Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Tyranny of Healthy Lifestyle Zealots

When I was a little girl in the late-1950s/early-60s (also known as the Olde Days) people were concerned about their own and their children’s health and well-being – but it wasn’t a national obsession supported by social judgment and nanny-state laws. Fat, especially on women, was already considered ugly (as it was ever thus) and women dieted and took prescription diet pills. But nobody under a size 10 thought they were fat and size 0 didn’t yet exist.

Children took their vitamins and got the necessary vaccines du jour, but they didn’t have to wear haz-mat suits to sit in the back of a car or ride their bikes. Most adults smoked and those who chose not to didn’t behave as if their lives were threatened if they caught a whiff of smoke. People were aware of the hazards of high blood pressure and cholesterol, and some amended their diets accordingly, but they didn’t fret over every piece of food they put in their mouths. Getting exercise wasn’t an issue, because it was a part of daily life: people walked, mowed their own lawns, cleaned their own houses (along with their children, who had chores), and kids played outdoors without the schedule of a business executive.

But in today’s high-tech, must-live right, helicopter-parent America, our personal behavior is increasingly governed by law as well as a condemning social attitude, particularly about smokers and fat people that says “I’ve chosen a healthy lifestyle and because you haven’t, you’re increasing the cost of my health care with your bad habits and I resent it.” Yes, there’s a lot of resentment – and outright hate in our social climate because everybody thinks everyone else should live by their standards of good and bad, right and wrong.

This is a social notion that transcends political ideologies. The Left and Right may differ in their beliefs about what’s good, bad, right and wrong, but everyone seems agreed on the idea that their values should reign supreme and be adopted by everyone else. As a result, our social climate is actually un-American, but most folks don’t see it that way – nor do they care.

I can only regard this as Health Fascism based on selfishness, ignorance, and a complete lack of understanding that in a diverse, free society, people have different needs, wants and behaviors, and everyone can be accommodated if we accept that those who differ from us have as much of a right to be who they are as we have to be who we are.

First, a few facts. Fat people and smokers are not the culprits in high health care costs. Overly expensive health care is caused, in considerable part, by treatment and life-maintenance for the ├╝ber-elderly, severely disabled, and those with serious chronic illnesses. Waste and fraud in health care management, and the simple fact that health care, health insurance and pharmaceuticals are profit-making industries, are what truly make health care, insurance premiums and medications expensive. Never forget: the profit is in treatment, not in cures. Follow the money and examine the greed.

So, when healthy lifestyle zealots support ever-increasing nanny-state laws that make smokers social pariahs and view fat people as lesser humans with no self-control, they are acting out of haughty judgment they have no right to make – and they don’t know the facts.

For example, the dangers of second-hand smoke are a myth [each of the four underscores cites a different source; check them out if you think I’m bullshitting you]. And obesity is not just a matter of overeating and calories in vs. calories out.  “…Genetics, endocrine function, lifestyle, medications and metabolism all play a role in determining a person’s weight.”  The tyranny of the healthy lifestyle zealots is not only prejudice and a misdirection of blame, it has resulted in smokers and fat people being extremely discriminated against in employment and, for smokers, in housing.

I don’t have children; I don’t even like children. But I don’t begrudge them the health care (or nutrition, education, and protection from abuse and neglect) they require. Nor do I resent whatever the elderly, disabled, or chronically ill require. I don’t engage in dangerous sports. But when those who do have accidents and need medical treatment and physical therapy, I have no gripe with that. I believe in the concepts of “each according to his needs” and “live and let live.”

To those who think they’re superior beings and more righteous citizens because they live a healthy lifestyle, I leave you with a quote from the late, great Redd Foxx: “All those health nuts are gonna feel pretty stupid laying up in the hospital dying of nothing.”

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