Morals and customs vary from culture to culture, and across historical periods. In a thousand ways through the ages, man has used a complex interplay of moral codes, religions, and taboos to promote social order and cohesion as a precondition of civilization. So, for example, in old China, a woman was afraid to expose her feet; in ancient Crete and old India, women were unafraid of exposing their breasts; and until recently, Berber women in North Africa hesitated to expose their mouths. Numerous examples of the wide divergence of customs and moral codes can be cited by any well-traveled anthropologist.
But a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
The immature, egotistical mind sees the variety of customs and morals in history as proof of their worthlessness. This would be an incorrect conclusion. The changeability of morals down the ages only proves the ingenuity of man in finding different ways to impose social order in a variety of climates, environments, and epochs. In order for social cohesion and civilization to flourish, everyone needs to know the rules of the game. There must be some set of generally agreed-on standards to which all may subscribe, willingly or unwillingly. It is a dangerous thing to try to substitute one individual’s judgment for the collective wisdom of a hundred centuries and a hundred million minds. The modern egoist never remotely suspects that even things which he does not understand may nevertheless be valid.
And so it is today when we consider the subject of obesity. When we talk about fatness, I am speaking of the stomach-churning monstrosities waddling and fitfully lurching their way around the typical American suburban megastore. These creatures are clothed, invariably, in stretch pants or some other wretched rag, and usually followed by a trail of snot-nosed offspring from the shallower end of the gene pool.
I remember the words of a svelte, beautiful Japanese girl who came to visit me here in the States a few years ago, as she first landed in San Francisco to change planes for the last leg of her flight. It was her first trip to America. Laying eyes on a vomitous obese person for the first time, she told me in the most strained polite language, “Oh Quintus…ugh…I never saw such kind of person before…I never knew that such people existed.” The way she described it, and the look of spreading horror on her face, almost made it seem she was speaking of a different species of human.
How did things get to be so bad? How can a person have so little self-respect that they allow themselves to fall outside the norms of civilized behavior? I would often ask myself this question. The answer, I’ve come to believe, is simpler than might be expected. The answer is that they don’t care. The negative impact of being a sickening blimp is minimal, and therefore tolerable. And until that cost-benefit equation changes drastically, they will continue to revel in their corpulence. Grossly obese people in America are contemptuous of society’s judgments. Their behavior is a fundamental negation of life itself. Until they are hounded, fined, taxed, and shamed into behavior modification, nothing will change.
They thumb their noses at society, and expect to reap the rewards of misguided tolerance while rejecting all the associated responsibilities that come with being a citizen. Their appearance is, fundamentally, a deeply hostile act toward everyone around them. It is a passive-aggressive attack on their fellow men and women. Their appearance announces to the world that they care not one bit about standards, decency, honor, or dignity.
One of the biggest lies foisted on the masses is that “your body is yours to do with as you please.” You can do whatever you want with yourself, as long as (in your own judgment) you “don’t harm anyone.” To this, I say: no.
You are not a special snowflake. You don’t have the right to do whatever you want. You are part of a group to which you owe duties and responsibilites. One of those duties is not to harm your fellow man. And you are harming your fellow man with your appearance and attitude. You do not have an unqualified right to indulge your basest instincts and flout the customs and norms that have served humanity well for millenia. Who are you, a corrupt and degenerate specimen of humanity, to set yourself up as a judge and arbiter of things you do not understand?
If a society’s biological inheritance is an important gauge of its health, then it can be said that obese people represent a threat to the future of society. As feminism in its current form is a threat to the foundations of civilization, obesity is a threat to the continued survival of humanity itself. This is a demonstrable, biological fact.
The culture of fatness is aided by the media and leadership elements in the popular culture. Junk movies like Shallow Hal (2001), Identity Thief (2013), and a hundred television shows and films (e.g., Man vs. Food, Bridezillas, etc.) promote the idea that fatness is funny, acceptable, and normal. Shallow Hal even went further, suggesting that a man had a psychological problem if he judged a woman in any way based on her appearance. It is perhaps the most insidious beauty-shaming piece of propaganda ever made. I suggest readers watch this film as a means to study the general tactics of the war on beauty.
Powerful financial interests support this culture of fatness, regardless of the threat to the public welfare. They could care less about the health of society: what matters is their profits, and if they have to sell sugary, starchy garbage “food” to every child and adult in America, so be it. The political leadership, bought off by big money in this regard as in so many other things, confines its outrage to rhetorical denouncements (remember, this is a country where even having health insurance is a controversial idea).
