May 8, 2016 § 5 Comments
Perhaps it’s bad writing practice, but I feel I should warn you upfront that I have no idea where this blog post is going. And that if you read further than the first paragraph, it’s likely you’ll be led down a rabbit hole of insane grumblings from a deranged middle-aged woman.
I don’t even know if my musings are personal or global. All I know is that as I sit here at my kitchen table on a grey, slightly chilly Sunday morning, surrounded by dirty dishes and other assorted detritus of suburban life, I’m a little pissed off.
By the dishes? No. I’ll plunge my hands into hot soapy water when I’m done with this post and find comfort in the slow, soothing ritual of restoring order to my kitchen counters. The world is irritating me today.
I can’t decide if I’ve just been on social media too long, or if my tolerance levels are just depleting as I grow older. Perhaps I’m having a midlife crisis (again) of a different sort. But I find myself looking at the world I inhabit and thinking we really have all gone completely mad.
I’m not hankering for the “good old days”, whatever that means. I’m well aware that the past is full of racism and sexism and oppression and… Oh. Well now. Here we are in the 21st Century with a wealth of knowledge and experience and technology to do our every bidding and we’re still the same damn cave people, actually. Because the racism and sexism and oppression and all of those other bogey(wo)men (see what I did there?) are still here.
And don’t “Not all…” me. I am making sweeping generalisations, dammit. Because while not all people are racist and sexist and oppressive and just generally shit to other human beings, some days it just feels like they are in the majority.
We are still worlds away from gender and racial equality. There are fundamentalists in the world’s major religions who make me absolutely crazy with their bigotry and hatemongering and violence (irony, anyone?). People are killed over the people they choose to love (again, irony?). There are businesses out there that are the new slave traders. Human trafficking is a thing. People are putting their families into tiny boats and pushing them out into choppy waters because it’s bloody dangerous, but not as dangerous as being at home. Some days it’s all just too much to bear, and I’m not sure how I, behind my keyboard can do anything to change that.
But in the other corner, ladies and gentlemen, is the bunch that is driving me to write long, ranty blogposts on Mother’s. Day. In this corner we have a sanctimonious bunch of sensitive, delicate little flowers who spend their days online, looking for offence in every utterance, verbal or typed, and pouncing on it with a hateful kind of glee.
Some say it’s political correctness gone mad – I don’t know if that’s what it is. Because the idea is not that we should all go around being offensive and not being mindful of other people’s feelings. Of course that’s not what I’m suggesting.
But it’s like we’ve gone from sending four-year-olds down into the coal mines to work and expecting them to be grateful for it, to dressing them in bubble wrap and insisting the school ground is padded in case they fall down at school and graze their knees.
Basically, there are a lot of adults out there who need to put on their big person underwear and learn to use the toilet. Seriously. Life is hard. The world is a tough place. Bad things happen. Awful things happen. Shit happens – which is what the toilet reference is for in the first sentence of this paragraph.
Shit happens to good people and it happens to bad people. It doesn’t discriminate. If I’ve learned anything from more than two decades as a journalist it’s this: everyone has a story. Everyone has heartbreak. Everyone has been through something horrible that has shaped them, shaped their perceptions of life, shaped who they are. It may not be the same as your thing, but it’s a thing to them. And we should never minimise that.
But ye gods and little fishes, as my mother used to say, there’s a balance to be had. There’s no need to be recklessly offensive, but at the same time, do we really need to be walking on eggshells all the time? And are we really doing ourselves any good by shielding ourselves from everything uncomfortable and disconcerting or that makes us feel bad about ourselves?
Let me give you an example. I am fat (because I believe in calling a spade a spade). And not just a little soft around the edges like I could stand to lose three or four kilos. I’m very overweight. I have been for quite some time. And I absolutely bloody hate it. I wake up every day and feel terrible about myself. It makes me downright miserable.
I also know exactly why I’m fat. I’m not big-boned. It’s not genetic. I’m not short for my weight. I’m fat because I’ve ruined my metabolism dieting, partly, but because I also don’t exercise enough. I eat to self-medicate, and my medicine of choice is toast. And when I’m anxious, or stressed or tired or bored, the toaster is where I go. It’s that simple. I eat when my heart is hungry – my stomach hasn’t come into the equation for years.
I ate like that for a decade or two – self-medicating my unhappiness. And that’s why I’m fat.
But our culture does this weird thing. On one hand you have people who are fat-shamers. They’ll post pictures of fat people online and say hateful things about them. On the other hand you have those who are non-judgemental, who call fat ‘curves’ and who celebrate morbidly obese people who have TV shows or YouTube channels about how fabulous they are despite being fat.
Well, I think, actually, as a fat person, those two camps are as harmful as each other in their own ways, and we need to aim for more of a middle road. Of course the fact that I’m fat doesn’t change who I am inside. But actually, all of the ‘plus-size’ models and ‘spaciously tailored’ clothes and the excuses people make about being overweight do nothing more than enable people like me to stay exactly the way we are – eating ourselves into a state of ill-health. That is nothing to celebrate.
And actually, I shouldn’t be let off the hook – because it is entirely within my power to change. Nobody holds me down on my bed while I shout “I need to get up and move!” Nobody is restraining me and forcing all of that comfort food down my throat. I did this to myself. I did this because I didn’t want to confront how unhappy I was. Instead, every time I felt unhappy, I shoved more toast and other assorted comfort foods down my throat. I have to unlearn that behaviour every day of my life if I want to get rid of my excess baggage. I need to own that shit.
So bring it back to the aforementioned hatemongers and mosquito circumcisers, I think where we’ve gone wrong is that we’re sending our outrage to all the wrong things, in all the wrong ways. While we’re all being offended because someone used the f-word (fat) to describe someone, and issuing forth a barrage of tweets and Facebook posts and thought leadership articles about how offensive the perpetrator of the utterance was, somewhere on a beach far away from their home, a parent is cradling their drowned child’s body. A woman is being drugged and raped. A child in an airless room is stitching the logo onto your favourite branded item.
We’ve lost perspective. Living in a world that is constantly online has left us out of touch with what’s real. Real is that the world is broken. We’re all broken. But if we own our shit, we’d probably do a much better job of fixing things.
And I don’t know what the answer is to any of these questions. But I can’t see how online outrage helps any of it. Including this blogpost.