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Why We Tolerate, Even Encourage, Fat People
It’s interesting (and runs contrary to this essay) that our left-hemispheric modern culture goes to extremes to accommodate unusual people, like the overweight. Such tolerance, though, is born of the same dogmatism that caused the Nazis to euthanize the disabled. It’s part of the postmodern religion of destroying all poles

I was standing on a corner in Clemson, waiting for the walk sign after a Tuesday evening basketball game. Clemson had just come from behind to beat ACC rival Pittsburgh in an exciting, back-and-forth game.

I had been traveling that week and was fatigued but had a good time. Now I just needed to get past the other fans, find my car, and drive 45 minutes back to my Airbnb in Greenville.

I continued to wait for the light, but noticed the elderly couple in front of me. The husband had a lock-tight grip under his wife's elbow, like he was holding her up, but based on their bodies' respective bents, it struck me more like she was holding him up.

It mildly annoyed me.

The previous night, I attended a dinner theater performance in Pigeon Forge. "The Hatfields and McCoys." It was corny, with a level of humor that makes Hee Haw look subtle and sophisticated, but it was enjoyable enough.

The four people at the table next to us never smiled. They practically snarled for the entire 90 minutes. And they were all wearing those Aftershokz headphones, almost like they couldn't stand to take them off long enough to enjoy the show.

It mildly annoyed me.

It then occurred to me that perhaps they had hearing problems. The Aftershokz headphones work by bone conduction, which is how a deaf Beethoven "heard" things toward the end of his life. Maybe the Aftershokz helped them hear. My annoyance abated.

In my defense, in both instances, I immediately noticed my annoyance and squelched it by reminding myself that (i) it's none of my business if a man oddly grasps his wife's arm or folks don't take off their headphones during a theater performance, and (ii) I'm a first-rate p**** for even feeling a prick of annoyance.

But still: Even though it's embarrassing, I can't deny that initial annoyance sensation.

Psychologists are Often the Ones Who Need a Psychologist

I've long said that I'm absorbed by Iain McGilchrist's hemisphere hypothesis for the same reason former drug addicts are dedicated to fighting drugs: I have long been a victim of my left hemisphere.

But I think there's a better analogy for my fascination. I'm absorbed by McGilchrist's hemisphere hypothesis for the same reason nutty people are drawn to the practice of psychology: They've had mental struggles, so they want to understand the mind better and, in the process, help others understand it better.

In this case, the hemisphere hypothesis explains why some people (gosh, I hope I'm not the only one) instinctively get annoyed with deaf or old people.

The left hemisphere is tasked with tasks. It gets things done. It values efficiency and effectiveness.

Enter that old couple in front of me at the crosswalk. They sure as heck weren't going to be moving real fast, thereby slowing me down. Perhaps the odd grip by the husband quietly signaled to me that my task of crossing the street was going to be slowed down a smidgeon, so my brain started to register a measure of annoyance (which is merely disgust in younger form, and disgust is a left-hemispheric reaction).

But now enter those folks next to me at the dinner theater. It's hard to imagine how their Aftershokz headphones could remotely interfere with any of my tasks.

Here, I suspect, is where the insidiousness of the left hemisphere becomes poignantly apparent.

In a left hemisphere culture (or, in my case, in a left-hemispheric nut job), any unusualness becomes a source of annoyance.

The left hemisphere values the known and ordinary. If it's in familiar environs, it can work more efficiently. If it has the requisite knowledge, it can succeed.

Unusual things disrupt the ordinary. They introduce a measure of uncertainty. These are things the left hemisphere loathes.

The result: When we see something that is unusual (that weird grip; a table full of people wearing Aftershokz headphones), the left hemisphere recoils.

Perhaps only mildly. Perhaps, like in my case, for just a few moments. But recoil it does.

An Entire Culture of Left-Hemispherics Can't Tolerate Nonconformity

What about an entire culture of left hemispherics? How does it react to the unusual?

There's a reason the Puritans insisted on conformity, and it wasn't out of holiness (though it was out of dogmatism). Puritans were gnostics and gnostics are severe left hemispherics and the left hemisphere loves dogmas: conformity and certainty are comforts to the left hemisphere.

How can a culture build the City on a Hill if the City is filled with the unholy . . . or with the disabled?

The Nazis euthanized the disabled for a reason. The disabled interfere with efficiency and effectiveness.

Me? I'm not condemning the Puritans or Nazis. After all, I did feel that prick of annoyance at the old couple with the weird elbow grip.

Max Picard wrote a book called Hitler in Our Selves.