Our society has recently developed quite a problem with obesity; not only are 2/3 of all Americans overweight (with half of them obese), but in a process which has become all too common, we are working towards a false absolution of that sin for ourselves.
Not only are so many of us fat, but it’s becoming increasingly believed that “bodies come in all shapes and sizes” and that being fat is just unavoidable in many (most? all?) cases. We are told not to “body shame” one another, and there is an ever-increasing attempt to celebrate the acceptance of obesity. Major Hollywood productions have been undertaken with the main theme being acceptance of obesity. What was once a shameful reminder of gluttony is now to be paraded about as a triumph of unconditional self-love, regardless of any vices one may have.
1/3 of all young adults are too fat for military duty. Healthcare costs in the country have skyrocketed over the past few decades, and while causes here are complex, it is uncontested that obesity is a serious nationwide healthcare cost multiplier. Though little could be more clear than the fact that obesity and gluttony are severe vices with dire consequences, Americans are now reacting by rejecting these thoughts in favor of denial and the embrace of vice, for they cannot continue to suffer the recognition that they are in such sad states from which it appears they are unable to pull themselves.
And the same is done for ignorance. Despite survey after survey revealing shocking extents of public ignorance and the formation of organizations which pander to given sets of intellectual failures, movie after movie comes out celebrating self-indulgent idiocy. Combine this with low-hanging slacker-oriented skepticism and relativism made readily available by a society too scared to inform children of their failures, and soon we’ve got a nation of heavy polarization made intractable by the common debate-ending refrain to which the ignorant retreat: “Everyone gets an opinion.” Further, as bodies are thought to just come in all shapes and sizes, some brains are held to be just “good at math” or what-have-you.
The issues of obesity and ignorance are extremely similar, with both requiring for their resolution self-discipline in degrees which vary given the natural capabilities of individuals. While it is not surprising to see them both addressed similarly by a failing public, it is disturbing nonetheless. It is certainly the case that some people have easier times meeting certain challenges of life than others, but we cannot allow ourselves vices because they are difficult to overcome. We cannot simply accept these conditions as the new normal and ensure the continuance of our degradation.
But what do we expect when we force ourselves to devote eight hours a day (tack on commuting and you’re sure to hit ten, if not more) to jobs which more often than not barely sustain a comfortable existence? Five days out of the week, the average American member of the middle class finds oneself slogging away at an unfulfilling job, contributing little of import to society, and wasting one’s life for the sake of an utterly unjust portion of the nation’s unprecedented stockpiles of wealth.
Not only is this modern lifestyle foolish and unnecessary given our marvelous technological capabilities and ubiquitous natural resources, but it is leading us to fail in even desiring the lives we ought to have, and that is perhaps the most extreme danger a society can face.
So many people are simply forlorn, accepting poor health and an inadequate education because the effort which must be expended to obtain these former goals of humanity is judged too great in cost and of too little in benefit. Being in excellent physical condition costs an hour or two out of a day already filled to the brim with work and life’s various troubles. Being well-read and properly studied takes an additional hour or two, and by the time those three or four hours are added to the ten expended towards work, one is left with ten or eleven hours, nine of which are lost to sleep if one is to be diligent about preserving one’s health rightly in this manner.
And the results of these labors are judged inadequate in justification of the expense. Practical reason seems all the populace is capable of performing in this regard, and the practical consequences of being properly informed, well-read, and in good physical condition are simply not sufficient to entice action from a society struggling with exhausting drudgery and withering in complacent boredom.
A precious single hour or two is all one may have during the work week to spend with loved ones or engaged in some pursuit for which one has love before the cycle begins anew the next day. No time can be afforded personal recreation. Simply meeting one’s obligations brings us to the brink of exceeding the time available in any given day. When the weekend arrives, if one is not spending time working, one is likely simply trying to recover some strength before the endless march resumes after two short days.
This is pure insanity. We’re observing every day the wasting effects this lifestyle has on our physical and intellectual health. Ostensibly, we desire an excellent democracy, and yet we refuse to afford ourselves a reasonable chance at achieving the personal excellence required for such a government to exist. Do we need any further evidence of this problem than the American public’s lethargic support for administrations who break our laws and mold this nation into a diabolical empire concerned only with its own persistence? We are becoming a nation of fat, ignorant blobs of humanity whose chief aim is the preservation of those conditions which it formerly and rightly detested. We’re caught in a downward slide and it seems we hope merely for a grip sufficiently strong to stop the slide; climbing back up the mountain is not even considered.
I hate to sound alarmist, but it is extremely disturbing. I found myself reading some portions of Orwell’s 1984 last night, and the most nauseating, disgusting part of the exercise is the downright plausibility of the tale. It’s hard to believe that I have lived through a time in American history when the public has come to know for a fact that its executive branch not only lied during a time of great tragedy and vulnerability to goad America into its greatest military blunder since Vietnam in pursuit of the unbelievably reckless and idiotic Project for the New American Century, but also tortured innocent people to death along the way. Even worse, when exposed for this behavior, representatives such as vice president cheney have asserted that these costs were worth the results.
And people seem to agree. Over half of America believes it is often justified that its government tortures “suspected terrorists.” Everyone should know by now that innocent people were tortured to death by the American government in the throes of violent conflict into which it was deceitfully steered, and I see no way to view the apathy with which people apparently consider this matter other than with immense disgust and concern.
Few politicians in American history have been what one might reasonably consider to be evil. Nixon certainly revealed himself as a prime candidate with the myriad recordings of his nefarious deeds, but cheney is the most unbelievably evil American politician I have encountered in my short life. He has publicly argued that the tortured death of an innocent man is not a problem so long as America was not attacked. In the documentary, The World According to Dick Cheney, he reveals himself as a completely unrepentant man who rarely, if ever, considers that he may have acted wrongly. He appears to be what one might fairly consider a sociopath, lacking any comprehension of moral laws which might supersede the practical matter of his self-preservation.
This is the beginning of the mentality required of the denizens of Oceania. We accept seemingly perpetual war and conflict, but we ignore revelations of false pretenses on which it is conducted; despite copious evidence, the nation cannot pull itself together sufficiently to do so much as put on trial those responsible. Though we stood for the impeachment of a president for lying about oral sex, we remain nervously seated in the presence of those who would lie to start disastrous wars and torture the innocent. We increasingly accept foreign people as unworthy of due process, with innocent suffering a non-issue in the face of the preservation of our own ignorant obesity. Nationalism runs rampant, and non-sequitur arguments about support for troops are thrown at those who would question the wrongdoing which sent those very soldiers to their deaths.
I am frequently led to ruminate: What can one man do in a time such as this?