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Thursday, June 18, 2009
"We're the first society in which a symptom of poverty is obesity." - Mark Steyn


Dave Hodges said...

Darius, this paradox has to do the nature of food, not necessarily the nature of poverty. Steyn's quote is a gem, to be sure, but those in poverty cannot typically afford quality food (if they were to buy it, they might buy less of it and be leaner). Poor people tend to subsist on chemical-laden foods filled with toxins and grain by-products. As a result, regardless of whether they eat moderately or eat excessively, obesity will occur. It's not merely a question of calories any more. The advent of processed food has changed all of that. So Steyn's quote is more of an observation about the quality and nature of modern foods - not necessarily the sociological commentary he may have intended.

But it's still a great quote.

Darius said...

True, but the question that has to be answered is what comes first, economic poverty or cultural impoverishment? Authors like Theodore Dalrymple make an excellent case for the view that one is (usually) first lacking in socially healthy attributes before he is lacking material wealth. In other words, economic poverty doesn't cause the rampant fatherlessness in the underclass; missing and irresponsible fathers cause poverty.

So, as Dalrymple has pointed out from his extensive experience with the underclass (he was a prison slum doctor in Britain), a "poor" family eats poorly not because they can only afford junk food but because they never eat meals together as a family since the father is usually missing and the mother too self-centered or busy with work to care for her children. This vicious cycle inculcates future generations with a tradition of eating microwavable dinners in front of the TV or scraping by on pop and candy.

This is an important distinction to make, since if you don't make it, you will tend to believe that all people need is to be rich and they'll get their act together.

Dave Hodges said...

Very good points. I see much better what Steyn's quote failed to capture.

Darius said...

I think Steyn's point (here's the context of that quote: is that even the "poor" Americans are quite well-off. As Dalrymple has mentioned a few times, the richest kings in history could only dream of that which even the poor take for granted.

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The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

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