The nonexistent guilt

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Posted by HSG on January 16, 2005 at 18:34:40:

It's always rewarding to find that one of our discussion topics has made an impact on a reader.

An occasional contributor to this forum wrote to us recently, saying that she found the passage from Friedrich Nietzsche that appeared in a recent thread (titled "One must learn to love") so compelling, that she looked up the passage for herself.

And when she did, she chanced upon another passage in the same book that struck her as equally relevant to our discussions--so she asked if we could bring it up in a future post.

The passage she lighted upon is titled "Guilt," and in it, Nietzsche shares a powerful insight about the "witch hysteria" of the Middle Ages--a hallucinated epidemic which many have likened to the "weight hysteria" that permeates modern society.

Nietzsche writes,

Although the shrewdest judges of the witches and even the witches themselves were convinced of the guilt of witchery, this guilt nevertheless did not exist. This applies to all guilt. (The Joyful Wisdom)

The reason why our reader found this excerpt so relevant to our discussions is obvious. The majority of individuals in the Middle Ages were suffering from the mass delusion that witchcraft was an actual threat--as real and terrible as the Plague--because of its practitioners' supposed ability to communicate with "dark powers" of the universe.

In The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1506) by Reginald Scot--the first notable attempt to stem the witch hysteria--the author describes the process by which accused witches themselves begin to believe the truth of the accusations brought against them. In time, he explains, "What mischief, mischance, calamity, or slaughter is brought to pass, they [the accused witches] are easily persuaded the same is done by themselves, imprinting in their minds an earnest and constant imagination thereof" (I.iii).

Of course, there were no "dark powers" for these supposed witches to commune with. There was no threat. It was all a hoax--and the fact that the majority of the populace were deluded into believing that the "threat" was genuine did not make it any more real.

We have a similarly tragic spectacle unfolding before us today.

The media churns out a daily dose of propaganda about a supposed weight "epidemic," when the simple reality is that people in the developed world are living longer, healthier lives than ever before.

There is no epidemic, no threat, and no "problem." It is another hoax--another mass delusion--which the profiteers in this war against women perpetuate by every means at their disposal.

But this anti-plus campaign would have no real power to impact society as a whole, were it not for the fact that so many full-figured women have internalized the attitudes of their enemies, and have accepted the guilt that the media seeks to impose on them--a guilt for something that does not exist. In an inversion of natural principles, they themselves have come to regard extreme thinness as "normal," and their own womanly proportions as abnormal.

Just as medieval witches believed that they were guilty of a crime--even though such a crime was not actually possible--so have many full-figured women come to believe that they are offenders against a natural standard of appearance, when in fact their inherently curvaceous state is the natural standard.

Curvaceous women are guilty of nothing, except of being . . . beautiful.

And just as today, we look back upon the people and beliefs of the Middle Ages in a rather smug, patronizing way, and ask ourselves, "How could they not have seen the absurdity of their fears? And how could they have allowed those fears to result in so much suffering?" so will the society of the near future look back upon the climate of fear that we are generating today, and ask themselves, "How could we have been such fools?"

Melissa Masi (Wilhelmina L.A./Heffner), test image:

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