HUMILIATION: AN OFTEN IGNORED, NORMALIZED, DENIED FORM OF ABUSE

It doesn’t take much to normalize humiliation in our families, in our country, and in our world. It doesn’t take much to normalize it as a way of being . . . without even calling it the abuse that it is.  It doesn’t take much to normalize it as a way of thinking and feeling, or as a way of interacting – with ourselves and with others.  The following steps are examples of how we’ve come to be part of a country and world in which humiliation is an all-too-common form of abuse.

Step 1:

On Monday, September 27, Michael Bolton dances to the song “Hound Dog” on Dancing with The Stars.
He is humiliated that night by judge Bruno Tonioli.

Step 2:

On Tuesday, September 28th, Michael Bolton has to leave the show. He doesn’t have enough points to stay…possibly in part because of the humiliation the night before.”   People are affected when they see someone humiliated. How depends upon their own experience with humiliation.

Step 3:

Michael Bolton’s wanting an apology from Bruno is discussed on Good Morning America. The hosts of the show seem to think Michael’s the one with the problem – as though humiliation is ‘normal’ and asking for an apology is ‘abnormal.’  Who once humiliated the hosts, making humiliation seem normal in the process?

Many of those commenting on the ABC blog (about half) joined in the humiliation of Bolton.

“Bolton is a cry baby loser.”
“Bolton ought to be apologizing for the way he talked after the show. He sounded like a spoilt brat…pleeze!!!”
“Guess what Michael? You can’t sing either.”

If this is what we say to Michael Bolton, this is what we say to our own children.
And this is probably what was said to us.

Step 4  . . . or is it really step 1?

Under “Bruno Tonioli” in Wikipedia,  Bruno acknowledges having been humiliated as a child for being gay.
What was done to us we do to others.
So what was done to Bruno – humiliation – he did to Michael Bolton . . . humiliate him.
No matter how much the producers of Dancing with the Stars claim Bruno was just doing his job as a judge and giving his honest opinion . . . Bruno was humiliating Michael Bolton. Who humiliated the producers when they were young, under the guise of giving their honest opinions?

Step 5:

Within the same week’s time . . . a suicide occurs in response to humiliation.
A young man’s roommate announces the secret, live streaming online of video of this young man’s sexual encounter with another student. The young man, humiliated beyond words, jumps off the George Washington Bridge.

Who humiliated the roommate – that he would humiliate this young man?
And how?
Why won’t we look at the truth?
Why won’t we see the roots of humiliation in our lives and the life of our country?

Step 6:

Members of the United States military humiliate prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib!
Who humiliated those members of the military in their childhoods that they would demean, steal the dignity of other human beings?

And how does the military itself humiliate those it trains and employs to protect US interests and fight our wars?

Step 7:

Anyone who runs as a candidate for election in the U.S. puts him/herself on the chopping block to be grossly humiliated.  Humiliated by misusing the truth. Dishonestly humiliated. Heartbreakingly humiliated. How did this become such a part of who we are as a country? Not that other countries don’t have this trait also, they do. But many of us think of ourselves as so civilized, while doing things that are so uncivilized . . .  like brutally humiliating people.  Our country. Your country. The important question is: How did this become such a part of who we are as a country? As a world?

Why won’t we look at the truth and heal it?

Because we would see a mammoth malignant growth larger than we can even imagine?
Because most people don’t want to know this?
Because most people don’t want to do the work to heal it, individually or communally?
Because most people don’t want to feel the pain of our own humiliation?
Because most people don’t want to feel the pain of our having humiliated others?

If we don’t look at this, own this, and heal it . . . Who have we become?
If we don’t?  What will we become . . . individually and communally?

© Judith Barr 2010

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