A Culture Where Guilt Doesn’t Exist

PicMonkey Sample

What would it feel like to banish guilt from your vocabulary? To remove it and replace it with words that are action-oriented? What change may come from taking away words that no longer serve you?

I feel guilty

I should do that

I don’t want it

It can never happen

Little adaptations make for big change.

But Susan Sontag’s Dead

“so I guess her cancer wasn’t metaphorical after all. Sorry.”
– “Illness As a Metaphor,” Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson tips its hat to Susan Sontag by alluding to her prolific writings on the practice of describing illness through the use of metaphors. She argues that there is a certain set of contagious vocabulary that we employ when discussing diseases:

“We have to wage a war on this cancer.”
“He’s battling a disease.”
“This threat to life must be stamped out.”

and if someone perishes…

“They lost the fight.”

With many illnesses, we treat the way we speak about them as if the host was invaded or caught by the disease. Whereas with injury, we simply say that we are in the process of healing. There’s no great war, only the path back towards health.

Sontag asserts that much of the reason that we use these terms has to do with the mysterious conditions surrounding disease. With cancer, for example, no definite cure has been established. She suggests that once a cure is discovered, the horror, mystery, and metaphors surrounding cancer will dissipate as well. We use the language to bolster ourselves against that which we do not entirely understand.

And although her book came out in 1978, her wish to challenge the victim mentality is still valid and meaningful today. Her goal with her writing was to “alleviate unnecessary suffering.” She believed that wrapping disease in metaphors discouraged, silenced, and shamed patients.

While argument is still a divisive one, I do agree that using aggressive terms and mindset towards illness can ultimately harbor one’s path back to health. This is not to belabor anyone’s struggle with disease – as I know many of them can be just that – a true daily struggle. But instead of “fighting” these diseases, we need to champion health. Each negative thought we latch onto and play on repeat in our heads manifests itself in our body as stress. Only by accepting and supporting wellness can we hope to heal.

Wait, What Did You Call Me?

What insult did opponents of Andrew Jackson’s throw his way that backfired when he ended up liking it, and has been associated with his party ever since?

“Jackass.”

That’s right. Jackson was the first Democrat to be associated with the donkey symbol. During the election of 1828, his adversaries tried to label him a “jackass” for his slogan, “Let the people rule,” and his populist agenda. Jackson thought it was hilarious, and started using the “ass” on his campaign posters. By 1870, cartoonist Thomas Nash popularized the already popular unofficial party symbol, thus sealing the Democrats as the donkeys.

And while that word is an insult that we’re still familiar with nowadays, a few other expressions that were floating around in the 1800s have fallen out of use today. Shame – some of these sound like they’d roll off the tongue nicely.

Quockerwodger

A rare nineteenth-century word for a wooden toy which briefly became a political insult.

Buncombe

A word that originated in 1819 to mean a ludicrously false statement. Equivalent of bullshit or nonsense.

Turncoat

One who switches to an opposing side or party; specifically : traitor.

“A rigid, fanatic, ambitious, selfish partisan, and sectional turncoat with too much genius and too little common sense, who will either die a traitor or a madman”
Jackson on John Calhoun

Popinjay

A dated description for politicians; A vain and talkative person who chatters like a parrot.

Unctuous

Characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, especially in an affected manner; cloyingly smooth, suave or smug.

Image by the Project Twins.