Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Poor Fatsoes

At times the world must seem to the ideologue to be full of the most oblique and inexpedient occurrences requiring the most oblique and expedient explanations. Imagine, for a humble instance, being ideologically committed to the idea that there are in modern Britain millions of people living in poverty, and yet discovering that a third of such people are as fat as country-squires. One’s commitment demands that one still see them as poverty-stricken, whilst reality appears to mock the idea. Therewith the ideologue needs to cope, and must employ his explanations to that end, as the following passage demonstrates:
Working-class mothers may not be able to afford to feed their children properly: last month, canvassing on a rundown council estate in South Yorkshire during the local elections, I watched young working-class women collect their children from school and noticed that about a third were morbidly obese, a pattern that was already being replicated in their children. A local councillor told me that the women were too focused on the struggle to survive to worry about weight. [1]
It appears to me to be some kind of queer satire to suggest that the poor cannot afford to be thin, and a still queerer travesty of genuine hardship to suggest that such persons have grown fat because of too great a focus on the struggle to survive. [2] If we are to have a genuine satire of poverty in this land, then let us speak of the struggle to survive a day without chips or chocolate or manifold comforts, or the struggle to get off the sofa to turn the television off; for here poverty is very far from being a great problem, unless we are talking about poverty of spirit or surroundings, in which case we can truly say that poverty is widespread.
.....
[1] Joan Smith, “Children of a lesser nation”, The Independent, 10th June 2007.
[2] One can eat quite healthily for little money if one chooses to do so, certainly for less money than it costs to stuff one’s fat face with fast-food and processed filth; and if one is fat and determined not to be, one could even make a start — and please forgive this radical suggestion — by eating less, and thereby spending less.

7 comments:

dearieme said...

Who has not witnessed the supermarket trolley loaded with carbohydrates and empty calories, with only one protein-laden exception: the cat food?

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Forgive my quoting, but I must respond precisely:

"One can eat quite healthily for little money if one chooses to do so, certainly for less money than it costs to stuff one's fat face with fast-food and processed filth; and if one is fat and determined not to be, one could even make a start -- and please forgive this radical suggestion -- by eating less, and thereby spending less."

Deogolwulf! Aside from your fatuously gross obese-ism, you are surely not suggesting that these poor people live yet poorer lives by eating even less!

I denounce this insidious attempt to cut poverty by trimming so-called fat from the very bodies of the poor. Doubtless, you hope that by thinning out the ranks of the poor, you can make them all butt disappear!

"Out of sight, out of mind," it seems. Or as a German translator once put it, "Blind and crazy"!

I urge you, instead, to open your eyes and come to your senses!

Jeffery 'Activist' Hodges

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dearieme said...

What proportion of the fatsoes, do you think, can be blamed on the campaign against smoking?

Deogolwulf said...

Prof. Hodges: "[Y]ou are surely not suggesting that these poor people live yet poorer lives by eating even less!"

Perish the thought. Eat, drink, and be merry, I say. I myself have eaten a few too many pies (has anyone been idiotic enough to call it the "fat community" yet?), and I wouldn't stop anyone doing the same. But if one wishes to be thin . . .

Dearieme: "What proportion of the fatsoes, do you think, can be blamed on the campaign against smoking?"

I wonder if the health ministers have considered that question. Probably not.

Cirdan said...

The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes—an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we’ll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don’t nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man’s opium.

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, Ch. VI.

Fred S. said...

Cirdan,

I guess to a Marxist, we live in a perpetual 1932. Of course, unemployment doesn't cause a bad diet. Unemployment (or, more accurately, unemployability) and a bad diet are both effects of the same cause: fecklessness, poor impulse control, inability to see ahead, call it what you will. This is what keep people living impoverished lives in this age of unrivalled wealth and incontinent social welfare.

james higham said...

An anomaly of epic proportions, Deogolwulf.