You Must Be Healthy!

Firstly, I apologise for not posting for about two weeks; I'm a full-time student, pressured into doing a shitton of stuff, with a lot of work to do and little time to do it in, so forgive me if I'm not around.

Does it ever feel like you're pressured into being healthy?

A lot of people probably think I'm talking complete bollocks here. After all, health is a good thing and we all want to be healthy.

Right, guys?

I was doing something I do far too much of, which is thinking - this time about the scourge(!) that is drugs. From a very young age, we're all told about how bad drugs are, that they'll mess up our health and make us die young...

...But why's that so bad? If an adult is taking drugs in the privacy of their own home and not driving, operating heavy machinery, or otherwise doing anything that could reasonably harm another being, and they're aware of the risks of taking these drugs, nobody is being harmed without consent and there's no justification for the morality police to start meddling.

Ah, they say, but we do have a justification - it's bad for your health! And if someone's going to wilfully tamper with their own health, it's our duty to step in!

And then, if you're anything like me, you have to ask the question: why step in? The answer seems to be that damaging your own health really is that bad. It's a prime example of circular logic, and one I find extremely disturbing.

On a relatively trivial level, it's quite patronising. If I'm informed enough to make choices about my own health and I choose to follow an unhealthy lifestyle (i.e. I'll die relatively young, which is not nearly as tragically beautiful as it sounds to some people), I don't appreciate people talking to me as if I didn't know the consequences of my actions, and I certainly don't appreciate them swooping down from on high to tell me I should do this, this and this to live longer. Longevity for its own sake is pretty far down on my list of priorities.

On a less trivial level, it also links into oppression: the focus on health can dazzle and brainwash people into ignoring just why people do what they do. It's why people are perfectly fine with judging drug use and fat people, and why it can initially take people a lot of time to understand why judging others if they're not perfectly healthy is wrong. This, more than anything, is what I find so disturbing: we use our love of health to oppress anyone we deem unhealthy, and it's so widespread most of us don't realise what's going on. It particularly doesn't help when the love of health and the doctrine of personal responsibility intersect, and people are blamed for not being perfectly healthy. I'm no academic, either, but I wouldn't be afraid to wager that ableism and the love of health are linked on some level, and that the near-constant promulgation of the latter perpetuates the former.

This isn't just limited to physical health, if anyone was wondering. One of the reasons our society seems to have an addiction to pseudo-motivational, pseudo-inspirational shit (and that's putting it politely) is because we seem to have bought into the myth that if you're not perfectly happy and confident you're somehow unhealthy in some way - and that this is wrong. People will sing the praises of optimists and positive thinkers, saying that they live longer, are more successful (our society seems infatuated with the idea of success as making a lot of money), and are overall healthier. The corollary is that if you're critical, pessimistic, or - god forbid - you're sad, you won't live as long, you'll be less successful, you'll be unhealthy and any bad things you may have been through will cripple you for life unless you move on and own your fate.

As someone who can be very gloomy and miserable, sadness on its own is unpleasant - but not morally wrong. Being sad won't make you unsuccessful or permanently tainted, as our culture might sometimes have it. Insecurity isn't some demonic flaw - unless you want to imply that most humans are that demonically flawed (very few people, if any, are totally secure, and those that are have either struggled for a long time or are simply a bit full of themselves). And as for being crippled for life by bad things? I deliberately used that term. I could have equally referred to people as being "broken" or "damaged goods": all terms refer to people being weaker or less secure because of bad things that have happened to them, all are pejorative, and all use the language of something that is not whole or intact to describe perceived negative traits. In other words, if something or someone isn't somehow "whole", that's morally wrong. Is anyone else seeing a problem with this?

Quite apart from that disturbing little point, we are sold the idea that being even the tiniest little bit insecure is somehow unhealthy and therefore morally wrong. (I'm no fan of insecurity and low self-esteem, but they're perfectly normal and don't somehow make people bad - no matter how much some would like to pretend otherwise.) We're then sold the idea that if something is wrong with us, according to the twisted criteria of society, we can either choose to be broken and feel sorry for ourselves and have no friends...or we can read the latest pseudo-inspirational tat and actually have some kind of support network. Predictably, at least some people will choose the pseudo-inspirational tat.

Sorry, but am I the only one who finds this a bit disturbing? It's essentially profiting from people's insecurities and worries by promising them a way to be a better person. And what made them so wrong? Not being healthy.