Shame can be best described as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.
Shame manifests human thinking and a feeling of deep regret over a situation or action.
The holy books of the major religions provide immense teachings and emphasis on shame. Voluminous psychological studies on shame abound. Philosophers have also expressed their thoughts on this emotion throughout human civilisation.
As the 1MDB case rolls out in a New York courtroom, one cannot be blamed for thinking that the sense of shame has lost its meaning in Malaysia.
Many are not ashamed of the sordid details spilling out in the courtroom and filling news columns in every corner of the world. They are not ashamed that someone who was already convicted in our own court remains free as a bird under the leeway of “pending appeal”.
They are not even ashamed to parade with pride in large gatherings and chant, “Malu apa, bossku?!” (What’s there to be ashamed of, boss).
They are not ashamed that there is still one person at large, whom the authorities are helplessly unable to extradite and bring back to Malaysia to be tried.
Not just that. They are not ashamed that prestigious titles given out in good faith and with dignity and honour are not withdrawn, when the whole world knows the sins of the personalities associated with the 1MDB sovereign fund debacle.
There are other areas too where our sense of national shame is obviously a rusted badge we wear.
Malaysian businesses are not ashamed when they are punished severely by foreign authorities for violating human rights and flouting rules against forced labour. They use dubious public relations tactics to the hilt to sugarcoat their shamelessness.
Some top civil servants hit the headlines for questionable conduct. But, to them, the public shaming is often like water off a duck’s back.
We have heard about cartel operatives within our police force. We have also heard about court clusters in the country. Where is the sense of shame?
The ultimate shame is that these sins of commission and omission and the mismanagement of the country’s wealth have resulted in a colossal loss for the people of Malaysia – past, present and future.
We may not turn Malaysia into a paradise on earth. But do we have to keep sinking in shame endlessly?
Even in the propagation and protection of religions, we see shameless hands at work. The cases of unilateral conversions involving federal versus state jurisdictions in conflict also show how we are fast deteriorating into a shameless society.
The obvious failures in stopping the rape of natural forest reserves and the plunder of the earth’s bounty provide a clear barometer of the levels of shamelessness that have taken root – from the highest authority to greedy business magnates acting with impunity to everyone else who does not seem to care.
Are we not informed about the cases of abused domestic workers who were not paid their wages for years? Are we not aware that many Malaysians – including wealthy employers – are still exploiting foreign workers in so many dubious and abusive ways?
Many of us dismiss these without a sense of shame, saying “Aiya, do not blame everyone for the bad actions of a few” or “Hello, do you not know of migrant workers and maids who are bad too?”
Our national shamelessness is also on display when many of us throw up our hands up and say, “What can we do lah?”
When shame has left the nation, we have sold the nation’s soul. When shame is no more a vital consideration to measure our progress and successes, we have pawned the country into a vulnerable spot that makes it easy meat for rogue nations to exploit.
The question is, why are we increasingly becoming shameless?
We hear of many leaders elsewhere who resigned on their own volition to register their sense of shame and to save their respective nations from being shamed.
We hear of corporate magnates confessing and regretting their shameful actions in many places around the world and even stepping down from their positions.
We read of international celebrities who immediately returned the illicit gifts they had received in the early days of the 1MDB revelations. But no one displayed even a hint of shame in Malaysia.
Many of us are not ashamed to cheat or resort to unethical behaviour, to profiteer at the slightest opportunity, to dump toxic waste into our rivers repeatedly, to flaunt our unaccountable and dubious wealth.
Many are not ashamed to dump principles, philosophies and religious teachings as long as it serves their selfish agendas.
Look, some even allowed the diabolical Sheraton Move to derail our electoral democracy. Is there no one capable of putting the brakes on this shameless plot?
What a shame for us all!