Rebirth of Reason


Machan's Musings: The Right to Be Dumb - or Peculiar
by Tibor R. Machan

Suppose I decided to each at a vegetarian restaurant morning, noon and evening, 7 days a week, on and on, without a break. Just lettuce, nothing else. Just image it, I know it is dumb—or peculiar—but there is nothing very difficult about imagining it, even noticing it here and there. Many people are, indeed, dumb or peculiar, at least in some aspects of their lives, and Supersize Me, the movie that bashes McDonald’s because there are quite a few such people who go there to eat virtually all the time, day after day, night after night, makes a great deal of this.

Of course, there are other people who do similar things that we all know about, like those who go to Las Vegas and sit by a slot machine day and night and that’s their vacation. Maybe they are just enjoying themselves, although when you walk by and see their faces, that’s not what comes to your mind. They seem fixated on the one-arm bandit, pretty zonked out.

And there are kids who spend nearly all their days skateboarding, no matter how often they fall, no matter how many bruises they get. And there are mountain-climbers who spend all their spare time climbing those mountains, endlessly, climbing and climbing, no matter how many others fall to their deaths, no matter how dangerous it is to do such a thing. And how about those demolition derby enthusiasts? Or folks who do nothing but play bridge all weekend, or lie out on the sun and soak it up and risk skin cancer?

But the likes of Michael Moore and Rob Reiner—and even some at prestigious universities—just will not get it. Some people aren’t very sensible or conventional. But of course, the people making a federal case of the McDonald’s enthusiasm will not accept this as fact. They need an American  villain, some typically American institution, like big business, so they can then denounce not the stupid or peculiar people who are overeating of their own free will but the McDonald’s big business people who are, you guessed it, coercing them all to come and eat there. (Of course, if you deny free will for the customers, you must also for the vendors!)

In fact this is all bunk. I love McDonald’s French fries—every six months or so I indulge myself in a large portion and then look forward to doing it again, six months or so later. Do I indulge myself every day? No way. Would I like doing so if I didn’t have to pay for it in various adverse side effects? Sure I would. But I don’t. I like not being dumb or even very peculiar.

Am I smart or conventional about everything as I am about resisting the temptation to gorge myself on McDonald’s French fries? No, I am not. If you knew me better, you could probably spot a character flaw and peculiarity or two that would show that I, too, hover near some things odd, even self-destructive, in my life. But all of it is not irresistible—I could also do otherwise, if I choose to do so—and, indeed, now and then I decide to drop one of my habits for good.

What is truly contemptible about the Michael Moore types is how they assume that people have no will of their own and it is only because big businesses advertise fat foods that they eat fat foods. Millions of people, of course, who are exposed to the very same ads do not choose to make McDonald’s their breakfast, lunch, and dining establishment day in and day out. How come? They don’t choose to—they have other things they want to do besides gorge themselves on fast food. (And in some cases wanting to gorge oneself on fast food may not be such a terrible thing.)

It is interesting, by the way, that after the last presidential campaign it was always the Right Wing that was charged with focusing on so-called moral values. That is entirely wrong—the Michael Moore types on the Left—his buddies Rob Reiner, Al Franken, et al—are all moralists and worse. They not only preach the morality of temperance when it comes to fast foods and such. They, very much like those ladies who spawned Prohibition about a century ago, want their morality shoved down everyone’s throat. They aren’t happy with advocating, propagandizing, imploring, warning and such ... no! They are wannabe tyrants. Just look what they did about smoking, getting it prohibited at private restaurants and bars!

It’s one thing to urge people not to be dumb or carry on indulging themselves unwisely, imprudently. It’s entirely another to coerce them to act as you would want them to act.

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