I was toying yesterday with the idea that the antis and the healthists had an inverted value system to mine.
My value system is pretty much the one that’s inherent in Idle Theory: You arrange your life to do as little as possible. You find the easiest ways to do things, and the shortest route between places. You maximise your idle time, and minimise your work time. You drive things like cars, because it’s quicker to go places that way. You call people by phone because it’s easier than going to see them.
I think the whole of Western Civilisation is built on a Least Action principle. Pretty much all our technology enables us to do stuff more quickly, using less energy. We get freed up by it to do what we want, rather than what we must. Economic progress means increased idleness, and increased freedom. When it all goes backwards – as when a hurricane comes through – we have to work harder, and we become less free.
But the antis and healthists don’t seem to share these values. If nothing else, you never hear them talking about freedom – about the real freedom of being able to do what you want, as opposed to the inverted freedom of being “smoke-free” or “fat-free” or “alcohol-free”.
Take food, for example. Some of them advocate “low-calorie” foods. Supermarkets are full of the stuff. It’s supposed to be “healthier”. But the way I see it, if you eat low-fat, low-sugar, low-energy foods, you’re going to have to eat more of it, if you’re going to meet your daily energy requirements. To my way of thinking, what you need are high-energy foods, because they give you the biggest bang for your buck. And they’re essentially fast foods. Ideally, food would consist of super-high-energy foods, that you’d take as tablets, no cooking involved, no plates or knives and forks.
I remember saying as much when I was about 5 years old. Because for me, aged 5, eating was a chore. I had better things to do with my model ships and dinosaurs than sit down at a table and spend half an hour eating. Clearly I had my value system in place long before I’d had the faintest inkling of Idle Theory.
I remember my father disagreeing with my food tablet idea. “Wouldn’t you miss having a nice plate of bacon and eggs and sausages and tomatoes and beans and fried bread?” he asked, conjuring up a delicious plate before my eyes. And, actually, I would have indeed missed those delights. And maybe I would have also missed the companionship of sitting around a table, talking to other people. I never talked to anybody when I was building my model boats and houses and dinosaurs.
Nevertheless, the entire thrust of Western Civilisation is towards work-minimisation with engines and cars and phones and computers. And one result of this is that people do a lot less work these days than they used to do. And they need correspondingly less food. But if they carry on having big breakfasts like the one my father conjured up for me, and big lunches, and big dinners, they’re eating more than they need, and they’ll end up storing the food energy as fat. And that’s one reason why we have the so-called “obesity epidemic” (which isn’t an epidemic, of course).
Back in my childhood when we had three substantial meals every day, we were living busy, active lives in rather cold houses. So we were burning a lot of energy, and we needed to replace it. Now that I need a lot less energy, I really only need about one square meal a day, rather than three.
This doesn’t bother me, because I still think that eating is a chore, just like I did when I was 5 years old. But my father liked eating. It was one of his favourite pastimes. He liked eating and drinking and smoking. And he liked talking as well. And that’s why he was always a rather fat man. He would have hated my one-meal-a-day lifestyle. And in fact, right to the end of his life, he insisted on having breakfast, lunch, and dinner – although never quite as substantial as those of 50 years earlier. And he didn’t eat “low-calorie” foods either. He always ate the real thing. He maintained his energy balance by getting lots of exercise, mostly by gardening and mowing the lawn.
And here’s where one kind of lifestyle emerges. In our Least Action civilisation, with less and less work being needed to be done, you can only justify eating a lot if you get a correspondingly greater amount of exercise. You have to go jogging, or to the gym, or do some gardening. My father’s (and mother’s) gym was their garden.
But there’s another, second way of carrying on eating lots of food, and that is to eat low-calorie foods. You spend just as long eating as you ever did, and you don’t do any exercise, but you always eat low-calorie, low-sugar, low-fat, low-energy food.
My own, third lifestyle is simple: eat less. And eat as quickly as possible. So I tend to eat high-energy, high-sugar, high-fat foods in small amounts. I never buy low-calorie anything. And it’s all fast food. It’s either food that is quick to prepare, and quick to eat. Or it’s fast food that I buy in supermarkets and can heat up in an oven. Or it’s hot fast food that I can buy in fast food outlets. My only objection to the last is that the portions they serve are all too large: a standard fish and chip dinner from the local fish and chip shop is usually about twice the amount that I want/need, and I usually end up eating half of it, and re-heating the rest the next day.
And also I smoke. And smoking is an appetite-suppressant. I think that there’s maybe a very simple reason why it’s an appetite suppressant, and that is that smoking is an activity which is almost indistinguishable from eating. You’re “eating” smoke. Or “drinking” smoke. And the smoke is hot just like hot food out of an oven. A cigarette is a little hot snack, which gives you the illusion of having eaten something, when in fact you’ve eaten nothing at all. The calorie content of tobacco smoke is zero (disregarding the temperature of the smoke). Smoking is an essential part of my lifestyle, because I can “snack” all day on cigarettes, and in that manner eat a lot less of my high calorie diet. Drinking tea is another essential part of my lifestyle, because the tea is another hot snack, and one that basically fills my stomach with hot very-slightly-sweetened water. Take away the tea and cigarette “snacks”, and I’d start to feel hungry.
The healthist antis are lifestyle police who are trying to impose their own particular preferred lifestyle on everybody else. And their lifestyle seems to be one that is high energy expenditure (lots of exercise), and so correspondingly high food consumption of “natural” foods rather than the processed foods found in supermarkets, or the fast foods from takeaway fish and chip shops. And of course no unnecessary appetite-suppressant smoking. I’m surprised they haven’t come out against appetite-suppressant tea and coffee, but they probably will sooner or later.
The healthist antis also look back nostalgically on wartime Britain, when everyone was all so wonderfully lean and fit, because they had to work hard on barely enough food to sustain them. In fact, the healthist antis seem to look back nostalgically on the Stone Age, when everyone was eating “natural” foods, and getting lots of exercise chasing “naturally-occurring” woolly mammoths.
What they really want is a society where everyone is kept busy, and the busier the better. They want to get people out of their labour-saving cars and onto labour-intensive bicycles and feet. They want to return to the past. And they want to reverse the entire thrust of the Least Action ethic of Western Civilisation.
And of course they want a society in which freedom is minimised rather than maximised, and in which people do as they are told by a managerial class, like so many conscripts in an army, or so many slaves on a plantation. And that’s why they want to dumb people down. And also why they keep changing the meanings of words, particularly ones that have anything to do with freedom (like “liberal” or “progressive”).
And that’s why they have an inverted set of values.
And that’s why they’re our enemies.