An old professor friend of mine used to have a theory for why people are complacent, which he called the “fat, dumb, and happy” theory. According to him, as long as people’s bellies and wallets were full, and they were relatively happy with their lives, they were more likely to turn the other cheek and play “dumb” to the injustices going on around them. His theory made a certain kind of sense to me, though I didn’t point out at the time that we ourselves were “fat, dumb, and happy”. Talking about issues wasn’t the same as doing something about them.
I was reminded of his “theory” over the weekend when my husband went on a tirade about the presidential election happening in our country right now. Politics is a topic I avoid like the plague on social media, this blog included. Things turn ugly so fast that it’s not worth posting even a single word about it. However, when my husband claimed that we need a revolution in this country, it sparked some angry fire in me.
People are too complacent to revolt, I told him, and shared my former colleague’s theory. The difference now is that while some of us are “fat, dumb, and happy”, more of us are exhausted, over-busy, and stressed out.
We’re exhausted because too many of us work nonstop to pay living expenses that keep rising, even as wages stay stagnant. Case in point: We bought our house 20 years ago. Today, a person buying this house would have to pay nearly twice as much for it. When our son was born 18 years ago, my husband only earned about $40,000 per year, yet we could afford for me not to work and still meet our expenses, save money, and go on vacations. One reason was that electricity, cable, heating, groceries, gas, healthcare, and insurance costs were a small fraction of what they are now. Incomes rose, not fell. Since we were able to save, we didn’t need to charge or take out lines of credit.
We’re over-busy because now most families must have two full-time wage earners just to make ends meet. (Unless, of course, you’re a single parent, then you’re doing the work of two people.) After working all day, we then attempt to cram in family meals, homework help, household chores, grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, bill-paying, children’s activities, exercising, and socializing into pockets of time in the evening and on weekends. Few of us have the time and luxury to spread these activities out more evenly, and sensibly, throughout the weekdays.
Finally, we’re stressed out from working long days at jobs that suck the life out of us, because employers expect us to do the jobs of at least two people. Add all of this together, and it’s no wonder so many of us are zoning out in front of the television at night, drinking too much, eating too much, allowing the news and subliminal advertising messages to feed our brains with poison. And don’t even get me going on the prescription drug abuse epidemic in our country, which I personally find alarming.
It’s occurred to me that maybe they like us this way – exhausted, over-busy, stressed, and medicated. “They” being the powers that be who run this country. As long as we’re preoccupied, whether happily or miserably, we’re less likely to make a stink over decisions the government makes on our behalf, the rising cost of living, endless wars, toxins in our foods, the failing public education system, racism, sexism, violence, etc..
Damn right we need a revolution. But who will start one? Surely not the fat, dumb, and happy people. Why mess up a good thing? Definitely not the exhausted, over-busy, stressed out people. They don’t have the time or energy. So the status quo prevails.
I told all this to my husband, and then encouraged him to start a revolution. He finished his pizza and went and watched baseball instead.