Shame Can Lead to Real Change Right Now

Jennifer Jacquet [1.13.21]

 


© Hannah McKay / Reuters

Jennifer Jacquet:

"Shame can lead to real change right now"

Many Americans publicly express their shame about the events at the Capitol. Researcher Jennifer Jacquet explains why this feeling can advance the country. Interview: Carla Baum

JANUARY 13, 2021

After the storm on the Capitol, ex-President Barack Obama spoke of a "moment of great shame and embarrassment for our country". Such confessions are not uncommon in the USA: after Donald Trump's election in 2016, many Americans admitted that they were ashamed. And when Trump refused to acknowledge his electoral defeat in November, winner Joe Biden spoke of "an embarrassment". What is it about shame in the face of one's own country? American Jennifer Jacquet, a professor at NYU, has been researching punishment, guilt and shame for years.

ZEITmagazin ONLINE: Many Americans are expressing their shame about the storm on the Capitol these days. How did you feel when you saw the pictures?

Jennifer Jacquet: I was ashamed too. Especially when a friend from Sweden called to talk to me about what was going on. Because there is a change of perspective. You take another's view of your country. Hence the feelings of shame and embarrassment. I'm really worried about what happened. Last night I woke up four times and thought about it.


Jacquet, born in 1980, is a professor in the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at New York University (NYU). There she researches the social functions of punishment, shame and guilt. In 2015 her book "Shame: The political power of an underestimated feeling" (Fischer) was published. 

A Very Bumpy Ride

Life in the Time of COVID, Part 2 Larry Brilliant, MD [12.7.20]

[EDITOR'S NOTE: At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, I called on Larry Brilliant, a leading epidemiologist and pandemic expert with unique experience and expertise, to ask him to talk about how we could begin to think about COVID-19 and what was in store for us. Now, eight months later, in this Thanksgiving Day talk, he provides an update from the field. —JB]

We need to have a strong WHO, a strong United Nations, a strong global alliance for vaccines and immunizations (GAVI), a strong Global Fund, and all these different organelles that make it possible for us to deal with global threats. I would extend it a little bit out of my lane to say we need desperately to deal with climate change, nuclear proliferation, drought, and famine. But in the area that I know, we can't stop a pandemic without having global collaboration. We have failed to learn the lessons of Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Korea, New Zealand, Iceland—the countries that have done really well—because we don't have a strong way to take the best lessons from the success stories in dealing with this pandemic and globalizing them. This is because we deal with disinformation, and because we hold up the Swedish example even though it wasn't a good example of how to deal with the pandemic, and because we don't have a love of science in the leadership of the world, and because we don't talk to each other in the way that we need to.

Epidemiologist and pandemic expert LARRY BRILLIANT, MD, is on the advisory board for Ending Pandemics. He is also on the board of the Skoll Foundation and was the founding executive director of Google's non-profit organization. Dr. Brilliant lived in India for more than a decade while working as a United Nations medical officer, where, in 1971, he helped run the successful World Health Organization (WHO) smallpox eradication program in South Asia. He also worked for the WHO polio eradication effort and chaired the National Bio-Surveillance Advisory Subcommittee, created by President George W. Bush. He has won the TED Prize, TIME 100, and many honorary doctorates and is the author of Sometimes Brilliant: The Impossible Adventures of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physician Who Helped Conquer the Worst Disease in History. Larry Brilliant, MD, Edge Bio Page 

THE REALITY CLUB: Jennifer JacquetFrancesca Vidotto, Daniel Kahneman, Lee Smolin, Nick Bostrom, Jesse Dylan, John BrockmanCarlo Rovelli, Jacob Burda

The Shifting Terrain of Scientific Inquiry

David Kaiser [7.13.20]

Most historians of science, certainly these days, consider themselves historians. That means we use historical methods of research. We comb through the published literature, investigate unpublished things—correspondence, notes, notebooks, grant proposals. For more recent periods, we interview people. (There's a colleague of mine who likes to say that the historian's job is reading dead people's mail, which captures a lot of what we try to do.) We are trying to figure out the texture of lived experience and how that informed the people about whose world we're trying to get our heads back into. On one hand, it is an interpretive effort squarely within the humanities and social sciences to make sense of our world in times and places gone by. With the history of science, we get to have this productive, ongoing discussion with much more contemporary events and efforts in the sciences today. Why do certain ideas take hold and become so prominent? Why do certain questions rise to prominence and get asked in one setting versus another? These are the larger questions about the present-day scientific enterprise that a lot of work in the history of science can help us better understand.

DAVID KAISER is the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and professor of physics at MIT. He is the author, most recently, of Quantum LegaciesDavid Kaiser's Edge Bio Page

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