“We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins.” —George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, 1903
Freedom from shame, a state of being that can best be thought of as a free spirit, a person who rises above the collective, or as Friedrich Nietzsche called this type of person, an overman, a superman. Today we all credit the beginnings of modern social nudism to the FKK movement. In reality, nudity was a normal part of life in Europe until the 18th century. Driven underground and declared an act of deviancy, it took a rebellion of youth encouraged by Nietzsche to live in harmony with nature, to embrace nudism, meditation and natural healing to bring nudism to the modern world, in spite of modern man who was and remains, ashamed of his naked body.
George Bernard Shaw embodied this rejection of shame, rejecting sublimation to the collective unconscious which brings out the worst in humans in communities across the world. It doesn’t take much for neuroses to become embedded into a culture. We gather together in communities, primarily out of fear of being alone. We view the others outside of our communities as inferior or even enemies. Within our communities, those who don’t accept the collective neuroses as moral truths are shamed with the intention of having conformity, unity. In the end, no one naturally fits into the collective paradigm and as a result we end up with individuals who suffer in shame, in self-doubt and expend a lot of money and energy to hide their natural differences from the average modern man.
Shaw wrote the words above more than a hundred years ago. As I read them, I realised that nothing has changed, unless we have moved even deeper into a collective culture of shame and being offended by differences.