Mind Control * Barbara Ehrenreich’s radical critique of wellness and self-improvement

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“Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance.
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“I may not be able to do much about grievous injustice in the world, at least not by myself or in very short order, but I can decide to increase the weight on the leg press machine by twenty pounds and achieve that within a few weeks,” she writes. “The gym, which once looked so alien and forbidding to me, became one of the few sites where I could reliably exert control.” What was a consolation, however, quickly evolved into a prize. Working out became a status symbol, a form of conspicuous consumption for a professional middle class bereft of purpose; and it became a disciplinary device, part of a culture that inflicts “steep penalties for being overweight.
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Once associated with play, exercise is now closer to a form of labor: measured, timed, and financially incentivized by employers and insurers. Like any kind of alienated labor, it assumes and intensifies the division between mind and body—indeed, it involves a kind of violence by the mind against the body.
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Monitor your data forever and hope to live forever. Like workout culture, wellness is a form of conspicuous consumption. It is only the wealthy who have the resources to maintain the illusion of an integral and bounded self, capable of responsible self-care and thus worthy of social status. The same logic says that those who smoke (read: poor), or don’t eat right (poor again), or don’t exercise enough (also poor) have personally failed and somehow deserve their health problems and low life expectancy.
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The body, […], only gives the appearance of unity: It’s made of a “collection of tiny selves.” And for that matter, there’s not really a king to impose order.
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Macrophages—immune cells that destroy pathogens—also abet the spread of cancer and instigate potentially catastrophic inflammatory diseases. They may even, Ehrenreich suggests, be responsible for aging itself. They seem to decide to do this, as it were, on their own. The “immune self,” a shadow entity that lives within the human body, sometimes cooperates and sometimes pursues its own agenda.
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“The process of thinking involves conflict and alliances between different patterns of neuronal activity. Some patterns synchronize with and reinforce each other. Others tend to cancel each other, and not all of them contribute to our survival.”

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see the original article here
Illustration by Siobhan Gallagher

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