August 27 is National Just Because Day! What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s weird, because it seems to be a day dedicated to the express purpose of being self-indulgent. With that in mind, let’s figure out what to do about it.
Western society in general and American society in particular are built, in part, on the idea of purposeful selfishness for the advancement of the whole of society. The ideas behind capitalism and most other forms of social democracy and welfare states basically want to encourage people to take care of themselves because by doing so they are taking care of everyone else, too. If you have a job and can earn enough money to take care of your family and pay taxes, you’re taking care of others by not mooching off public funds and ensuring that the social welfare systems in place are adequately funded. The argument in most Western governments is over how much a person should be compelled to participate in these systems, with the political right tending to want less compulsion and the political left wanting more compulsion. Of course, there are many, many more nuances and issues that separate right and left, and I will absolutely not be getting into that today. The point is that the West is generally okay with some self-sufficiency because it helps ensure those who need public assistance have access to it.
But every culture is a little different, and America is, very likely, the most self-indulgent society on Earth right now. Americans very, very rarely need prompting to do something that is in their interest for no other reason than they want to. This was famously and hilariously exemplified in Parks and Recreation with the Donna/Tom/Ben stories involving the concept of “Treat Yo Self.”
So why do we need a dedicated day to do things just because we want to? Most of us absolutely, 100% do not need that. But someone might.
Who Wants It vs. Who Needs It
Who wants to be self-indulgent? Literally everyone. Full stop. But very few people actually need it.
Here are examples of people who do need a dedicated day to treat themselves: Parents of children under 18, healthcare workers, anyone earning less than the poverty line, and wrongfully convicted people.
I’m not a parent, but let me tell you: from the outside looking in, it appears exhausting. There’s no let up. Kids are freshly born and have weird sleep schedules, poop half their bodyweight everyday, and generally inconvenience those around them. Then they get juuuust smart enough and coordinated enough to walk out of a parent’s sight and hurt themselves. Then they start school and have a million school-related things parents have to do and deal with the social learning and anxiety that comes with school. Then they get old enough to have a little autonomy but with underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes, meaning that 16-year-old driving that lifted truck will, very likely, end up in a ditch at some point. Then they get close to college and think they know everything but in reality they are, as far as knowledge-to-common-sense ratios, the literal dumbest humans on the planet. I can’t even imagine. So if once a year a parents wants to give their kids the finger and spend a small portion of the college fund on a spa day or playoff tickets, I’m all for it.
Healthcare workers wouldn’t normally be on the list, but Covid…
When I say people earning less than the poverty line, I mean grown-ass adults earning less than the poverty line. That high school sophomore working at Mickey D’s doesn’t need a day off from work. But that 23-year-old doing everything they can to pay rent or save up for a new car or whatever while earning $20,000/year? That person needs to treat themselves once a year. Buy those new Nikes, take that vacation to South Padre, eat food from a restaurant. If you go your whole life without treating yourself, that’s punishment for some past life transgression. The least you can do is treat yourself once a year.
As for the wrongfully convicted? They should be able to treat themselves all day, every day, for each day they spent in prison, all on the government’s dime. Personally, I think there should be a tax fund for this, and I think it should be strictly enforced to encourage the government to make damn sure they have the right person before trial. I know that’s impracticable and will likely never happen, but still.
How to Celebrate
I’ll be celebrating by ordering pizza and watching a movie with my wife. But you should celebrate in some way that is slightly unreasonable but for which no one could blame you. I don’t think there’s any need to go into debt for self-indulgence, but spend money that would be better used elsewhere. Go ahead. Get a drink, go to a game, skip a social/professional obligation, buy new clothes, get a new video game, go get that tattoo you’ve been wanting, whatever. Just do whatever you want, but be sure the only reason you’re doing it is because you (and only you) want it. Just do it. Cave to the temptation. Just. Freakin. Do it.
Happy Friday and happy weekend, everyone!