The misanthropic diet
How to dislike society, and eat healthy
The most popular ideas that drive the world assume that humans, when taken together, are nice people. That we, for instance, want everyone to be equal. That when we stand in line and vote, only good can come out of our collective wish (this view is still respectable in Britain and the US). But there are some important ideas that have contempt for man.
Three years ago, the Union government issued advertisements asking Parsi men not to use condoms, presumably during sex. The Parsis, who are rich and literate, are endangered, and India was concerned. But India has been trying to control the population of the rest of the nation. The idea of population control is couched in humanitarian terms but it really is a campaign to limit the children of the poor. Population control is a people-hating, or a misanthropic, idea.
I promise that this piece is about eating.
Just that it is naive to assume that eating begins with food. It does not even end with food. In fact, very little about eating is about food, just as very little about religion is about god.
Apart from population control, there are other ideas that are noble yet misanthropic. They may not hate people but they think poorly of them. Almost the entire law enforcement system, and capitalism, for instance. Lovers of nature view humans as the central problem. And there are people who propagate the idea that having children is immoral.
There is another kind of misanthrope. They do not have a bitter view of humans at all. As the American poet Charles Bukowski said, he does not hate people, “I just feel better when they’re not around." The happy misanthropes assume intelligence, by its very nature, is rare, hence a minority condition. As a result, they are suspicious of collective human behaviour. “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." There are many quotes that are attributed to the writer Mark Twain that he never said, but this he did.
It does not mean that if the happy misanthropes see a crowd fleeing an unseen danger, they would run in the opposite direction. At times the crowd is wise, but most of the time collective behaviour can be used to glean what not to do. From this a very healthy personal diet may emerge.
Most people in the world are addicted to refined grain, which is sugar for all practical purposes, and to a specific form of sugar, which is widely known as sugar. The addiction has powerful delivery systems. Mamma, family tradition, community tradition, love and friends are all delivery systems of grain and sugar. Like the destined baby infects men and women with delirious love, grain and sugar delude people into thinking they are familial or traditional or religious.
As the happy misanthropes reject the ways of the majority and are able to stand outside the huddles of society, they have a better chance than others of liberating themselves from grain and sugar. Abstinence from refined carbohydrates is also a renunciation of our agrarian heritage, the very origin of our modern history, religions and politics, when nomadic tribals were colonized by plants and transformed into settlers. The happy misanthrope would not see any glory in being a nomad, he might even be suspicious of the term “hunter-gatherer" as those two words are now a foreboding of so much bull, but he sees wisdom in renouncing what most people hold so dear.
A misanthrope is often misunderstood as a misogynist or a racist, when perceived through narrow grouses. It is possible that most people who are considered disciplined ascetic workers or eaters are, too, in reality only misanthropes.
Beyond the cues from the majority, the misanthropes are also equipped to listen carefully to their own bodies without being distracted by popular wisdom or according too much respect to the many “findings" of “science". The diet that emerges from this attitude is very clearly one that is devoid of grain or artificial sugars, and contains lots of banal boiled vegetables and moderate sources of protein and fat. It may not be perfect as there might be no such thing as a perfect diet, but this would resemble the highly regarded Zone diet and the Paleo diet, and other healthy low-carb diets.
There are things that repulse most people but would enchant happy misanthropes. For example, the death of food, at least food as we know it. This will never happen unless there is a calamity, but work is under way to make new kinds of food for those who want to eradicate the whole business of foraging, cooking and then enduring a meal. The most popular among such food is the American tech industry’s creation Soylent, which is a no-nonsense drink that contains most of the minerals and nutrition the body needs. Many people hate Soylent. Often they say they hate it for its taste. It is, of course, not tasty but what they truly hate is how the drink tries to substitute what is sacred. Soylent substitutes not just food, but also replaces the recreation of everything associated with food. Soylent does away with people, culture and collaboration.
Many millionaire and billionaire misanthropes in the Silicon Valley are known to have replaced at least one daily meal with similar drinks or vegetable shakes. Many follow intermittent fasting that eliminates eating for most of the day, or for whole weekends.
The misanthrope does not have to entirely abstain from the junk of grain and sugar. In fact, the true fun of grain and sugar is known only to those who rarely consume it. After renunciation, on a binge day when you eat Malabar parotta, you realize that there is a sort of pleasure in a narcotic substance that the drug’s addicts will never know.
Manu Joseph is a journalist and a novelist, most recently of The Illicit Happiness Of Other People.
He tweets at @manujosephsan