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Embarrassment stops us in our tracks, in advance of our acts. Just think about what you didn't do or say because of the fear of being embarrassed.

Now that you've gone there and done that, and no shame on you, let's consider how the fear of embarrassment can block political activism. Politics, as an acknowledgment of a desire, is deeply intertwined with embarrassment: to want to live in a just world may be to want too much; may reveal your naive idealism, your immaturity. Maybe that's why some people who look back on their activism during the 1960s become neocons. Then they can renounce their embarrassing past sense of non-normative openness and call that "childish" and this "adult." But really, to re-word Elvis Costello, "What's so embarrassing about peace, love, and understanding?"

Then there's the idiom of political expression that raises embarrassment's spectre. Being loud, being passionate, being appetitive, being sexy in public, being ugly in public, being shabby, being performative, being too glamorous, stinking, saying what goes without saying, revealing an open secret: certain kinds of political expression are deemed more emotional, infantile, not strategic, destructive. When you do not keep your place and act "in your face" some people will say that you have no shame and try to embarrass you. They might even feel protective--don't expose yourself to the demeaning judgment of others who would like to shame you. They might say, You lose your audience when you act that way, you can't persuade anyone. Or, you're a clown, not an activist; infantile, not mature; too regressed to be thinking principled thoughts. Whatever. One hopes that in response, you act like Bartleby: you prefer not to (let embarrassment become an obstruction to the expression of your dreams, will, and inconvenience to power).

We also note the appearance "embarrassed" in sentences about being poor, or "in embarrassed circumstances."

See THE 1970S

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