of people, not on Facebook. And guess what? If you write something about how misinformed, misguided or just plain stupid someone is on THEIR Facebook page, most of the people who see it are that person’s friend. Guess what? They aren’t going to like what you said any more than the person did.
When you aim to humiliate someone in public what you say about yourself is much more than you are saying about them.
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