We seem to view a limitless cornucopia of choices as the birthright of Western Civilization. Any attempt to limit those choices, perceived or otherwise, is an attack on a way of life that we treasure deeply. Even if in that limitation we are saving our own lives and the lives of those around us.
I started to think about all of this after having a conversation with someone the other day. They were roughly my age and had the same cultural background as I did. A peer in every sense of the word. I was talking about my attempts to live a Paleo life and what that exactly meant. I was sure to emphasize that it didn’t focus on the denial and rigorous exercise regimes of other diet plans. That in fact they would probably end up eating more but just the good stuff. That seemed to give them pause for a second.
“What do you mean by that?” they asked.
“Well basically,” I replied, “you can eat all the meat, vegetables, and fruit you want. All you have to do is give up the deep fried and processed crap.”
They snorted, and snarkily replied, “I’m an adult, I’ll eat what I want.”
At the time I thought it was just a shallow response, someone not quite willing to give up a lifetime of eating habits. I couldn’t take my mind off of it though, such a simple response but imbued with so much meaning. This person wasn’t only expressing a personal critique of what I was proposing, I honestly believe they were offering a societal one as well.
As residents of Western Civilization, we love choice. We see choice as affluence, we see choice as possibility, we see choice as the outcome of hard work and determination. We love fast food not only because it appeals to the pleasure centres of our brain with its salty / sweet food and brightly coloured décor, but also because it represents choice and possibility. The relative scarcity of the fast food meal when I was growing up has morphed into a world where we could eat out every night of the week and it really not damage our budget. Oh wait! What budget? Let’s put that on the credit card! Who has time to make supper tonight? We’re living the dream!
It took a while but I began to understand the undertones of what this person was saying. They firmly believed it was their God-given, and personal earned, right to do what ever they wanted with their diet. And that is certain true. As a wage earning, tax paying, law abiding citizen of this country they have every right to plunk themselves down at McDonald’s every night if they want and order the diabetes-inducing sized soda and large fries. Knock yourself out kiddo.
At some point though, you begin to realize that a plethora of choices isn’t the optimum state of existence. You may feel entitled to the choices that exist around you but you have to understand that it doesn’t mean they’re right for you. As an adult, I can choose to go play in traffic if I want but that doesn’t mean I should. Similarly, you have the right to do all of your grocery shopping in the middle aisles of the grocery store but should you? Just because a choice is available doesn’t mean you should or need to partake in it. I think sometimes we get lost in the affluence and power we wield in the world and forget the old axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We revel so much in all we have that eventually we feel entitled to it so much that we feel stung and angered when someone suggests it may be time to give it up.
So what am I trying to get at here? Just this. That person was right and they were wrong. Yes, you do have a right to do what you please inside the bounds of a well-ordered society. Eat all the chocolate glaze doughnuts your little heart desires. The problem is that the real choice involves leaving all of that behind and striking out on a different path. A path a lot of people are reticent to go down for precisely the reason that it limits the things they feel entitled to having. The real choice, the healthy choice, is to simplify your life and your eating habits to the point where you don’t feel entitled to these false choices. A simple life of good eating and personal food preparation is the best choice.
Won’t you make it today?