Monday, November 17, 2014

The Impotence Of Rational Thought, Or, You Know It's Somebody's Job To Make You Feel Bad, Right?

Self-Loathing Comics! How did I not know about this?

I don't know if you read the piece in the Guardian last week by the feminist who "confesses": "I feel guilty but I hate my body."

I thought it was a good and interesting piece, and I'm sure the point of view expressed is -- well, shall we call it "relatable"? Is that the right word for millions of women of all ages and body types screaming "Oui! Oui! Moi aussi!"

But personally, I wasn't surprised at all to hear that a feminist woman hated her body. What could be less surprising than any woman hating her body in the 21st century? Why is it a "confession"?

I guess it's supposed to be a confession because somehow as a feminist she's supposed to "know better," but I've always thought that was pretty much a dead end kind of thought. I mean, who thought "knowing better" was the key to all mythologies? How often are intense feelings like self-loathing impacted by rational thinking? Like, never?

If you ever want to experience the impotence of rational thought, just try to think yourself out of anything like self-loathing, or feelings of inadequacy, or really any negative emotion in which you compare yourself to others.

Your thoughts will just sit there like cartoon bubbles, inert, powerless, hovering over you. Your cartoon bubble might say in 18 point bold point font: "you are good and smart and beautiful!" You might try to think it. You might reason it out. You might even come to think it is true. Still, you get that thought into your brain alongside some bad feelings, it's like a bug going into a the ring with an elephant. "Oh, it was cute you had that though but ... oh."

I was also struck that there's so little reflection in the essay about the various causes. In keeping with our highly individualized times, it's a very individual essay, about what is and isn't "wrong" with certain kinds of eating and certain kinds of thinking about eating.

I always think that in these situations that it's important to remember - among other things - the wide array of forces assembled against you. I mean, in addition to all the usual suspects, you have to remember that it's practically the first commandment of capitalism that you have to feel bad about yourself.

Can we pause to remember there are armies of people whose whole job it is to induce you to feel like you are not good enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough -- and while we're at it, you smell, and you're fat, and your dick isn't big enough?

After all, the insecure consumer is the consuming consumer. And the consuming consumer is the lynchpin of the new categorical imperative: "economic growth." If you're not feeling inadequate, you probably won't buy as many things.

Obviously, I do not mean to imply that somehow in a world of equality and mutual respect and free love that people would go around feeling magically happy and self-loving and so on. People don't NEED capitalism to feel awful. They can do it by themselves. And they can do it to each other, very effectively. And obviously, I do not mean to imply that there is nothing gendered about body-loathing and disordered eating, because obviously there is.

I'm just saying that when you feel bad, it's worth taking a moment to remember that among the many factors and causes the set-up is not neutral. They're using sophisticated tools, honed through eons, to target your emotions. Against that army, how is your little rational thought going to get any traction whatsoever?

News flash: it's not. In a world of competition for everything, when you feel bad, someone actually benefits. It's not a problem with an individual solution. And it's not something you can think your way out of.

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