There’s a great post up at Shapely Prose about unrestricted eating. It resonated with me, though not so much about the eating.
The point is about the meaning of ‘unrestricted’. People who Restrict their eating with a capital R, i.e. diet, sometimes seem to think as if were they, or anyone else, not to diet, their eating would be entirely unrestricted, and they’d binge constantly.
Whereas in fact, people not on diets – people even without any ‘dieting-consciousness’, any habit of thinking ‘oh no I shouldn’t‘, eat a perfectly mundane amount. They see things that they’d like to eat, but for various reasons don’t eat them – like, they’re full, or it would be inconvenient, or they’re busy, or they are going to eat something else soon, etc.They can, as the author, Fillyjonk, puts it, think about eating something, without eating it – they can afford to “decriminalize [their] thoughts about food”.
But dieting-consciousness can lead people to associate the lack of Restriction (diets) with the lack of restriction (not doing absolutely everything that crosses your mind). As commenter Ailbhe says, “People Can Be Trusted To Look After Themselves Given Half A Chance – Nation In Shock”.
Obviously this mentality isn’t restricted to food. Fillyjonk makes a link to the idea of sexual modesty – that the fact that some innocuous body part of behaviour (hair, cleavage, bending over, crotch-stuffing) makes someone think about sex, brings the idea into their minds, isn’t a problem, because people can think of sex without having sex. To suggest ‘modesty’, covering those body parts or avoiding those behaviours, would be to assume that people were helpless against the thought of sex – that they lacked any sense of self or awareness of appropriateness.
This is of course what the more extreme advocates of modesty often do, by comparing people (or rather, men) to animals, who cannot be expected to not rape someone who’s flaunting their bare shoulders everywhere (using the metaphor of food, actually).
But I think it relates to many other things. In relation to drugs, for example, we’re forced by reality to recognise that people can, by and large, be allowed to drink alcohol without drinking it irresponsibly, but people often seem to expect that legalising other drugs would see us surrounded by coke-heads every day of our lives.
I found the post most resonant over the issue of using physical force for political purposes, which I’ve blogged about a few times before. I advocate accepting the use of discriminate, reactive, measured force as one political tactic among others, where it would be productive (by discriminate, reactive, and measured, I mean force only against particular targets, not bystandanders, force only against those who initiate or threaten the use of force themselves, and only as much as is necessary to incapacitate them).
But I think for many people the idea that each human being has the right to resort to force sounds terrifying, as though it would produce a world of endless fighting and violence, because the idea of removing an absolute, rigid Restriction is interpreted as removing restriction altogether, and it’s assumed that people would start fights whenever they felt like it. Which amounts to the assumption that people cannot take responsibility for their own actions, or respond firmly and constructively to others. But since everybody (except pacifist anarchists) accepts that law-makers, police, and soliders have the right to initiate force, this would only work if the average politician were markedly more responsible and trustworthy than the average person. Which…well…
More broadly, it’s this equation of restriction per se (i.e. balance, moderation, reasonableness, good sense) with Restriction (i.e. external laws, whether enforced by a special body or by ourselves) that makes anarchism seem so unimaginable to some people.
“How can people organise themselves without authority? Won’t they just bicker endlessly/shoot each other/have an orgy/get nothing done?” As if people didn’t organise themselves everywhere, every day, in millions of ways. As if individuals weren’t organising their own lives to the best of their abilities, regardless of higher-ups telling them what to do. As if there was anything else in the entire universe that could organise people, except themselves.
The most worrying thing is how often this authoritarian mentality can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, declaring that without Restraint people will be entirely unrestrained, and thereby creating people who don’t know how to restrain themselves without some authority figure’s Restraint.