Alas. Today I read the most nonsensical article ever. It saddens me that it's authored by one of my favorite columnists, Suzanne Moore. I do believe humanity is imperfect and therefore cannot afford to yield perfect institutions or activities. As a feminist, I am well aware the theories I believe and try to follow are not impeccable - and that holds true to pretty much everything in life.
Although I do agree with Suzanne that capitalism shamelessly absorbs all things, including the practice of mindfulness (one that is very dear to me, as all my friends/readers know by now), I have a problem with her utter dismissal of the whole practice. Mindfulness has helped me in ways innumerable, and I believe only a very misinformed reading would deem it egoistic or void of any profound meaning. I think such interpretation is - to state the least - lazy and arrogant.
Let's face it: modern life is extremely loud and busy. I wouldn't be surprised if Suzanne had so tight a deadline that criticizing something as simple and straightforward as mindfulness seemed like an easy road to take. By claiming the practice is actually mindless, she is not only revealing a lack of understanding of a world she is so eager to criticize, but also a hurriedness that only demonstrates...well, mindlessness.
Putting the abductive reasoning above to the side, there is this element of arrogance I want to discuss here. It is precisely because I consider myself an activist (for feminism as well as for meditation) that I found Suzanne's article to be so absurdly elitist. To me, she sounded like a hipster who is totally worried about the popularization of the practice. Since it is getting so widespread, she seems to be arguing, it is no longer genuine.
Which begs the question: in this world, what is genuine anyway? I mean, claiming that something is no longer valid because it is not circumscribed to a niche anymore doesn't feel very rational to me. It rather sounds arrogant and essentialist. Only because it is getting popularized, she now deems it void of any meaning, as if the people who seek it were hollow themselves. By no means I can feel sympathetic towards such critique.
Furthermore, I know capitalism distorts things, in order to better profit from them. We're witnessing this phenomena taking place with feminism itself. The recent, highly airbrushed Beyonce's Rosie the Riveter picture is one such example. In all honesty, only time will say whether Beyonce's highly twisted feminism will turn out to have the power to effect real change in society or not. In this scenario, it pops to mind that Bell Hooks seemed very exasperated by Beyonce - to the extent of calling queen B a terrorist. To me, Hooks' passionate and offensive remarks sound as arrogant and blindly passionate as Moore's take on mindfulness. It took the Crunk Feminist Collective to point out the obvious:
"So let us be clear: Beyoncé is not a terrorist. She isn’t systematically doing violence to any group of people, rolling up and taking folks land, creating a context of fear in which people must live, or usurping folks right to self-determination, raping women as a tool of war, or turning children into soldiers."
As for Moore's article, it does seem to be making a case that mindfulness is being used by capitalism as a tool to keep people under control. It's the same reasoning Bell Hooks had the infelicity to make on Beyoncé. It doesn't really sustain itself because the practice is not reinforcing competition and blind obedience to the powerful. It is simply focusing on people's well being anyway. Should we be really having a beef with something that actually improves our lives?
I mean, improving is radically different from revolutionizing. As much as I like to think that only a revolution will change this world for the better, I completely abhor the idea that each and every trend is valuable only if it turns out to be an insurrection against power. I like to see the glass half full. Thus, I deem the fact that companies are sparing 10 minutes of their worker's time in order to teach them to care for their minds as something positive.
|Thich Nhat Hanh - I love his teachings, and he also states that meditation can make us stronger to fight for social justice.|
Moreover, the purpose of meditation is not activism, but it does have a revolutionary potential: by changing ourselves we can change the world. Imagine if everyone realizes that we just need to slow down and live in the present moment? That would do wonders not only to ourselves, but to the environment around us. Moore complains that people are just "switching themselves off", and again I think it is better to shut off by means of meditation than by simply watching junk on TV.
Yeah, I think I get it now: her argument seems like the old fallacy that things were brighter, or at least more noble, in the past. It's a lazy reasoning similar to that one which states technology is making us antisocial. As if people did not switch themselves off by means of TV, food or any other hobby. As if before the mindfulness 'fever' we were all avid readers of Marx and Gramsci who promptly organized demonstrations in our after hours. This world has never existed. Give me meditation over reality shows anytime. At least it is a healthier practice and I do believe companies are getting a wee bit more humane by promoting it. I rest my case.