Thursday, July 30, 2015

The superiority of the reader over the non-reader

This had 4800 likes and 3200 shares.

This landed today in my Facebook feed. The caption read, "the superiority of the reader over the non-reader" (translated from French). If you look closely someone seems to have adapted the original work by adding titles to the books, namely the bible on the left (completely absent in the original), with an assorted collection of scientifically-oriented tomes opposite.

To be clear, I'm not bashing the primary source (which I can't even find). It fits right at home on the corner of some newspaper page, good to rouse a chuckle out of apathetic, slightly-inadequate-feeling editorial cartoon readers. Its intent was almost certainly pure ("reading helps you reach new heights"), and yet the cackle is not of agreement, but of superiority: "I'm better than you because I read".

Nowhere is that more evident than in this altered incarnation. It's all very transparent, from the person who edited the image to the poster who managed to nuke all plausible deniability with that incriminating caption (and somehow missed the jab at religion). What's so insidious about this is that once you get your pretentious fix you're less likely to go do something useful, like actually read. You feel good and that's enough, because all the other stuff takes effort.

Exhibiting a disturbingly similar MO, redditors in /r/getmotivated masturbate around one sentence platitudes written against portraits of wealthy male figures. Their life is invariably revolutionized by the quotes' hidden meaning, which is conveniently signposted so that any schmuck with a two-bit reading comprehension can uncover it. When they wake up the next day, life is just as shit as it always was, but with more canned inanity to self-congratulate over.

This boasts a whopping +4500. For fuck's sake.

And this is not just some innocuous backwater web trash. After a high-profile sexual assault case, several notable Romanian personalities initiated a viral campaign in which they photographed themselves holding a sign announcing "real men condemn rape" and then presumably patted themselves on the back off-camera.

Might as well have said, "I'm not a piece of shit."

This is really duplicitous because virtually everybody thinks they're against sexual assault, and yet rape culture still exists. The problem is the subtle, insidious lack-of-consent attitudes that are being perpetuated, such as "she asked for it", "boys will be boys", and "silence implies consent". Saying you're against rape not only serves as a publicity stunt but keeps you from reflecting on your own attitudes, which is the hard part. Just because you declare yourself not-homophobic or not-racist doesn't mean you aren't. Prime example from a FetLife thread: "Nope def not homophobic. [...] Love the gays! Live and let live has always been my motto." (capitalization mess corrected)

People have already proclaimed themselves trans-friendly (perhaps through an uplifting quote opposite a rainbow flag), so when I'm bombarded with seemingly innocent comments like "you look like a real girl" (I am a real girl), "you pass really well" (backhanded compliment), and "what about your penis?" (none of your fucking business), I can't just call it out without it devolving into an unruly, emotionally draining mess. They will always fall back on how they're not transphobic, flattering themselves for being supportive without actually helping.

They took the easy way out at the beginning, they flocked around an insipid picture of some text, and now they're confronted with the fact that liking something on Facebook doesn't suddenly rid them of their prejudice. And now look where we're at.

I'm closing this with an image of my own. Please like and share if you're a pragmatist.

The superiority of the pragmatist over the idealist.