There is this story on the news about a woman in the UK who is protesting against the subway ads that say obesity causes cancer. She says the ads make her feel guilty for being fat and that’s intolerable.
We can rag on the woman because yes, her complaints are silly. It’s true that obesity elevates cancer risks, and denying that is not a rational thing to do.
However, we can also look at the reasons why so many people perceive shaming or guilt-tripping in all kinds of things and react as strongly as this woman did to the most obvious, inoffensive statements.
All of the precariousness and risk of neoliberal societies is for individuals to deal with. If you are not successful, that’s your fault for not being a good entrepreneur of the self. You need to manage yourself better. And whenever anything bad happens, it’s your fault for not running fast enough, for not processing the change well enough, for not managing yourself better. That’s the essence of the neoliberal ideology I keep talking about.
People get tired of the constant interiorization of guilt for everything, so they freak out over the seemingly insignificant, trivial things like that subway ad about obesity. The woman who is protesting chose this particular innocent ad to concentrate on but what actually causes her discomfort is the larger environment of the constant recitation of the idea that there is nothing but isolated individuals who are completely responsible for everything that happens to them.