Your body is a battlefield Archives

December 15, 2010

Face of the enemy...

... and thighs, and tum:

Lipo-terrorists like the sinister figures above are the target of a new national-security roundhouse punch from the sinewy arms of the well-toned Michelle Obama, First Gymrat of the nation:

First lady Michelle Obama [thinks] that the nation is seeing “a groundswell of support” for curbing childhood obesity, and she is unveiling new ammunition from current and retired military leaders.

“Military leaders … tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight,” the first lady says... “childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well."

You can't make this stuff up, can you?

Every society has its own characteristic forms of dementia. For the sexually repressed Victorians, it was hysteria. For us -- mind-over-matter Gnostics living on the slippery glutinous slopes of the Great Rock Candy And Animal Fat Mountain -- it's anorexia nervosa.

I recently became acquainted with a young fella suffering from this malady -- yes, it happens to guys too, though much more often to girls. In accordance with Nature's usual heavy-handed irony, he works in an upscale grocery store here on the upper west side of Manhattan, and he had me in stitches with his imitation of the "yoga moms" who bustle in and scrutinize every label with narrowed eyes and grill the staff relentlessly about trans-fats and glycopenes and I dunno what-not -- are they all biochemists?

(Michelle Obama, of course, is the professional-bourgeoise yoga mom par excellence: disciplined, energetic, ambitious, rational -- in an instrumental kind of way. Knows what she wants, knows how to get it, and expects the staff to jump when she says "frog".)

My acquaintance thinks it's a "cop-out to blame the society" for his illness, and I understand his reasons; it's a very personal struggle for him. But leaving aside the dubious concept of "blame", it's hard not to read anorexia as the vector sum of a ferocious double bind: "Eat! Lose weight!"

The two horns of this dilemma correspond to our contradictory but equally indispensable roles in the great machine of Wealth Creation. On the one hand, we are consumers. On the other, we are producers. The consumer side must consume a lot to keep the machine going. But the producer side must be disciplined, self-denying, Stakhanovite, underpaid and overworked. The consumer side must be oral-aggressive. The producer side must be anal-retentive -- or no, that's not right; it must be so starved that there's nothing to retain. The reality of life in the present phase of capitalist society is the contrapositive of Fordism: we've got to consume even though they don't pay us.

Curiously enough, when you look at the matter demographically, the real producers in the society -- regular blue-collar Janes and Joes -- tend to make up for their exploitation at work (or the concentration-camp regime in their schools) by hoovering down the Cheetos and Budweiser at home. And -- look you, there is correspondences in all things, as Fluellyn says -- the merit-class rentiers living in actual fact off the fat of the land have made a religion out of lowfat yogurt.

The Janes and Joes get to bear two burdens: production and shame. The Yoga Moms (and Marathon Dads) get two types of income: money income, of course, commensurate with their credentials and their sedulousness at the office; and psychic income, in the form of moral self-congratulation.

I wonder which takes more actual pleasure in life? The two jolly girls shown up top look like they're having a good time. Michelle almost never does.

About Your body is a battlefield

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the Your body is a battlefield category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

You are getting sleepier... is the previous category.

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