Shame Is Not Useful in a Pandemic

There’s no ‘right’ way to quarantine

Patrick Berlinquette
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readMar 24, 2020

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An illustration of a black silhouette of a young man against a bright red background.
Photo: Rizky Panuntun/Getty Images

WWhat will you do with your time in quarantine? Will you optimize your skill set? Will you maximize your time at home by fine-tuning the same professional skills you’ve been fine-tuning for years?

If not, there are a spate of articles I can show you that might make you feel ashamed.

Shame is abundant and endlessly varied in this pandemic. This quarantine has amplified it even further, as face-to-face accountability is slashed to near- zero.

Some shame is useful — such as the shame we cast on others for going out in public when it’s not necessary. Or for buying up a shopping cart of Purell. Or for being racist.

But most shame is not useful, such as the shame we cast on friends or family for “taking this whole coronavirus thing too seriously.” Or for listening to scientists. Or for buying a gun. Or for being a boomer. Or for being young. Or for going to the deli for an egg sandwich when there are eggs at home. Or for buying a pack of cigarettes when they just wanted one. Or for keeping a small business open an extra day. Or for not truly experiencing the last semester of college, or a trip, prom, graduation. Or for a lapse that led to a handshake, rather than an elbow. Or for not feeling like a great parent, or for shouting over a muted conference call. Or for believing the numbers. Or for not believing the numbers. Or for judging someone based on their cough. Or for choosing a secret meetup spot. Or for being too hungover to fight for the last chicken breast. Or for “it’s just the flu, bro.” Or for doing a screen share in underwear. Or for feeling the child within you claw back, knowing it can stay up late for the foreseeable future. Or for not exactly missing the buzzing office vibes. Or for buying a case of Corona. Or for not wearing an N95 mask. Or for touching a face. Or for not yet canceling a May baby shower. Or for not wanting to have to call with a code every time you need an update. Or for not figuring out how to transition a whole business model in a week. Or for reading State of Fear on the subway. Or for taking the subway. Or for watching porn on what used to be a lunch break. Or for feeling weird about visiting mom. Or for hoarding money in the wall. Or for having an adverse reaction to…

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Patrick Berlinquette
Human Parts

Founder of a NY search ad agency (like we need another). Finding humor in ad tech’s depravity. Writings @ NY Times.