Stamatakis: Pancake dinners degrade society

By Nick Stamatakis

People hate and love things for no good reason. Sometimes they’re activities, like baseball,… People hate and love things for no good reason. Sometimes they’re activities, like baseball, and other times they’re ideas, like lust.

But since the Enlightenment and the rise of liberal thought, imposing your tastes on others has been frowned upon. After all, we have to respect other people’s opinions about how to live, right? My thoughts on baseball and lust are not necessarily right, just my own.

Nevertheless, I write today about one belief that is objectively correct. Having pancakes for dinner is an outrage — a gluttonous activity symbolic of societal degradation.

You might be taken aback by this assertion. People love pancakes for dinner. The Glee Club sponsors pancake dinners all the time, and they routinely sell out to throngs of students and parents. Volunteer firehouses would likely have to resort to garden hoses and Tonka trucks without them.

Yet while these dinners are indeed economically beneficial, I’m concerned not with matters of money but rather with matters of the mind and heart. I believe that pancake dinners epitomize a demoralization of the work ethic that built this country, as well as a completely hedonistic lifestyle.

First, about the work ethic: I don’t know one person who completes a pancake dinner and then says, “I will now seize the evening!” Neil Armstrong would have stayed on the lunar module to watch episodes of “Family Guy” if he ate a giant pancake dinner the night of the landing. Alexander the Great would have conquered nothing. Edison would still be selling candy and newspapers.

The butter and syrup, sometimes interrupted by even more decadent chocolate chips, recall not hardy cornbread or simple canned tuna, but rather the food of France in the hours before her revolution: the clams, breads and wines that the idle nobility ate for pleasure as the proletariat slaved away. Marie Antoinette’s oft-attributed line, “Let them eat cake,” might as well have been, “Let them eat a stack of flapjacks drizzled in blueberry sauce.”

In addition to their cruel decadence, pancakes scientifically make you sleepy. They have a moderately high glycemic index, meaning that your body needs a lot of energy to break down the carbohydrates — energy you could normally devote to doing things like walking the dog or curing cancer.

I’m not saying a sleepy dinner is a bad thing; steak and potatoes put any good man or woman to sleep without any perilous lapse in morality. But pancake dinners normally start and finish around the second hour of the local evening news. You essentially sacrifice seven hours of potentially productive nighttime activities to TV because of your dining choice.

It is easy to see how this degradation of work ethic brought on by self-indulgence and sleepy sickness leads to shallow pleasure seeking. First we eat pancakes for dinner. Then we decide that yoga pants and dirty T-shirts are good enough to wear everywhere because it’s just more comfortable. Finally, we decide all we need to do is the absolute minimum in our studies. Economic life comes grinding to a halt and a whole generation studies less and spends five hours a day watching TV.

You say this is all hogwash? Liberal/conservative/anarchist propaganda? Well, our economy is in a rut and studies show we are underachieving. According to The Nielsen Company, we actually watch five hours and 13 minutes of TV a day.

Sadly, there is little empirical research to back up my claim that pancakes lead to terrible societies. Not even the most exhaustive Google searches could yield any data correlating increased obesity or thievery to increased pancake consumption (finding the additional correlation between the former factors and social decay is additionally difficult to discern).

This brings me back to my rather philosophical opening. To get all of you to join my anti-pancake crusade, I need to turn it into some kind of societal benefit equation. Using an argument that something is simply not virtuous or not in the spirit of a good life is not enough; such a statement must instead be backed by a connection with poorer health outcomes, fewer positive relationships or lower educational attainment. Virtue in itself is not an argument.

To be fair, I am not a philosopher or ethicist, so perhaps I’m being naive in my understanding of philosophy. But when our society changed in the late 18th century and we decided it was not OK to impose an idea of virtue on individuals, when we began to see civilization as mainly just a way to preserve our rights, the nature of our arguments changed.

This was probably for the better, on the whole. People with unrealistically and unhealthily strong antagonisms towards perceived social evils have much less sway in such a society, and this stabilizes and improves our collective condition. Yet we lose something — a simple statement like “Hard work and humility are laudable values” becomes almost too ideological.

Ultimately, I just want to convey that a virtuous life is one which is started by breakfast and finished with a dinner that doesn’t turn us into gluttons. We must be better than this. I have faith in us. This is how we can attain the good life and find true happiness.

I suppose if you don’t believe this, I can’t force you to. But I’d still like us all to find principles beyond the simple pursuit of the easy, convenient and shallowly tasty.

Find the good life.