Being a child vs. being socialized
In "At First Blush," in the December 2014 issue of Harper's Magazine, Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard describes a childhood episode in which he was shamed by his teacher in front of the class. He goes on to consider what it means to be a child: To be a child is to be within yourself, inside your thoughts and feelings.
To be a child is to be free of the perceptions of others. To be a child is also always, in a certain sense, to be inconsiderate. Your own needs, your own hunger, your own thirst, your own joy, your own anger – these direct everything you do. To grow up is to learn to show consideration, to know who you are in the company of others, and to act in relation to them, not only to yourself. Shame is our way of regulating this relation. Shame is the presence of the gaze of others within ourselves. This is what I experienced back then, in the classroom.
Knausgaard discusses the role of shaming – bullying – in socialization. Bullying isn't so much learned behavior as it is instinctual. Children will bully a deviant without any help from adults. This "dark side of childhood," while cruel and pitiless toward the victim, acts as a social correction. Without bullying, he says, there would be no rules or sense of belonging to a community – "just individuals who would each be forced to create and maintain their own separate worlds." The cost and benefit of being part of a community is that the "deviant" (the individual or that part of the individual that differs) has to be sacrificed. "It is the price we have to pay to be more than one," he says.