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Note: The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections were not comfortable with this one. It is neither funny nor entertaining. I told them it will be posted and they capitulated. 

 

I’ve been immersed in Greek Mythology on Podcasts and Youtube. I continue to be outraged by Hera. For thems not familiar with the goddess, Hera is the queen of the Olympians, wife and sister to Zeus. Zeus is mostly known for being a rake who runs around the world seducing everyone – with Hera on his tail. Hera’s outrage at her spouse’s sexual shenanigans is understandable. However she handles her jealousy not by vituperating her husband so much as attacking his paramours – none of them willing recipients of Zeus’ lusts.  After he more or less rapes them Hera torments them often sadistically. It is worse for Z’s children by these poor souls. Hera does her best to destroy them in the most miserable means possible. [1] She personifies the age-old adage of “blaming the victim”. [2]

Blaming the victim is a psychology that burns my bacon. Gay/lesbians get blamed for having a high rate of depression, drug abuse, and suicide because of who they are and not because of the circumstances that make for such circumstances. Women who are sexually assaulted are told it’s their own fault for wearing the wrong clothes or doing something men don’t approve of. The largest and most enduring recipients of “blaming the victim” are the poor. Throughout time the poor have been told it’s their own fault they are poor. If they weren’t slackers, stupid, irresponsible, etc. they would not be that way. This logic carried out means not only is poverty ‘their fault’ but trying to help them only makes these faults worse. [3].

The flipside of blaming the victim is the all too frequent willingness for the victims to believe it. Human psychology as it is, when you are told over and over in direct and subtle ways your lot is your fault then you start to believe it.

I recently heard a lecture on obesity. People who are overweight are one of the few types of folks where it is still “OK” to make mock and most important – blame the victim. When we see a fat person we think s/he is that way from  volitional poor choices, lack of will power, and morale failure. We don’t make room for the possibility medical health concerns thwart their metabolism or pain makes exercise impossible. We tend to view fat people as stupid. We frown on their poor choices of food – not taking into account good food is expensive and often hard for the poor to come by, while cheap/bad food is often the only thing they can afford and obtain. [4] We all know about the ‘obesity crisis” in the USA but we seldom if ever look at the social issues and injustices that make it so. I suspect rich folks (who can afford proper food and time for exercise) have far less percentage of folks overweight than the ones in poverty.

As a doctor I see the hazards of being overweight; being so has a high level of morbidity and mortality. Shaming these patients (or worse – yelling at them) never never never ever works. There are studies to suggest shaming fat people only makes them more ashamed and eat and gain. In consultation on nutrition/weight etc. I’ve learned to look less at patient’s diet and exercise and more at their economics and time restraints. [5]

Society and systems and our prejudices are the things to blame, not the recipients. We need to recognize the Hera in us all and start going after Zeus, not Semele and Europa.

 

[1] Through the pages I want to shout “Hera, you are a goddess, why don’t you just kill them?”

[2] We don’t know if the Greeks thought Hera sensible or horrible.  Was she an example of ‘how to do it right” or ‘how not to do it”.
[3] I remember a play in which an impoverished family struggles to better themselves but the powers of the town and factory where they live and work thwart their endeavors through restrictions and unjust punishments. As the mother leaves the stage, she turns to say to their priest: “You know what’s the hardest thing about all of this? People think we do this on purpose.”
[4] We are also punitive with those overweight. We pass laws in cities forbidding the sale of soda pop and laws obliging food stamp recipients what they can and can not buy wih them. If similar laws are attempted in the suburbs there is outrage from the white and rich about ‘nannying’ laws and taking away our freedom to choose.

[5] Ever try to tell a single mother working two jobs she should go to the gym and cook from scratch a balanced meal of fresh produce she can’t find or afford?

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