by Linda Szugyi
We also know the typical conservative and libertarian response (they actually seem to agree in this instance): “don’t tell me what to eat!”
Both sides are focusing on a small, incidental battle of the real war. The real war is cultural, of course, and its lines are much more broadly drawn than our average BMI.
The real war is masked by the sheer novelty of the issue at hand. At what other point in history has a sizeable population had the problem of too much to eat? How ironic, really: the poorest among us are also the fattest.
At this point in history, individual responsibility is at a distinct disadvantage. Culturally, we have been shirking that pesky responsibility for a good fifty years at least.
Even more important, individuals in America today have a tremendous amount of power when it comes to the simple question of how to fill our stomachs. Will it be sweet, or savory? Spicy, or mild? Beef, chicken, fish, or vegan? Thai, or Indian? Italian, or Mexican? The possibilities are endless, affordable, convenient, and always delicious.
I’d say that we as a society have more money than sense. It might be more accurate, however, to say that we have more access than sense. After all, if you don’t have the money, then just put it on the credit card. If you are eligible, then let the taxpayers help you access that yummy junk food.
Amazingly, it is the work of only 2% of our population that produces all this gastronomic power. You can chalk that up to the innovative wonders of our modern food machine, or to the insidious evils of said food machine, depending on your personal inclination.
Of course, the liberal solutions won’t solve the problem. Happy propaganda will fall on deaf ears. The strict approach will become the norm. We are already accustomed to the idea of paying the government for the sin of tobacco use. It is not a stretch to imagine paying for the sin of junk food.
Will the strict taxation approach make any meaningful headway? Will the decrease in obesity be worth the decrease in individual freedom? Being a regressive tax, it will punish those that liberals claim they want to help–the poor. Any newly created black market will always thrive. Also, the “evil” corporations will find a way to work around government regulation.
In fact, those demonized corporations will hop right in bed with the regulatory powers-that-be. Even the lame ones that sell you a product you can make in your own kitchen: the cold sandwich.
Now, let me emphasize an important point: in America today, we have more power and more choice in food than the richest rulers of ages past. That power is hard to judiciously exercise. Really, really, hard. I drive a particularly restaurant-heavy stretch of road on a daily basis, and I have coined that drive “running the gauntlet.”
Even with the windows rolled up, the aromas are so thick and enticing. They are thoroughly melded together, making it impossible to tell which scents come from which building. “Don’t bother cooking tonight,” those scents whisper. “When your husband gets home, he’ll gladly bring you here.”
Personally, I’ve got about a stone of weight that I’d love to cast off, but I’m not casting the first stone or anything. I’m just trying to be honest about the problem with great power. Even the great power to purchase delicious food. Great responsibility comes with it.
As a member of the Magnificent Seven, I’m supposed to have a little bio at the end of every post I write. And I haven’t done that. In my defense, a person that bills herself as “No One Of Any Import” doesn’t really see the point in self-description. If you like what I’ve said, though, there is more on my personal blog.
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