Monday, June 15, 2015


Announcement:  Ladies and Gentlemen, please excuse the delay.  The movie was scheduled to start at 2:15, but our projectionist overslept.  Of course you understand that getting out of bed is very difficult for some people and we must be understanding and compassionate.  His parents could hardly risk accusations of bullying by forcing him out of bed or shaming him into meeting his responsibilities.  The management appreciates your patience and understanding and assures you that the movie will begin as soon as possible.

The above scenario seems unlikely.  No right-thinking person would expect theater management or the customers to tolerate the behavior of that projectionist.  Getting out of bed and getting to work on time is a reasonable expectation of any job.  Yes, it takes a certain amount of discipline and is more difficult for some, but to tolerate violations without negative consequences only condones the irresponsible behavior and leads to more of the same.

Why then would we read on the BBC website and elsewhere that being overweight may become the new normal?  This article from last year asks “why has liberating women, and increasingly men, from the pressure to look perfect ended with us embracing the jelly-belly as a positive?”  There is so much of it around, we are getting used to it, accepting it more in ourselves and others; while in France hiring too skinny runway models has been outlawed.  If this is the case, what else is about to be normalized?  (Remember, your health is no longer only your business now that the healthy are forced to subsidize the healthcare costs of the sick.)

There is a clear parallel between oversleeping, overeating, smoking, binge drinking, accumulating unnecessary debts, starting a family before being able to support one, reaching retirement with inadequate savings, drug addiction and a number of other behaviors.  They all require discipline.  They are all more difficult for some than for others.  They constitute a real cost to society by affecting a person’s health or job performance or the ability to live independently.  Why are we told to tolerate some behaviors, while condemning others; that some are weaknesses and others are diseases?  Smokers are ostracized, but if a smoking relative dies he becomes a victim of deceptive advertising by evil Big Tobacco.  When someone ignores reality and makes the huge unwise choice to try to raise a family on minimum wage he becomes a victim of some social injustice, but if you make the small-scale decision to sleep in on a work day, you are reprimanded.

Have we gotten to a point where tolerance is considered a virtue only as long as we tolerate the right things?  People label themselves as tolerant as a badge of honor, taking part in part in protests to show off for their friends (and customers).  They will march in favor of the popular cause and protest against an unpopular one – whereas defenders of the "wrong" cause will be portrayed as spiteful and uncompassionate in an attempt to bully them into submission.  Our standards are not our own but are set by the in-crowd from Hollywood or by the self-proclaimed victims or by those who have the resources to shout long and loud enough to sway public opinion.*  These standards of conduct fluctuate based on moods and perceptions of society.  They seep into the culture while most stand idly by.  Perhaps tolerance as it is popularly accepted is mere laziness where it is easier to ignore some behaviors than to defend real standards.

*For example, folks cry out for the labeling of GMOs arguing that "consumers should know what they are buying," yet Americans wolf down $30+ million in dietary supplements - herbs, Chinese remedies and the like - with absolutely no assurance that what is on the label is actually in the bottle and if it is, no idea of the potency of a particular batch.

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