Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Big Brother is watching (your breasts)

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There oughta be a law.

Supermodel Giselle Bundchen thinks we need a world government to ensure — wait for it — that all mothers breast feed their babies.

She says:
'I think breastfeeding really helped. Some people here think they don't have to breastfeed, and I think, "Are you going to give chemical food to your child, when they are so little?"

'There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.'
All right, lads, take it easy. We know you volunteer as her inspector to enforce the edict.

I have absolutely no opinion on the subject of breast feeding, but I do on health policing. Look at the article in the Daily Mail (I will not write "keeping abreast of the news" — uh-oh, I just did) from which the quote is taken. The tone is snide, but only because she is perceived as "smug." And it's rounded out with quotes from other "celebrity mothers," who dissent, but only in practical terms. The letters from readers, at least those I could bear to read before utter boredom set in, are much the same.

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Maybe Ms. Bundchen didn't mean her "worldwide law" comment literally, and it was just a figure of speech. But figures of speech tell a lot about the social environment they arise in. I don't know what country she calls home (as a jet setter, probably she has multiple domiciles), but her habit of mind fits like a key in the statist mentality that has reached its apotheosis in the European Union and the Failed Messiah's dreams for America.

In 50 years, we've gone from public health measures to eradicate terrible diseases like malaria and polio — reasonable exercises of state power — to proposed laws about how much salt a restaurant can put in a dish. Every health issue, like obesity, is described as an "epidemic" and the vast forces of government are mustered to overcome it.

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The situation goes beyond health. It's about government power over the individual (always described as being for the individual's own good, of course). When every health problem is conceived as a field for state intervention, the fallout includes two bad consequences — not even considering cost, which the state can only obtain through direct and indirect taxes.

First, health bureaucracies are like other bureaucracies. They are ruled by groupthink and internal politics. They promote orthodoxies, such as that cholesterol causes heart disease, which may cause more harm than good.

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Second, and in the long run worse, turning every health issue into a problem that requires government solutions undercuts one of the individual's most potent resources: himself. Instead of encouraging the capacity to make wise life choices while developing personal responsibility, health policing delivers the message: don't try to figure it out yourself. You aren't smart enough. We'll let you know how many calories per week or alcohol units per day you should consume. The Breast Feeding Council has just published the third, revised edition of its report, When Breast Is Best. Do not attempt to breast feed before reading and following the guidelines.

Certainly, people should get the best medical advice and treatment they can, but at the same time they need to take the initiative, learning about how the spirit-brain-body system functions and what causes it to go haywire. They particularly should teach themselves all they can about any ailments they suffer from. That includes getting a feel for disagreements among health professionals about prevention and treatment — yes, researchers and doctors in opposing camps can go at each other like over-caffeinated wildcats!

No state, much less a "worldwide" one, has the last word on health and well-being.

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3 comments:

David said...

Well, some cultures and people have different but creative ideas on the applications of breastfeeding...

Sandy said...

Well, there are reasons some women becomes models instead of rocket scientists. While being pretty doesn't preclude someone from being intelligent or making informed statements, it isn't a requirement either.

Anonymous said...

Despite these various "health crises," Westerners are living longer and longer. The NYT printed a report a while back that estimated that half of all American babies born in 2000 would live to see their 100th birthday.

These "health crises" are just governmental power graps, just as you pointed out. The data on ever-increasing longevity in developed nations tell a different story.