Saturday, November 7, 2009

Nobody's perfect

Really, nobody. I, for instance, despite my myriad virtues, have been known to fart.

Occasional flatulence is the price we pay for eating and breathing and moving about in this material world as corporeal (or even Magical) beings. Our bodies process the stuff we take in, and our digestive system works on it, without our needing to consciously regulate the matter. Sometimes, toxic eruptions are the result.

And likewise, as social creatures we encounter, every day, every second, multifarious and splendiferous examples of exclusion and marginalisation, ever-so-subtly presented as so fundamental a part of our world that we even come to believe the total opposite, that systems of domination that are well entrenched are somehow precious fragile crystals under threat. The concepts and beliefs and embedded valuations are so thoroughly built into the molecules of thoughtfood we consume that sometimes, we even swallow libels about ourselves.

It is no wonder, then, that everyone - and I mean absolutely everyone - produces racist, sexist, ableist, heteronormative, cissexist and other verbal and behavioural flatulence from time to time. As long as we live in the world as it is, and put the crap into our brains that we do, our mental digestive processes will operate like an iron law. However loudly you declare yourself a liberal or a progressive, how many hours you spend doing activist and consciousness-raising work, whatever petitions you have signed or legislation you have campaigned against, you will still, sometimes, fart.

Now, you have several choices as to how to react to this unavoidable truth.

You can recognise the reality in which you live. You can do your best to avoid farting in company. If someone says, "Wow, that pongs," you can own up and apologise. You can do your best to avoid consuming specific foods that you notice encourage these gaseous emissions.

Or you can go about farting gratuitously at everyone you meet, get defensive when you are called on it, and insist again and again that your shit just doesn't stink. "But I'm doing research into anti-fart food standards and technological advances! My fart physically cannot smell bad!"

You might also throw up your hands and say, "There's no pleasing these people! What is the point of my work on air fresheners if people will still judge me as - ye gods - a farter?!?!?!? Will you only be happy if I wallow in guilt all the time?"

To which I say, the point of trying to eliminate environmental contributions to smelly farts is not to prove your personal purity or vindicate your soul. The point of the work is the work itself, and if you believe otherwise, you are probably doing bad work. I for one am utterly uninterested in whether you enter into paroxysms of guilt after every poot: I am only interested in you taking actual steps to minimise the degree to which others face your shit.

Nobody's perfect. But most of us could do something to be a hell of a lot better.

1 comment:

Please avoid (1) victim-blaming, (2) justifying any particular instance of oppression/exploitation, (3) explaining that we live in a post-feminist/racist/ablist/enter-oppression-here world, or (4) Mansplaining at all. Barn writers are free to moderate their own posts how ever they deem fit, and not obligated to entertain any comment. If you suspect it might seem offensive, don't comment.

(See our note on comments.)