The Big Issue : Edition 460
THE BIG ISSUE 6 – 19 JUNE 2014 13 “Promoting the development of high self-esteem is an industry. We presume that its presence sets us up for success and its absence dooms us to failure.” RAZER PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND(RAZER)ANDALANATTWOOD(RICKY) We’re Not Worthy! WellSpentYouth » Helen Razer (@helenrazer) is a gardener, writer and wearer of hats. Her application to be Clive Palmer’s personal trainer has not elicited a response. AS ALL SANE humans know perfectly well, cafes are dens of hell full of average food and trying conversation. Actually, I don’t even mind the average food, which is always elevated to above- average status by virtue of the fact that I did not have to cook it, plan it or wash up after its preparation and consumption. But I do mind the trying conversation. This is why I prefer to dine where the lingua franca is not English. If I am surrounded by people speaking about average things in Italian or Mandarin, I am blissfully unaware of their likely idiocy and can pretend that they, unlike their Anglophone counterparts, are solving all the problems of the world before their antipasto has arrived. I made the error recently of agreeing to dine in a cafe full of people who spoke and thought in English with equal incompetence. As a result, all I wanted to do was shove the flatbread, which at least had the decency not to speak, into my ears. I also wanted to shove it in all the mouths of the other blathering patrons to prevent them from echoing the opinion of one in particular, who was talking about her “poor self-esteem”. Now. Let’s set aside the broken logic that allowed this diner enough self-esteem to proclaim its absence in a crowded cafe. If you can talk about its lack, then you don’t lack it. I considered telling her this. Then again, I considered telling her that if her child, whom I believe was called ‘Harrison’, was old enough to articulate his order for breast milk, then he was almost certainly too old to need it. But I didn’t, because I am now in my forties and know that it is not only rude but futile to tell people to refrain from both moaning about ‘self-esteem’ and from breastfeeding persons about to graduate primary school. Fortunately, though, it is considered neither rude nor futile to offer these opinions in a publication and so, of course, I will. And I will urge you not only to stop breastfeeding people who clearly would prefer to chew on a panini but also to stop talking about self-esteem. Promoting the development of high self- esteem is an industry. We presume that its presence sets us up for success and its absence dooms us to failure. As such, children are now taught to sing stupid songs about loving themselves and they are all awarded plaudits regardless of their actual success: every child wins a prize! And their parents, and female parents in cafes in particular, complain that their own poor self-esteem is holding them back. Holding them back from what? From not breastfeeding a 45-year-old man? From being a boring idiot? She was plainly gifted in both. And, as she looked well-to-do and was obviously of a tax bracket that allowed her to eat frequently in overpriced cafes, I just couldn’t see the problem. But on she went. Apparently, she didn’t feel “beautiful”. Apparently, every woman has a “right” to feel beautiful these days. It’s a right, apparently, up there with freedom of assembly. Every Woman Has the Right to Feel Beautiful. And people believe in this self-esteem hooey so strongly they campaign for more “real”-looking women to be on catwalks and on magazines so that they can feel that beauty’s imprimatur is stamped on their own botoxed foreheads. Self-esteem. Good self-image. You know who has these things? A sociopathic murderer. I’m not advocating for hating oneself; in fact, I happen to think I’m a reasonable human. But not hating oneself is quite different from immodestly loving oneself and OH MY GOODNESS. Remind me to take lunch in places where people speak a language other than self-esteem.