Having a day off to breathe, and watch The Daily Show, is pretty cool. This satire of those terrified of the “guvmint telling us how to live our lives” made me giggle.
What the video made me ponder more seriously is the fact that many of us don’t think a whole lot about what we eat. The video is referring to a campaign rather than a policy, and of course, getting the public thinking and informed is an important step towards improving national health. However, I would argue that it is simply not enough to tell people to eat healthier. First of all, trying to compete with multi national corporations that have advertising budgets the size of national economies is difficult to say the least. In addition to the mind fuck about food that has been proliferated through advertising junk, there’s the biological side that’s even more difficult to control. Even as an extreme food snob, I will indulge in deep fried potato chips, even if I know that the acrylamide is probably not good for me. Humans are hard wired to gorge on fat and sugar and salt due to the fact that we’ve never had them in such plentiful supply before. The US government has subsidized corn (which ends up in most junk food) long enough – in the interests of fairness even, it’s time to subsidise healthy food. Campaigns for healthy eating are, in themselves, not enough.
Some may argue that that’s all well and good, but why not let individuals decide for themselves? Ordinarily I would agree, but clearly, there is even mainstream support for the fact that the Western diet is causing unprecedented health problems, which have both a monetary and social cost. Every act of willful ignorance in terms of food choices isn’t an act of freedom, it’s an act of selfishness which infringes on the rights of other people down the effects chain. Public taxes don’t just pay for hospital stays due to heart attacks, they pay for the day to day cost of type II diabetes, the little pills that are doled out due to nutritional deficiencies. The effects, of course, don’t stop there. Food choices have ecological effects, and damage is usually also payed by taxpayers, with profits being privatised.