16 December 2009

Your experience: not the be all and end all

One of my biggest pet peeves is the marketing technique, "I can do it, so can you" that usually pops up in dieting ads (OH GOD! I just realized that all the weight loss ads are due to start in a week or two - seriously, I get infuriated. I know... *sigh*) I mean, I get all useful and do things like shout at the TV.

I've seen it in so many places this week, I just had to write about it. It's not just the "I can do it, so can you", it's the "my experience is universal" attitude that I see entirely too often. For example, a certain in-law of mine likes to point out that his mother never took medications, his mother never was sick, his mother cooked with lard all the time, etc. Fine, but then he takes that to mean that her mother is a hypochondriac because she does have to take pills. They grew up in the same area, they ate the same way, they clearly should be EXACTLY the same. Right? Wrong. Another in-law of mine says that childbirth isn't that bad, and anyone who says it is is playing it up for attention. Because clearly, every birth experience is the same.

The reasoning is pretty faulty and obvious at this level, no? Do I have to write out the syllogism for you? Because lately, it seems pretty systemic. It's economic: Person X grew up poor and worked her way up, therefore everyone can. If person Y is poor, it's because he didn't do what Person X did. It's social: Person A was in an abusive relationship. She left the bastard. If Person B doesn't leave her bastard, it's her fault. It's in the marketing I mentioned above. Another one I saw this week, I don't get beaten at the border. If SciFi writer got beaten, it must have been something he did. It's infuriating.

I even saw it in the story of the autistic kid who died because he wandered off before a winter storm. People had the gall to ask "Where were the parents?!" (which is this decade's "Won't anybody please think of the children?!") and then go on to say that if the parents had just watched the boy properly, he would be alive. What shit. What utter shit, on so many levels. First there's the victim blaming. Then there's the self-righteous indignation - they insist they've never ever let a child out of their sight. Oh puhleeze. Never had to take a pee when looking after kids? Oh no, they bring all three kids in with them, right? Right? And finally, there's the "Well, it never happened to me, so therefore, it's your fault". They seem to be unable to believe in the concept of accidents. Something bad always must have someone to blame in these people's world.

On first glance, it seems like these people are just stupid. I imagine that's the problem for a number of them. It's almost certainly the problem in the case of my in-laws (I kid, I kid - but they do vote Conservative and support, I kid you not, a flat income tax). They're just too shortsighted to see anything outside of their realm of experience, and too unimaginative to fathom anything else. I think they musn't read a lot of fiction. But I think some of them are afraid. They're afraid that if they admit that something bad happened, something that was out of the control of the victim, that they too could be a victim. And that scares them into denial. At least, that's what I was thinking when I found myself in that thinking pattern. And my experience is universal. Right?