The state is mother…
Posted by Angry Exile
I’ve often wondered who our bodies really belong to. I mean, if you as an adult don’t get to decide its fate and what gets put into it or on it because the state has made the decision for you do you really own your body? Or, if it can set limits on what you may do with it beyond using it to inflict harm or loss on someone else, does the state have ultimate ownership? I’ve long lent towards the latter, and that states can often be fairly inconsistent about it – e.g. this drug is banned while that drug is legal, though quite possibly increasingly frowned upon, and women may earn as much money as they like with their arms or brains but nothing at all with their vaginas – doesn’t do much to change my opinion.
I’ve also wondered who are children belong to as well. Of course children begin being less ours with each day of their development and eventually will belong to themselves – or I ought to say they should belong to themselves because in practice the state will step in and exert ownership over them just as it does us, and I think in all likelihood to an even greater degree – so the question of whether our children are ours is more in the sense of a responsibility than a possession. But it’s still a question I ask every time the state steps in and takes a little bit of that responsibility away from parents and insists that children be raised its way. I began asking when one of the mother’s-milk-is-best brealots suggested, apparently in all seriousness, that formula milk should be banned, and I ask again because of a recent article from the UK and another from here in Oz (pics can be clicked for links).
The warning, from academics involved in an EC-funded project to make nurseries healthier, comes amid growing fears that too many children are overweight or obese when they start school.
EC? Is there still such a thing? I thought it was EU now. Or does it stand for something else?
The “ToyBox” survey found that obesity among European pre-schoolers is at record levels.
Nearly 40 per cent of pre-school girls in Spain are now classified as overweight or obese, it found.
In Britain, more than a fifth are overweight or obese by the time they start school, according to official figures.
And that may be so, though I do wonder if kids’ actual weight hasn’t changed that much and the definition of obese has changed. Not beyond the realms of possibility that the goalposts may have been widened, is it, if only because someone in power believes the fat kids don’t fit between them anymore? Still, I’m prepared to believe that pre-schoolers are, on the whole, a bit heavier at that age than my or my parents’ generations, and I wouldn’t be all that thrilled if I had a child at a pricey kinder (is there another kind?) and found out they were being parked in front of the idiot’s lantern all day.
Yannis Manios, assistant professor at Harokopio University, Athens, who is co-ordinating the project, said: “We need a new approach to prevent obesity.
“We found that many countries are lacking clear guidelines on healthy eating and active play.”
And if that ‘many countries’ bit bothers you a little it probably should, because the EC mystery is cleared up at the end of the article.
The brief of the project, which has a £2.4 million grant from the European Commission, is to “develop and test an innovative and evidence-based obesity prevention programme for children aged four to six years”.
Reagan was wrong. The most frightening sentence in the English language is not “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” It’s actually “I’ve been sent by the European Commission and I’m here to see that you are helped” and is usually translated into half a dozen languages. Anyway, back to Yannis Manios.
“… television watching in kindergartens should be replaced by more active, non-competitive, fun activities which will promote the participation of the whole class and help children to achieve optimal growth, health and well-being.”
Oh, how right-on can we get? Active and non-competitive? Participation of all? Optimal growth? Firstly, although I don’t have kids I’ve been one, remember what it was like, and have met various others (sometimes with considerable reluctance from me and apologetic whisperings of “He’s really not like this usually” from the parents). And the names of all the totally non-competitive kids I recall encountering could be written on the back of my ear. The rest just sounds like a mixture of the usual prizes-for-all that’s been going on for a good couple or three decades and the worrying Strength Through Joy stuff that’s been coming along lately.
“Parents should also remember that their role is not only to provide healthy food and drink options but to act as a role model themselves, since kids are copying their behaviours.”
And again, I’m not disagreeing as such but I do wonder why there’s this thought that this finger wagging and TV banning is necessary. Why, for instance, can’t there be a simple informative message that if your kid ends up being a fat fuck like you then you might have something to do with it, but if the kid’s not actually spherical and gasping for breath then just let things be? Why the desire to go running round all the kinders ripping their TVs out? And why are governments, remembering that the European Commission is a government too, so keen? Bearing in mind that they’re no more capable of feeling a parent’s love for a child than they are of procreating themselves (if anything the reverse; states are keener on making fewer states by absorbing other states and are highly reluctant to split themselves up so as to create more states) am I cynical to suspect that their concern is for their future tax base? They can crunch the numbers, they know that their predecessors promised too much and that they will eventually be unable to meet the bills. The thing they need most is able bodied workers to tax, and that pool is shrinking as it is. The problem is insoluble but it’s a can that can be kicked down the road a bit first, hopefully for someone else to deal with later on, and so the last thing they’d want is anyone contributing less than all the tax they can. A generation of fat kids might mean being having to pick that can up instead of being able to kick it one more time.
And if there’s anything in that at all then it’s only natural that it would extend from pre-school to pre-natal…
… though doubtless it’s also a chance for a bit of smoker-bashing, the last acceptable form of discrimination now that we can’t even take the piss out of
gingers rangas the titian haired.
Pregnant women could be breath tested to see if they smoke so that health professionals can help them quit, a leading anti-tobacco crusader says.
Some readers will have already guessed who.
Director of Quit Victoria Fiona Sharkie said although pregnancy prompted many women to quit, research also suggested some chose not to discuss smoking with midwives and doctors because they felt guilty about continuing.
Orly, Fi? You don’t think it’s because they’re expecting to get given a lot of earache about it and would prefer to avoid that if possible? For Christ’s sake, if they felt guilty about it they’d be asking for help to quit, or more likely (I believe) quitting successfully on their own. No, of course not – all smokers must want to quit, especially if they are expecting a new taxpayer. Nobody ever carries on smoking simply because they enjoy it. Nobody ever weighs the risks and decides that the pleasure they get is greater. And no woman ever smokes for a few weeks without even realising that she’s pregnant. No, if you girls smoke then you light up as soon as you’ve finished the big O and don’t have another ciggie until a test stick’s given you the all clear, isn’t that right?
This is the view of the anti-smoking lobby and therefore it must be the correct one, and since some women who are guilty of, and therefore feeling guilty about, smoking are inexplicably reticent to admit it all must be breath tested to identify those who must
be shamed need help. And sod the feelings of all those expectant mothers who go to their GP having either never smoked, given up ages ago or even given up the instant they found out.
And it was at this point that I was about to concede a point to Pat Nurse, who regularly accuses Australia of nazism when it comes to tobacco, that maybe there’s something a little bit nazi-ish about this. I say ‘about to’ because of where Sharkie appears to have got this idea from.
For this reason, she said Australian health authorities could follow the UK and use breath tests for carbon monoxide so that all women are tested and prompted to discuss the issue during pregnancy.
It’s roughly the same everywhere. This country is first to introduce smoking bans, that country beats the rest to introduce plain packaging legislation, the other begins breath testing pregnant women. Healthism is the new ism, and it has to be if states are to continue to be able to, well, not afford their largesse but kick their cans along the roads a little while longer. And before long healthism will join the other political isms with something similar to the two cows model, but with one important difference.
Healthism: you have two kids, the government taxes you for money to give to you for their upkeep as long as it thinks you’re keeping them healthy. Otherwise it takes them into care. The few cows that survived the BSE scare have been shot to protect them from foot and mouth instead.