A while back, I sent out a post on Facebook asking what kind of questions people would like me to engage, philosophically on this blog. One such question was health. We live in a contemporary situation where health is an extremely obscured issue. Not least because how it constantly intertwines with moralism and at the same time curiously is a strategy for coping with nihilism. The more we understand about being, the universe, our planet, the conditions human beings are living under, ecology, and physics, the more we understand how the world is infinitely complex and impossible to exert any reasonable degree of control over. One of the most scary or interesting things tied to this is how the cosmos is way less determinated, way less Newtonian than we have thought. The fact that physics has (for the last 10-20 years) become more and more in line with French philosophical poststructuralist thinking is one such clear example. In a universe that we increasingly understand is open-ended, non-determined and where chance plays a much larger part than we heretofore have imagined, we realise that the control that the Enlightenment aspired to exert over matter (i.e. mind over matter, humanity controlling the rest of the world, including plants, animals and the ecosystem etc) is limited. The Enlightenment took the previous notion that God is in control, and replaced it with human kind in the place of God. But the thought structure that someone (now we instead of god) are in control and can determine the outcome of events has proven a faulty notion. Not only have we proclaimed (in Nietzsche’s words) that God is dead, but his replacement is doing a fucking poor job filling his shoes. Control seems more unattainable than ever.
In this turn of events we do something interesting. We turn to our own bodies in search of an object we can control. We take all the forms of food; the ”Enlightened”, effective food-perversions we dreamed up as part of our new industrial project, and deem it bad. All the efforts to produce ”enlightened” food is now cast out, but curiously enough we think that we are enlightened enough to state that ’we simply had the wrong focus last time we perfected our food products’. We simply replace all the sciency stuff with something that our latest science suggests is the ’right stuff’, real enlightened shit.
My question is: why? Apart from a staggering historical forgetfulness, placing exactly the kind of blind faith in the latest scientific studies that led us here in the first place, the question to me is: Why do we need to meticulously ponder exactly what goes into the food trap? For whom do we ponder this? For whom do we go through this self-disciplinary action?
In my mind, there is no question that one of the historically most important producers of edicts on self-discipline is religion. Pretty much all major and minor strands of religion seem to have thought out strategies for how to self-discipline yourself in order to align yourself with the truth of your particular orthodoxy. The curious thing, then, is that although we are ridding ourselves of religious shackles, viewing ourselves as more enlightened than that, we still feel the need to exert control over something, and we keep on subscribing to the aweful, longstanding historical (often religiously prescribed) tradition of being shitty to our bodies, by for instance being incredibly stressed out when we’re eating potato chips instead of tuna salad, and saying to ourselves that you will never be good enough if you don’t exert enough discipline. But good is a theological category. And in this case it refers to no particular goodness. There is no one actually defining what kind of goodness it reflects to go a lifetime, constantly telling yourself that you are not good enough, and if you only eat a little bit more broccoli and smoke fewer cigarettes, you will be ok. Ok in the eyes of whom? We discipline ourselves without any clear goal, without actually anyone demanding it, other than a vague collective culture of fat shaming and health craze. For instance I saw an article with the headline ”If you love your children – don’t give them sugar”. Damn. I thought I love my children, but apparently I don’t as we eat desserts from time to time, and candy on Saturdays.
All this, to me, bears witness to a culture, incapable of thinking for yourself, truly thinking for yourself, and instead relying on the collective, just like religious people has always done, waving the white flag and surrendering to the pressure; let’s just self-discipline already. There is no real reward, no divine judge who will deny you access into heaven if you hated your children enough to give them sugar. We judge ourselves, for absolutely no purpose other than the illusion of exerting control over something, just the tiniest bit of the universe; our own body, like that would ever matter in the grand cosmological scheme of things, or as if this self-disciplining would somehow reveal a deeper meaning or make us dodge human illness and ultimately; death. This kind of self-discipline is voluntary hell on earth. It is the strangest human deformation of the spirit. A project of discipline with absolutely no real winner; with no one even demanding that you partake in the first place. All we really can be sure about, is that by going down this route, we rob ourselves of a lifetime of self-acceptance.