Why Do We Binge During the Holidays?

Press Start for “Why Do We Binge During the Holidays?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.

Ep.42: Why Do We Binge During the Holidays?

Written by: Matt Reichle
Created & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
** Today’s MUSIC was composed by 8-Bit Universe – http://wscrk.com/1NCV75x
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Academic Consultant: Mia Wood
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Sound Effects composed by David Krystal
Animation & Assistant Editing: Drew Levin
Assistant Editing: Ben Peterson

Why Do We Binge During the Holidays?

Society preaches that moderation is key and that rabid indulgence is bad for you. Yet we are also told that we have to fight for our right… to party.

This desire to live it up—to over eat, over drink, over spend, to over indulge is never more prevalent than the holiday seasons. For some reason getting eggnog wasted on a Thursday night in July is frowned upon but during the holidays it’s expected… it may even be necessary.

Perhaps we afford ourselves the ability to be excessive during the holidays because it promises us happiness. To relegate yourself to non-happiness during the holidays would be a waste of vacation days, right? But should we not maximize happiness every day of our lives?

Some might casually call this logic hedonism.

“The term ‘hedonism’ is used in several contexts. In moral philosophy it generally denotes the view that a good life should be a pleasurable life. In psychology it stands for the theory that pleasure seeking is a main motivator of human behavior…”

Essentially -if it make’s you happy, it can’t be that bad, right???

For someone like Epicurus… not so much… because pleasure and pain aren’t measured by simple bodily desires; happiness is more of a state of existence that is characterized by the freedom from mental distress and anxiety. It’s not simple physical pleasures, or empty quests for fame, fortune, and power.

Nietzsche is often read as a philosopher that advocated hedonism. But against hedonism, Nietzsche proposed a love of suffering and Tragedy… kind of like relegating yourself to watching Requiem for a Dream over and over.

But for the most part, people seeking “the good life” opt out of relentless pursuing tragedy or pleasure and favor living in moderation.

In the nineteen twenties the temperance movement was a large part of the American political culture that served as a moral foundation to buttress prohibition. Beyond the Judeo Christian demand to have no idols like food and drink before god, temperance has its roots in pre-modern philosophy

With Plato, earthly pleasures and bodily desires ought to be put in check by rational forces. People that can’t put down that second pie are relegated to non-philosophical life—a lesser existence.

Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, found a virtuous living to be a condition for happiness, or eudemonia. This was a tempered life— where passions were guided by the golden mean—a balance of drives held in check by enkratia, or self control. In his “La Dolce Vita, everything settles on just right and balanced—sort of like goldilocks.

But what do Plato, Epicurus, Nietzsche, and Aristotle know about living a good life in today’s world? Can you really trust the wisdom of anybody who’s never had a four loco or a fried Oreo before? From food to Netflix, our contemporary binge culture perhaps outmodes the Aristotelian and Nietzschean understandings of indulgence and the shame that goes with it.

For Contemporary American philosopher Laruen Berlant the reason that I am not happy after eating an entire box of Krispy Kreme donuts has nothing to do with how much shame they kneed into the batter and sprinkle into the glaze—rather it has to do with something she calls cruel optimism.

In her own words:“A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your Flourishing.” It might involve food, drugs, alcohol, fantasy, habits, or even love. “These kinds of optimistic relation are not inherently cruel. They become cruel only when the object that draws your attachment actively impedes the aim that brought you to it initially.”

We live in a time where the ability to live up to the Aristotelian good life is less and less possible.

According to Berlant, we are slowly working ourselves to death—living in a sort of haggard and demanding world where the contemporary worker is stuck perpetually experiencing the disappointment of unmet expectations.

There are lots of things we desire in order to live the good life, lots of things to be optimistic about: beauty, love, sexuality, monetary security—but the very process of achieving that life becomes more and more difficult.

Working for a living means you probably eat from the local food truck and visit the vending machine more than necessary, spend most of the day sitting behind a desk—all in the name of achieving the good life. Yet, the workplace becomes an obstacle to happiness.

Then, when the worn out subject seeks relief in small pleasures—in the things that they find make them happy, they’re met with new expectations and hurdles to happiness. It’s a constant cycle where the very object that makes them happy causes them the greatest amount of pain.

Cruel optimism shows its cruelty here: in developed nations, ‘comfort food’ and ‘comfort eating’ literally feed off the failure to achieve the BMI we are supposed to be happy with. In other words, the emotional ‘solution’ contributes to the problem itself. Equally however, constant self-denial in the form of extreme dieting can become a per- verse mode of enjoyment in conditions of plenty. The un-gendering of eating dis- orders, such that male complaints of this type are now rising sharply, indicates a structural connection between capitalism and this mode of suffering suspended between gluttony and privation.

Like raging with friends to reduce the unhappiness? Too bad they’re all shallow narcissists. Love scotch? Oops- Your liver and your wife are missing. Find some joy in comfort food?… Beware the inevitable guilt that comes after the food coma. It seems we are caught up in a vicious cycle:

What do you think, dear viewer? Is there a true happiness? Or are we all stuck in a series of isolated nows? Are we just floating from beer to bong, from wake to bake, midday snack to midnight snack—slipping in and out of tryptophan induced naps, the transient feeling of microwave warm bliss slowly leaving our bodies like so much baked potato heat… dissipating out into the ether?

With that-Happy holidays from the wisecrack crew.

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