This post by a fellow curator of The Queerness crystallised something that has been on my mind for some time, whats so wrong with snowflakes?
For those who are unaware of its modern usage online, snowflake has become the favourite insult of some on the internet. It’s origins lie in the 1999 film, Fight Club. Fight Club is an interesting film, an exploration of masculinity through the lens of someone with some form of mental health problems. The unnamed hero may be suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, or may be having a breakdown.He hates the immorality of his work, the fact consumerism is sold to him as a solution, and lives a lonely existence. It’s my view that it’s not DID as he speaks to the imaginary construct who is played by Brad Pitt, and this kind of interaction is unusual for DID sufferers. However, the actual diagnosis is less relevant than the fact that a lot of people have seized on the fictionalised depiction of a symptom of mental illness as a poster child for their unhappiness at the world.
This is the quote from the film which has led to the “snowflake” insult.
“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
It’s worth looking at what the quote actually says, rather than how it is used, since I think it gives us some insight into the deep fears and concerns of so many today. It does not deny that snowflakes exist, or that they are beautiful or unique, instead it says, you are not one of these, you are separated from the beautiful, the unique, you are “the crap of the world”.
Anyone who has struggled with depression will recognise that voice saying you are “the crap of the world” The voice doesn’t usually have a name, as in the film, but it can seem like a voice of another. Depression is described many ways, Churchill called it his black dog, to others its like an alien presence, a voice from outside, which knows how to hurt, to wound, to say the things which pierce us because, no matter how alien it is, it is us. People turn to drink, drugs, sex, violence, over work, anything to silence that voice.
Any existentialist will tell you it is true we are decaying, as expressed by Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot.
“They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”
Night, always, follows day, the process of being alive is always the process of dying. or if you prefer your references more popular than Beckett, as Bob Dylan said;
“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
It is a frightening truth, one which many struggle to accept. Existentialism, which was a philosophy Beckett explored, and Dylan almost certainly familiar with, asks us to consider how we live well with the knowledge we are all dying from the moment of birth. It says, accept this fact, you cannot change it, so what now do you do with your life? Chuck Palahniuk (who wrote the novel on which Fight Club is based) explores this in a scene where various attendees at the titular fight club are asked what they want to do before they die. An Existentialist accepts that death is inevitable, and uses this acceptance to make meaning out of living. It is not a fatalistic view, and most certainly is not one couched in the negative language of the imaginary friend Tyler Durden of Fight Club, instead it sees itself as simply accepting that external meaning does not exist. If we do not have meaning imposed on our life by externals, then meaning can only be found internally.
It can be incredibly frightening to realise that death is an inevitable part of life, and I wrote about this paralysing fear here. However, it need not be, after all, it is simply a fact, and one we cannot change. We are not “decaying crap” unless that voice in our head which tries to convince us there is no point in life is allowed to be in control. For the truth is we are all unique, and beautiful, and as transitory as snowflakes. This is indeed our power many would say. It might be a fleeting moment of beauty, we might be caught up with a million other snowflakes, blown by the wind, but that does not diminish our own perfection.
I wonder that some of the angriest voices on the internet have allowed that outside voice of the depressive state to become their voice. Determined not to see the beauty, or even their own uniqueness, but instead to fling their worst fears, that they are the crap of the world, towards those who have friendship and kindness in their lives. I cannot, as just one therapist change an entire internet culture, however it seems that the more we celebrate our own uniqueness, our beauty, our transience, our snowflake natures, the more powerful we are.