“One of the most painful parts about functioning in a broken system is the persuasive illusion that it is you who is broken,” wrote Melissa Febos in a Poets & Writers magazine essay.
Febos, a former addict and sex worker and author of the memoir Whip Smart: The True Story of a Secret Life, became a commercial success and visiting academic after the publication of her book. But “…I wasn’t writing and was still broke,” she wrote.
Only later did Febos realize she was experiencing a privileged version of her sex-worker days, where, “If you aren’t winning, you must not be working hard enough.”
That is the power of a sophisticated social system: it transfers the blame psychologically from the system to the individual. Shame, guilt and fear become its tools, enabling an internal oppression that is complete and self-perpetuating.
The challenge then is to refuse to own the story the system is telling and instead name it, change it, leave it, or create a new one.