Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dealing with fat people.

Many Americans are obese. Not exactly shocking news, I know - especially since the president's wife has made it her signature mission to try and reduce childhood obesity. You know, the whole Let's Move thing - encourage kids to eat healthier, get more exercise, etc. Pretty basic stuff, not entirely surprising. Yes, yes, I know, she's done some controversial (or intrusive, take your pick) things with school lunches, etc. Put that aside for now, it's not important. The point is that Michelle Obama's main thrust with regards to childhood obesity has been focused on getting children to eat less, exercise more, abstain from unhealthy foods or at least control the intake of them, etc.

Straightforward. Common sense. Nothing new here.

Now for a thought experiment.

Imagine if Michelle Obama's approach to childhood obesity was something like this:

Children should be able to eat whatever they want, whenever they want. So long as they want it, and it isn't actually killing them, this is sacrosanct. What we need to do is find ways for children to eat whatever they damn well please while not gaining weight.

Exercise? The subject never comes up. NOT eating an entire box of twinkies in one night? The idea of bringing that up is seen as pointless, even counterproductive. People should be able to eat what they please. The problem isn't how much these kids are eating, it's the calories. What we need is more research in food science. Let's find a way to make a tasty 40 or 30 or even 0-calorie twinkie! Or perhaps a way to be bulimic that minimizes the negative side-effects.

Let's go a little further. People who are encouraged to be selective with what they eat are... well, rather weird. It's as if they have some kind of special obsession about food. Surely they WANT to eat six candy bars in a sitting now and then, or at least gulp down a few shots of bacon grease, but they've been mind-controlled by society to repress these desires. It's not very healthy for them mentally, even if there may be some incidental health benefits like avoiding a triple heart bypass down the road.

Does any of this sound insane? I mean to me it's straightforwardly bonkers right out of the gates. No, it's entirely sensible to regard diet as something one should be selective with, something a person should have self-control with. There is such a thing as a healthy approach to eating, and the problem is manifestly NOT a lack of 0-calorie twinkies or healthy bulimia regimens.

Now, if that does seem insane, I ask the following... why does sex get treated differently? Why is sex sacrosanct?

When Bill Gates reasons that a major problem in the world is overpopulation and an abundance of babies - even assuming for a moment that this is at all reasonable or true - why is his response automatically to try and innovate on the condom front? Why is the very idea of promoting any kind of self-control alien to him? Hell, why is he innovating on contraception, rather than coming up with pills or technology to decrease sexual desire or activity? I mean if your goal is what Gates wants, you'd think that would be next on the agenda.

And yet it's not. In fact, if Gates pursued any of these things - even ways to encourage people to reduce their sexual habits - I think the world would react with horror and anger. How DARE he consider the solution to such problems to be altering of habits. That's not the problem! It never was the problem! No, don't talk about sexual control or reduction at all - find a way for people to have sex whenever they want, as often as they want, with whoever or whatever they want, but eliminate the downsides! Anything else is unacceptable!

I humbly suggest such an attitude - such a pervasive mentality - is indicative that somewhere along the line, we've all gotten a bit fucked up and aren't thinking clearly. Something has gone wrong.


Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

The Cult of Technique and the Idolatry of Good Intentions.

Crude said...

I don't even think the intentions are particularly good. I find them a little creepy.

This is one of those subjects where I find the blindness, the things-not-discussed, more worrisome than what's said bluntly. At what point will people even ask the question in public, 'Wow, maybe our attitudes about sex are a problem and that problem is -not- that we are not even now as permissive as we could possibly be?' Maybe it'll take Bill Gates ditching the condom project and just trying to come up with a form of pornography so satisfying that people will forgo sex to use it, complete with a cheap way to give it to third worlders. Will that be the point where people finally pause and wonder if something's gone wrong?

We may well see.

Eufrosnia D said...

Well to be fair, I think most people might see the two differently.

In the case of obesity, they see that "I should be able to eat what I want with no restraint" and also remain slim is impossible empirically. It's almost instant. Anyone who goes on diet and exercise schedule to lose weight or maintain will see that its not working within a month.

BUT, to have sex when and wherever one wants seems possible with contraception. Yes there are much more grave side effects of contraception but these are not even close to being immediate compared to the obesity and food problem. So people have come to believe there are no side effects as well. They therefore feel that the Church is just barring what technology has made it possible for them.

My opinion of what is gone wrong with respect to this particular matter (because there are lots of things gone wrong in the large scale) is that people just want to be able to do what ever they possibly can do. That is what they consider "freedom". They can't be slim and eat all they want so they know its not possible. But it seems they can have much sex as they want without consequence. So since it is possible, they think that they should be able to do it.

Crude said...


Well, no one is taking the attitude I'm talking about, that I agree with. I'm talking about a hypothetical situation here where people are having this approach to the problem of obesity, where the 'problem' is cast as "food has calories, let's solve that". It can be cast as a technological problem as well. But I think that sort of thinking would illustrate a bizarreness in the mentality of approaching the idea.

I agree that people want to be able to do whatever they want, plus they have a 'It's not harming anyone!' attitude because they can have sex and, lo and behold, buildings don't blow up.

Eufrosnia D said...

Well they will have no motivation to cast it that way, no?

