Should We Fix Obesity?

Q: How can any good people be against legislation that seeks to cure problems like homelessness and obesity?” - James M.


A: As is almost always the case, there’s much more to the story than what’s on the surface. At face value it seems like this:

1. Obesity, homelessness, etc. are a big problem.

2. We care about that problem and try to fix it.

3. Certain groups get upset and try to stop us from fixing that problem.

4. Therefore, those groups don’t care about the problem.

5. People who don’t care about the problem must be bad, cold-hearted, selfish people.

But, the real question we need to ask ourselves is this:

Should we force-fix the problems for people who refuse to fix it themselves?

Think about it.

We can do all we can to equip as many Americans as possible with the ability to fix their own problems, but if they don’t do it there’s nothing we can do. So, why should we feel the responsibility to do so?

Assuming their problems don’t affect other people’s freedoms, what’s the harm? For example, if my lazy brother refuses to go out and get a job, then he is going to suffer the natural consequences of that decision. His laziness is going to result in him living in miserable conditions and unable to do anything that costs money.

It’s like in sports and board games. You don’t need a rule prohibiting an action if there is a natural negative consequence to the action. You don’t need a rule in football that says you can’t take the ball, run backwards 30 yards and hand it to the other team. If any team did that they would face the negative consequence of losing. In CLUE you don’t need a rule that says you can’t guess all of your own cards every turn. If you did, you would lose.

It’s the same in real life. We don’t need to make it illegal for people to do things that make them fat. There’s already a natural consequence to it. They get fat. They know that eating junk food every day will make them fat. If they aren’t willing to stop, they will face the penalty of being fat.

But, wait…

Many use this as justification for not caring for those who are hurting. This is wrong! There are many people who are suffering from problems like obesity, drug addiction, poverty, and homelessness who are willing to get out but aren’t able to. These are the people we need to help.

We can help in two ways:

1. We can give them what they need to change and aid in their attempt to escape out of their negative situation.

2. Or we can help erase the natural negative consequences of refusing to fix their problems.

Which one of these two options do you think will result in positive, permanent change and which one do you think will result in people refusing to fix their own problems?

Going back to the sports analogy, if you attempt to stop golfers from ‘using a driver on the putting green and whacking it back away from the ball’ by giving them the ball back and taking a stroke away, do you think that’s going to stop them from doing it?

How can we help?

The first thing we can do is make sure as many people as possible understand the negative consequences of their actions. I think we’ve got that covered. Is there anyone in America who doesn’t know what causes obesity and homelessness?

    1. Next, we can provide information about how they can fix their problems. I think we take for granted some of the things we understand. Financial planning, for instance, is something that doesn’t come natural for many people. Many people who are poor or homeless are that way because they have no understanding of money and how to manage it.And many people and companies are preying on these people and taking advantage of their misunderstanding. Credit card companies, car dealerships, etc. lure them into debt and feast on their famine. So, combating the misunderstanding is not an easy task. But, offering free classes for those wanting to learn is a reasonable solution. And teaching it in school seems like a no-brainer to me.A lot of these classes are actually available in many states, but few people know about them. That seems to defeat the purpose. If there are classes available, everyone needs to be made aware of them. And chances are homeless people aren’t going to see a television or internet advertisement.
    2. Then, we can help aid those who want to change but for various reasons are unable to follow the steps to do so. As much as many of us would like to believe that everyone has everything they need to fix their problems, the reality is that not all of us do. Not everyone has the ability to shower and dress up for a job interview, or print out a resume for example.The ideal solution would be for a non-profit organization to fill this role, but if there is none a state funded program is the only other option.
    3. One of the biggest problems in our society is addiction. Many people know how to change, have the ability to, but still aren’t able to because they are not in control of themselves. Many people cannot stop themselves from eating because they are addicted. And unless the root cause of the addiction is addressed, they will be unable to do what they want to be able to do.For those of you who think this is all a bunch of bunk, I can assure you that it is not! Addiction is very real! And the more traumatic and broken families become, the more of a scourge addiction becomes in a society.The treatment for addiction involves counseling. However, counseling is expensive! Not everyone can afford it. If counseling and 12 step groups can be made available for everyone, that will allow those who are willing to change the ability to.

Unfortunately, there are some who for various reasons will never be able to change. Some people are the way they are because of mental illness or physical disability. These people need to be cared for and can’t be expected to change.

Then there are those who can change, but just don’t want to do what it takes no matter how possible you make it for them. They’ve made their choice. Some homeless people are comfortable being homeless. Some obese people are okay with health problems, higher insurance premiums, and dying sooner.

If the goal is to get the unemployment, homeless, or obese percentage to 0 then give up because that’s never going to happen. Some people don’t want to change and they don’t want help. They’ve made their choice and there’s no reason we should try to make their lives better or save them from the consequences of their decisions.

The only thing we can do is give them the possibility of fixing their situation. We can’t make them actually do it. But, is that really our responsibility?

If so, why?

Something to think about.

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- Jim Graham
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