Endings and beginnings

Posted on December 31, 2012

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This is very possibly my last post on this blog. Big changes are happening. There will be another blog, and another site, not too far down the road. I started this site five years ago when my last book, Cleaning Up, came out. Thank you for sticking around. It’s been a sometimes tough but fascinating time of transformation. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? But it has.

This was actually going to be a long political post, but what I was mainly going to say can be summed up much better here. So I’ll leave out all the stuff I was going to say about social media and feminism and sex positivity and all the rest.

But I would like to say this. I have been counting, with an increasing level of horror, the number of cheesy homilies and ‘inspirational’ sayings being put up online nowadays, especially on Facebook, most of which are meaningless and some of which are actively toxic. My name for this stuff is ‘chain-letter bullying,’ and most of it is of no help to anyone, least of all those who are vulnerable and suffering mental illness. I well know that when you’re in crisis, sometimes a helpful saying can be a comfort. But I’ve been horrified at times when apparently well-meaning(?) people have tried to shut others down (including myself) for being ‘negative’ when they are really struggling and need some support. The message seems to be that you can choose how you feel, and that if you’re feeling down and bad things are happening to you, it’s probably your fault. There’s an innate conservatism here which I find really concerning, however good the intentions of those who post these things.

There are a large number of people who have had a rubbish Christmas, and no one to spend new year with, who see this stuff and it only confirms their sense of themselves as a bad or inadequate person because they can’t force themselves to feel whatever they are being hectored about with a rainbow in the background and a couple of meerkats. Double yuck points if the homely saying is attributed, almost undoubtedly erroneously, to the Dalai Lama or a native American sage.

I’ve been trying to sum up why I’m so particularly uncomfortable with it all, and then my friend Juliet showed me the quote below.

‘In the contemporary ideological climate it has become imperative that we perceive all the terrible things that happen to us as ultimately something positive – say as a precious experience that will bear fruit in our future life. Negativity, lack, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, are perceived more and more as moral faults – worse, as a corruption at the level of our very being or bare life. There is a spectacular rise of what we might call a bio-morality (as well as morality of feelings and emotions), which promotes the following fundamental axiom: a person who feels good (and is happy) is a good person; a person who feels bad is a bad person. It is this short circuit between the immediate feelings/sensations and the moral value that gives its specific colour to the contemporary ideological rhetoric of happiness. This is very efficient, for who dares to raise her voice and say that as a matter of fact, she is not happy, and that she can’t manage to – or, worse, doesn’t even care to – transform all the disappointments of her life into a positive experience to be invested in the future?’ – Alenka Zupancic, 2008.

Read it once, then read it again.

And this is a clue as to what I’m doing next.

I wish you a very happy new year, and see you in 2013.