We need some new taboos…and I’ll suggest some in a moment.

Social taboos have great power. Some are pointless. Some are silly superstition. But some taboos are quite useful and necessary.

I myself am grateful for the taboo against general public nudity. (A consensually agreed-on nude beach or nudist colony is a fine thing, I’m sure, I’m all for them.) The general taboo (reinforced by law) against public nudity spares me the sight of repellant nude bodies, and insures I’m mostly undistracted by the attractive ones. Driving, I’m less likely to rear-end the car in front of me, so long as we maintain the taboo against public nudity.

There is a taboo against boorish behavior in restaurants, theaters, and other establishments–I’m all for that one.

More important is the taboo against abusing children–such taboos are enforced by law, but the laws were catalyzed by taboos. That taboo, sadly, doesn’t always work. Perhaps it’s not reinforced enough in our society.

We need to strengthen that taboo–and we need to create some new ones. We need a strong, powerfully reinforced taboo against abusing the environment. It’s true that people frown on poisoning a stream, and trashing up a beach, and there are feeble laws against such acts, more in some places than others. But there doesn’t seem to be a really strong, fiercely held, universal taboo against polluting. The power of a truly universal social taboo is much more ingrained and effective than a mere law enforced by fining. With conditioning at home and school, I see no reason why we can’t use the power of a truly universal, firm, deeply instilled taboo to save the Earth.

If it’s a real, potent taboo–not just some fine and a headshake of disapproval, CEOs whose corporations toxify water, or food, or the land, would be shunned. Caught polluting, the culprit should be literally treated as a pariah. People should react to them in horror, even gagging at the sight of them.

They should be refused entry into respectable public places, should be shunned by friends and family, until they cease poisoning the environment (which is poisoning people, by extension).

The same process could be used to control the maltreatment of animals, the exploitation of the poor in sweatshops, and the sabotaging of the democracy in the media (eg, news media that repeats lies).

Taboo should be studied as valuable sociobiological phenomena, and healthy taboos should be implemented. They’re more effective than fining. They go to the heart of that social animal we call the Human Being.

Comments are closed.