The other day, I was told about about Disney’s new Habit Heroes–an extremely short-lived Epcot exhibit that sought to combat obesity by teaching kids healthy habits. It included heroic and fit characters like Will Power and Callie Stenics who need to elude the wiles of fat and deformed villains like Snacker, Lead Bottom, and The Glutton. Naturally, people quickly recognized it as an attempt to shame ugly overweight children while uplifting the fit and attractive. The exhibit was, as one commenter described it, “picking up where the school bullies left off.” My first thoughts were pretty much along these same lines; I mean it’s not exactly subtle, is it?
My second thought was one of hope. If the obesity fanatics are kept occupied trying to combat obesity without in any way indicating that there’s anything wrong with being obese, maybe we won’t have to hear from them anymore. Seriously; as soon as you have two premises: A) Obesity is bad and B) we can avoid obesity through our own good habits, then the obese must logically conclude that their behavior has lead to a bad thing. Where do people think shame comes from, anyway? Good luck teaching that obesity must be combated with good habits without ever indicating that obesity must be combated with good habits.
Then my wife mentioned how similar this whole thing was to the “educational” film strips from the 1950’s. The kind they used to make fun of on MST3K and still make fun of on Rifftrax. It seems like the same kind of shallow morality play meant to indoctrinate kids into becoming a rather narrow kind of good citizen. But if the 10’s are the new 50’s, they’re a very liberal 50’s. Nobody really thinks obesity is a good thing, but the overreaching nanny-state programs attempting to deal with this “epidemic” are certainly more dear to those left of center than those on the right.
This “liberal 50’s” take on society also seems to hold water in other areas. You might not get dismissed from your job for being now or ever having been a member of the Communist Party, but in California, they’ll try their best to dismiss you for hunting. There are full-page ads in the New York Times claiming that rejecting a new mandate forcing religious organizations to pay for any and all forms of birth control for their employees is a return to the Dark Ages–just about the shallowest slippery slope argument I’ve ever encountered. You might not see Father Knows Best on TV, but there’s an astonishing amount of moral uniformity across television programs when it comes to matters like extramarital sex, abortion, and homosexuality. They just happen to uniformly endorse liberal sensibilities. And, of course, our universities are in a firm ideological grip that doesn’t tolerate dissent from the established orthodoxy. Many, for example, have begun undertaking efforts to dissolve all student organizations that don’t meet their ideological standards. Their new orthodoxy just happens to consist of overturning the traditional morality and religion that was rooted in American culture back in the conservative 50’s. This they confuse with critical thinking–as though academics don’t realize that half a century has passed in the meantime.
But if the 10’s are a liberal 50’s, could the 20’s end up being a conservative 60’s? Most older conservatives tend to cling to rank & file Republicanism and nominate the most liberal, big-government Republican available as their presidential candidate because otherwise a liberal, big-government Democrat might win and disaster would ensue. Most of the conservatives my own age, however, seem much more impressed with Ron Paul, the candidate whom the Republican establishment deems a crazy maverick because he’s actually conservative. They’re quite conservative politically & morally, but they tend to have very little respect for political and cultural institutions. They want politicians with character and principles, but don’t care whether they have an “R” after their name on C-Span. They don’t trust educational institutions and end up homeschooling. They don’t want their future teenagers having premarital sex, but seem open-minded about them marrying before 20. They’re skeptical that a college education is really the only way to have a full and productive life. They have little interest in regulating Big Food, but still try to eschew processed vittles in favor of local and homegrown fare. In short, they have clear ideas on the kind of society they want for themselves and their families, and are quite willing to buck society’s expectations in order to pursue it–even the expectations of conservative segments of society.
Will the coming decades bring us a bunch of free-thinking hippie conservatives who protest America’s liberal establishment, question its moral authority, and seek radical social change that overturns our stale and outdated institutions? Only time will tell, but I’d like to think that such a 60’s would turn out better than last time.