Trans-fats, high-fructose corn syrup, red meat, caffeine and sugar are the usual suspects repeatedly indicted for crimes related to America’s obesity problem. And as you’ve no doubt seen over the past few months, Coca-Cola has been added to the list.
How did Coca-Cola become the latest co-conspirator against America’s health?
In case you missed it, Mayor Bloomberg has launched a crusade against Coca-Cola and other non-alcoholic beverages. Specifically, the Mayor wants to ban the sale of sodas in excess of 16 ounces, aiming at the connection between the consumption of large amounts of sugar and excessive weight gain in both children and adults.
Mr. Mayor, may I buy you a Coke and share a few thoughts on the matter?
Here’s the problem. If you’re the Mayor of a large city and you need to pass laws in order to get your adult constituents to consume soft drinks responsibly, or to provide proper nourishment for their children, you’ve got far bigger problems to address than the size of their soda cups. Far bigger.
Vilifying Coca-Cola, or any other food or beverage, is THE ABSOLUTE WRONG APPROACH to solving America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics. And minimizing the importance of personal responsibility in the process serves only to deepen the behavioral sinkhole from which we must emerge.
Henry J. Evans once said “A culture of accountability makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable.” Just the opposite is true as well. A culture of dependency makes a strong organization weak, and a weak organization helpless. The idea that any law, passed by any legislative body, can somehow pose for the personal responsibility of those it seeks to govern is delusional.
Coca-Cola is not the first scapegoat for America’s nutritional dysfunction.
In 2003, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet tossed out a frivolous class-action lawsuit that blamed McDonald’s food for the obesity of its younger patrons. In his decision Judge Sweet ruled, “If a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of super-sized McDonald’s products is unhealthy and may result in weight gain, it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses.”
Such is the case regarding soft drinks, but apparently Mayor Bloomberg and his supporters disagree.
In all due respect to the Mayor and whomever might be providing…er….guidance on this issue, this is a classic case of what former President George W. Bush referred to as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Hardly veiled within such legislative bungling is the message that you can’t make decisions for yourself, so we are going to make them for you.
Whether from heartfelt compassion or a darker pursuit of political gain, it is an exquisite ruse. It offers the false comfort that the consequences of one’s decisions are the fault of others, while positioning such protections as the benevolence of the wise.
History has shown that the soft bigotry of low expectations aids no one. It in fact smothers the inherently human instincts of curiosity and learning. As former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a recent opinion piece, “Ultimately, our success depends on mobilizing human potential, something the US has done better than any country in history. Ours has been a story of possibility, not grievance and entitlement.”
I’ll have a Coke please. Can I buy you one?