Bad Things Don’t Happen to Good People

Amanda hits on something interesting during this discussion of Oprah:

No matter how bad you feared it was, Oprah’s even worse than you
could have imagined, letting her “experts” push ideas such as “diet
will prevent you from catching HPV, so don’t worry about the vaccine”
and otherwise encouraging her viewers to take health measure that will
actually degrade their health and work against their interests. It
also functions a neat examination of the sort of motivations that keep
health woo alive, despite all evidence and common sense against it. I
somewhat disagree with the authors, who seem to think that the emphasis
on woo on Oprah’s show is all about her massive ego. It actually seems
to me that it’s ratings-grabbing pandering, and Oprah just has, for
whatever reason, a real ear for those things that will trip up her
audience’s wishes and anxieties. Health woo tends to rely on a few
principles to keep people’s interest and money flowing:

1) Bad things don’t happen to good people.*

2) There must be a way of understanding the body that doesn’t
involve actually gaining difficult and often embarrassing knowledge.

3) The world is out to get me.

4) There must be a quick, easy solution out of any problem, and it’s just a matter of finding out what it is.

Since Oprah’s audience is largely female, they aren’t completely off
in their sense that the world is out to get them. But the reasons for
this and the ways to fight it that Oprah offers are fucked up. Yes,
people routinely discredit women’s intelligence. But the solution is
not, as Oprah protege Jenny McCarthy suggests, to claim a special
female-only “mommy knowledge” that automatically trumps evidence and

Emphasis mine, because I think there’s a step farther to go here: Bad things don’t happen to good people, and I am a good person. That’s the assumption. You hear it every time someone is featured in the news as being poor or unfortunate, the subtext (or, increasingly, text) that “she should have done this, that, the other thing,” that “I would never make that mistake.” You’d evacuate before the hurricane, you’d sell some bling to buy health insurance, you’d refuse a cheap mortgage if someone dangled it in front of your face and told you to take it, etc, etc, etc. Nothing bad would ever happen to YOU, because you’re smarter, more virtuous, you’re destined to be okay.

And then. My years doing weekend cops reporting taught me nothing but the randomness of horror: the couple on their honeymoon pasted all over the freeway, the father out getting milk who got shot in a drive-by, the lightning strike, the swimming accident, the disappearances and deaths and illnesses all preceded by the absolute assurance that everything was fine. When bad fortune whallops you one, you always wonder, once the little cartoon birds have stopped circling overhead, where on earth everybody is who’s supposed to be taking care of you? And they’re off doing what you did once: picking your life apart to see where you went wrong to deserve what you got.

Then you realize, if your’e remotely
self-aware, that the world is full of random shit designed to blow your
life to smithereens, and that we need to take care of each other because you never know when it can happen. Or you don’t realize that, and keep looking for a way to make yourself tragedy-proof, maybe through eating acai berries or something. If you find that way, would you drop me a line? Let me know, if you run across something that works.


14 thoughts on “Bad Things Don’t Happen to Good People

  1. What most people don’t realize is that everything beyond being born is lagniappe. This statement has nothing to do with your being good, karma, luck or astrology and everything to do with the fact that being human is an exercise in statistical odds. In other words, shit happens but so do good things.

  2. Blaming the victim is the great international sport of the morallyrigshi. (Sorry to use a Hebraism at you, but there is no equivalent term in English.)

  3. Unfortunately, Oprah doesn’t use her widespread acceptance to disseminate tested medical knowledge. Rather, she seems drawn to the “underdog” who has found a “cure” which the medical establishment is suppressing because it will put doctors out of work (as if we weren’t in a physician shortage).
    While I’ll generally support anyone’s right to choose the care of their choosing, I hate that Oprah hasn’t seen the results of her bad advice. For example, the TV show that has folks with cancer because they didn’t get a vaccine.
    In some ways, I wonder if she really understands the costs she can run up by just giving out some badly planned advice. Look at the troubles folks got into when they got a new car and didn’t have the cash for insurance, taxes, etc.
    or look at when she recently announced an internet coupon for a free meal at KFC. Basically, KFC was overrun by folks waving coupons. (It reminded me of an Internet Denial of Service Attack). You’d think someone would have gotten a network engineer to see if the servers would be overwhelmed. And then someone at KFC to see if their supply chain could hold up.)

  4. You can easily protect yourself from tragedy by acquiring enough money and guns to make yourself king!

  5. About the victimization route covered by a theory of female “specialness” – that has been going around for a long time. Think of all the times the woman argues that she should be the decider for the children because she is “their mother” when in reality, I’ve seen both good and bad mothers and fathers.
    Now ducking for cover.

  6. I presume the original post is discussing Newsweek’s story on Oprah, which I found very interesting–I agreed with the premise, but it did have something of a catty feel to me. Whatever–I would say that another thing that bugs me about Oprah is that she is pushing all this “stay young” shit and not pushing the idea that we should all be proud and happy with the way we look as we age, instead of trying to pretend we haven’t aged. What kind of twisted message is she sending women that we all need to look young no matter our age?

  7. It isn’t just Oprah… As Athenae says, the same sort of logic goes on with the wingnuts — women wouldn’t get raped if only they hadn’t done X… women shouldn’t be able to have abortions — it’s their fault for being slutty tramps and getting pregnant… good people don’t have bad credit… bad things don’t happen to good people, so we needn’t help those less fortunate than ourselves — it’s their own fault.
    What I really want to know is why really bad things don’t happen to all those really bad people out there? Where is KARMA when we need her?

  8. Oprah, wingnuts…hell, it’s a disturbingly widespread delusion amonghumans that if bad stuff happens, ithas to be someone’s fault, someone to blame, and the victim maybe, coulda, shoulda done something different. None of us has perfect foresight, and none of us has a time machine to go back and fix things with that 20/20 hindsight.
    Lightning strikes someone dead? Shouldn’t have been out in the storm. Should have propitiated Thor. Yahweh is pissed for them wearing the wrong fabric. Same old, same old.
    Biologists categorize humans as “hypersocial” creatures, and in fact most people’s perceptions of the world, what is important and meaningful and the cause of everything begins and ends with other humans (and their imaginary human-like creations).
    99.99+% of the universe is inimical to human life. And doesn’t care. If we want a little corner of the universe that does care, we have to create it ourselves. But that doesn’t mean that a 50km asteroid strike, a core explosion in our galaxy, or Betelgeuse going supernova couldn’t show up tomorrow and completely wipe out humans. Guess we should have picked a different universe to be born in, hm?

  9. All You Need Is Love… somebody said that once…hmmmm…Oh right he was shot. (but it is still true)

  10. Homer said it best:
    “No man, against my fate, sends me to Hades’.
    And as for fate, I’m sure no man escapes it,
    Neither a good nor bad man, once he’s born.”

  11. Y’know, crap does happen. Lots of it all the time. But if you just look at Oprah herself … she should know better.
    That stupid-ass stunt she pulled with “never eating a hamburger again” is just one egregious example. Not that the idjit who sued her was any better.
    Also, there’s a perfectly good English equivalent for rigshi: junior-high.
    Oprah’s the tip of the iceberg; there is NO female figure in public who’s exempt from the “if you’re not a walking, talking anxiety attack, you’re not socially acceptable” mindset this ‘never too rich or too thin’ society uses against women.

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