Absolutism is defined as the holding of absolute principles in political, philosophical, or theological matters. The zeitgeist is awash with this insidiousness; from our politics, to our approach to education, to our exercise regimes and oh so very evidently in our diets.
In our need to pigeon hole and define our fellow humans we have subscribed to a self-actualisation of the tribal name tag. I am a vegan! I am a republican! I am a home schooling, gluten-free yogi and I only drink camomile root tea!
I watched a lamb being slaughtered on a TV documentary the other day, and it triggered an unexpected visceral and tearful response; I decided to attempt vegetarianism. I have dabbled with this idea for some time. My family will tell you how they await meat-free Mondays and Wednesdays with the enthusiasm of someone about to undergo a colonoscopy.
Four hours after my declaration, I ate sausages for dinner because my husband was cooking- if someone else is cooking, I’m eating. The following evening we went out for Chinese food and I didn’t want to be annoying so I ate all the meats. Today I chastised myself for my lacklustre conviction, and purchased a lentil soup. When I got home and realised it had chicken in it, and in fact had a whole picture of a chicken emblazoned on the packet that I had somehow failed to register, I ate it anyway. So the question is, can I attempt vegetarianism, given the amount of animal based products I’m still eating? In fact, can we attempt anything in life without giving it 100%?
The implication in the pervasive acceptance and omnipresence of absolutism is that to not do something or give something 100% is to not do it at all.
It’s as if there is no value in reducing your meat intake if you are not a pure vegetarian, or if you don’t go to the gym 6 times a week you are not somehow committed to a healthy body. Malcolm Turnbull tried to be a socially progressive Liberal and is suffering the wrath of his party absolutists.
There seems to be no room for the ‘little from column A, little from column B’ approach. Maybe I cannot call myself vegetarian if I occasionally eat meat, but surely the effort is still commendable; I can be vegetarian-lite.
In the face of the millions of fads, lifestyle choices and ‘this will change your life’ dogmatic pathways before us, I’m advocating for the half-arsed approach to life.
Noted philosopher Homer J. Simpson wisely advised his daughter “Lisa, if you don’t like your job, you don’t go on strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed”.
When we aim for 100% we are prone to fail; New Year’s resolutions don’t work because they are absolutist in their intent, as are our diets and our commitments to recycle every single household item: sometimes a perfectly renewable plastic bottle goes in the red bin and that’s ok. When we place ourselves at risk of giving up our endeavours, we take our achievements from 100% to 0. We are upset with ourselves when we ‘cheat’ on our clean eating, but it is this self-flagellation that is unhealthy; instead of celebrating that we did something right for our bodies, the environment, our communities, we admonish ourselves for a lack of will-power or follow-through.
The alternative approach of a healthy and hearty attempt to cut down our meat intake by half-ish, go to the gym a couple of times-ish a week and reduce alcohol intake by any amount, or whatever our personal goal might be, is achievable. It will allow us to bask in our successes, keep up the positive intentions and maybe realise more than we could have hoped for.
Don’t risk Bart and Lisa’s fate: “Kids, you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” Instead, go half-arsed and be a winner at everything you do.