Monday, 26 July 2010
Is obesity the politics that dare not speak it's name?
There was a time, not really that long ago actually, when obesity was a problem associated with wealth rather than poverty. Look at old photographs of the poor taken at any time prior to the 1940s; there don't appear to be all that many fat people around. It was the comfortably off who tended to run to fat. The poor ate at every opportunity in an attempt to ward off starvation if unemployed, and fuel the body for the long hours of arduous labour if in work. We all know that the situation has been reversed now and it is the low paid manual worker or the unemployed who are most likely to suffer from obesity while the diet and exercise conscious middle class are a beacon of svelte self improvement. How did all this come about? Some maintain that it is the irresponsible marketing of cheap but addictive and fattening junk food that is to blame. Others, like Jamie Oliver and his followers, imply, but never come right out and say, that it is the fault of the victims of obesity themselves; that the working class run to fat because they are too lazy and thick to cook proper food. For whatever reason the poor of the Third World still have the emaciated look that we expect of the near starving and the elites of those societies waddle around like the bloated plutocrats of old. Meanwhile in advanced capitalist societies the poor look increasingly like Regency dandies gone to seed but getting out of it on lager rather than port and madeira. The trim well groomed middle class in contrast, have that glow of self righteousness that I suppose has always been their hallmark. And the toffs? The actual upper class descendants of all those Regency wastrels. Where do they stand in the obesity ranking? There is a certain jowly flabbiness about the Bullingdon Boys that their ancestors would have approved of. Not for them the tight lipped and tight arsed puritanism of the middle class. They have the look about them of people who know the value of a couple of bottles of claret and a decent fry up in Simpson's In The Strand. They probably aren't eating all that many Transfatburgers with a side order of palm oil and sugar either.