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Monday, August 17, 2009

Fear of a Fat Nation

ObamaCare has only been the latest and largest trigger for the government's growing concern over how Americans live their lives. If conservatives focus their fire on sexual promiscuity, liberals seem positively obsessed with obesity. Hardly a day goes by without the news media running a story declaiming how overweight Americans are in comparison to the rest of the world, and how something must be done about it. Even the grotesquely obese Michael Moore got in on the act, touring England and proclaiming that all Americans were fat and stupid, while unconsciously presenting himself as a chief example.

Some US cities are considering a new generation of "sin taxes" on donuts, sodas and other products declared to be inappropriately fattening. The proposed taxes naturally target "junk food" associated with the lower and middle classes, rather than the sort of thing you might find Ted Kennedy or Al Franken consuming at taxpayer expense. Which is the point. Like so much of the liberal program, the obsession with obesity is class warfare disguised as the Liberal Man's Burden to flyover country. So too Europeans hurling fat accusations at each other and at America, is simply a cruder resort to the old bourgeois insult, that dates all the way back to Napoleon disparaging England as a nation of shopkeepers.

Critics point to the government's obligation to force people to make healthier lifestyle choices, an obligation created by the government's own desire to control people's health care, resulting in the kind of Catch 22 paradox that quickly transforms socialism into tyranny. But overweight people being targeted, and threatened with denial of medical care for living what is deemed an unhealthy lifestyle, are being targeted in a way that the vices of the upper classes are not. This leaves the advocates of big government free to treat a cocaine user like Obama as a role model, all the while sneering at those awful soda users, and pretending that a soda drinker makes a worse role model, than a cocaine user.

The idea that obesity is a national crisis only makes sense if you also assume that people cannot look after themselves. If liberals yammer about getting government out of your bedroom, they seem awfully eager to put it in your kitchen instead. But the mindset behind that isn't very hard to understand. For conservatives, morality is the basis of society. For liberals, it's the old Marxist consumption and production treadmill. It's not so much about what you do, but what you buy. Their paramount commandments revolve around economic behavior, and from environmentalism's carbon footprint, to fair trade vs globalism debates, union labor and political boycotts, liberal morality is economic morality. And the usual offender is the middle class.

The sins of the bourgeoisie has been an old obsession for progressives who despise the middle class for leading quiet and ordinary lives, eating food they enjoy, rather than food they are told to enjoy, and being the backbone of a free and productive society. And that marks the most disturbing thing about obesity for liberals, it is a product of a country where everyone has more than enough to eat. A country of the middle class. And for the left such a system is dangerously complacent and prosperous, so much so it might not need them to save it from itself.

Fear of the middle class has been a paralyzing trend for the cultural elites, obsessed with portraying the suburbs as barren and sterile, depicting a middle class culture as deathly conformist and at its most extreme a zombie movies. And its worst sin in the eyes of liberals is complacency, an idea summed up by the bumper sticker slogan of, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention," itself an outraged squeal against people who dare to buy solidly middle class cars and worry about their children's braces, rather than nuclear power, apartheid and Ronald Reagan.

Complacency is the product of comfort, and insuring comfort for large numbers of people means mass production. Liberals of course despite the idea of using mass production to keep people well fed and comfortable. Economic morality dictates that they head off to Whole Foods to spend an entire paycheck on organic food, that is fundamentally no different than the hated middle class big box shoppers pick up in the grocery aisle. You can't get too fat on a diet of arugula, tofu and soy... if only because you wouldn't want to eat very much of it. It's uncomfortable food for people who pay large amounts of money to be uncomfortable, to be outraged, to be activists in the shopping aisle.

Liberalism after all is based on making other people uncomfortable so they can feel the need for reform, for the hope and change express to ride through and overturn everything in its wake. It is rather difficult to sell middle class and middle aged people on revolution, which may be why ObamaCare is polling worst among the middle class and the middle aged. People who are happy with things the way they are, don't want change. They want an absence of change.

"Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look," Shakespeare's Caesar observes. Like most revolutionaries Gaius Cassius Longinus is a decidedly hungry fellow, perhaps because he has been subsisting on a diet of tofu. As one of the lead Liberatores, in quoting Epicurus's maxim, "there is no living pleasantly without living a good and just life", Cassius summed up the wheatgrass juice of the liberal's discontent in the face of people who insist on living undeserved pleasant lives.

And liberals have worked hard to make the lives of the middle class unpleasant. They inflated the price of food. They drove entire industries overseas. They raised taxes and made the modern workplace into a minefield. They have striven with great eagerness, from their summer vacations in the Italian Alps, to make the lives of the Middle Class very insecure and difficult. If Caesar feared the hungry look of the revolutionary, liberals fear the satisfied gaze of the middle class much more.

