OR:  desperate times call for drastic measures.

If you are driving, and a minor obstacle is in your way, a minor correction will solve the problem.  Sometimes even continuing your path unchanged will overcome the obstacle and you will proceed as planned, no worse the wear for having driven over the the branch or the pothole unchecked.

But if the obstacle is great, swerving may be necessary.  You can go seriously off-track and maintain control, and return to the path with only a temporary digression from plan.  Or you might hit ice, gravel, or some other hazard; you might panic and overcorrect; there might be a moderate or serious alteration of course.

If that is the case, will pretending you didn’t just drive into a cornfield help the situation?  No.  Will proceeding at a sedate pace in the wrong direction get you where you need to go?  No. It will only get you deeper into the cornfield.

First you restore order, reorient yourself, get control, make a plan.  Then you go through a temporary period of nuttiness while you circle the car back to the road.  You may need to drive over a lot more corn, or struggle to avoid high-centering the car while navigating the irrigation works.  Once you are back on the road, standard driving procedure will be appropriate once more, but until you get back on the path, funky off-road driving will be required, and the rules are not the same.

Two examples:  out-of-control weight and out-of-control economy.

Mild weight gain may be offset by mild changes to diet and activity, still well within the zone of comfort and convenience.  Major excess weight will never be lost through minor changes.  Minor weight may be lost, by skipping cream in your coffee and choking down a parched, naked chicken breast instead of a juicy ribeye, but it won’t be sufficient.  If you want to lose it all, you will need to cut your calorie intake massively, and not add calories lost through exercise back into your diet.  Personal trainers, physicians, and the USDA will be alarmed.  Ignore them.  Remember:  their information is based on a norm that has nothing to do with your specifics.  They use an average to determine this healthy norm.  Even at your healthiest, if you don’t match their norm, their standards don’t apply to you.  Even if you try to correct yourself to their norm of exercise and calorie consumption, it’s still not appropriate to your specific situation.  The government model of average-normal-proper-standard is less and less applicable the less you match their ideal.

One of the averages central to their assumptions is height.  The average female height is 5’5″ – 5’6″.  When they get all het up over an 800 calorie diet, they are assuming some of us are nearly half a foot taller than we are.  At 5’1″, you do not need to consume what a 5’6″ person does, no matter what your personal trainer says.  Over and over, we are told that less than 1200 calories per day will cause the body to turn on itself, and that absolutely no human should ever attempt this.  Let’s ignore the millions of healthy people in other countries who would be overfed at that level, shall we?

[Reverse check:  the same government institutions determine medicine dosages, and they don’t do so by size, they do so by age.  At age 10, I was five feet tall and weighed 110, which meant I was allowed 2 baby aspirin for my PMS.  I stopped growing at age 10.  When I was 30, at 5’1″ and 115, my dosage was 700 mg of aspirin — exactly the same as my husband, who was 13 inches taller and weighed twice as much.  Same thing with multivitamins, and same with our diets.  Were our needs really the same?  No.  Not to belabor the point, but my requirements will never be that high.  It’s a drag, since our culture is super-sized, but it’s a fact.]

So it is with the economy.  If things are fine — you are working, and earning enough to cover room and board, pay for expenses, and save for goals and emergencies — proceed frugally and reap the benefits.  All is well.  Hooray!

If you are unemployed, and have no safety net, other rules will apply.  You will need to drive deeper into the cornfield to circle back to the road.  You will do things which would make no sense in a healthy economy:  sell possessions for less than they are worth, forgo routine medical and dental care, and put all kinds of things on your credit card, including groceries, bus passes, job interview clothes, and haircuts.  You may even need to take cash advances in order to make your minimum credit card payments.  It’s dangerous.  It only works in the short term.  And it is vastly preferable to the alternative:  not doing what it takes to keep a roof over your head and get a job.   You have to be as prudent as possible in using those limited resources, but make the most of what you have, and try to floss it into greater security.  How stupid would it be to become homeless with a $5000 credit limit available?

On a larger scale, our economy is tanking.  People are debating, with passion unto violence, the merits of various economic theories:  the Libertarian model, the Fiscal Conservative model, the Liberal model, and others.   Each one has merits, depending on the size of the economy, the current stage of growth, the desired outcome, how much money is in circulation, and the distribution of that money.  But no one (or very few) are taking into account that those theories are for healthy times.  It’s like debating how to pilot  a megatonne tanker when there is a hole in the lifeboat.  Bail, motherfuckers!  Bail for your lives!  Once the crisis has been averted, we can bust out the oars, and once we have paddled back to shore, we can debate all you want.  But until the horrible imbalance has been corrected, your points of view are all equally irrelevant.

Our government used to stand staunchly behind eating as much as you want, it being your civic duty to be strong for the war effort.  It promoted a high-carbohydrate diet in order to support farmers.  Economic fads grow more slowly in popularity but inevitably change.  One day they might get it right…briefly, before they change it again.

So-called “good behavior” is not good if it doesn’t account for circumstances.  The boundaries and points of tension in a situation determine right action.  Dose by weight.  Eat to scale.  Spend money if it will help you make money.  Do whatever you have to do to get back on track.  Until you do, Standard Operating Procedure will do more harm than good.

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