Americans Should Be Mad as Hell
They're growing fat, getting sick, and going broke. They've been taking it on the chin, and they just shouldn't take it anymore--because it's not something they're doing, it's something that's being done to them.
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by Eric Armstrong
Americans should be mad as hell. Probably the only reason they aren't is that their politicians keep telling them that they live in the best democracy in the world, with the highest standard of living. But they only have to look around to realize they're being fed a pack of lies.
The really important fact to realize--and this is the central issue that Americans must understand--is that, while capitalism may be a good thing in general terms, the hierarchical American system of megalithic corporations has America by the financial tail, and it is not about to let go.
Let's start with food. Genetically modified foods are outlawed in Canada and Europe. We can't even get them labeled here. The use of Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) on cows is outlawed in Canada and Europe. Not here. Substances that are literally metabolic poisons like partially hydrogenated oil are outlawed in Canada and Europe. But not here. Here, it's used instead of butter because it adds texture and flavor to foods.
Then there are additives like High Fructose Corn Syrup and a host of other ingredients that make you fat. And after that, they make you sick.
You only have to look around to see how fat America is becoming. Obesity was recently declared a disease by Medicare. Why? So doctors can prescribe drugs to treat it, and drug companies can make that much more money in the process. Of course, they say it's to prevent the attendant problems of diabetes, which is threatening to overtake cancer and heart disease as the number one killer of Americans. But that's not the real reason. If it were, they'd be attacking the cause of the problem, instead of using medicine to treat the results. (It's kind of like malaria. It's good to have quinine, but you really need to drain the swamp.)
The fact is, obesity isn't a disease. It's the product of a lifestyle gone bad. And in this case, the most important part of that lifestyle are the foods you're eating--foods with ingredients that interfere with insulin metabolism, depress your thyroid, and generally screw up your metabolism. As one lady recently said on a morning talk show, "I went to Italy and all the ladies were slim. And they eat pasta." The difference is in the quality of the foods they eat.
"They" want to make you responsible though--so they can avoid responsibility ,of course. You're not getting enough exercise, they say. Why not? Why is it you don't have the energy to exercise? You eat too much, they say. Why is that? Could it be that your body is starving for the nutrients it needs? It can be, and it is. In fact, American foods are manipulated to keep you hungry, in the same way that cigarettes were manipulated to keep people addicted. The problem, in a nutshell, stems from the foods you eat--American foods, created by giant food-production and agribusiness corporations.
Of course, giant corporations have been resoonsible for some tremendous advances, as well. The technologies used to create canned and frozen foods are light years ahead of where they used to be. And there is a lot of convenient packaging these days that didn't exist thirty years ago. But for all the good that's being done, there is a tremendous amount of harm as well, mostly as the result of food ingredients that should be illegal, but aren't.
Do those giant megalithic corporations care about this? Of course not. They're making money by selling you great tasting foods with cheaper ingredients. Sure, they could sell you something that tastes great made with butter. But that would be expensive. By selling you something made with partially hydrogenated soy bean oil and a lot of sugar, you get something that tastes almost as good, and they make a lot more money, both because they saved money on the ingredients, and because your addicted body buys even more of the stuff their feeding you..
Those foods are killing you slowly, and the food producers who make them are making money in the same way that tobacco companies and drug pushers make money--by selling you stuff that keeps you just healthy enough to pay them.
And what do Americans do about it, here in this "greatest democracy in the world"? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Why? Because here, it's the gigantic, megalithic corporations who pull the political strings. It has been said that we have government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. And the observable reality is that it is indeed so. Because despite that fact that knowledgable people have been trying to outlaw these foods for decades, we still have them in America. Remember: They're illegal in Canada and Europe. Not here. How does that qualify as "the greatest democracy in the world"?
Having the government run by corporations wouldn't necessarily be bad, though. If corporations were better at taking care of people than people are, it would be great to have them in charge. After all, they pay people to figure out how to optimize the results they produce, and those people spend all day, every day, working on the problem. If they were optimizing the health and economic of Americans, I'd say to let them do it. But that's not what they're optimizing. They're optimizing the size of their bank accounts. They're simply not working in the best interests of the American people. To some degree, those interests coincide. But they've been diverging more and more for the past few decades, and things are getting serious.
At this point, when you see the connection between health, food, corporations, and our political system, it should begin to make you mad. But it gets worse. Oh, so much worse.
When those foods start making you fat, what do you do? You start buying diet books, exercise books, exercise equipment, and gym memberships. You join diet programs. Eventually, you may even resort to diet pills. All of these things make money. Lots of it.
It has been said that the number two selling category of books in America is diet books. The number one category? Cookbooks. Or maybe it was the other way around. But you get the idea. We like to eat. That's normal. People in France and Italy like to eat, too. In fact, they love to eat. But here, we get fat. And when that happens other corporations make money.
Eventually, the stuff that was making you fat begins to make you sick. You start going to the doctor, getting operations, and buying many more drugs. Expensive drugs. Drugs that are even more expensive in American than they are in, say, Canada, because here, giant corporations control the political process. So they make you pay. And pay, and pay.