There is almost no known way to eat what you want and be slim. I am sure people are looking in to it though and maybe some drugs available with some crazy side effects. But with contraception, it has become almost universally known as a free lunch.

So it might legitimately seem reasonable to them that they do not consider casting it that way. They may even be considering it as a problem that is already solved.

Crude said...

There is almost no known way to eat what you want and be slim. I am sure people are looking in to it though and maybe some drugs available with some crazy side effects. But with contraception, it has become almost universally known as a free lunch.

That's kind of the point here actually. Even if we imagine some who-knows-how technological possibility that would allow people to just devour as many 0-calorie twinkies as we want, there is still a sense there that this is nevertheless not the right way to tackle that problem. It's the wrong approach, and the reason it's wrong is not just 'Well that's quite a technological hurdle' but 'Maybe the problem is with the appetite to begin with'. We're in search of a solution to what isn't really the real problem to begin with re: obesity.

Yes, I realize that people who embrace contraception or various other things don't really see their approach as problematic. I'm trying to offer a way to shift the perspective so maybe they will understand it. Maybe it won't work, or maybe they'll dig in their heels or deny it, but it's an attempt either way.

The Fez said...

I think that is a novel way to "shift the perspective", as you said.

Just as we would not validate excess in food consumption by eliminating the consequences of excessive food consumption, it is equally sensible to say that we should not validate excess in sexual activity by simply eliminating the consequences of coital excess.

However, self control, at least when it pertains to food consumption, is generally just as much a quantitative judgement as it is a qualitative judgment. We cannot talk about restraint with respect to eating without also talking about much, exactly, we plan to shovel down our throats.

Does it make sense to discuss sexual restraint in the same way? As in, if a particular sex act is morally permissible, then can such an act be done excessively and to the point of moral failure. I would argue that it can, but when I think about 'sexual restraint', I typically think about restraint with respect to particular sex acts. Sex acts which are immoral will continue to be immoral regardless of the number of times one indulges in them, so it doesn't make much sense to talk about moderation with respect to innately immoral sexual behavior. Conversely, it doesn't make too much sense to talk about 'food acts', or acts of eating or drinking a particular thing (unless its infant blood) that are necessarily debauched when eaten in moderation.

But this is all nitpicking, really. Your point, overall, is valid: people don't want to apply the same general rhetorical rules to sexual promiscuity as they do to gluttony, even if, for instance, we generally render 'restraint' in either category in different ways.

Crude said...


I suppose a good comparison may be 'one night stands' and the like. There the particular sex acts in question are licit (as opposed to sodomy) but it's still a problem morally speaking.

But yeah, the point is to highlight that people are willing to talk about restraint with food (and a lot of other things) but any kind of advised limitation or self-control on sex is just a taboo right now, aside from straight up rape/molestation.

Syllabus said...

Reminds me of this quote

Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act-that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about
the state of the sex instinct among us?

Crude said...

CS Lewis! I had that exact bit in mind when writing this, just was trying to draw it out in another way.

Vand83 said...

The quote from C.S. Lewis reminded me of an episode of South Park in which Stan Marsh masturbates to the Food Network. His wife blocks the channel and he resorts to calling a food hotline, where a woman sensually describes what she's cooking while he masturbates. It's interesting, because everyone that watches this particular episode can see that Stan's desires are disordered. The fact that it's so ridiculous is what makes it funny.

By the way, I love this blog Crude. Thanks for efforts here. God bless.

(P.S. I want to make it clear that I'm not proposing South Park be utilized as a tool for moral guidance.)

Crude said...


Hey, sometimes South Park makes an interesting point, whatever moral issues aside. (I'm a big Adult Swim fan, so I can't play holier-than-thou on media taste and experience.) At the very least they don't hide that they're being preachy.

Thanks for the compliments, glad to know some people read this and get something from it!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

To be a little less truculent...

The Cult of Technique is based on the axiom that There Is A Method for conforming Nature to the human will, and that if the normal course of nature and human tradition can be made more efficient and rational, all problems will be solved.

In tandem with this is the Idolatry of Good Intentions, whereby people are assumed to be good and simply in need of--you guessed it--technical upgrades to achieve their morally uncontestable intentions. I do not speak of the intentions of the Populations Goons, but of the targets of their benign paternalism. Surely the "dark breeders" mean well, they just need technical re-engineering to bring their occult good intentions into line with rational progressivism. The imposition of population control and sterilization ("the Condom Gospel") is done "for the good of the least fortunate".

What is lost in the technomaniacal shuffle, of course, is the autonomy of local cities and villages to implement human moral responsibility in their own organic ways. The delusion is that throwing money at "the poor" will solve their problems, and throwing condoms at "the masses" will make them better "world citizens". In reality, however, both efforts only serve to make the poor, dark, breeding masses into better subjects: imprisoned by debt and morally lobotomized without a constant stream of technical "programs" and "campaigns".

Vand83 said...

"The delusion is that throwing money at "the poor" will solve their problems, and throwing condoms at "the masses" will make them better "world citizens"."

Agreed. To me, it is similar to encouraging a rapist to use condoms while raping women because "it's the right thing to do". A confusing idea to say the least, but one many seem completely willing to adopt when evaluating sexual ethics in less abhorrent instances.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

How serendipitous.