In Michael Crichton's 2004 novel State of Fear, a character goes on at length about the way governments and other elements of authority use fear to manipulate the masses. For the character, a manic sociology professor named Hoffman, this tactic has evolved well beyond isolated use for such situations as justifying military action, to become an ongoing and all-encompassing conspiracy to control our lives. The Cold War (look it up, kids), AIDS, crime, drugs, bird flu, terrorism, global warming — all and more have been hyped and distorted far beyond their true scope and danger in the name of keeping us compliant, keeping us put, keeping us terrified and in need of strong leadership to keep us safe.
Watch any two hours' worth of news or read two hours' worth of headlines, and you might be tempted to agree.
But if the latest threat to Americans' peace of body and mind is any indication, the Fear Factory might be scraping the bottom of the barrel.
So what's lying in wait to do in unwary humans now? Supergators? Tainted pomegranates smuggled from the dreaded Commie East? The St. Vitus Dance, Then Explode?
Actually, it's sitting. Sitting is going to KILL YOU.
Sitting on forgotten landmines? Sitting in a room full of gaseous radon?
Nope, just regular old sitting. That thing we've been doing since the first Neanderthal stood upright for 10 minutes, then went, "Fuck this."
A movement to brand sitting as the next new silent killer is gaining steam, thanks to several articles (including one in the New York Times titled "Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?") that have appeared over the last few months to outline the dangers of sitting. Since Americans obviously aren't going to be deterred from sedentary lifestyles by such piddling warnings as "You're going to get fatter/weaker/diabetes-er," the media has decided to pull out the big guns, going into great detail in describing exactly how not running from saber-toothed tigers is destroying our bodies. There's even an appropriately chilling infographic making the online rounds, complete with shadowy symbolic demons and high-risk percentage figures.
Now, science-friendly website io9.com says the American Journal of Preventative Medicine will devote its entire August issue to "the many aspects of the problem of sedentary behavior."
What ultra-powerful organization is behind this nefarious plot to frighten us to our feet, and to what end?
Is it Nike, in an attempt to make us replace our worn-out shoes more often?
Is it a cabal of religious right-wing billionaires, hoping to do away with the evil temptations of lap-dancing — by eradicating laps?
Is it the Army, conditioning a new breed of supersoldier that doesn't get winded walking to the PX for cigarettes?
One thing is for sure: Until we get to the bottom of the true motivation behind the "sitting kills" trend, your faithful, comfy recliner or sectional is not to be trusted. What once seemed a reliable and supportive friend has been unmasked as a malevolent agent in a murderous ploy.
So, for the love of all that is good and holy and healthy, do not sit down. And if you are sitting, what are you, suicidal? I don't care if you're reading this on the can — don't you see? That's how they GET YOU. On your feet NOW. RIGHT NOW.
But don't stand up for too long. I remember reading somewhere that shit's bad for you.
Congrats to Scott Harrell, whose "Life As We Blow It" was awarded First Place last weekend in the "Blog (Individual)" category of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies 2011 AltWeekly Awards.