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Standard and Poor’s is a universally known and respected credit rating agency that helps customers choose the right life insurance provider. Financiers see it as a vital part of the mechanism for judging the credit worthiness of those offering coverage. If it downgrades a business, that business suffers Shame. When it rates a company highly, they are Proud.

It is not about the financial credit rating agency that I write – they just have the same initials I use, S&P. My Shame & Pride Rating applies to countries, courts of law, businesses,  international institutions – in fact to any group you care to think about. Which is why I ask how a country of the size, stature and success of the United States rate itself so poorly that it can even contemplate electing a convicted felon to the top job of President.

Institutions are the models by which we educate our citizens. While the government of a country is accepted as its top institution, the judicial system is the one that should have the strongest grasp of a country’s moral qualities and ethical standards. The practice of law tells you most accurately what a country’s Shame & Pride are. I see a glimmer of hope as far as the US is concerned as a result of thirty-four convictions. The Court and its jurors saw guilt. There are those who will disagree.

Shame and Pride depend for their effectiveness in determining action on conscience, which is an awareness of moral right and wrong. In a previously much slower-moving world the implications of what we were about to do and the reflection on what we had done were given time for the brain to assimilate. ‘A hasty word’ was taught as dangerous because it could lead to animosity, in extreme cases, violence. An act of cruelty or indecency produced Shame that the perpetrator could have allowed himself or herself to be so disgraced. A job well done, a generous, non-transactional gift of help and a self-discipline to better behaviour were a matter of quiet, personal Pride. No media required for that – it was internal.

The speed of communication, ramped up for the creation of greater wealth and longer life, has changed all that. ‘Now’ is considered more important than ‘Think’. Banal jargon has supplanted wit and wisdom. In addition, wide distribution of news and entertainment has enabled the anonymous spreading of lies, violence and destructive abuse to a point where, for example, not educating very young children about sex risks damaging them for life.

Today, Pride in a person is thought more demonstrable by outward awards than inward satisfaction. Shame is annihilated by those who think there is no wrong, only poverty or wealth. The priorities of living a life decent enough for others to enjoy theirs, too, have been discarded in favour of making more money.

The safety of customers using cars or flying in aircraft is cast aside in favour of faster production, lower costs, greater profits. RMS Titanic sank 15th April 1912 after hitting an iceberg. Subsequent examination of her showed that the real main cause of the disaster was that the wrought iron rivets used in the ship’s construction contained three times the allowable amount of slag making them much less dependable than they should have been. Why? To save money. Boeing, Toyota and several other Japanese car manufacturers have followed in the same tradition. Apparently even the safety inspection watchdogs are prone to turning a blind eye. Where is the Shame and Pride in that?

We need this S&P back. How do we achieve that? If we don’t we will surrender our beautiful life to that of an unfeeling automaton.

Which may, in the end, have more S&P than us.

Do we really want that?

Good morning

John Bittleston

Do you know how we achieve a better standard of Shame & Pride?

We’d love to hear it at [email protected].

5 June 2024