Chronicles of a writer abroad

Running from shame


There’s been a lot of talk, since the Vancouver riots, about the ethics of public shaming. Some claim that the desire to shame offenders publicly stems from the same kind of mob-mentality that may have fuelled the riots themselves; others insist that it is a natural progression for a society in which people are fed up with the court system due to its perceived leniency and lack of efficacy.

I’m not going to go into these issues, but I am going to do a little experiment in self-shaming. Here, I’m going to show you something that I am embarrassed by:

I said I was going to run a half-marathon, not a marathon, in Amsterdam this fall, but then I signed up for the longer distance. One of the reasons I decided to is because I’m running quite slowly, so I rationalized that I might as well run farther. The figure that I highlighted in red above is my average pace across all my training runs so far (I started training last month), and it is about a full minute per kilometer slower than what I was training at last year. In case anyone is wondering how information about my runs gets transmitted to my computer in this way, I wear a Garmin GPS watch while running. It is hands-down the best investment I ever made in my running — I am a data geek, and I really get motivated by seeing numbers on the screen.

But in this case, the numbers are not so encouraging. Possible reasons that I am moving slowly include the fact that I am 8-10 pounds heavier than I was during my last training season; the fact that Zürich is very hilly, and I’m bad at hills; and the fact that I allowed my fitness to slip a lot during our overseas move this winter.

But now I’m determined to get at least most of the way back to where I was before the Vancouver marathon. I have nearly four months until October 16, 2011, when I will (barring any unforeseen injuries) run the Amsterdam marathon. I will do an honest report about my training every month between now and then. Let’s hope to see that number in the red box decrease! And hey, if my talking about this motivates anyone to go running — even for a short distance — then my public shaming will have accomplished another worthy goal.


4 thoughts on “Running from shame

  1. The Vancouver rioters are learning a new word: consequences.

    If this, then that.

  2. I agree, Paul. I am astonished by the hand-wringing that has gone on in the media about the outing of innocent-until-caught-on-youtube perpetrators of violence, thievery etc. Where once a ‘looker’ at such things is now a bona fide ‘evidence gatherer,’ those who would argue a mob mentality is driving the offenders to the surface [while not taking responsibility for being the quasi-culpable bystander] are wanting judicial proceedings to remain in the realm of officialdom. The trouble is, officialdom isn’t up to the task of managing large unruly groups and resorts to protecting themselves as their only fiduciary duty to the public [Toronto Star, G8 policing, June 24.] The day of anonymity is gone folks. Take your consequences if you cross the line of thuggery. Be careful, however, if you videotape a uniformed thug whose badge number can’t be identified through police service investigation ‘methods’ even if most 8 year-olds could easily accomplish that investigative task with free photo enhancement software. That’s my rant for the day, back to data analysis for me …

  3. Okay, since we clearly *are* getting into the issue, here are my thoughts. The legal system may not deliver the kind of swift and severe consequences that many are hoping for, but where these issues are concerned I still trust the system — and the men and women of which it is composed — better than I do the average Canadian, who somehow feels they are better qualified to mete out justice. One problem is that people are so greatly swayed by media portrayals. I’m sorry, but I’ll have to bring up the Kissing Couple again here. Why do they get to be celebrities and media darlings, when they were, in fact, two more people standing around and obstructing things after the Riot Act had been read? Because CBC has chosen to paint a sympathetic portrait of them, that’s why. Someone else who is pictured near burning cars and broken windows might lose their job, be subject to abuse on facebook and suffer other “consequences.” I agree that those who were clearly involved in the worst of the damage (e.g., shown breaking windows/burning things) should be dealt with, but I suspect that the police would have been able to track down these people without the aid of their facebook friends. Everyone else who was standing around, perhaps cheering and egging the offenders on…well, are they really worse than the people who took their picture and are now using it to condemn them? I’m really not convinced.

    We also have the issue of young offenders to consider here. Usually, of course, their names are not released, in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act’s philosophy that young people make mistakes and deserve second chances. Indeed, there is statistical support for the idea that many young offenders will not reoffend. In other words, young people often make one stupid mistake. The justice system is thus willing to give them a second chance, but I doubt the public will be. Nathan Kotylak, for instance, did something collosally stupid — there is no denying this. But on top of the criminal charges that he will face and the loss of his water polo privileges, he and his family are facing threats that have caused them to flee their home. To me, this kind of behaviour is not acceptable, and is indicative of why the public can’t take these things into their own hands.

    So, because people are swayed by media portrayals, because pictures *can* be misleading, and because I think emotion-fuelled vengeance is not the right response to wrongdoing, I would rather see these things left in the hands of our court system.

  4. Good points! I like what you are saying …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s