“Moralizing sadism” is borrowed from Foucault. I have found it invariably to be true that, when reading the moralizing sermons of politicians, their intentions are sadistic; they know perfectly well that the recipients of their exhortations are not going to be improved (who is?), and at best the intended audience will be ashamed or at least saddened and hurt by hearing a sermon that points out their failures to measure up. Hence the sermonizer’s sadism.” – Barry Cooper
In the image above, a bouncer outside of a newly reopened sporting goods retailer near my home has just shouted at this father, saying:
“Sir, step back. I’m going to need you to read all of the signs. They’re there for a reason, you know.”
“I know the drill; we were here just yesterday.”
“Never mind. I need you to walk back so I can see you read the signs.”
My political science professor, thesis supervisor, and mentor, Barry Cooper occasionally spoke about such moralizing as sadistic. Sadism is defined as deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others. Not restricted to sexual cruelty, the word sadism connotes gratification derived from making others feel bad about themselves, that they aren’t living up to what’s expected, or that someone is standing to correct them.
On this Let Love podcast I listened today by the Sister of Life, one of the sisters mentioned, “The devil always speaks in shoulds.” They continued to discuss how, by contrast, with God, it’s always an invitation; God always proposes instead of imposes and He respects our free will, our humanity.
I have seen and heard much “should-ing” amid Covid-19. Perhaps some have good will, perhaps some of simply scared and insecure. It seems that some people derive pleasure from giving instructions because it relieves them – even if for a time – from the ordinary, simple and quiet abiding by them. It gives the moralizers an illusion of control over a situation over which they probably have very little if any at all.
“You should stand on the circle.” “You should follow those arrows down the designated aisle.” “You should bring your own bags.” “You should take a paper bag.” “You should use a plastic bag.” “You should carry everything in your hands until you leave the store.” “You should practice physical distancing.” “You should stay at home.” Etc., etc.
I think it would be a very sad to spend all day telling people they should do this or that in this moralizing way with an air of superiority that makes the listeners feel bad about themselves, humiliated, and, of course, annoyed.
There is a way to cultivate certain habits, adaptations, etc. in a natural way, but this is thoroughly undermined by moralizing sadists who delight in humiliating a father (who is with his daughter) by a pedantic stunt that can by no means have been said to have been for the sake of health or the common good.