One example demonstrates this point. When Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act about three years ago, the food industry representatives went ballistic. They spent tens of millions to delay, wear down, and dilute the law to such an extent that the Food and Drug Administration can barely do anything with it. Food policy in America is set by the food industry, not by public health officials. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by Koch Industries and other big corporations (including Google and Facebook), forces through legislation that benefits big business, rather than the public. So-called “ag-gag” bills even go so far as to criminalize whistleblowers or journalists to report abuses in the food industry.
The end result of all this is that what hits the shelves in your local megastore is the most unhealthy junk imaginable at a cheap price. And the average person, more often than not an indolent mule unwilling to exert any mental energy to improve himself, just buys and eats whatever is placed in front of him.
But at some point, personal responsibility must come into play. We cannot blame big business for everything. Living on this earth carries with it certain duties, among them the most basic one of being able to take care of one’s body. Shame is the only weapon to stem the tide. And shame works. Daniel Callahan’s authoritative study Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic (2012) convincingly argues that shaming and stigmatization of fatness, consistently maintained, would be an effective antidote to the obesity epidemic. But it must be severe, and it must be consistent. The following are some possible solutions:
A State-Maintained Fatness Registry
The government and the politically-correct machine love to put people they don’t like on lists. We already have no-call lists, child abuse registries, child neglect registries, no-fly lists, hate group lists, even “misogyny” lists. The cultural commissars love these lists because it gives them a way of marginalizing and silencing those persons they don’t like. Let’s see them apply their logic to the morbidly obese. A fatness registry would be a one way to hammer home the message that extreme obesity is socially despicable conduct.
A person exceeding a certain weight limit could be automatically added to a state-wide registry, and would be denied a variety of government benefits unless they lost weight. Their driving licenses could be restricted. They could have restrictions placed on where they can live and work. They would have to take mandatory classes, boot camps, mandatory public service, and sensitivity training about how their repellent appearance hurts everyone around them. Their health insurance should costs much more than people not on the list, since they take a disproportionate amount of the medical benefits in society.
Enforced sterilization or neutering of the irredeemable or the unrepentant should also be considered. Raising children is a privilege, not a right; and no methods are too extreme to halt a society’s biological and genetic deterioration. In previous eras, before the advent of the welfare state, such people would be weeded out of the gene pool by dying early deaths from disease or accident. Now they are coddled, empowered, and emboldened. They should not be allowed to destroy society by feeding off its most healthy and vigorous members.
Some companies have already started to use this technique. Certain airlines have begun to charge fees based on weight, a not-so-subtle way of reminding fat people that their conduct has consequences. This concept should be expanded dramatically.
Media and Cultural Awareness
There must be a concerted and sustained media campaign that presents obesity as a threat to humanity’s biological inheritance. It needs to go beyond just preaching to people. They’ve heard it all before, and so the language needs now to be much more urgent, strident, and strong. Screenwriters, directors, and media elites should hammer home the point that a person is a member of society and is expected—no, required—to behave in socially responsible ways. Fatness should be presented as socially undesirable, to be avoided at all costs.
No one is an island unto himself, free to do whatever he wants. This type of extreme individualism is what has led us to this situation. There is too much talk about privileges, and not enough talk about responsibilities.
One recent news report claimed that President Obama’s new “food czar” (Sam Kass, a “food initiative coordinator”) viewed the obesity epidemic as “a greater threat than Al-Qaeda.” More blustery talk, combined with limp-wristed action? Or does he mean what he says? Does he really view the morbidly obese as the enemy, as his words imply? If he truly means what he says, then I challenge him to propose solutions with the same zeal and ruthlessness that the government enacted to empower the military-industrial complex after the 9/11 attacks.
I’m not holding my breath.
Societies decay when the people who compose them begin to decay. The sorry state of public health in America at the individual level is the end result of decades of overindulgence, selfishness, and hyper-individualism. At the macro level, cowardly capitulation to big business and a lack of leadership has allowed garbage food, and garbage people, to permeate every sector of American society, including the schools.
Don’t believe me? Take an extended drive through a few states some time. The only places to eat on the road are fast-food joints: the traveler, even if he wants to eat healthy, is faced with a complete nutritional wasteland. I contrast this experience with my travels around Japan and Brazil. At least in these countries you can find healthy foods to eat on the road, such as Japanese bento boxed meals, rice, beans, etc. I found the same experience in Europe and the Middle East.
In the end, societies make choices about what they value. Societies define their values by what they promote, tolerate, or encourage. I do not believe that the grossly obese should be allowed to determine the evolutionary trajectory of the human race. Have no illusions: what is at stake here is nothing less than our biological inheritance. The goal of the obesity movement is to force their vision of “healthy” humanity upon the rest of us. If we are unable or unwilling to defend ourselves against their attacks, it will only be because we don’t care enough, and have opted for the path of self-destruction.
Read More: The Power of Shame