Paper, Plastic or Shame?

The box of Cookie Crisp taunts you as you reach for the Grape Nuts and sigh. You travel over to isle 9 where the peanut butter is and realize you should just grab jelly while you’re at it. Make a stop in isle 14 for the paper towels, store brand. Head for the checker, ignoring Jennifer Aniston’s diet and pictures of England’s newest baby. You grab a Butterfinger. There’s a new recipe to try, it says it right on the wrapper. The clerk asks, “Do you need bags?” You look away and say “Yeah, I think so.” You push your cart to the fourth parking row where you found the last open spot. A mom loading her fussing daughter into the backseat glares at you as if you were the reason for the trouble. A couple giggles to each other, attempting to hide the fact they are laughing at you, but they fail. An elderly man shakes his head at you, watching from his driver door. Confused, you load your bags up and head home. While unloading the groceries, you notice something about the plastic bags. It says “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium” across the bag in a dark orange 70s font. Your confusion morphs into shame, realizing what was behind the incidents of the parking lot.

This could be your experience at a Vancouver grocery store where for 5 cents a bag you can purchase shame. The choices of shame range from the adult video store one from above to “Dr. Toews Wart Ointment Wholesale” to “Colon Care Co-Op.” These bags are a part of the new program the store is testing out to push customers towards reusable bags by shaming them into obedience. According to Huffington Post, they openly admit it. The bags were redesigned for the purpose of stopping customers from taking them. The idea being the shame would teach them to straighten out their act.

There’s nothing new under the sun, as someone wise once put it. It’s an old tactic and one that has the possibility of coercing obedience. But the grocery store will find itself a new issue, as have parents, prisons and the religious. Shame doesn’t change someone’s heart. The grocery store will soon find out, they might save the environment some, but people still won’t be moved towards the conservation efforts. Just like the diligent church goer, attending every Sunday but still feeling disconnected from God. The child who is told to respond to commands with “Yes Sir” but never actually respects the parent. The prisoner who can’t find a job upon release nor vote for his concerns and winds up back behind bars. Shame comes from the disobedience of a law, and the law never changes one deep beneath the flesh.

We know this experientially, but we even see it in the stories we love to watch. Cersei Lannister, makes her walk through the city while the citizens scream obscenities and throw garbage at her. Bart Simpson thrown into detention consistently and identified as the troublemaker of the school. Larry Elder is continually mocked and teased for his social interactions. And yet, Cersei still takes the reins and rules violently, Bart thirty seasons later is still writing jokes on the chalkboard, disrespecting the school authorities and Larry elder still can care less about the rules of societal norms.

Of course, the environment is important. Let’s take care of it. However, no matter how shameful the writing on the bag is, it won’t change a person’s heart. This is the truth we fight against. The truth we need, but abhor. We want a law to obey, something to measure up to and judge others by. Even more-so when there is power involved. The government makes laws to control the people, companies make strict guidelines on what’s shameful in the workplace, churches tell you how you must live to have fellowship with God and now grocery stores decide your social standing as you walk to your car.

Someone who holds power, power strong enough to shame you, is a fearful thing. When it comes to The Most Powerful, the Alpha and the Omega, the I AM, we cling to the hope and truth that he is waiting there at the end of the checking station. The Eternal Bagger, bagging your groceries up and offering to carry them out for you.

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