Conservatives may dread the youthful Id, but liberals attack the mediated ego. For them Churchill's observation, "The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head" is a dire prediction of growing up. Of becoming comfortably middle aged and middle class. And yes packing on the extra pounds. Being comfortable and driving to work without being particularly outraged by anything. It is why liberals must direct their vision back to Woodstock and the sixties, to societal upheavals and youthful radicalism. It is why Che's sullen glare beams from t-shirts, rather than Marx or Lenin. Unlike them Che managed to die before he turned 40.

Fear of fat has gone side by side with the cultural elites leading the way into constant obsessive fitness, easily tipping over into anorexia. Little wonder then that Jane Fonda moved on from anti-war radicalism to fitness videos. Forever trying to recapture a youth that seemed immortal only in memory, a changing body means the prospect of having to admit that life is moving and grow up emotionally as well. But if modern liberalism ever grew up it would have to come face to face with the futility of its own agenda. It is easier instead to take refuge in an erehwon, an ideological fountain of youth where changing the world seems as simple as shouting for change, rather than having to actually develop a workable plan and coping with setbacks.

When conservatives speak of sin taxes, they mean sin taxes on moral vices. When liberals speak of sin taxes, they mean the vice of middle-classness, in the phrasing of Obama's mentor. The vice of being comfortable. The vice of growing up. It is not American obesity that bothers liberals, but American prosperity, a prosperity they feel is unearned, breeds complacency and serves as a barrier to their revolutionary political agendas. It isn't a fat nation that they fear, but Napoleon's nation of shopkeepers, a free and prosperous nation with general prosperity, without food shortages or rationing. A nation that doesn't want or need them at all.


  1. It seems the goverment wishes to control everything about people so that they can have absolute dominance over everyone and their money.

  2. absolute power through absolute self-doubt

  3. Anonymous18/8/09

    I have to tell you that modern Western countries have awful food. I'm from a nice, backwards, Third-World country with numerous problems associated with an undemocratic tyrannical political structure, Islamic BS, & incredible economic inequality - but our food is fantastic. I haven't had a good meal since I left. Western food is absolutely awful - tasteless crap, unhealthy, & fattening. Fruit has become practically inedible, never ripe with a distinctive taste which is why Westerners eat sweets & potatoe chips instead, at least sugar & fried crap has some taste.
    And we didn't live on tofu & the other nasty food fads popular among food-crazies either.
    You'll excuse me, this is a pet peeve of mine & I can't pass up the occasion to comment.
    I understand the causes of this decline in the quality of food - the necessity of modern methods & techniques & the logistics of distribution plus an excess of zeal re: hygiene inevitably lead to this result. But you modern Westerners just don't know what you're missing.
    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with your analysis.

  4. My old Italian aunts would beg to differ with Obama and his sin taxes. A chubby baby was always viewed as a healthy baby worthy of cheek pinching.

    Things are getting crazy with city governments trying to ban restaurants from using trans fats and discussions about assessing a child's weight on his or her report card.

    Obama should get taxed on every carton of cigarettes he buys. Then if he quits and gains weight, charge him again--a fat tax. ha!

  5. Anonymous18/8/09

    It's all control and power with the hypocrites. They always know better what other people need, with other people's money. Wonderful analysis, I'm surprised every day by your versatility.

  6. Anonymous makes a lot of good points about the quality of food these days.

    The earth isn't allowed to lay fallow so it is mineral depleted. And when western foods and cooking styles are introduced into other countries they tend to experience a declain in health.

    But I agree with Sultan. Much of the war on obesity seems to be coming from liberals who have an aversion to prosperity bordering on obssesion, and a desire to control people.

  7. I discovered your commentary on Canada Free Press and came to your site. I liked your "obesity: article a lot. My granddaughter spent seven weeks here and we ate about 15 half gallons of ice cream. Yes, I admit I gained about seven pounds. However, since she has left I've given up ice cream for awhile.

    Your article makes a lot of sense as we are definitely part of the Middle Class, and, yes, we are comfortable. However, we are not stupid because we definitely know what the liberals are trying to do. That's why we never vote for one regardless of the fancy rhetoric!

    I've bookmarked your site and definitely be looking out for future reads.

  8. Thank you Louise. liberals would like to treat people as incompetent and punish them for being comfortable

  9. Anonymous 1

    I don't know where you live, but I've made it a point to get good fresh fruit. Supermarkets are a worse choice than local grocery stores in that regard.

