Why It’s Easier to Stay Fat, Stupid and Untraveled

There’s one of the seven deadly sins that I find fits the modern age perfectly. Lust? Hardly – even with a plethora of nightclubs and Craigslist personals, this sin has remained more or less stagnant.

I refer of course to sloth – the desire not to desire; inability; laziness; not reaching with the mind or the body.

Travel is all about extending yourself. Moving beyond perceptions of closed societies by finding a foothold and learning how people in other cultures live their lives similarly. Pushing your strength to the limit with adventures to the tallest mountaintops. Getting away from comfort and into the unknown.

Drunk and/or sleeping © the(?)
Drunk and/or sleeping © the(?)

With all our 21st century conveniences, one could make the argument that merely trying to get by day-by-day is the epitome of sloth.

Yet with all our 21st century conveniences, one could make the argument that merely trying to get by day-by-day is the epitome of sloth. With technology and the mindset of the general population slowly changing to accommodate the sloth, the world is essentially becoming the antithesis of what vagabonds desire: conveniences to eventually strip away the need for any physical activity, and the propagation of information designed to inhibit growth, not encourage greater understanding.

What are some of the ways the world makes it easy to be fat, stupid, and untraveled?

#1: Online Shopping

Seven hundred years ago the idea of “imported goods” was an alien concept. A few centuries later, and colonists had to wait months for ships to pass through trade routes and reach their ports. Even as recent as the 19th century, small towns relied on the Wells Fargo wagon for the latest and greatest products the world had to offer.

Nowadays, all it takes to get anything you want at any time is a credit card and the click of a button. Why run to the grocery store anymore if they can be delivered? No need to wait in line for that new book; Amazon can get it for you the same day. Online shopping is one half of the American dream brought to life: a pill to be perfect and a button to push whenever you need anything.

Unfortunately, without that pill, the body and mind decay. One loses necessary skills to live in the real world. Why should we go to the movies with friends when the film can be downloaded for free within seconds? Why settle for a standard toothbrush when you can have an electronic one delivered right to your door, along with anything else that comes to mind?

#2: Fast Food

We all know fast food is a risk to your physical health, but the very fact that such places exist sets a dangerous precedent. Not only do you not have the time to sit and enjoy a healthy meal, but you can’t even take the energy to walk out of your car. I will admit: mass production works quite well for Ford and machine assembly, but leave it out of the equation when it comes to anything edible. In this case, brand name recognition and low costs only lead to high cholesterol and less exercise.

#3: The World Is “Too Dangerous”

I don’t care which news organization you watch or read – The New York Times, CNN, FoxNews, BBC … Every one, at some point or another, has exaggerated the dangers of traveling abroad to promote the idea that “home is safe, comfortable, and pretty sweet”, while “the rest of the world is out to kill you.”

Ok, ok, ok. There are plenty of disasters and political unrest abroad. But to sell off an entire country as nothing more than a land mine waiting for an unsuspecting foreign traveler is just manipulation.

You want to know what these areas are like? You don’t have to catch the first flight out. Do some reading. Learn about any shared history, the source of these problems. Are they as black as they’re painted? In either event, you pick up some interesting facts to spread to fellow travelers and, hopefully, break down a few misconceptions.

Breaking News @ BBC World © Johannesen
Breaking News @ BBC World © Johannesen

#4: Newspeak

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? ”¦ Has it ever occurred to you … that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? ”¦ The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking””not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

1984, George Orwell

I doubt Orwell could have conceived of anything remotely like the Internet, but it’s pretty eerie just how well he nails the next generation of conversation. Don’t believe me?

  • BRB
  • LOL
  • LMAO
  • TTYL
  • <3
  • IMHO
  • U2

Look familiar?

They’re more than just abbreviations; they represent an entirely new manner of speaking and writing. When was the last time you typed out a complete sentence when texting someone? Was it eloquent? Reducing information to its bare essentials and taking the poetry out of language is Newspeak, plain and simple. Texting, Twittering, Facebook messages … all are limiting your thoughts well below their potential. Have you been away from your phone or computer and reminded yourself that you need to Twitter this and that when you get back?

Nor is this restricted to two-way communications. Social networking does wonders for advertising and people who choose to click on the links and read the full stories, but many look at the titles and shortened descriptions and move on, accepting a summary over content. If this keeps up, by 2050, the entire high school English curriculum will be as follows:

  • “Danish prince dies” = Hamlet
  • “Boy loves mother, kills father” = Oedipus Rex
  • “God did it” = The Bible

35 Responses

  1. Maya Northen

    Love this – so accurate! The “too dangerous” excuse is a particular pet peeve of mine. I have been to 6 continents and have rarely felt unsafe and never less safe than I would in a big city in the US. Sure, you’ve got to use your head, but I feel that holds true for any destination. I think “dangerous” for most destinations is really just a way of people not wanting to leave their comfort zone. :-)

    Reply
  2. Silvia

    Wow, this is a great article and perfectly encapsulates some of my very thoughts on why 21st century people are so lazy. Very thought provoking, but I have to admit, I laughed at the last part where you wrote “God did it” = The Bible.

    Reply
  3. Brooke

    Great post. It’s all so true. Things that have made life easier, have also made people lazy, dumb, and unworldly.

    Reply
  4. kjinx

    As if they would actually study the Bible (even just as great literature) in a high school English curriculum … what world are you living in?

    Reply
  5. Katie

    “Seven hundred years ago the idea of ‘imported goods’ was an alien concept.”

