Saturday, 5 January 2019

Fat fascism

For who would want to choose by rule?

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes from the Underground (1864)

During my lifetime the private citizen has been driven to the edge of extinction. As with so much government activity this has happened entirely by stealth. For example, this recent claim that obesity should be classified as a disease.

Obesity should be recognised as a "disease" rather than a lifestyle choice, leading doctors say.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said action to tackle excess weight was more likely to be successful if the problem was treated as one caused by environmental and social factors, rather than by individual greed.

In spite of some semi-fashionable attempts to suggest otherwise, it is easy enough to imagine that most obese folk have no great desire to be obese. In other words obesity is not usually a lifestyle choice – that much seems obvious enough.

Equally obvious is the constant political pressure to be seen to do something about every headline. Classifying obesity as a disease comes under that heading - the politics of conspicuous official involvement. It takes away yet another area of personal responsibility. In so doing it chips away at any possibility that there could even be such a thing as a private citizen.

Yes as Dostoevsky suggests – who would want to choose by rule? That isn't personal responsibility. Rules narrow, restrict or even remove choice and what are the longer term penalties from going down that route? How do we draw lines between official meddling and personal responsibility – where does personal choice become personal?

How do we halt the relentless and ultimately totalitarian politics of conspicuous official involvement? Because it is relentless and it is totalitarian. This choice is stark – breathe some life into the private citizen or the private citizen disappears even as an ideal.

Of course ultimately the ideal of the private citizen probably will be revived. But only for the elites.


The Jannie said...

I'm convinced that the legislative saturation of motoring is the biggest cause of today's horrific standards of driving. Having been taught how to pass the test, today's driver then has to learn to drive and if there isn't a sign telling them what to do, they go into panic mode. It's nearly 40 years since I drove regularly in Edinburgh. Then, if traffic lights failed, everyone applied common sense and the traffic flowed more smoothly than usual. Now? Meltdown!

Demetrius said...

There was a time when the figure of John Bull, who was on the plump side, was the model for the ideal Brit'. Also, the most admired ladies were those with full figures rather bigger than the skinny ribs idealised today. What's for pudding?

Mark Wadsworth said...

@ The Jannie, that traffic flows more freely - and motorists are more likely to stop for pedestrians - is one of those things that has been observed by neutral by-standers time and time again. I wouldn't really have expected it, but I've seen it two or three times with my own eyes and it just happens.

James Higham said...

I presume "well fed" is not allowed any more.

A K Haart said...

Jannie and Mark - when I used to commute through Nottingham there was a complex light-controlled junction where the lights failed a few times over the years. As far as I could see that didn't cause a problem.

Demetrius - yes, apparently a pear-shaped male figure was a sign of status.

James - no it has to be more political.