Ayn Rand/Objectivism Sightings
Free Radical Updates
Local Club Meeting Plans
News & Interesting Links
The French Paradox, American Angst ... and NOSA
Ce soir I’m not so sure. I just watched a 60 Minutes item about "The French Paradox" and had occasion to compare this phenomenon to that of American Angst.
"The French Paradox" is the typical French diet sans the effects conventional dietetic "wisdom" attributes to such a diet. See, the French salivate over, and reverently ingest, red meat, cream, cheese and all the other delectable delights about which we are routinely finger-wagged—lovingly coaxed down with bounteous, glistening grape-ferment—and are the leanest and most heart-disease-free nation in the western world. Contrary to the alfalfa-fascists, the Pritikin Puritans, the calorie-counters, the pleasure-poopers and all other purveyors of the view that yummy = evil, the French refuse to get fat or keel over with coronaries.
How to account for this?
Well, a svelte French author, looking a decade younger than her actual years, had a simple and irresistible explanation. Deriving pleasure from your food, she pointed out, is good for you. To derive pleasure from it, you must savour it. To savour it, you must eat it slowly. To eat it slowly is to eat less of it; thorough mastication leads to readier satiation. "You can," she averred, "have your cake and eat it too." (Please don't tell Ayn Rand I quoted this.) That is what the French do—and how they flourish.
I then reflected on some corollary truths. Mortifying the flesh is bad for you. The neurotic, obsessive self-absorption (henceforth to be known as "NOSA" and to take its place alonside KASS and NEM as terms original to SOLO's lexicon) that informs the currently-fashionable self-mortification is even worse for you. Neurotic, obsessive self-absorption is the peculiarly American (actually un-American) disease of our time. It is why so many Americans are on diets and in therapy … and are fat and morbidly miserable.
Could this be the true "French Paradox": that Americans, with a tradition of muscular individualism, disdain for bullshit, and love of life, have become a nation of whining psychobabble-sissies … while the French, steeped in religion, nonsense, self-denial and reality-evasion … have become a nation of life-affirmers?!
(There’s a sub-paradox that is even more disconcerting: NOSA is especially rampant among Objectivists! That’s because they mindlessly equate NOSA with self-esteem. More on that in a future article on the solipsism endemic in the Objectivist movement.)
Just after the 60 Minutes programme ended, a movie came on. I missed its title, and I couldn’t care less what it was. Its "star" was Eminem. No sooner were the opening credits rolling than we were into fucking this, mother-fucking that, and generally fucking everything in sight. "I’m sick of eating fucking shit off of this fucking [something-or-other]" is one line that I just heard from the screen, to which my back is turned as I type. (Several minutes later, as I proof-read, there’s a whole barbarian chorus shouting, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" ad nauseam.)
American academics, both earnest and snide, expend considerable energy "analysing" and excusing this sort of excrement. French academics are more subtle—they eulogise the philosophical peristalsis, such as Rousseau, that spawned the faeces, but tastefully refrain from wallowing in it. They know they can leave that to Americans. Therein lies America’s potential downfall ... and France's potential, cunning triumph.
Peut-être, il faut que we consider the possibility the French are not as dumb/depraved as we think; that they know better than Americans that "the purpose of morality is to teach you not to suffer and die but to enjoy yourself and live"; that they know better than Americans that civilisation (and its prerequisite, freedom) is a matter of cultivation and refinement and savouring, rather than brute glorification of mother-fucking and jungle-voodoo; that they should never have gifted the Statue of Liberty to the Americans because the latter were too boorish to know how to honour it; that Voltaire trumps Rousseau and out-Jeffersons Thomas.
Bien-sûr, I don’t truly believe this. But I write it as a cri-de-coeur in the hope that it may never become true.
And I'm just a New Zealander!
Discuss this Article (33 messages)