Belenen (belenen) wrote,

"the unexamined life is not worth living" "be yourself" "go with the flow" & other shitty nonsense

I used to think that "the unexamined life is not worth living" was a great quote. Everyone should examine their lives, I thought, instead of just floating by and not considering things deeply. What I didn't realize was that those aren't the only two possibilities by a long shot, and while there are plenty of defaults who should stop floating on by, there are also good reasons not to examine one's life:
1) You can't. If your life is just surviving, there is no time or energy for self-examination. It's a fucking luxury and the more oppressed you are, the less likely you are to have this luxury, this privilege.
2) It would harm you. Sometimes self-reflection would break down the assumptions that are keeping you from falling apart. If you have nowhere else to go, you might need to believe that family is all-important because that gives you the strength to endure abuse and survive.

And then there's "be yourself" which would be great except sometimes it will LITERALLY GET YOU KILLED. So don't go around telling other people that they need to be authentic even if it risks their life or their ability to feed, house, and clothe themselves. You don't know what other people need and the ability to be yourself is available exclusively to defaults and near-defaults. If you're black and you "be yourself" by not straightening your hair, you might get fired and you're likely to have a much harder time getting hired. If you're trans and you "be yourself" by dressing in the way that feels good, you might get fired or raped or murdered. If you're queer and you "be yourself" by being out you might get disowned by your family and get kicked out on the streets. If you're disabled and you "be yourself" by using a wheelchair part-time because that's how often you need it, you may get treated even more like shit. Sometimes to survive you have to play a role, and that is an authentic choice in a world that is unsafe for so many people.

"go with the flow" is just awful, it's the worst possible advice. The 'flow' is created by oppressive forces. To go with the flow is to participate willingly in the oppression of others while you float content on your privilege. It's gross. And I say this knowing that people who use this phrase are usually super kind-hearted and well-meaning people, who are non-violent as far as they can tell. The problem is that oppression is always there and it is always violent, and if you are not resisting it then you are being passively violent to everyone with less privilege than you. They're on the bottom of this avalanche and you're surfing the top. The flow needs to be changed and you're the one with the ability to do it -- going with the flow is cruel.

Stuff like this is why I find it almost impossible to have spiritual or artistic community. Unfortunately, people who have the time and energy to devote to things like art and spiritual exploration also tend have a lot of privilege. So I'll get excited that there is a spiritual group that explores energy work, and then they'll be full of messages like the above, not considering how exclusionary and oppressive that is. And if I dare to point out that going with the flow means tacitly condoning harm, they will react with such violent upset at my 'divisiveness'. Or I'll find a group of artists and be excited about creating, and they'll look down on people who don't "pursue their dreams" because they don't realize the immense privilege involved in being able to live off of one's art.
Tags: communication / words, rants, social justice / feminism, spirituality

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.