Bread & Circuses

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...
The First Lady shares my passion for...you'll see. Image via Wikipedia

If you have any idea what I’m talking about, good for you! It’s not everyday that I interact with such enlightened people (yes, it counts if you had to google or wikipedia it–I’m feeling generous). Why am I mentioning it, though? Because it’s Thoughtful Thursday and I wanted to talk about it.

In case you have no idea what the phrase “bread & circuses” is meant to signify, I will give you a brief definition. It is said that the decline of the Roman culture can be attributed to their growing indifference to politics and civic duty. They only had to real cares in the world: to be fed and to be entertained. People often speak of American culture as the contemporary Roman culture. There’s a guy (I can’t remember his name) who did an investigation of all the famous empires of history and their demise, and he warned that America was soon going to decline for the very reason that Americans were less concerned with politics and the larger world than they were with popular culture entertainment and eating.

If you look around America, you will notice that people are heavier and lazier (me too; I’m not singling anyone else out). We have become a couch culture. The only surfing we do is channel surfing or surfing the net. We are constantly looking for ways to entertain ourselves that require minimal effort on our part, which has contributed to the rise of On Demand, Netflix, downloading music, delivery, and online shopping. It’s entirely possible to get most of our needs met without leaving our couch.

Due to the decline of the American housing market, stock market, and job market, people began to realize that politics were important. All of those people we haphazardly elect, through lazy impulse voting or not voting at all, actually have an impact on whether or not we can make enough money to be able to afford being lazy. Now, everyone is in touch with the politics of the day. President Obama is arguably the most “paid attention to” president we’ve ever had: whether we agree or disagree with what he’s doing, we are watching and judging. That’s good. But we’re largely still sitting.

One of the shows I really like watching is Too Fat for 15. On the opening sequence, there is a quote that chills me. To paraphrase, it says this is the first generation of children who may not outlive their parents because of the obesity epidemic. This isn’t the only show featuring teens and adults struggling with their weight. These shows used to be an anomaly, watched because it was so rare to see a 500 pound person. Now I see it several times a week.

There’s been a movement towards rehabbing our diets, and that’s great. I’m in no mood to be a vegetarian or a vegan, but if it makes you healthier, go for it. Organic food is expensive, but if it’s important to you, eat all organic. Same thing for gluten free. The main thing that I take from this movement, as a cheap omnivore who isn’t willing to pass up a good steak or the occasional (OK, frequent) pasta dish, is the need to make healthy choices. I shop more of the perimeter of the super market for fresh meat and produce. I substitute leaner turkey for beef on occasion. I don’t shovel food into my mouth, but give my body time enough to tell me it’s full. I do OK.

We still haven’t addressed working out. Not nearly enough of us do it, especially those of us with a little more melanin. I’m tired of being the only Black woman on the trail running, biking, or blading, but I digress. Making a personal commitment to your fitness is important, though. Don’t just sit down; get moving. Find fun ways to get a good workout. It doesn’t always have to be going to the gym and getting on a treadmill or elliptical, you know. You can take a class, go dancing, shoot some hoops, play soccer, turn cartwheels and jump rope.

I love food and entertainment as much as anyone else (maybe more than), but I can’t afford to be unplugged from what’s going on in the larger society, or in my body. I love the fact that as Americans, we are moving towards less self-indulgence and more discipline and involvement in the community. It’s time to use technology to help us do that. How?

  • Follow the Pres and new sources on twitter
  • Utilize your DVR so you can get out and be active during the day
  • Cook a little more at home. You can even involve the rest of the family.
  • Use your phone to count calories, do an exercise program like Couch to 5K, follow weight watchers, or share your workouts to keep you accountable.
  • Look up great workouts and recipes on the internet.
  • Get active with interactive Xbox or Wii games geared towards fitness.

If you’re looking to exercise some civic duty, you can: volunteer at a nursing home or hospital, participate in a walk or run for a cause you’re passionate about, join a civic club, donate to charity, volunteer to be a mentor, or get involved in activities at your church or place of worship.

What do you think about the bread & circuses issue? How do you stay fit/healthy? Do you follow politics? Why or why not? How do you use technology to keep you in the know and live a healthy, fit life?

3 Comments

  1. Natasha

    I love your suggestions! I use an app on my iPhone to count calories and that, with exercise, was how I lost 60 pounds after the babies.

    Although I’m Canadian and can’t vote here, we still keep plugged in to what’s going on in American politics (as well as back home where we just had a Federal Election).

    As for the exercise/eating…I can honestly say that the amount of unhealthy, overweight, poor eaters in this country will be the thing that drives us away (either back to Europe or Canada). And the worst part is that there is so much healthy food available that there really is NO excuse for eating the junk that seems so prevalent here. Look at any chain restaurant and their menu items are easily over 1500 calories on average! That’s like an entire day’s intake for me! I just don’t understand how a society thinks that this is okay?? There WILL be a price to pay. And if we want to get brutally honest, it will come when there’s a natural disaster or world war and all the fat people will become sick (or sicker) and eventually die off while the fit people will survive longer. Something as simple as no access to their medication could put most obese people over the edge. I know that’s extreme but if we’re talking the demise of a culture (i.e. the Romans), than let’s get crazy and take the thought all the way to its logical end.

    It’s getting to the point where I’m losing any sense of compassion for people who are obese — and I hate that. I don’t want to be that skinny person who has no empathy for people who struggle with weight. The sad part is, your country isn’t doing them any favors — in fact, the society as a whole is just making their difficult battle even more difficult. But then who is “the society”? It’s the people!

    ! 🙂

    • 2blu2btru

      Americans have become poor eaters. The laws are also making it harder for some to eat healthier. There was a law making its way through congress that banned growing your own vegetables–not to sell or distribute, just to grow. Some people who can’t afford the rising cost of fresh veggies and organic options raise their own to cut their food budget, and now the government is taking that option away. The cheapest food is the worst for you, yet some people are restricted financially and all the healthy options, like growing your own or going to the flea market and getting it direct from other growers, are becoming more difficult to to come by as the government tries to control how we get our food.

      I will say that we’ve made strides. Many restaurants offer healthier options with acceptable calorie counts–and more than just a salad (finally). Many restaurants have to put the nutritional information on the menus, wrappers, napkins, and/or cups of the establishment, so people can make informed decisions. It’s now become the responsibilities of the citizens. I think the main problem is that many are lazy–they don’t exercise or cook, the two main ways to regulate your health. Hopefully things don’t get worse.

      How are things in Canada? Do they have more health and wellness programs?

      • We have socialized health care in Canada so everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, gets health care — no matter what.

        We go to our doctor appointments and we never have to think about how much something is going to cost. In fact, we don’t even see how much anything costs (which is the one downfall to the system as I think most Canadians have no idea how much things actually cost so we take it for granted sometimes).

        I believe that this helps offset our health & wellness problems because people are more apt to take care of themselves (i.e. go to doctor appts). We also lead more active lifestyles (generally speaking) so our obesity levels are much lower. Although the number of overweight people we have is close to the same as the US (per capita), the actual AMOUNT of obesity is far lower…so we don’t have the morbidly obese problem that America has.

        But forget Canada, when we lived in Europe, we rarely, if EVER saw a fat person. I’m not even kidding. Like they don’t even exist. People are just so much healthier there. They use alternative medicines, get FAR MORE daily exercise, and have much healthier eating habits.

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