Since my diagnosis with and failed conventional treatments for Crohn’s disease I have gotten a lot of comfort and knowledge from reading various online support forums for Crohn’s patients. It was there that I realized that I was not alone in my diagnosis, symptoms, multiple treatment failures or feelings of hopelessness, despair and what was becoming a seething and visceral hatred and resentment toward the medical community for failing Crohn’s patients and other chronically ill people so badly. Some forums are even tolerant if not enthusiastic about hosting discussions about medical marijuana for Crohn’s patients which I appreciate. Most of all I take solace in reading the forums because the participants are real people expressing themselves honestly and often tackling taboos, perhaps the biggest of which is the taboo against disparaging medical treatment, healthcare providers or the patriarchal capitalist medical industry in any way. Because if you aren’t even allowed to think or discuss negative thoughts about Western medicine and its treatment of Crohn’s how will you ever think about or discuss alternatives? If Western medicine is put on a pedestal and beyond reproach, what choice do patients have but to blame themselves when their treatments fail to help them and oftentimes actually make them worse?
I think the forum participants are mostly able to be honest because they aren’t doing it as a job, they aren’t trying to build a following on social media, or get clicks, or sell advertising so they do not have to toe the line of playing nice with the medical system that is oftentimes torturing and even killing them. Not so with the Crohn’s blogs. “Hawt girl with ostomy” seems to be a particularly popular genre in Crohn’s blogging and social networking as is the “Crohn’s Tragicomedy” where graphic bodily and medical horrors, daily indignities and even medical malpractice and abuse are reduced to memes. Indeed, every Crohn’s blog I have seen evinces uncritical consumption of medical goods and services (and fuckability mandates!) that are resource intensive, barbaric and dangerous; do not work, or for long; and often make patients feel worse. And while I can see the draw of lighthearted Crohn’s blogging-for-profit — it is light-duty flexible work and a good fit for the chronically ill, and it feels good to laugh — I have learned that making light of issues with political and material implications is just not a good idea in a long-term big-picture kind of way. It minimizes, normalizes and invisiblizes the harms, lets the perpetrators off the hook, and extinguishes victims’ hard-earned righteous rage.
As I am launching this blog, which I intend to be a short-term project where I address a dozen or so issues and then archive it, I am reading other Crohn’s blogs to see whose perspectives I enjoy so that I can comment there, and if the bloggers and their audience enjoy my comments they can click over and read my blog. This is how bloggers initially create their audience. Today I spent the morning reading the blogs at Healthline’s “Best Crohn’s Disease Blogs of 2018” and I am sorry, but these people are not my people. While I unequivocally support their right to speak and to use any style they wish, and to consciously direct their own treatment, beyond our shared Crohn’s symptoms, treatment failures and the often overwhelming negative effects on our lives, I cannot relate to them at all.
I was a content creator and political commentator on another platform for many years and I too started with the Tragicomedic approach using humor and sarcasm to try to lighten everyone’s load, but after a few years of researching, writing and discussing the ways vulnerable people are used, abused and discarded under capitalism and patriarchy I no longer found it funny. In fact, with my background in dissecting and criticizing capitalism and patriarchy I have developed a true hatred for Western medicine as essentially enforced consumerism as well as institutionalized sexism, racism, classism, ableism and often a cover for horrific abuse. Researching Western medicine’s treatment of Crohn’s patients, and now being one myself, has only bolstered my opinion that capitalism and patriarchy have no legitimate place in healing anyone or anything, least of all girls and women. Not animals, not people, no one should be subjected to the enforced consumerism and institutionalized abuse that is modern Western medicine. And once you recognize abuse for what it is, and realize how entrenched abuse is in the medical system and that there is often no alternative or escape, well, it’s simply not funny.
Clearly, when Crohn’s patients use humor in this way it is because they don’t see a way out of their station and there is precedence for this. Historically, so-called dark or black comedy has served the purpose of allowing oppressed people a politically nonthreatening outlet for their frustrations and rage over being oppressed — an apolitical solution to a political problem, which is no solution at all from the perspective of the oppressed. The oppressors love it because it shuts everyone up and directs their attentions and energies elsewhere, away from the perpetrators and their crimes. From the linked article:
In every oppressive regime there is this kind of underground humor, and it fulfills an important function: Laughter shared by the oppressed at the expense of the oppressor reduces fear and helps people to go on living under the regime with more ease. […] When such feelings build up and must be held in, a kind of “pressure cooker” is created, which can explode in violent ways. It is to be supposed that in democratic societies, in which freedom of expression is given to political humor, satire indirectly serves the interests of the government.
Here, the “government” benefits from keeping righteous citizens quelled, and so does Western medicine and all its arms and moving parts benefit when disillusioned, traumatized and recalcitrant Crohn’s patients put on a happy face and stop short of asking the tough questions and demanding answers, or relief. The unintended beneficiaries of medical- and specifically Crohn’s-related gallows humor include Big Pharma; individual doctors who either ignorantly or deliberately cause their patients further distress and harm; medical research including elite universities and so-called “medical testing” on animals which is just more institutionalized abuse; psychiatrists who attempt to mitigate the harm of medical trauma including both treatment “successes” and failures; real estate moguls who build vast treatment centers, children’s hospitals and the like; wealthy investors who are making literally billions of dollars from all this suffering and others.
More from the article:
Feelings of hostility and frustration may well be increased among the oppressed by the restraint enforced on humorous expression. […] The possibility of ventilating feelings against the state by means of laughter offers release; the hostility might otherwise be demonstrated in far more violent forms, even outright rebellion.
In the case of patriarchal and capitalist medicine, and in many cases in fact, a successful rebellion if not a full-blown revolution may be exactly what is needed where clearly, Western medicine cannot be counted on to police itself or to prioritize healing and patient satisfaction over maintaining patriarchal and capitalist norms. Unfortunately, in the case of the chronically ill consuming medical goods and services uncritically, the status quo is unlikely to change because so many sick people depend on disability benefits to survive and disability benefits require compliance with Western medical standards of care regardless of whether this “care” makes patients feel better or worse or even kills them. This is a deliberate and sickening double-bind that creates and maintains a steady pool of victims for the abusive Western medical machine and there is no reasonable alternative and no way to opt-out or to protect yourself or your loved ones, including children, from what can only be described as institutionalized ritual abuse. And none of this is funny. It’s not funny at all.