Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Of Obesity and Personal Responsibility

It bothers me that obese people get more shit for their addiction and lack of self-control than other addicts. Clearly, some people have a pathological need for tasty delights. Most often, this is the result of a desire to find a "comfort zone." Food simultaneously helps some people cope, and also helps to kill them.

And while people need to be responsible for their own bodies, that doesn't let parents and corporations off the hook for how they fuck up kids when it comes to food. Ronald Reagan said that ketchup was a vegetable to help justify cuts in the nutritional value of school lunches. And today, unspeakably nasty shit is targeted at children via the use of movie tie-ins and commercials that practically qualify as mind control. And vending machines in schools? We're all whores.

A parent should never take their kid to McDonald's. Ever. In my opinion, it's like giving a kid a shot of Wild Turkey. Yes, it's tough being a parent, nobody ever said it was easy. I'm sure the appeal of a cheap, convenient dinner at McDonald's is strong. But so is the desire to leave an infant in a hot car while you "just run in" to the fucking Wal-Mart to buy a "Support the Troops" maget that was made in China. It's just easier that taking him or her with you. But if you do the latter and get caught, they take your kid away while your fitness as a parent is assessed.

How is sticking a 6 piece chicken McNugget meal down your kid's throat any different than that? Is it so hard to figure out that a deep-fried meat product called a "McNugget" is bad for you?

So culture does play a part, as do economics; a significant number of people work in a job that barely requires any movement whatsoever. That doesn't help the obesity problem. And asses are widening in other countries, too, like China and Japan and Europe.

I remember a Libertarian brain-teaser about the limits of personal responsibility. It goes like this...

You're walking in a desert and slowly going mad with thirst. Just before you pass out, you see a man walking toward you. As it turns out, he is selling ice cold spring water. So the dying man begs him for some. "Sure!" says the salesman, "The cost is $1 million dollars a bottle." (which is close to what they get at Fenway Park) "But I don't have that!" says the dying man. The salesman replies, "Well, if you just sign this contract, you can have the water now and pay me back the million, along with a smidgen of interest." Now, given that the other fellow is dying horribly, he can't sign the contract fast enough. He gets the water and survives. A week later, he is forced to start making payments that will go on for the rest of his life.

Is the person really bound to pay the $1 million? If not, why not? He made the decision to sign the contract. On the other hand, should motivating factors be considered when it comes to making such a decision? If he refuses to pay, should he be forced to pay by the courts, given that he signed a legally binding contract? Is he a dead-beat or a victim?

So I will extend this to the problem of obesity. If a person was raised under a constant barrage of corporate messages to drink Coke, eat fat, and play video games, can we really BLAME people for being obese? Again, personal responsibility is there, but is it wise to ignore the rest of the picture? Is anyone really being helped with judgement and a lack of empathy, particularly in a society that is hardly known for restraint when it comes to consumption. And that goes beyond food. I'm talking about gas guzzling SUV's, a bizarre need for everyone in your family to have a cell phone camera, overpriced crap from Old Navy, etc.

And if health lectures piss us off, as so many of my comrades claim, why can't we see the hypocrisy of lecturing others?

Be Vigilant, America, and don't just sit there, east something...
Darren the Fat

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