Saturday, February 19, 2005

Fast Food Physics

"Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun"

Can you say it without reading it? Me too.

It was a part of my culture while I was growing up. I know it better than I know the lords prayer. Sometimes when I look at a crucifix, I actually see Ronald McDonald in my mind superimposed over the image of Christ. That’s what Ronald means to me. Sigh.

And apparently he means just as much to a lot of other people too.

Has anyone seen the movie “Super size me” – a documentary by Morgan Spurlock? Yeah, me too. I rented it a few months ago. Scary stuff. While I was watching Spurlock get fatter and fatter, I found that my mind was racing along a politically incorrect side road. And I got to thinking: “How is it that we have gone from gathering around the dinner table every night talking and eating a nutritious meal, to gulping down sodium filled fatty junk food in a car?”

Well, I think I have the answer.

Have you noticed that the first scene in this movie is about Spurlock’s mother. He was a lucky boy. Apparently his mother, like mine, like many mothers years ago, actually cooked a wholesome meal every night for their families.

This simple fact could have been the central theme of the movie. His mother fed him and his dad stuff that she cooked every night and they stayed healthy. The movie could have ended there. No McDonalds, no fast food epidemic. Spurlock, however, being significantly wiser than me (and needing to fill up about 70 more minutes of movie time) chooses to ignore this fact. And from that point forward in his film he focuses on the symptom rather than the cause.

He may blame McDonalds and other fast food outlets for causing today’s obesity epidemic, but in his heart, he knows the real cause. Think about it. Don’t say it out loud though because you will be vilified and ridiculed as a sexist misogynistic knuckle dragging Neanderthal.

Here it is - The health of our entire society depends on mothers staying at home to nurture and care for their families.

Oh, oh. I’m definitely in deep trouble now. Such utterances are simply not permitted here in Canada.

Ok. Seriously though. This is a tough subject to deal with. Pity me for having this sorry neurological disorder that forces me to write about things that piss people off and challenge our politically correct preconceptions. Anyway, lets see if I can get through this with my skin intact.

First off, let me say that I work for and with women. Some are a lot smarter than me. And that’s cool with me. I can understand how it could be perceived as a waste of their intellect for them to be stay at home moms as opposed to challenging themselves in the workplace. It's also true that, in this day and age, some households need two incomes. If I was a mother, I would likely work outside the home too. So, please recognize that this is not about laying blame. This is about telling the truth and recognizing that often, when someone gains, another person loses. Or to put it another way, everything comes with a cost.

Now, clearly, there wasn’t some insidious plan by career mothers to turn everyone in society into junk food scarfing blobs. It didn’t happen on purpose. Clearly, it was just an unforeseen, inadvertent result of mothers abandoning their traditional stay at home roles.

But, inadvertent or not, the connection is impossible to ignore. Here’s the sequence of events for the history books:

1. Mothers left the home to work
2. No one was home to cook good wholesome meals every night.
3. Families found themselves with a shed load of dispensable cash as the result of mommy’s income.
4. With capitalism being both the ultimate provider and parasite, fast food outlets immediately sprang up on every corner to fill this urgent social need.
5. Kids got fat. Dads got fat. Moms got fat. (Ronald bought a castle in Scotland and a Bowflex. He never ate at McDonalds anyway. It was all just for show.)

It's simple physics really. With every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. All you physicists who are mothers can think about that little euphemism while you head out to tend to your fusion reactors. Too bad your kid's an inert, blob, eh?

OK, that was uncalled for. So, to protect myself from assassination, I better mention that this is not just a mom issue. It's also a dad issue. After all, dads could pick up the slack and stay at home with the kids. Some do. And the few who do are surely an advanced breed who have taken the next step in the evolutionary process. However they are few and far between.

The reality is that there are certain pesky social realities and genetic predispositions that prevent this sensible solution from becoming reality. For one thing, men don't appear particularly eager to stay at home with the kids, with no income whatsoever, living off their wives. And while most men want a woman who contributes financially to the household, they don't seem to want a women who makes more than they do and who wants them to stay home with the kids. As for women, they don't seem too anxious to marry a man who makes less than they do and most would likely be less than thrilled if their husbands decided to stay at home with the kids, supported totally by them.

There's also the pesky issue of chromosomes. You know, our little buddies X and Y. Y has no innate maternal instincts. X has ooodles. This makes a big difference too, despite the dunderheads who try and convince us that X and Y are the same. Equal? Maybe. The same? Not on your life.

So I guess we're stuck. Societal obesity and fast food abuse is not going away. The die is cast. Women are working. Men are not about to start staying at home in any great numbers. And to boot, society has already adjusted itself economically to encourage two income households. So, we'd better just get used to it.

But, take heart, I have an idea. you simply need to start buying shares in McDonalds, Burger King, Taco bell and all the other fast food conglomerates. Their profits are sure to increase as Canadians become more and more unable to find the time to prepare their own meals. And as their profits increase, so will your investments. That way, when you and your children get heart disease or diabetes you will have enough money to seek fast treatment in the U.S. rather than wait months in line for treatment in Canada's disintegrating health system.

Or, you could just keep buying lots of stuff with all the extra income you earn as a dual-income family. That way, you'll have lots of belongings to sell if you ever have to raise money to go stateside for health care.

Either way, at least you'll be doing something to prepare for your inevitable health problems. And that's better than just standing there in the headlights waiting for the McTrain to hit you.