Thursday, January 31, 2013
American Culture, Obesity, Violence, and Other Factors Influencing Longevity and Health
Culture is on the horns of this dilemma: if profound and noble, it must remain rare; it common, it must be mean.
George Santayana (1863-1952), The Life of Reason
When I hear the word “culture,” I reach for my pistol.
Hans Johst (1890-1978), German Playright and Nazi Poet Laureate, Sclageter
January 31, 2013 - Tomorrow my new book, The Physicians Foundation: A New Voice for Physicians, comes out. You can order it firstname.lastname@example.org for $19.95.
Today I am thinking about my third book in the series Rhyme, Rhetoric, and Reality. This book will concern American culture and its influence on our longevity and health.
A nation’s health system shapes its culture. Our culture cherishes independence, individualism, choice, and freedom to do what one wants, when one wants, and to be what wants. We believe in equal opportunity for all, but not necessarily in equal outcomes for all. We are a capitalistic democracy, but we are also a meritocracy that believes that those with merit and skills should have the opportunity to rise above those less skilled .
This cultural philosophy poses dilemmas and health problems.
· Take obesity. We are the fattest country on the planet. We worship thinness but practice fatness. We love fattening fast food outlets, which populate every community in America, but we believe we can fix fatness by participating and joining in Weight Watchers and the myriad of other weight -loss franchises. We gobble up “fat-free” or “cholesterol-free” foods, which are rich in sugar and carbohydrates to make them taste good and make us fat. We have fitness centers everywhere, but we sit glued to our computers and television sets between sessions at the gym with the work-out machines. We are obsessed with obesity and weight loss. I learned this yesterday when my blog post, “Obesity, Myths, Presumptions, and Facts” attracted nearly 2000 hits, i.e. page views.
· Consider gun violence. The debate over how to control mayhem and death from guns now occupies the political center stage, due to the senseless massacre of 20 innocent children and 6 adults at Newtown. The Obama administration has thought of or proposed bans on assault weapons, national gun registration, tighter controls on guns, better mental health screening, and armed guards at every schoolhouse door as parts of a comprehensive solution. We need a solution, for if one subtracts deaths from our national statistics, we would lead the world in longevity and would decongest our costly emergency rooms. But alas, there’s the Second Amendment. There’s 300 million guns out there, many illegal guns easily purchased on the mean streets. There are 150 million legal gun owners bent on protecting themselves, their families, their homes, and their places of business. There are small and big game hunters,. There’s a pervasive and persistent paranoia that if all guns are registered government can confiscate the firearms. Besides, gun violence sells movies, television programs, video games, and media market share. I maintain our congested media markets, with their endless appetite for news on gun deaths feeds the media gun market violence monster, making it bigger than it actually is, for the number of gun deaths and mass killings had dropped significantly over the last 20 years. Nevertheless, I am of the “don’t do nothing, do something school” even if it prevents one needless deathTweet: American culture shapes our health system, creating dilemmas influencing our attitudes towards obesity, gun violence, and our health