I get increasingly politically incorrect as I age.
Stoptember is the latest marketing attempt to reduce smoking. It follows Dry July to reduce alcohol consumption. I have also come to hate Movember. My attempts to grow facial hair leave me resembling a fuller-figured Rolf Harris. Looking like a jailed paedophile is not conducive to classroom teaching.
I am hoping the trend will eventually include Burger fan Jan and Fattie Feb. Occasionally we need to celebrate excess.
As a fuller-figured middle-aged blind man with a penchant for Scottish cordial, our obsession with the perfect healthy lifestyle is irritating. It has become the modern secular religion. Underlying this obsession may be the strange desire for human immortality. The likely outcome of an abstinent, healthy eating, non-smoking, exercise-obsessed citizenry, is future hospital wards clogged with elderly arthritic Alzheimer's patients. Bad habits shape character.
The human condition is inherently flawed. We are all addicts in one capacity or another. We are addicted to substances, romantic love, sex, religion, careers, exercise, physical perfection, pets, money , fame and soap operas. Many parents live their lives through their children which creates a circular fulfilment without answering the fundamental question of human existence.
Modern media serves up a diet of conflicting images of the perfect life. We are force-fed images of perfect family situations co-hosted by celebrities such as Bill Cosby. The reality is that all families contain an element of dysfunction. This can range from animated political arguments over Sunday roasts to homicidal rampages.
These media images are just that. They are images. Human history is littered with failures. It is a story of alcoholics, frauds, obsessives, fatsos, megalomaniacs and other failed characters. It is a tale of lives cut short without reason, from disease, famine and war. It is a story of the powerful exploiting the poor. But this shouldn't be cause for despair.
We are living in an age of plenty in many parts of the world. It is unique in human history. It allows more people to fulfil their potential hopefully leading to more prosperity and better lives. Many of us live a life of material opulence that the Kings of yesteryear could never have imagined. We live longer, healthier and often happier lives than any other epoch in human history.
This is the outcome of a freakish period in human history that is only three centuries old. We are benefiting from the economic prosperity unleashed by the industrial revolution. Prior to this period, life was nasty, brutish and short for the vast bulk of humanity.
So I don't get the Paleo diet. Who wants to eat like a caveman? I like salads and fries with my sirloin. The salad adds colour and makes me feel less of a glutton when it remains uneaten. A Paleo diet invites foul breathe, dirty teeth, and simian features. There is no point idealising some illusionary human past. We are living in the best of times. An aircon apartment with wide screen TV and spa trumps a cave.
I recently inadvertently visited a vegan cafe. I was treated with disdain when I ordered bacon and eggs with an extra side of bacon. The look of horror on the waitress's face compelled me to add a pork sausage. I had to settle for a soy milk latte that tasted like Yak urine. Even with my failed vision, it was obvious that most of the patrons resembled pale, skinny anaemic from a low budget Goth movie. It seemed an odd sort of flagellation.
I like being middle-aged, fully-figured and self-indulgent. I am a product of our fortunate age and place. I don't want to live forever. I have witnessed first-hand what being elderly involves.
I want to expire suddenly indulging in an enjoyable bad habit, hopefully many summers from now if fate allows. But I hope when that occasion transpires I have fulfilled any positive potential, gifted to me by the accident of birth and my fortunate upbringing. That would be a life well lived.
Peter Lyons teaches economics at Saint Peters College in Epsom and has written several economics texts.