Monday, August 1, 2011

Whose Responsibility Is It?

I’ve heard it several times when discussing my blog with friends, and I’m very concerned that smart people continue to think this way.  One of my favorite examples of how societal problems can be traced back to a behavioral trigger is the childhood obesity “epidemic.”  I explain that the problem stems from discipline issues that parents have passed on to their children and responsibility issues of parents, their failure to monitor their child’s diet, draw the line on visits to the fast food restaurants, offer healthy snacks, buy and keep on hand good food, and not capitulate when the children start to whine.

The response sometimes is, “But the fast food companies have some responsibility, too.”  NO, NO, NO!  We have the responsibility to tell them what we want and we do that by spending or withholding our money.  The fast food companies have a responsibility to their owners/shareholders to make money.  They do this by offering us products that we want to buy, and by providing sanitary conditions for preparation, serving and dining.  If they are smart and want return business, they give good service, are polite and make it a generally pleasant experience.  We, then, get to choose.

We should not require or expect them to help us with our behavioral issues.  In fact, I think it is dangerous to do so.  No one is holding a gun to our heads insisting that we eat at a particular restaurant.  In fact, no one (yet – although there seem to be no end of do-gooders who want to police our decisions in any number of fields) is threatening us in any way regarding our dietary choices or those of our children.  As soon as we involve other parties in these choices we open a Pandora’s box.  We are admitting that we are not capable of making these relatively simple decisions and are asking for help.  We play the victim.  That is how people get the idea, mentioned in the news only a few weeks ago, of removing children from their parent’s custody if they are morbidly obese, or taxing soda and other junk food.  Where does it end?  When do we get to a point where we say, “Enough!” and by then is it too late?  Is it already too late?

If we don’t help ourselves we will have help “inflicted” upon us.  If McDonalds wants to put fruit in their Happy Meals and thinks that it will attract more customers, that is a good business decision.  If they are doing it to please a pressure group, not as a direct response to their customers, we, their customers, have lost some of our power.  They, like every other business, are supposed to be responding to us, giving us what we want at prices we agree to pay, not offering us what some outside party tells them they should.  It is our responsibility to feed our family properly and also our responsibility to tell the market by how we spend our money, what it is we want and what it is we don’t want.  Every time we let any of these opportunities slip away we are giving up power, and loss of power eventually leads to frustration and worse!

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