The old themes keep coming back here. We really need some startling new things to blog about. Still, here goes…..
A 14 or 15 stone 8-year-old seems to sparked a huge moral panic all by himself. The media keep showing this kid and getting really worked up about him. Oh my god! He’s obese! Government ministers have even opined on the question of whether he should be taken into care. (There was a case conference today that decided he coulld stay with his mum, for the time being and if she agrees to cut his weight and so on.)
Now, on the face of it, unless there is a lot more happening in his family, I can’t see that a fat child is really such an urgent cause for intervention. Does anyone have any idea of the kind of suffering that some kids go through, with no assistance from anyone? Has the care system suddenly become a much more favourable option than being overweight?
What is really depressing about this story is that “fat” kids often get bullied. Nothing special in the fat bit, though, kids get bullied for any behaviour or characteristic that the bullies define as an offence. Adults are not supposed to reward bullying, let alone join in and take it to another level.
I doubt if the worst child bully in the world could come up with anything like the public pillorying of the child and his family. If the kid was a criminal, the media wouldn’t be allowed to name him, let alone plaster his picture everywhere and publicly debate his weight and his family circumstances. This kid and his family aren’t harming anyone, except possibly increasing his chance of getting certain diseases. Can anyone seriously believe that an 8-year-old is not going to be damaged by this experience of being in the public eye?
But obviously, it’s more important for us to show our social cohesion by all joining together to condemn him and his mother.
(Scapegoat rituals are so bloody powerful… You would hope that rational people could move beyond them or at least use symbolic scapegoats, as the obviously wiser amd more humane people of the past did.)
His weight is probably bad for his health, but I can’t honestly see what concern that is of mine. I don’t have enough faith in nutrition to believe everything we are told about it anyway. I have my own beliefs about food and health but I would hardly demand that everybody eats what I eat or exercises as I do. I thought that human diversity was a crucial survival strategy for our species.
If it is now OK to attack everyone who doesn’t meet my moral and physical standards, I can see a dozen candidates a month due for public naming and shaming as people who shouldn’t be entrusted with kids. I would be only too happy to voice my opinions on their apperance, their intelligence and their weight. And, of course, my opinion is necessarily always right…..
My point is that I have a mass of personal prejudices, based on highly dubious aesthetic grounds. However, if I don’t like someone’s appearance or expression or voice or way of life, I don’t claim any right to impose my standards on them. This is pure self-interest, lots of people object to me and I wouldn’t like to have them impose their values on me, so it seems only fair.
This argument is increasingly being overlooked, as our society becomes ever more willing to impose health fascist criteria on everybody. We can all join in this game. Whole sections of the media rely for their content on the alleged excessive fatness/thinness of “celebrities” or on peddling weight loss and exercise programmes. The food industry is constantly working out ever more complex ways to adulterate our food on the grounds of making it “healthier.”
Guess what, as a society, the more obsessed we become with our body size, the fatter and fatter we get. That’s working out well then.
A comment on this blog took us to task for joining the anti- “Doctor” McKeith clamour, largely on the grounds that we must be “fat” if we didn’t accept McKeith’s legitimacy. And that, having assumed we were “fat”, the commenter could more or less take the moral high ground.
I always want to say, so, if I don’t break the health rules (whatever they may be at any moment) I’ll live forever then? Great. That’s a weight off my mind