The “Lifestyle” of the Masses
“Lifestyle” is a broad term that can encompass a variety of behaviors. Lifestyle is the behavioral attitudes, interests, and behavioral orientations of a person, group, or society. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous book, The Case of Miss R. With the implied meaning of “the basic nature of a human being as established at birth”. The idea is that we are what we eat, what we drive, and what we say to ourselves about ourselves. This is a powerful concept and is particularly important when considering the issue of obesity and the fight against it.
As most people living in the Western world have become busier and have less free time, they have lost track of their lifestyles. Some call it compulsive eating, other call it a binge eating, but the reality is that it is losing track of the quality time they spend with themselves. The result is an unhealthy combination of lack of personal attention and poor health. For those who are part of a couple, a lack of communication can lead to arguments over household responsibilities. It is these types of issues that are the best illustrations of how lifestyles can become separated from individual accountability and control.
A healthy lifestyle is one that encourages a balanced diet, regular exercise, good stress management, social interaction, relaxation, and a strong sense of self-awareness. With these factors in place, it is easy for individuals to focus on what they need to do to achieve their goals. However, for many, these lifestyle choices tend to lead to failure and isolation. With a so-called solo lifestyle, there is no one to support you when you feel like giving up or when you feel like giving in. Lifestyle changes and adjustments are therefore more difficult and they take more work than just eating better and doing some exercise.
One of the things that set most healthy lifestyles apart from unhealthy lifestyles is accountability to themselves and to others. Living a healthy lifestyle involves making and keeping personal accountability for your own actions, behaviors, decisions, emotions, energy, money, habits, social interactions, etc. All of these behaviors affect your quality of life and your personal identity. With all of these aspects of your life in check, it becomes much easier for you to be the person that you want to be by creating the lifestyle patterns that you find most fulfilling.
The mass culture of today has conditioned people to think that they are helpless, fragile, and dependent. They are told to rely on others to help them accomplish things, when in fact this dependence is destructive and leads to failure. Adorno believes that our mass-culture creates a dependency on things such as food, shelter, clothing, work, and education that leads to the creation of mass cultures which are nothing more than highly organized and highly managed versions of individual life-styles. Adorno believes that there has been a vast co-creation of human values and ideas and that our current model of education and values are highly personalized. This specialization in mass culture also prevents the development of true freedom of expression and individuality.
The “Lifestyle” described by Adorno as being “normal” is actually quite abnormal, to say the least. It is a deviation from the normal, and it is most certainly not what you would expect if you were to examine the history of Western society. The Lifestyle, then, is an outgrowth of the decay and collapse of the post-modern cultural economy within Western society. If you are going to use the term “Lifestyle” to describe your own personal values and ways of living, then you are going to need to be very careful about how you do it. Just as the term “ariat” has a negative connotation when used in comparison to, say,” aristocracy,” so too can “Lifestyle” have a negative connotation when used in comparison with, say, “a healthy culture.”