Jaywalking… so shameful

To be clear,… this story is not from a satire website. This is for real.

credit:nomo/michaelhoefner

When tempted to think honor and shame are mere theoretical issues, or if you begin to think Chinese are becoming “western”, then keep this story in mind.

Ashamed of jaywalking?

A recent article in The Beijinger illustrates how governments use shame to enforce rules.

Chinese authorities have attempted to curtail this mass phenomenon with a multitude of traffic safety campaigns to little effect. With punishments like fines and warnings doing little to quell the stampede, Beijing has decided to take its enforcement of red light runners to the next level by publicly shaming them….

This past Monday, Beijing installed a giant video screen at a Tongzhou intersection that live broadcasts images of jaywalkers illegally crossing the road.

Pedestrians that dare to run the red light at Jingjingong Road will have their image put on a two-by-four-meter-wide electronic screen while receiving a stern scolding.”You have crossed against a red light, please return behind the pedestrian crossing line,” blares a recorded voice for everyone in the intersection to hear.

Fear of shame is a powerful inhibitor in China’s face-based society in which one’s social standing is derived from the respect given by your peers. And yet, even though the threat of public humiliation looms over them, some Beijing pedestrians are still choosing to jaywalk anyways.

Try this in America. I dare you.

I can list a few reasons this would never work in the United States and other Western cultures.

  1. People would purposely jaywalk so they can enjoy 15 seconds of fame.
  2. The intersection would then become unusable to cars, because large crowds would gather wanting to jaywalk.
  3. Some people would sue the government for damages against their self-esteem.
  4. Other citizens would sue the government for putting their faces on a screen without getting signed permission in advance.
  5. Scores of people would start jaywalking simply because they are told not to. After all, they would not want to be conformists.

Can you think of other reasons why this technique would never be used in the West?

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