Friday, July 3, 2015
And Yet Another Crisis (or two)
This is a continuation of the themes from last time: behavior has consequences (of course) and failures in the area of discipline often lead to failures in responsibility, such as finding scapegoats, making excuses or getting someone else to fix the problem. Last time we saw how a watchdog group blames soft drinks for obesity, experts blame technology and addiction for insufficient sleep, and pretty much the same underlying causes are used to explain distracted driving.
The experts and the watchdog groups have a stake in and benefit from making victims of people, but so many others, especially the people with the problem themselves, are very quick to take up the cause. Ultimately when we put the responsibility on others – government, scientists, big business, our employers – we are forced to live with their proposed solutions. We surrender our freedom for the convenience of not having to deal with it, but so many of those solutions have unintended consequences and even those who have acted responsibly have these new forms of protection forced upon them. How many more examples do we need before we smarten up and see the danger?
Two more came to our attention during the same timeframe. CBS News reported on both: backseat auto safety and deceptive, seductive food labels.
Experts (more experts!) look at the failure to use seat belts by backseat passengers as a potentially “deadly and mind-boggling mistake” and believe that “if states have stricter seatbelt laws, the number of deaths could drop by 17 percent.” “Department of Transportation data show 22 percent of backseat passengers do not buckle up,” but much higher in taxicabs – 38 percent in New York City. Riding in the back seat can be just as dangerous as riding in the front seat. Buckling a seatbelt is not difficult. The seatbelts are right there. This is not rocket science by any means, but our normal behavior moves experts and the government to call for stricter laws!
The second example explains that using the word “fitness” on a food label “may actually cause you to eat more and exercise less.” Researchers set up an experiment where half the subjects were given trail mix and the other half were given the same trail mix labeled “fitness trail mix.” The second group ate more and, when given the opportunity to workout on a stationary bike afterward, burned fewer calories, that is, didn’t exercise as much.
The doctor makes reference to the “health halo” (what I have called on many occasions, trigger words.* Labeling that implies health or fitness gives a false sense of security. She goes on to warn: “Just because it says gluten-free or organic or sugar-free or healthy doesn’t mean” it is good for you. One conclusion she came to was to “never…underestimate the power of marketing.” But isn’t that just another way of saying never underestimate the inability of Americans to ignore attempts to influence them into doing something that they know is bad for them?
As I said last time, this is really, really scary. Many Americans are letting the government, marketing machines, politicians, advocacy groups, and celebrities do their thinking for them. They are just along for the ride, going wherever they are led, eating whatever they are told they should eat, buying and wearing clothing considered cool, self-medicating with herbal remedies and miracle cures, and demonstrating for or against whatever they are told they should favor or oppose. When problems crop up in their lives, problems that are usually brought on by their own choices, instead of changing behavior and making better choices, they sit back like victims of circumstance, expecting the same groups to provide excuses (to help them maintain their self-esteem) and come up with laws, programs, restrictions and consumer protection to make things better. Those solutions are working so well that America is getting, to quote the Reader’s Digest from last time, “fat, sick and stupid”!
*For more on "trigger words," see any of the following: