Guilt-edged insecurities

‘Have you asked your hernia what it wants?’ a new-age neighbour asked me. Not yet. Nor do I care to ask it. Them. (And no, it’s not nonbinary, but a pair: one on each side.) A hernia isn’t an entity in itself, just a prominent, sometimes painful sign of a wrecked muscle wall: feedback about what the entity I call ‘me’ needs, as a delayed result of, possibly, reckless things done to save money: loading a ten-tonne skip with junk on my own, lugging large items of dumped furniture home, etc. What a hernia wants doesn’t concern me; though I’d guess it wouldn’t want to be eliminated. Besides, why personify an extrusion of fat and/or viscera, yet treat the sentient creatures one eats as things?

Don’t get me wrong – though it’s not ‘all good’, the New Age has lots to offer (I used to be a New Ager too). So I wasn’t impressed when, during the months a virus monopolised mainstream news, the PC leftist press ran essays comparing the New Age and the far right (e.g., Nazi astrologers) – a barefaced attack on natural health, i.e., the unvaxxed. Like archetypes, stereotypes – even those we disdain – speak to some unformed (uniformed? uninformed?) region of the brain. What we watch or read or play with in childhood leaves a deep impression. And so sheer survival fear and other stressful feelings can transport us back to an earlier world in which stereotypes appeal.

Which stereotype did you side with under lockdown pressure? The guiltless (vs. guileless) entitled right (to hell with welfare for the poor/disabled/elderly while they sell out to developers, boost military spending and border protection, and ratify the rape of nature by their mining magnate mates)? Or the guilt-ridden, ethically justified left (obsessed with public gestures of sorriness, hollow renewables policies, token wokeness, gender-appropriate pronouns, rainbow merch and so on)? Remember when left meant anti-corporate? Not anymore. Fear can annihilate reason, especially when turbo-charged with guilt. Like, what responsible citizen would want to endanger the vulnerable? Branding someone selfish deflects scrutiny from the accuser, as narcissists know instinctively, adept at using a tone, a look or even a sigh to instil guilt in others. And in a narcissistic culture, a virtue-signalling speech or social media post can trigger mass guilt and submission.

From the day I left home at 18 to flee my martyred mother, until she left home, decades later, for residential aged care, she guilt-tripped me constantly for not visiting enough. And when I had to visit more because she needed more support (despite her resistance), she guilt-tripped me for other sins. Why did she conform so closely to social norms? Impressionability? That I was ‘different’ (to the respectable offspring of peers) upset her. In time, I came to recognise how, from birth, I’d been primed to bear her guilt and fear – a liability when I tried to unlock dormant potentials. Then guilt and fear I couldn’t escape – they felt so intense that, as a young adult, I mistook them for my identity – assumed batshit shapes. Which isn’t to blame a bent mind or spine on the madwoman who cramped my style (even if, as a cousin’s research implies, the gene for the latter came from her line). Yet she deserves credit for having gouged a guilt-shaped hole in my psyche: a pitfall trap for paragons of righteousness.

Some weeks ago, on a quest for alternative hernia treatments, I called a seasoned osteopath. ‘You need to work out exactly how you got it,’ was the stern response. Well, I’d tried – and on consulting Dr Google’s checklist, I’d ticked a few boxes. Hypermobility increases the risk, I offered. The osteo scoffed: they knew lots of hypermobile folk, some of whom did yoga and could wrap their legs around their necks, and none of them had hernias, and did I want an appointment before they went on holidays? Er, no thanks. Then I recalled that, months before, when I’d turned up for an adjustment, they’d asked me if I’d recently caught any buses. Yes. Had I worn a mask? No – most passengers hadn’t (masks were optional then). The lecture began. But the driver hadn’t worn one either. Oops. I copped a rebuke for disregarding the driver and the community too, topped off with paranoia that I might infect them. In vain, I tried to explain I was safely socially isolated, and had sat on seats 1.5+ meters away from other breathers. But they gravely refused to treat me, because they treat children and the elderly. Inspired by pain, I retrieved my idle mask and promised to keep it on, while gazing into those crazed blue eyes with all the contrition I could feign.

That osteo, I heard from the new-age neighbour (who I’d referred to them), no longer asks unvaxxed clients to wear masks. But I seem to have hit my threshold of tolerance for false morality. My leftie GP once guilt-tripped me for wanting a blood test (which would have revealed the chronic Vitamin D deficiency they’d enabled) – because blood tests (unlike unsafe, ineffective jabs?) are expensive. But hey, since when have 15-minute consultations permitted exploration of complex conditions? And general practitioners lack in-depth knowledge by definition.

Initially, my GP diagnosed a ‘muscle weakness’ that ‘could turn into a hernia’ if I wasn’t careful. Yet not until it really bulged did they prescribe an ultrasound, at which point I learned that (duh!) a bulge is a hernia. Matching pain on the other side induced me to see a new GP for a new ultrasound referral. My usual GP had fobbed me off: surgeons check just before an op and, if they find a second hernia, fix both in one go. (Like, why – facing a wait of up to 18 months for surgery in the public system, if my GP was right – would I need to know?) I had to ask reception for the report my GP had withheld; the same GP who’d spent 15+ minutes trying to book me in for a jab. How they could know so much about a ‘novel’ virus (and an even newer ‘vaccine’), yet so little about an age-old condition, would only be puzzling if politics hadn’t co-opted medical science.

Ideologies don’t promote healing and wholeness. But they can be used to control us. How do we wrest control back? Anonymity? Hactivism? Going off-grid? Flying under the radar? Building self-sufficient communities? Countercultural solidarity? Capitalism fragments social groups, undermining cultural roots, further atomising the already fragile nuclear family and reducing individuals to isolated consumers. A pandemic is its wet dream. But dropping out is an option not all of us can afford. Which leaves resignation and ever deepening dependence… Or transcendence. For instance, abstract systems of thought that span cyclical time or dimensions can put narrow paradigms in perspective (hence the biblical ban on astrology – and the distrust it evokes from the left?). To seek divine knowledge (i.e., divination) is hubris, putting us on the same footing as gods (or religious authorities). So our overlords play on both guilt and fear to keep us in line: a hangover from our founding religion.

Yet some of us plead innocent when confronted with our complicity in wholesale abuses of humans, other species, and/or the environment. It’s not hypocrisy unless we join the dots: a project that most of us decline. Luckily, subliminal programs (and algorithms) keep us distracted. Dissociated. And most folk in our still largely Judaeo-Christian culture carry subliminal guilt – even (or especially?) if they’ve renounced the rituals of religion; the deity of science and technology becomes the all-seeing eye. Self-examination is more advisable. Because untreated guilt – whether acute or chronic, personal or communal – can kill. If symptoms persist, confession and penance may help. Go tell a non-judgemental friend (cheaper than therapy), then pray to something sacred and sentient (like a tree). Otherwise, the reading, writing and speaking of heresies can reduce severity and boost natural immunity.

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