Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sizing Up the "Obesity Epidemic"
You wanna know what an "epidemic" is? The Bubonic Plague of the 1340's. That's an epidemic. It came, so to speak, out of nowhere, and killed 75 MILLION human beings, including around half of the European population.
The Spanish Flu outbreak after World War I was another epidemic. It killed many tens of millions of people, possibly as many as 100 million, around the world.
"Epidemic", at least until the last couple of decades, was always a special word reserved for referring to a sudden outbreak, or increase in, the incidence of a particular disease. As such, the word was very useful. Now it has become just another victim of "word definition inflation" by, presumably, people who don't want to hurt the feelings of obese people, or perhaps, by obese people themselves who can't bear the horror of actually taking responsibility for their obesity, and so must imagine that they are as little to blame for adding one hundred extra pounds to their frames, as 19th century London street urchins were for falling dead after inadvertently drinking contaminated water. And there's something really wrong with that.
Obesity is caused by overeating - and overeating is a bad habit. It's not a "disease". One may be predisposed genetically to obesity (see article here); one may experience thyroid gland malfunction; but regardless, obesity requires eating far too much relative to one's expenditure of energy for prolonged periods of time. That is just a fact.
But bad habits, including obesity, per se aren't the end of the world, are they? Everyone has them; most are just not as obvious as obesity. And why a collection of schoolboard control freaks, bureaucrats, media people with nothing better to write about, and health food Nazis should care so much about the bad habit of gluttony - versus, say, the bad habit of trying to tell everyone else on the planet exactly how they should live - is quite beyond me. As long as we're not paying for their food or medical bills, and we're not forced by government to hire them to do jobs (like chimney sweeping, rodeo clowning, or teaching gymnastics) which their obesity has rendered them incapable of performing, who cares if they're obese? It's not like they don't know that obesity is bad for them. So why not leave them alone?
I like to stay fit myself, but I'm also sick of hearing about a "disease" which isn't really a disease, and an "epidemic" which isn't really an epidemic, and endless haranguing about how unhealthy obesity is when everyone already knows it, and obese people obviously don't value fitness enough to begin eating and exercising properly. What is there to talk about really anymore?