Warning: Rambling screed approaching.
More mean? Maybe, but only if you can empower and inspire people to make a change. Let me give you a three good examples:
1) Breastfeeding is best. By miles. Still, not everyone really knows about the benefits. So there are intense campaigns around to pressure mothers to breast feed. The consequence is that more mothers breast feed, which is great, but also that mothers who can’t for one reason or another (sometimes medical but usually logistical, a problem disproportionally besetting the poor) feel like they are bad mothers; that they aren’t taking care of their child.
2) EPA has been carping about air quality since the day they were set up. We know it’s unhealthy but we can’t seem to say, “Hey you polluting truck driver/factory owner/energy hog, you’re giving kids asthma!”
3) Smokers. Clearly the spawn of the devil who should be relagated to a life in the lowest social caste.
There has become such a moral component to public health, especially environmental health. If you’re not doing the right thing, you feel like a bad person. In some situations this needs to be softened, especially when people sometimes don’t have a choice (like #1), or where sometimes we go too far (#3). But it’s stuff like #2 that gets me angry. Why shouldn’t we be able to talk about the facts because it makes people feel bad. A little guilt can be healthy. It lets you know when you aren’t living up to your own standards.
But that’s just not acceptable in our current social climate, apparently. Everything has to have a positive spin on it. Can’t be ‘alarmist’. Can’t be a downer. Can’t make people feel bad about themselves. Can’t tell the truth.
This speaks to a wider problem that we have. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve been just about saturated with bad news for the past 7 years or so, so I don’t like reading about all the things we need to do or fix in our world anymore than anyone else. I appreciate the truth, though, and I’d appreciate even more a way to make a difference. There is no sense whistling in the dark when we have real problems to confront. It’s that lack of feeling that we can all get together and do something that is the problem. It’s guilt with no way out. Something that has become more and more evident in the past couple of years is that Americans seem to be looking for a challenge. We know we have many problems (you really don’t need me to list them, do you?), and people are willing to roll up their sleves, sacrifice, and tackle them. But everyone in leadership positions is too afraid to make the call to arms and bring us together as a society. They try to placate us by saying if we just do X or Y (cap and trade carbon, get out of Iraq, repeal NAFTA, create a flat tax, lower taxes…ETC) then things will be alright, nothing for you to do, have a tax rebate. From our President on down we haven’t been asked to do anything, in any area since the fall of communism, other than the implicit request to trust and sit on our collective ass*.
With all due respect to the bard – A leader, a leader! Our kingdom for a real leader!
*Okay, after 9/11 Bush asked us to shop; if that doesn’t sum up the problem, I don’t know what does.