AN UNHEALTHY INDUSTRY

As reported, there is currently a campaign to stop the National Health Service being undermined – to the obvious probable detriment of people’s individual health. A large part of the government’s plan is to expand the role of business in the provision of a public service. This is a significant example of capital encroaching on social life…whereas society previously cared for its sick through a collectively funded organisation without any profit motive, the intention is to increase corporate business activity profiting from it.

Although such campaigns may have some effect, the most effective way to oppose capital in the longer term must surely be to change individuals’ consciousness and their social behaviour.

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In the matter of health, what a person eats is of course crucial. It has become a socially-accepted (even desirable) practice to eat in restaurants or to buy ‘take-aways’ fairly regularly – subject to affordability. This is another – even more basic – part of life where an activity (cooking food) was performed in society (the family home) and is now to a greater or lesser extent carried out as a business activity. This rewards capital through the payment of rent for premises, of royalties to the ubiquitous brand-name outlets and of any profit to the establishment owner. And at the same time it often undermines individual physical well-being.

It is here though that – through individual thought and choice – capital can be resisted, personal health improved and demand on the publicly-funded health service reduced.

Restricted Choice

Paying a restaurant or take-away in the UK for a meal is harmful at many levels to the consumer, to those employed in the provision of catering services and to society as a whole. If one looks at what is served in these establishments, the customer has a restricted choice because usually only plated menu items can be ordered and these represent food, ingredients, portion sizes and a combination which would almost never be eaten if the meal were prepared at home. This arrangement contrasts with that, say in China, where dishes (for sharing) are selected from a viewing counter or cabinet with each dish only having one item for consumption – i.e. meat or vegetable or noodle, etc .

thAs a catering business needs to make a profit, it will have a menu comprising items which contain a larger proportion of cheaper ingredients than is usually healthy to eat; these will be carbohydrates in the form of bread, potato, rice, pasta, rice and flour. Although the amount of carbohydrate which can be healthily expended in energy varies from person to person – and depends also on activity – eating an excess of this food category leads to tiredness and weight gain. The costlier food categories – protein (meat, fish, poultry) and green vegetables – are of course more desirable from both a taste and a nutritional perspective…but these are minimised for the sake of profit.

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The habit of consuming carbohydrates in all societies stems from times when more manual labour was required, both at work and at home; diets needed to be high in calorific content because of the energy consumed by the body. In present times in developed countries, labour-saving technology has reduced this energy requirement. However individuals have maybe been slow to adapt as eating habits are initially formed when young, being handed from one generation to the next. And catering industry establishments have done nothing to discourage the carbohydrate habit as their profits are dependent on it.

Cause of tiredness

When carbohydrates are not consumed as energy they are a cause of tiredness. A visit to a restaurant and the consumption of more (say) potato or pasta than you burn as a source of energy will leave you feeling tired and mildly unhappy. What was expected to be an indulgent experience to enhance your day ends up making you feel a bit depressed.

It also seems obvious that the over-consumption of carbohydrate, the relevant weight gain and consequently very large numbers of over-weight people, and their associated medical problems, have an impact on a publicly-funded health service. This is where a sense of individual morality is required…it seems inappropriate that the (albeit unintended) consequence of indulgent behaviour – paying for meals – is effectively subsidised by those who refrain from this unhealthy habit either because of more foresight or less disposable income.

Habits can be changed…what is seen as socially-accepted in one era can be frowned upon in the next – smoking tobacco is an example. If people take back control of exactly what they eat – by refraining from paying for meals – they will improve their vitality and health, save money personally, reduce demand on the NHS, be acting in a socially-responsible manner…and resisting the encroachment of capital into social life.

We are all members of society…we don’t have to accept it as it is…we can all play a part in changing it through our own behaviour.

Martin Russell – September 2017