Swin Gana Mis

Episode Three Hundred One: Swin Gana Mis.
In which we non-converse.

1 comment:

  1. This is a conversation I had with a colleague about twenty years ago. This person was a mentor, highly educated, versed in film and lit, and well read in daily newspapers and journals. Additionally, this person had lost a family member to an eating disorder. All that as context, I was a little stunned at being thrown that question, as I see it as revealing a massive disconnect between their understanding of current affairs and what I make to be a very complicated biological and psychological issue.

    Yet this is not the first time I've been with someone who expressed that exact same sentiment. And in asking, I always see the person both betraying a deep prejudice involving body ableism and also a shocking ignorance around the fundamentals of human behavior. That shock is written in the second frame here; what's always a quick reeling-in of my social comfort due to the exposure of my own naivete in forgetting that people can be one thing (educated, affable, etc.) and yet still another (racist, fattist, etc.)

    And then, there's the Dunning-Kruger reminder as voiced by Dr. David Dunning on Radiolab, that the Dunning-Kruger effect isn't about other people, it's about all of us: we all wander outside our own area of expertise occasionally, and the problem with our confidence is that we lack the facility to identify our own ignorance, due to that same ignorance. So, even as I marvel at all the blind turns a mind would have to take to ask the question "why don't fat people just stop eating", I know that I might be at that point somewhere else in my life, ready to ask that same stupid question, only using different words.

    Anyway, this conversation did happen. I was asked that question, and I responded with the same info as in frames three and four (though not quite so condensed). And then there was a pause. And then that punchline.

    What's even more telling is that this person was wrong. I've been 20-40 pounds overweight since quitting cigarettes in my late 20s. I've been on meds for hypertension since my early 20s. I've been on meds for type ii diabetes since my mid thirties. I am fat. In this case, my colleague happened to look at me at me and made the judgement that I'm not fat, and in doing so afforded me the privilege of not being judged as 'someone who won't stop eating'. There's a lot of cultural baggage that comes along with that judgement, such as 'why am I paying for this guy's healthcare if he won't care for himself?'.

    The punchline, of course, the most damning assessment yet: because I'm not fat, in this person's assessment, whether or not I overeat is irrelevant. It's ok to behave however you want, as long as you don't suffer the consequences. Or, rather, as long as you don't make your community suffer the consequences. I had carefully explained that the problem I had with eating was lifelong and torture, and my point sailed clear over their head. None of that mattered, because it wasn't germane to their question, which was about the 'other' people. And that othering process, as I had pointed out, strikes me as kind of the root of the problem as a whole.

    It was a challenge to fit six frames in this one, but I wanted the balance between the two short pause reactions. I feel it worked well, although the face of the colleague changes too much in the final three frames, and I'm annoyed by that. Overall, though, I think it works.



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