I Am Not Judging

How many times have you heard someone say “I am not judging?” It happens so often that there are even variations — not judging or no judgment. I guess it is supposed to make the someone feel better about himself for being accepting, but accepting of what?

We are constantly judging. How many things are rated? Like Uber rides. How many things are customer-surveyed like pretty much everything? All of these are invitations to judge and we seem to accept them. What is a tip other than a judgment on the service rendered? (Well, except that tips are now more or less mandatory and thus unrelated to anything resembling service.)

Yet we go on saying – to ourselves mostly – not judging, nope not me, not that guy.

By the way, despite a total absence of scientific data, I suspect that we use these words precisely when we are judging and especially when we are finding something to be wanting. Has everyone ever said, “you are terrific but I’m not judging.”

So, here’s a question: would the world be a better place with more judging rather than less? Especially the difficult kind where someone is misbehaving or something is in serious need of fixing. Are we enablers if we let miscreants get away with it?

Here is an example. Jussie Smollett is an actor on some show called Empire. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, but I have never seen it and I doubt I will. (Not judging?) Allegedly, Jussie was attacked by two Nigerians wearing MAGA hats who also used a noose as a prop. Alas, Jussie did not consider Chicago’s pervasive surveillance cameras that failed to record the incident as he reported it to the police. Oops. Turns out, it was most likely a stunt to enhance his position in contract negotiations. Evidence surfaced that Jussie knew and had paid the Nigerians.

He describes himself as black (pictures suggest this is accurate) and openly gay (why does anyone care whom he sleeps with?), presumably to establish himself as a member of historically oppressed groups. Yet, for Jussie, two is insufficient. He needs to add “hate crime victim” to claim an even greater share of the aggregate supply of sympathy from those who might actually deserve it.

Jussie is but an example. There are countless others that are equally deserving of opprobrium. Maybe there should be an annual awards show to honor examples of bad behavior. Seeking victimhood – especially when undeserved – could be a category. The undeserved victimhood award could be called the Jussie though he is sure to be forgotten well before that could get launched.

Years ago at college, I was part of a group that took much delight in something called the Mauvais Gout Award, which, in a spectacular display of what is now called “privilege,” we gave to miscreants who violated perceived societal norms. Not sure what to make of the choice of French for “bad taste” other than it was once perceived as the language of high culture. Full disclosure: I think I invented the Mauvais Gout Award.

Is it revival time? A Mauvais Gout Award comeback? Should we recognize and celebrate all manner of bad taste achievement?

There is the nagging question of who makes the choices and by what standards. Those who bestow the honor will surely be vilified for excess privilege, but might this be a small price to pay for a selfless effort to call out the conduct so richly deserving of our opprobrium.

Do you use that word often? I don’t. I recently confused it with its near-opposite “approbation.” My bad.

Here are some synonyms to ponder: vilification, vituperation, condemnation, criticism, censure, disparagement, disgrace and infamy. Do you ever encounter anything that might deserve these descriptions?

If so, we might want to consider the difficult but necessary steps to make such behavior stop. Opprobrium is one of them. In the criminal justice world it is called deterrence.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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  • How delightfully un-PC of you Haven, congratulations!

    But bad taste is not the half of it: bad behavior is now dismissed as something only “perceived” as wrong because of the observer’s cultural background or bias, as opposed to simply being the bad behavior really it is: teenage pregnancy and becoming a Welfare mom as a result might be good examples.

    Other examples are seemingly endless (at least to me), but of course the more I list the more I would be vilified as being intolerant, so I will refrain. Expressing opprobrium about anything these days is downright dangerous, unless it is about Trump.

    • Thank you Sellers, You make a good point about bad taste vs bad behavior. I believe you are familiar with the locale in which the Mauvais Gout Award was born.

  • Haven:

    Well said. Years ago Bob Dole lamented the disappearance of shame for bad behavior (I think he was referring to Bill Clinton’s shenanigans). Since then it’s only gotten worse–social media practically invite people to trumpet their bad behavior for all to see. We should bring back shame, and maybe a Mauvais Gout award is one way to do it. Will Liberty Pell take up the cause?

    Regards,

    Mike DiGiacomo

    P.S. At Yale we had something like MG, it was called “showing your ass.”

    • The first draft of this story included the quote from Good Will Hunting in which George Plimpton is playing the psychiatrist. He tells Matt Damon “no more shenanigans, no more tomfoolery, no more ballyhoo.” Thank you for the word shenanigans. Tomfoolery and ballyhoo will have their turn in due time.

    • That was hard for two reasons. First I did not know it was a line from a 1964 movie called Carry On Cleo. Second, the line is actually infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me. Described as a classic so I am now a smidge wiser. Yup, I hadda look it up.

  • What marvelous and sadly underused word, opprobrium! Bring it on! . Especially of all things Trump . Extremely astute remarks.