  10. Anonymous 2

    Thank you I try to have some range for the articles.

  11. Louise is right. Behind all the fancy rhetoric liberals are just trying to control the middle and working classes.

    And I doubt many Americans will sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner with a tofu shaped turkey, lick their chops and say MMMMM! TOFU!

  12. Keli - hey! I love tofu! ; ) Actually, I do. It's tasty when done just right. : )

    As for fatsos! Being in a family of repulsively obese people, two of which weigh themselves on the local truck scales - I have mixed feelings.

    One, obesity is freaking damaging to the health. The extreme short list - they whine about back and leg pain - all of which would be gone if they lost weight.

    Two, when I worked at SSD, every time I typed up someone applying for disability due to diabetes, I knew immediately they were obese. I was right 100% of the time.

    Three, two of my mammoth cousins had surgery. One was afraid of diabetes, which ran in her family and the other - her weight had damaged her health to the point it was surgery or die.

    Reality, taxpayers have to foot the bill for those who are obese and eventually end up on disability because of it. At that point, it makes one want something to be done, but how? who knows, outside of shooting them and sending their beef to people starving in Ethiopia. just kidding.

  13. SK - I admire the way you study and distill the political realities in your mind, before you write. It gives your analysis, spoken in a sure, quiet way - that much more power.

  14. Thank you No Apology, I try to boil down the issues to their core elements and then lay them out in ways that people may not have thought of

  15. Anonymous19/8/09

    Great article. I have thought about this issue alot in that I work in the Chgo Pub School system-bottom line-weight/body size is influenced by peers, NOT EDUCATION!!


  16. Yochana--My granddaughter, age 19, has juvenile diabetes and is definately not obese. Everyone seems to think only the obese can be diabetic--woefully wrong.

    I've been enjoying your articles for some time now, Sultan Knish, and have learned a lot from you. Thanks.

  17. Hi Sultan,

    you've laid out very well the control obsession of the liberals in US (and elsewhere!), but there are a coupoe of other issues involved in the issue of fat.

    People are "free" to eat fatty food, transfat -laden food, etc. however, that's one thing when they really know what is in their food.

    But if they think they are eating healthy when buying a meal at a restaurant or buying a meal in a box, and not knowing/realising that the food may have been deep fried three times, or contains four different types of sugar with a mix of binders, soy filler, milk proteins etc, that is another issue altogether.

    These issues are also spoken of with great passion by body builders who do not appreciate the over reliance on fat laden "artificial" food, too many carbs (white rice, noodles etc) that many Caucasian types do not tolerate well, etc. It can be and is addictive to meny carb-intolerant types.

    Apologies for the length of this post, but some people really do not realise what they are eating.
    I'm pretty fat (for various reasons) but if I want to have a food binge i know what to eat. If i want to eat healthy, I am very aware of what to eat.

    The fact is that many companies claim food is healthy when it isn't, or has some weird extra ingredients that they should not have, in order to tempt people to buy that product again and again. That's why so much American and other packaged foods contain so much sugar.

    Personally, i don't approve of personal interference. Learning about food and proper nutrition through ads, lessons, cooking shows, great restaurants and recipes is the way to go.
    And no one will be perfect anyway.

    But obesity - the lethal kind where you need a truck to leave the bedroom - is not good for anyone.

    I am not at all disagreeing with your thesis. The types you describe look for any opportunity to control other people, but there are some people who genuinely want to help people keep away from the foods that harm. This is no way justifies any campaign of harassment, penalties, fat taxes or sin taxes etc.
    i just want you to be aware that the issues surrounding obesity add up to more than just a busybody government, and while you make excellent points about the politics and tactics of this Obama govt, there are health issues that people need to be aware of, and fast food/manufacturing practices that people need to know to care for themselves better.

  18. Brilliant as usual Sultan!

    My favorite line..."And for the left such a system is dangerously complacent and prosperous, so much so it might not need them to save it from itself." Bravo!

    I doubt anyone would argue that being fat is not good for our health, but it is none of government's business what we eat. I know that I've never lost control of my car driving under the influence of a coffee and donut!

    As far as diabetes, I learned a lot while low carb dieting over the years. There is barely an item that isn't injected with corn syrup in some form. I used to grab Tyson chicken breasts, believing it was a good protein choice, but down in the teeny tiny print, corn syrup is listed as an ingredient. That's what cattle are fed, to get fattened up before going to market. What's up with that?!

    The irony isn't just that Barry is a coke head, his "baby" Michelle's, "got back"! Great examples those two!



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