Training in Shame

Strike Witches T-shirt

Exhibit A

I own a Strike Witches T-shirt. It depicts a clearly underaged girl not wearing any pants, with a prominently displayed crotch area. And, I wear it in public.

Some might ask: “y u do this?” Good question. Public displays of shame have become an otaku tradition, most boldly exemplified by the “painfully embarrassing” itasha. But does it actually serve a purpose, or is it just rabid mania?

The question brings to mind Cato, one of the Roman Stoics. Cato was known for dressing exactly opposite to whatever was fashionably correct in Rome. Of course, this led to much public ridicule. He didn’t do it for the attention, though. He said it was to mentally train himself to be “ashamed only of what deserves shame, and to despise all other sorts of disgrace.”


After reading the Stoics, I realized I’d thought the same way for years. I’ve had years of advanced training in not giving a fuck. If you have an unpopular opinion or taste, it’s natural to feel ashamed when revealing it in public. But the more controversial your opinion is, the more important it is to wear on your sleeve. If you truly believe it’s unjustly condemned, you must master the shame society throws at you. That’s the only way you can defend your beliefs with confidence and competent reasoning. And if the days go by and you realize the shame really is justified, well…good thing you realized it sooner than later.

Stoicism is remarkably relevant to modern life.  It just gets a bad rap from the misleading dictionary entry: true Stoicism isn’t about eliminating all emotions. It’s about rejecting negative emotions, to make way for joy and tranquility. It’s like a more pragmatic take on Buddhism. I heartily recommend “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” to anyone with the slightest interest on, not just philosophy, but a philosophy of living.\

The classical Stoics, by the way, were eventually banished from Rome by emperor Domitian. Their philosophy, he thought, threatened his rule. Luckily, they were the true masters of “not giving a fuck,” and ended up living perfectly happy lives on the most remote, godforsaken islands in the empire.

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1 Comment

  1. shaming shame « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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