The iPhone, the Bitch and the Bathrobe

When I first met the Philosophe, one thing that really irritated me about him is one of the things I now most admire him for (and aspire to): his consistency. (If you can’t understand what’s irritating about consistency, just imagine how important it is to logical reasoning, and how frustrating it can be to argue with someone who is completely logical and rational – even when he’s clearly wrong!)

Of course I was probably annoyed by it because it showed up how I – like many of us, I’ll venture – was/am really bad at being consistent, preferring the “freedom” to be fickle to suit my agenda (“What’s that you say? How can I not eat animals for “moral” reasons but have no problem dropping a wad of cash on a pair of sexy leather boots? None of your goddamn business!”).

I was once again reminded of the huge currency of inconsistency recently while listening to an episode of the Stuff You Should Know podcast (while swimming with my waterproof iPod), this one on “How the Paleo Diet Works.” Having both read and written a fair bit on Paleo/LCHF/Banting/Noakes, I found the podcast to be rather superficial (including a by-now predictable misrepresentation of the work of Ancel Keys), but that’s maybe to be expected. It did manage to describe the key principles, namely that humans were evolved to eat and metabolize a particular kind of food, and that kind of food is not what most of us eat today, which is why the world is so fat and sick. Ergo, eating like your hunter-gatherer ancestors is the only to restore health and vitality. To break it down even further, basically don’t eat anything out of a box.

To the credit of Chuck and Josh, who host the podcast, they did conclude by advising scepticism about any diet- or lifestyle program that promises to be *the* magic bullet, and that moderation is the (boring) key. But it occurred to me that to anyone listening to this overview – and sadly also those who read and waste spend money on much more detailed, even “scientific” justifications – should really stop to think about how it would work to apply this approach in a consistent way.

Which means: if you are going to distrust modern, industrialised food, how do you explain trusting the modern, industrialised transport that carries Paleo gurus around the world to preach the gospel of hunter-gatherers? (No, AIRPLANES KILL TOO is not a good argument). Or the phone in your pocket or the glasses on your face? How on earth is a loaf of “bread” made from flax seed, stevia and egg whites more “real” than freshly baked sourdough?

Even worse than the fact that these ridiculous fads encourage countless people to fear of a whole lot of good stuff which is not going to kill them (unless coeliac, allergic, perhaps dangerously overweight etc) is how every new bandwagon which rides on silly ideas like the naturalistic fallacy (nature = good, unnatural = bad) systemically erodes what clear thinking even means. The crown jewel in that mess right now must be Mike Adams of the site Natural News, whom Steven Novella rightly describes a dangerous loon. (Not to mention, WT actual F is “natural” about delivering news via the Internet? Shouldn’t he be preaching from Mt Ararat or such?).

inconsistently consistent

The freedom to be inconsistent reminds me a little of the selfishness of people who stop abruptly in malls (and not only because the the Philosophe calls them meanderthals), or worse, do stupid things on the road while talking on their phones. Their problem seems to be that they have forgotten that they live not in their own little Narnia, but in a world populated by other people, and that some of their actions could affect some (or a lot) of those other people.

I love technology (and bread and chocolate), but I am very fearful of the day when stuff gets so advanced that people might be able to stop and answer their phones in the pool. Can you imagine, swimming along, when suddenly you bump into some fool hanging onto the lane barrier because they couldn’t wait to answer a call from a family member about what to do since Woolies has run out of cauliflower again? Do I let the need to shout “get off your fucking phone” interrupt my swim, get out and stomp off in a bathrobe? Or swallow my irritation and calmy swim around and on?

I suppose I could just kick them. By mistake of course. Maybe that future isn’t so bad after all.