So you spend your days fighting fat and fatigue. And in the end, all your money goes to a hospital. Americans spend more on health care than any nation in the world--and have the worst health of any industrial society on the planet. Every year, three quarters of a million people are forced into bankruptcy by medical emergencies--more than half of whom had health insurance. What does that do to your standard of living? Not to mention your quality of life.
So now we have three groups of corporations who are making a ton of money at your expense:
As long as you think of corporations as separate entities, we're just talking about an unfortunate system. There are market forces that result in unhealthy foods, with lots of advertising for them. And there are market forces that result in products to help you deal with the consequences, with lots of advertising for them. But there are no strong market forces that will act to eliminate the bad foods, and no one investing in the ton of advertising it will take to educate America as to why they're so bad.
So the problem persists. And as long as you think of those corporations as separate entities, it's unfortunate but it's hard to see what can be done about it. Obviously, we need to wrest our democracy out of the hands of corporations, and back into the hands of concerned citizens, so that our food environment can be at least as good as Canada and Europe. But while it's unfortunate, it's just a natural outgrowth of our system of capitalism. Isnit it? Or is it?
When you begin to realize those giant corporations own each other in a giant corporate pyramid, you realize that you're paying one company a premium to sell you foods that make you fat--foods that are more profitable than healthy foods would be--and at the same time, you're paying other companies to deal with the results they produce. And somewhere, up near the top, the money is funneling from all those channels into a very few pockets--the major investors who own those corporations. Those are the people that Americans should rightfully be mad at.
Food Producers -----+
Fat Fighing Industry --+--> Holding Corporations --> Owners
Drug Companies -----+
CityDesk truncated the article here, after having problems displaying the pre-formated text I tried to use to put the above into a pyramid. The 1,000 words that followed the diagram are now irretreivably lost, and I'm looking for a new weblogging tool. What follows is a reconstruction from memory.
So you spend a fortune on foods that could just as easily be healthy, but aren't. Then you spend your days fighing fat and fatigue. Eventually, you get sick, and you spend a fortune on doctors and medicines. Eventually, you're lying on your death bed, to weak to care about any of this. But modern science, wonder that it is, can keep your body alive long after there is anyone home in it. They can keep you alive until every last drop of money is drained from your bank account, your childrens' bank accounts, and you relatives'.
That doesn't do too much to your standard of living. But it wrecks your children's. Instead of accumulating wealth to make life easier for the next generation, they start with nothing. Right now 3/4's of a million people are pushed into poverty every year by health emergency. They're forced to declare bankruptcy--and half of them had "health insurance". (If it isn't paying, it's not really insurance. It's more like a false peace of mind.)
To give them some kind of future, you put your children through college on a credit card at 30% interest--loans they'll be paying off until they're a hundred and sixty five. That kind of interest used to be called "loan sharking", and you'd go to jail for it. But now ithe practice is so commonplace that the term has been all but forgotten.
And where do politicians stand on all this? Are they on your side? Hardly. As a whole, they've been on the other side of every issue that concerns you. They just made it harder for Americans to declare bankruptcy, exempting the credit card bills people ran up while in the hospital. But they did nothing about the predatory lending practices that burden the people who can least afford it with 30- and 40-percent interest rates. They're certainly not acting to outlaw egregiously harmful food ingredients like partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. In fact, they've chosen to make it harder for health regulators, by outlawing unannounced inspections. Repulbicans are even fighting to take away your right to choose the manner and means of your own demise.
Not all polticians are working against you, of course. But it is a sign of just how thoroughly corporate money has taken over the process that Americans are losing on every issue that concerns their health and welfare. Corporations are winning. As a recent news broadcast said, "Things are looking up for coporate America". The subtitle should have been: "It's the people who are getting screwed."
To summarize: As a whole, the American standard of living is falling as a direct result of the foods that Americans are being fed. And as Americans march into poverty, somewhere up there at the top of the pyramid is making money every step of the way. And that's why Americans should be mad as hell.
About Eric Armstrong
Eric Armstrong is computer systems designer, writer, and philosopher. He is currently working on a book that uses the principles of General Systems Theory to explain how America's epidemic of obesity and disease stems from profitable, but unhealthy, ingredients in the food supply; how the corporate financial system (and our own retirement plans) are complicit in the problem; how the American political system allows it to happen; and how our problems with the environment, a dwindling standard of living, and even our problems with the global economy all stem from the same constellation of systemic interactions. At www.treelight.com/health, he focuses on nutrition and fitness. At www.citizensAdvisory.org, his forming non-profit is working to get the money out of politics. At www.artima.com/weblogs, he writes about software, web technology, and development tools.
About Citizens' Advisory
Corporate money has hijacked the ballot box. The Citizens' Advisory aims to take it back. Our goal is to put people in charge of the political process. The voting-advice system recommended by the Citizens Advisory lets people choose advisors they trust. Done right, that system will enable multi-party coalitions in cyberspace. The system appeals to voters because it's convenient. It appeals to social activists and their organizations because it levels the political playing the field and empowers them with a stronger political voice.
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