Does anyone remember the wonderfully irreverent film Life of Brian? Specifically the scene where Brian tries to persuade a huge crowd to stop following him by telling them that they don’t need a leader because they are all individuals? The ironic response was ‘Yes! We are all individuals’……in complete unison…….with only one dissenting voice which was immediately shushed by the crowd. It seemed hugely amusing at the time but I do wonder if it has become our reality.
There was an article in the news recently in which a healthy eating campaigner criticised a shop for putting huge quantities of chocolate bars close to the checkout complaining that they were ‘cashing in on our sweet tooth’. So, effectively what he is saying is that ‘we’ are incapable of resisting temptation and that the blame for the negative results that arise from an individual’s bad food choices i.e. obesity should rest with a shop?? When did we stop taking responsibility for our own actions? In this instance, what the critic seems to ignore is that no-one is standing by the check out forcing free candy on unwitting shoppers; people make a choice – to buy or not to buy….
The same logic (if you want to call it that) is used by Government when implement ideas like the sugar tax; it’s a blanket response to something which is an individual’s problem. Taxes on tobacco and alcohol haven’t stopped people smoking or drinking because, when you’re dealing with an addiction, the price is pretty much irrelevant. Unfortunately this type of action is also likely to provoke far more negative responses than positive; after all how many people are ever happy when a new tax is introduced? It also means that people will be inclined to band together to stop what they view as oppression by the Government – there is even a Twitter group which has been set up to oppose the sugar tax and says that the ‘it’s not nutritious brigade’ are forcing their choices on the rest of us.
So, on the one hand we have groups who campaign against purveyors of junk food and sugary beverages and on the other we have groups who campaign for their right to eat whatever they damn well please. What we don’t seem to have anywhere in the middle are individuals who have received enough nutritional education to make their food choices based on knowledge rather than what one crowd or another is telling them to do.
We all have the opportunity to learn about our food choices and what impact they can have on our health; the internet is absolutely awash with information. However, it seems as though people are far more likely to rely on the information provided to them in bite sized pieces by one self-interested group or another than to trust their own decision making. It’s easy to blame the Government or shop-keepers or schools for the current obesity epidemic, it’s far more difficult to take responsibility as individuals but, as the film said, we are all individuals.