    I beg to differ seeing as the Greeks would trade with the Phonecians WAY WAY WAY back. And have you ever even heard of the Silk Road – Trade route from Europe through the Middle East and on to Asia. The whole point of Christopher Columbus’ journey was to find an easier trade route to India since for quite a long time merchants had to sail south and around Africa to get to India.

    So how can you say that 700 years ago that imported goods barely existed. Most countries were colonized for their goods to make it easier to import.

    I’m a high school student and I have known this since at least 4th grade.

    Reply
  6. Angela

    Great post! I enjoyed it a lot…

    I’m a little skeptical about how #4 will play out. I agree that newspeak is worrisome, but more people are writing their own blogs as well, which doesn’t necessarily mean good writing, but I’m hopeful that it means more real writing along with the newspeak. Writing is a critical skill in determining success, and anything that means more writing is ok in my book.

    I studied the bible in high school too.

    Reply
  7. jessiev

    BRAVO!! to step outside of one’s comfort zone is to truly LEARN. i love travel. i love feeling uncomfortable in a new place, figuring out language and food and customs. it makes me feel alive.

    Reply
  8. GlobeDiva

    Too true! Especially about the shopping part. One of my greatest joys in life, either when I’m home or when I’m traveling, is to do my grocery shopping. The range of foods available in our markets is astounding. To be able to touch, smell, and sometimes taste, before we buy is almost a lost art.

    Reply
  9. Turner

    @Angela. Agreed – nothing against blogs, but I worry about how much we rely on summaries and retweets rather than content.

    @Katie. As you’re a high school student, I’ll cut you some slack; stop acting like a know-it-all in your comments. Of course ancient cultures traded, but that’s not the issue. Civilization practically reset itself after the fall of the western Roman Empire. I chose the mid 14th century as it was the late middle ages, and most of the world was just beginning to recover (in one sense, anyway).

    Reply
  10. John Bardos - JetSetCitizen

    Great post. I laughed from the title to the end.

    I agree with you, but even the idea of a vagabond has been corrupted with psuedo travelers visiting the McDonald’s and Starbucks of the world while bragging about the stamps in their passport.

    Everyone is looking for short cuts and travel has not been spared from the onslaught of sloth. Rolf Potts must be shaking his head in despair.

    Reply
  11. Turner

    John,

    That idea was one category I just couldn’t articulate well enough – “travelers are arrogant douchebags”, referring not to all of them, of course, but the ones who love to rant.

    Reply
  12. Paul tours China

    It’s interesting to think about all we cut out of our lives. It’s a little frustrating to wonder when and IF it will ever change. (I am sure it will, because it changed to get to this point,) but when will it ever get popular to lengthen your thoughts and words??
    I don’t see it any time soon.

    Reply
  13. Carlo Alcos

    Nice article Turner. Re #3, read Flat Earth News by Nick Davies to get some insight as to why this is.

    Technology can be a burden or a boon of course, depending how you use it. Look how easy online shopping has made travel. You can research, plan, and book everything right from the comfort of your home PC and find all the best deals.

    That newspeak business is downright scary.

    Reply
  14. James Cole

    Great post/rant…

    I really hate Newspeak and I think how you put it “taking the poetry out of language” describes it perfectly. I’ve been saying for a while now that there is no “soul” left in the world. I don’t mean that in any religious or spiritual sense but on the substance of things. Everything is made for it’s soul purpose and functionality and that’s it. It seems there is no effort to go beyond the bare minimum required. No effort or time to create or worse yet, appreciate the poetry, the art, the soul of things.

    It is a sad world indeed that we have created and live in.

    Reply
  15. Brit Weaver

    Nice post.

    What most have discovered through traveling was that: fear is a hindrance, abbreviations of words are useful as tools in context (ie: not in an article, but perhaps to a friend), and that life is too short to judge what others do. Some people stay behind, some venture abroad and, still, some stay in between.

    Reply
  16. oolung

    Completely agree with everyone praising point 4. The previous three are easy to figure out, but how often we forget about the need to preserve and respect the language we speak. Cutting all information down to the basics might eventually end up with us losing parts of ourselves: “Me. Hungry. Now.” It goes against the human need to try and express the intangible. As someone said: can you know what freedom is if you don’t have any word for it? All those words were not created without a reason, they’re not redundant and using them makes us think more about what we want to express, (therefore what we’re thinking and what’s the world like) – let’s keep them alive instead of reverting to all those easy substitutes like ‘you now, the thingy’.

    Reply
  17. oolung

    PS: especially agree with James Cole: I hate the modern obsession with utility. It’s dehumanising and demeaning.

    Reply
  18. Rob

    “Seven hundred years ago the idea of ‘imported goods’ was an alien concept.”

    @Katie. As you’re a high school student, I’ll cut you some slack; stop acting like a know-it-all in your comments.

    I’m a History post grad and you are talking patronising bollocks.

    Reply
  19. Ash Duncan

    I couldn’t agree more in regards to all of the points. I’m also constantly frustrated watching the news here in Australia to hear almost nothing but how dangerous overseas countries are. Bali is a prime example. Since the bombing incidents there and a couple of arrests of Aussie drugsmugglers, the media in Australia is constantly creating a negative impression on the island. I’ve visited numerous times and when speaking to many friends and family I often hear them question my decision to travel there due to the dangers involved! It comes back down to us, those willing to leave home and discover the world, to continue to promote the wonderful sights and experiences gained as a result of travel!

    Reply

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