The Selfish Search for the Self

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has written a scathing piece in The Independent about the bestselling novel and subsequent film Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. More importantly, Alibhai-Brown comments on how it reflects the consumerism of the West and globalization.

Gilbert joins the long line of American women who feel they must (temporarily) leave the richest and most self-regarding nation on earth in order to find their bodies and the meaning of life. It started back in the Sixties when stars went off to be hugged and consoled by dodgy men in saffron robes. Later, devotees of foreign enlightenment included Goldie Hawn and drug-addled pop singers. Some of the best songs in Joni Mitchell’s album Blue tell that story of home and away. British celebs have gone for this therapy, too – ever since the Beatles got themselves their own guru. Some good comes of these earnestly undertaken journeys.

However, something different and deeply annoying is happening in Gilbert’s case. The end of her marriage obviously causes her some pain, but, if it meant anything, she just couldn’t have moved on so slickly. “I was the administrator of my own rescue,” she says, an American true believer in can-do and must-have.

For the rest of us, when things fall apart, the dissolution of selfhood is so debilitating, you can’t feed your children for days. But Gilbert got a book contract before setting off, planning a successful reincarnation, without risks. That is what the privileged do. And lordy lord, what a lot of tadpoles have spawned from this big, vain frog-turned-princess. Tour companies are offering great deals so you too can eat in Italy, pray in India and cool off in Bali. Breathless females write about their inner makeovers. One, for example, says: “I wasn’t the only one … there were students from all over the world, including Germany, Singapore and Canada, all of whom had read the book, which during our feverish conversations about it, soon took on something of a Bible-like status.” A rich and stupid woman I know in India is about to set off on one as well, copying the worst of Western indulgences because now she can.

The Selfish Search for the Self [The Independent]

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