I disagree with a lot of your points, but I will first address the points on which I agree with you whole-heartedly.
Yes, absolutely, many many people are obese due to their own choices. I guess the difference between our opinions is that I will defend their right to make those choices, just like I defend my mother’s right to smoke (as long as she doesn’t knowingly cause anyone to inhale her secondhand smoke) and my own right to drink as much as I like (as long as I don’t vomit on anyone’s doorstep or decide to drive a car directly afterwards.) Objectively, these are not good choices, but being free to make choices means being free to make bad ones too.
I also absolutely agree that the government should legislate to discourage bad choices with regard to health. I think one of the best uses of government money is educating people on how to be healthy, both physically and mentally, and making sure the resources needed to achieve those ends are readily and cheaply available. Better access to fresh food, more comprehensive health and nutrition education in schools, cheap and simple cookery classes for people who did not have the luxury of learning to cook growing up, free support groups for smokers who want to quit; all these good things are money well spent. I believe the wide and pervasive dissemination of health information and resources should be a priority for the government. I am pro-health!
I do not believe government can or should be able to force people into using this information and availing of these resources. I also do not believe that this discouraging legislation should extend to life-saving medical care. I do not believe anyone should be denied healthcare, no matter how useless or lazy they are perceived to be, no matter if they should be ashamed of the way they live their life, no matter if they have failed to fulfill a frankly dubious moral obligation.
I say dubious, because your argument sounds a lot like “Eat your vegetables because children in Africa are starving” which I always found fallacious because my vegetable consumption has no tangible effect on qualify of life for children in Africa, much the same way my fitness and health have no tangible effect on quality of life for a person in a wheelchair. It doesn’t matter if I can run a marathon or not, they are still going to be in a wheelchair and feel the same way about being in a wheelchair. Appreciating your own quality of life and acknowledging that you have it astronomically better than most is a good and healthy life attitude, and one I personally subscribe to, but I would not call it a moral obligation.
I think money spent on keeping a human alive is money worth spending. I don’t give a shit if that person is obese. I don’t know that person and I don’t know their contribution to society. For all I know, that person who will need treatment for diabetes for the rest of their life became obese because he works 60 stressful hours a week as a social worker, and doesn’t have the time or energy to exercise or cook proper meals. Keeping that person alive is not a drain. This individual may be a significant source of social good. But then again, when it comes to healthcare, I don’t think his contribution to society is any more relevant than his weight. As I think I outlined fairly comprehensively, “this person is more deserving of healthcare than that person” is a slippery slope and there are no easy lines to be drawn. So, until someone comes up with an entirely fair and infallible system of deciding who should and shouldn’t be treated, how much treatment they should receive and for how long, how much they should pay, based on a huge web of conflicting circumstances that differs for every individual, I’m just going to stick to the idea that everyone is entitled to decent healthcare.
I am also not arguing that anorexia is to thin what obesity is to fat. Although, in retrospect, it was not a well-constructed point. Anorexia is a sensitive issue that does not deserve a place in a tongue-in-cheek list of people who deserve to be excluded from medical care, so for that I am sorry. I was more trying to highlight a gap in general perception which looks something like this:
- Anorexic person - victim of tragic medical condition, needs rehab, extensive therapy, close supervision by medical professionals, etc.
- Obese person - lazy, stupid, lacks willpower, needs to get off their ass and go for a run.
There is a lack of nuance in our treatment of obesity and eating disorders that make you fat, compared with a very well thought-out and sensitive approach to eating disorders that make you thin. Binge eating disorder is a recognised mental condition and the most common eating disorder in the US, and yet people who suffer from it are not treated with the same kid gloves reserved for anorexia and bulimia. All eating disorders are serious and all mental conditions should be treated with equal gravity and care. Obesity is also an extremely common symptom of depression, but the symptom usually ends up overshadowing the root cause because people are obsessed with attacking obesity, rather than the myriad of causes behind obesity.
And those are my feelings. However, if you honestly do think that fat people should be ashamed of themselves for being fat for “reasons with in their control”, then we are never going to see eye-to-eye to this. Quotes because I don’t exactly know what you mean by this; if a fat person tries and repeatedly fails to lose weight, I would say that their weight is beyond their control, because they have demonstrably failed to control it. But I assume you mean they should be ashamed unless they have a medical condition that causes obesity? Or do you factor in socio-economic reasons as well, lack of education, lack of access to good quality foods, children raised in environments where there is no emphasis on health or exercise and will grow up to raise their own children the same way?
In any case, I will never advocate for shame as a motivating factor for positive change.
Firstly, theres a couple of things I think you picked up wrong: At no point did I say the government should be forcing people to do anything, nor did I say we should dole out healthcare to the most deserving, I said I should not have to pretend I think its ok for someone to chose to smoke, drink, or eat themselves into an early grave because I don’t want them to feel ashamed. If you make any effort to stop, look for help, make some positive change in your life then you should be commended, but equally I’m not going to condone the actions of people who just don’t want to change because I don’t want them to feel bad.
As for putting money into education and treatment, I totally agree with you 100%, but where do you think the money for that comes from? There is a finite pot of funding available and right now a huge proportion of it is going into treating people who are suffering from health issue which has arisen out of their lifestyle choices. Again, I’m not saying this shouldn’t happen, of course you treat someone regardless of why they have arrived at this point, but that doesn’t mean that the behaviour that them to this point is ok.
Fundamentally I can’t get my head around how you draw the boundaries of what is acceptable. To me it just reads like you have a right to do whatever you want so long as their isn’t an immediacy to the damage your doing to someone else.
I mean, sure you may not vomit on my doorstep, but if you chose (I’m assuming you haven’t developed any dependency issues while in London) to get plastered 5 nights a week you increase the risk of needing health services and thus take money that could have funded treatment centres, detox beds, education campaigns, disability allowance, special needs assistants and countless other things that people like the metaphorical you are take money away from.