Friday, March 9, 2007

The problem with the world

I don't feel like writing about nutrition today. I may return to the subject, but today I'm going to tackle all of the world's problems.

Vertigo had a good post on fitness centres and it got me thinking. Of course he is right, gyms are silly and unnecessary. We can get all of the exercise we need in everyday activity. In my opinion, most of the hype about weight training is a marketing to make people think that they need to spend money to get a workout (buy weights, membership, etc.). If people knew that all they really needed was walking, running or cycling along with a little heavy lifting around the house, an entire industry would fade into oblivion.

The problem is that people don't do it. As a researcher, I frequently ask people to do things, make dietary changes, exercise, whatever. People are recruited to do these things and they say that they're interested and that they'll do it. Then they don't. Many people aren't good to their words. Not only is it annoying as a researcher, but it says bad things about the integrity of our society when lots of people aren't honest.

We watched a video in one of my classes the other day about poverty and giving loans to people who have no credit and no way of establishing credit (Think third world countries). For years banks have refused to loan to these people because they didn't have anything to put as collateral. If the people didn't pay back the borrowed money, the bank just lost the money. There was no repossessing of a car or house or shoes, these people were too poor to have these luxuries. Finally someone loaned the extremely poor some money and come to find out their payback rate is over 95% (that's better than most banks get). So people with absolutely nothing are better at keeping their word than volunteers in the most affluent nation in the world. I think the US is backwards and would benefit greatly from third world countries. Honesty and integrity is of far greater value than any amount of wealth a person can attain.

In high school I read a book by Joseph Conrad called "The Heart of Darkness". It was about early European "exploration" in Africa. The Europeans went up a really big river (sorry, high school was over 10 years ago, some of the details have faded) until they ran across the "savages". These tribes of savages lived off the land and battled with other tribes in the area. They would often place heads of their opponents on stakes to demonstrate their power. The Europeans traveled up this river and just had to defend themselves from these savages (who had really been doing alright without the help of European explorers). So the Europeans slaughtered some of them in order to (pre-emptively) protect their lives. Boy, those Africans were sure savages...

I think as members of industrialized nations we are just as savage as those Europeans as we support (by buying) the exploitation of developing nations. It's unfortunate that industrialized nations blind the consumer to what we are supporting. We just go in and give someone money for something, the cheaper the better, right? In order to demonstrate integrity and honesty, lets not take advantage of those in other countries who are battling poverty. If you believe, take a stand.

My thoughts may have drifted during that post. I have a couple more nutrition posts on the way, and a couple of other topics I've been thinking of.


Emily said...

What are the specific instances of exploitation you are talking about? I would love to support your ideology, but I am left wondering where this is occuring and what products to avoid. I understand almost everything is made in China these days, but if I am going to take a stand against China, my gov't better wake up to the fact that they are communists and don't allow people to worship how they want and live a life of freedom. That is what sickens me. We support a whole country of tyrants just so we can get cheap goods. We fought in two world wars to end tyranical reign in other parts of the world, we invaded Iraq to "free" the people, and yet we trade openly with China because they are a new world power and co-leader of our growth and industry. They are communists...they rule through intimidation and coercive power. What gives America?

Norm said...

Ok, so I'm not really seeing a problem cited, other than the people you use for research don't do what they say they will. While annoying for your research I don't see it as The Problem With the World. Or is it that people love money too much as alluded to in the next paragraph? Or the next paragraph's suggestion that it's white man's quest for domination? Or buying products from China? To think the Western World is the side exploting here is, I believe, inaccurate. You have an economy in the East generating 2 cent spatulas and bringing in 50 cents for it. Who's ultimately being exploited there?

Sorry, but I see this post as a non-linear rant with no real meat to it. Your other posts have been good but I find this one lacking.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sans,

If you'll allow me a related rant to yours, I think part of the problem is not just a lack of honesty and integrity in general in the Western world, but that we expect a lack of honesty and integrity. A little while ago, my husband and I ran into financial problems from a lack of steady work for years, and we ended up running up some debt trying to pay all our bills. Because we couldn't pay, the debts went to collections agencies. What really annoyed me is that from the very first call, the collection agencies treated us like we were some lowlife scum who had hordes of money tucked away in an offshore account, and we weren't paying our bills simply because we were greedy bastards who just didn't feel like paying them, not like people who honestly had empty bank accounts, and didn't know how we were even going to pay for rent and food.

Truthfully, if those agents had approached us as if we were being honest, and simply asked us how much we could pay and when, rather than demanding payment and assuming we were always lying, we probably would have found a way to give them something, at least. But because they were so incredibly obnoxious to us, it was extremely difficult not to be obnoxious back, and thus perpetuate the cycle.

The problem is that if everyone is assumed to be honest, there is a small but significant minority who will take advantage. If everyone is assumed to be lying, noone has reason to tell the truth, because they won't be believed anyway.

What is the solution?