So opined Bill Hicks, the legendary US comedian. A talented guy with humorously cynical views on consumerism/religion/materialism and anything in between. You can hear more of Bill’s schtick at the end of this post. For all of his anti-consumerism rants, he was often sucking on a product propelled by the intense marketing efforts of the tobacco giants. Speaking of suckers, Al Gore recently purchased a 9 million dollar home with 6 fireplaces, 9 wash rooms, huge swimming pool etc. Al probably did not factor in the ‘inconvenient truth’ of the carbon footprint of that 6500 sq ft home. We could probably run a village on the daily carbon offset budget for his 9-wash room flushes. Regardless, it does look like either Al or some of us got easily taken in. I digress.

A few decades ago newscasters would appear on the evening news, puffing nonchalantly on their favourite tobacco stick. That golden era of the tobacco establishment is a far cry from present times. In the future, it is likely that soda, cookie and other such products will face the same stigma that is now attached to cigarettes. Enough evidence tells us that our daily dietary sugar requirements are more than adequately met by regular meals.  So, in our home, we have practically banned white bread, cookies etc. However, we did allow for the logic that ‘once in a while’ it is okay to indulge in what those cute (animated or otherwise) characters or television are hawking. Well, we don’t watch television (cut cable about 5 yrs ago…we just could not make the time for it) in our home but one just has to walk down a supermarket aisle to be presented with the choice of at least 50 different varieties of cookies and sugar coated cereal. Is it just me or are 50 varieties of cookies like having 50 choices of cigarette brands? 50 ways to enhance susceptibility to diabetes and similar health issues. What’s scary is that we consider this ‘normal’ and acceptable.

 

Its not like I insist on hand drawn unpasteurised goat milk for the family. I’d rather leave the touching of private parts of an animal in the wee hours of the morn, to the professionals. I also admit that I like my occasional cheese burgers (failed vegan, I am) and pizza. However, the ‘once in a while’ justification does not hold up to even the mildest sincere scrutiny. My wife and I decided, in spite of the million dollars worth of cutesy advertising thrown our way, no more trips to the cookie aisle for our family (much the same treatment we reserve for soda).

Our family is probably an anomaly in a society where the average person consumes 2 soft-drinks a day. No wonder then that obesity and related diseases are now a major health concern in North America and perhaps soon, in many other places. For many of us, our fingers do the pertinent ‘physical activity’ of the day, be it on the keyboard, remote, video game or the blackberry/iphone. Maybe then, unlike our early ancestors, we do not need to consume calories as if we are building up for the next major Mammoth hunt before a perilous winter sets in. Even after cutting out the unwanted sugar, we should do well on smaller portions for the family (kids too…if they are spending more time on the computer/TV/video game, its likely that they don’t need the calories either). Heck, I probably get more calories from the sugar in my daily coffee intake compared to what the early humans did in a particularly successful Mammoth hunting season.

In spite of the tobacco muse, Bill Hicks is fun to watch. There’s one act in which he compares Yul Bryner’s (flamboyant Hollywood actor of yesteryear’s) smoking, drinking, promiscuous lifestyle with that of Jim Fixx’s (credited with helping start America’s fitness revolution) disciplined running/jogging habits. Hicks points out that both are dead but one of them enjoyed his life more than the other…in the same vein as his ‘Non-Smokers Die everyday’ message. Hicks can probably be forgiven for equating risky behaviour with enjoying life. Billions of dollars worth of endorsement deals and glamorous product positioning efforts do their best to make it seem that way. After all, our celebrity idols (including our favourite athletes) are often seen washing down their juicy burger and succulent fries with sugary soft-drinks. When products are portrayed in such appealing and benign manner, it sure works! Even on the most cynical satirists. Just like it did for tobacco.

As for Bill Hicks, there’s a movie (in pre-production) about his life, to star Russell Crowe. Hicks died at the age of 32 of pancreatic cancer. Three out of every 10 cases of pancreatic cancer are found to be linked to smoking.

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