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Cruel to be Kind

Entry 2081, on 2020-10-16 at 20:13:58 (Rating 4, Politics)

One of the most popular criticisms of more right oriented people - and one which has been around for decades now - is that they tend to blame the victims of social problems rather than the real perpetrators.

Needless to say, there are some occasions when this is an accurate assessment and the victim really is just a helpless pawn in a bigger game which is controlled by a powerful entity - like the state, or big business, or a dominant grouping in society. But just as often - maybe more often than not in fact - the "victim" really is largely to blame for their own predicament.

To be more precise about my exact thoughts here, I should say that when someone finds themself with a problem of some sort there is almost always some degree of blame the person themsleves should accept, plus some influences from external sources like the examples I gave above.

There are some rather obvious examples of this in the world today, but let's have a quick look at one of them which became prominent recently...

The leader of New Zealand's main opposition party, Judith Collins, suggested that many obese people were overweight because of poor life choices, and an inability to exert self-control over their diet. Predictably, the politically correct crowd ridiculed this idea, suggesting it was both incorrect, insulting, and bigoted.

I didn't hear the exact quote, but I suspect the intention was to say that many obese people could improve their situation greatly with a bit of self-discipline. I think everyone would recognise that there are a small group of people who are obese because of factors mostly beyond their control, such as hormonal imbalances and other medical issues. But this should not detract from the simple fact that most obesity is caused by poor diet, over-eating, lack of exercise, etc, which are factors which can be controlled.

Here are some quotes from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in the US on this subject: "People gain weight when they eat more calories than they burn through activity. This imbalance is the greatest contributor to weight gain. Major factors are: oversized portions, lack of exercise options, no access to veges, etc in supermarkets, and food advertising."

Additionally: "Some hormone problems may cause overweight and obesity. Scientists believe that genes may increase a person's likelihood of becoming obese but that outside factors, such as an abundant food supply or little physical activity, also may be required for a person to put on excess weight. Some people eat more than usual when they are bored, angry, upset, or stressed."

So it does sound like there is a significant number of factors there which the "victim" does have control over. Maybe, despite the howls of anguish from the usual suspects, the National leader was actually right.

One additional complicating factor here is the fact that the major groups who suffer from excess weight in New Zealand are Maori and Pacifica. The obesity rate in New Zealand for Maori is over double that of white New Zealanders, and the rate for Pacifica is over three times higher.

What are we to make of this anomaly? Well, to the left, this is clear evidence of oppression. Obviously the dominant, white society must be affecting the food choices of these disadvantaged groups, rather than their own choices being to blame.

This is primarily nonsense, of course, but we should concede that there are some external factors from society, business, etc which do affect this issue. There is plenty of advertising of unhealthy food options on TV, for example. Fast food outlets might often cluster in areas where these populations live (I'm guessing here because I could find no actual stats). And there are some claims that healthy food is either difficult to source, or too expensive.

As I said, these factors might make a small contribution to the negative outcomes of these groups, but no one is forcing anyone into the choices they make. Anyone can walk past a fast food shop, although the delicious aroma of fried chips can be difficult to resist! And if this type of outlet predominates in poorer areas it is because that is where the demand is. Finally, there is no evidence at all that fresh food is not easy to source. Every supermarket I have been to has plenty. And the claim that cooking healthy food is too expensive is utterly ridiculous. Where do these fake "facts" come from? Well, I think we know that: leftist politicians, the news media, and socialist academics.

So I find it difficult to believe that anyone can say that these external factors are the most important in a healthy diet. Surely it must be obvious that personal choices are of far greater importance. And even if there was a conspiracy to force fast food onto disadvantaged groups; that can be resisted!

So having disposed of the initial argument I need to follow up with a secondary objection. That is that even if the lack of self-control argument is true, is it beneficial for anyone to offer that fact in a public forum, and is it responsible for a well known politician to even mention it?

Some would say no; that just makes the situation even more difficult for the "victim", leading to more stress, and probably more over-eating (the NIH says stress is a risk factor leading to over-eating). But an alternative view is to say that to solve a problem we first have to admit the problem exists, and identify the real major causes.

If poor personal choices really are primarily to blame for this, as I am suggesting, then surely telling a person it is not their fault is unlikely to lead to any improvement. Of course, the issue needs to be discussed in a reasonable way, and just abusing someone for being a "fatty" is not likely to be helpful (probably not in most cases, anyway).

There is a bigger picture here, too. That is that it is not just in the area of obesity where this happens. Many other social issues are blamed on factors which are not primarily the cause, just to avoid anything which could be construed as being unkind to a "minority group". Obvious recent examples include the rate of poor care for children in some segments of society, leading to state care; the greater crime rate of some "disadvantaged" groups, leading to higher rates of incarceration; and the requirement to give some groups preferential entry into advanced education even when their academic achievement level would normally be seen as inadequate.

The more the real problems are ignored, the more these outcomes will become more severe. Sometimes it is best to "get tough" and "tell the hard truths" rather than "being kind". Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

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