CultureWizard Blog

A Culture of Oblivion

Posted by Adam on Mar 22, 2013 5:38:07 AM

“State With Highest Obesity Rate Passes Bill to Ban Bloomberg-Like Food Regulation.” Now there’s a headline that got my attention.

For those of you whom might not be aware, New York City is in the midst of a brouhaha over Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent efforts to ban eateries from serving sodas over 16 ounces. Bloomberg’s reasoning is that sugary sodas have a direct correlation to America’s skyrocketing obesity rates -- a serious problem that is now a major public health concern, costing the US billions in healthcare and lost worker productivity.

The price tag for diabetes related illness in the USA for 2012 was $245 billion.

Mayor Bloomberg, a somewhat independent, pro-business republican (net worth estimated at $27 billion), saw the obesity problem as a clear threat to his city’s well-being and productivity, and did what any CEO might do: sought to limit damage and keep a big problem from becoming a disaster. However, something else happened in the process. Bloomberg’s actions cut against core American cultural values of independence and self determination, and a significant backlash erupted. So much so that the legislature of Mississippi, the state with the highest obesity rates in the world, sought to ensure that no Bloomberg-like law will ever take place there.

I happened to be in Italy in 1996 when the seat belt law took effect, and I recall fondly waking up the next morning in Florence to find the streets flooded with vendors selling white tee-shirts with a black seat belt stripe cutting across them. Reckless driving is, after all, a virtual birthright to Italians, but this recent action by the Mississippi legislature struck me as a particularly lamentable expression of a land’s cultural traits working against the best interests of its people.

At what point is it necessary for government to get involved in such choices when a country seems to be eating and drinking itself into oblivion?

I’m curious. How do our non-US readers feel about this subject? If you lived in a place where 31% of the adult population was obese, 67% was overweight, as were 20% of children, would you be open to government intervention on the matter or would you prefer government to stay off your menu?


RW3 CultureWizard is a leading provider of cross cultural training and information, primarily through the CultureWizard and intercultural learning platforms.

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