Personal responsibility

I’m going to have a rant about personal reponsibility. Specifically the responsibility parents have for their kids. This was inspired by the Canterbury District Health Board proposal mentioned at Stuff for GST to be cut from fresh fruit and vegetables and a fat tax to be added.

Now, since I am an opportunist vegetarian* I should be jumping for joy because this’d save me money. But it irks me in the same way as the spending of the New Zealand surplus proposed by the two major political parties in New Zealand does (tax breaks and interest free student loans, both a waste of money that could be put towards social services, research, or commercial development). Well, maybe not in exactly the same way, but they both seem misguided.

Our society is obsessed with finding excuses for why our children are fat, unhealthy, and lack respect. Well, I’ve got an idea, but it is kind of crazy… maybe, just maybe, the parents are the ones that are reponsible for how their children develop. That includes what they eat and how they behave – but this actually takes effort on the part of parents and in today’s quick gratificiation culture raising children properly doesn’t seem to factor into this. Just as an example of why I think this – my partner, while working briefly at certain corporation mentioned something one of her work mates said: that they just throw some chicken nuggets and chips in the oven for their kids to eat for dinner. Now, I’m not saying that this is overly bad as a one off occasion, but as a stable diet (as the person implied at the time) without any vegetables** or even any non-processed food is just wrong – and they wonder why children are fat? Let alone the story of the mother who fed Milo to her baby and rotted it’s teeth out.

This whole thing reminds me of the pissy debate about violent video-games being a bad-influence on children, where basically the pro-side of this view says that we should ban violent games yada yada they cause people to shoot everyone at their school yada yada, while the con-side says something like “what about the millions of people that play these games and are perfectly fine examples of human beings?” before going on to say that parents should be the ones controlling what their kids play, watch etc. In other words, Personal repsonsibility god damnit.

I’m sure being a parent is tough – but somehow a large number of people do cope. Our parents coped (although we may disagree on this point) and there was plenty of junk food and bad influences available then (remember Grunge? Or way before that… the devil’s Rock and Roll?). We sold chocolate bars for fundraising, this is almost a culturally ingrained thing for schools – you wouldn’t tell Māori’s to put on t-shirts while performing a Haka because they might get skin cancer. Sure I hated selling chocolate bars as a kid but it was just part of school, don’t remove the chocolate bar fundraising – it isn’t going to stop kids getting fat.

* I don’t have problems eating meat if I have to, but given the choice I’d prefer a vegetarian alternative.
** No, potatoes chopped into chips and dunked in oil are not counted as vegetables, sorry.

Edit: fixed some grammar and mispelt words. I hate my tendency to replace words with those that sound the same.


#1   andrew brown on 07.16.06 at 5:18 pm

I disagree on your point entirely based on the fact that you admit you are a (semi) vegetarian.

But seriously, I agree with you 100%. Personal responsibilty? There is none in this country. That’s why (sweet) drugs will never be legalised as long as people don’t have to be personally responsible with the effects. It’s so gay it makes my head hurt.

#2   Squirk on 07.17.06 at 5:56 am

It’s definitely not just a New Zealand issue.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s at least a modern Western culture issue — maybe even as far as “human nature”.

I think a good deal of people will not do something without a direct, path-of-least-resistance motivation.

Compare how easy it is to say “OK, I’ll buy some stuff you say you like” to preparing “icky green stuff” and then persuading the kids to eat it.

Then make that same comparison in a different historical context (say, Victorian England).

I think we’ve changed too fast for culture remain sustainable.

#3   Joel on 07.17.06 at 10:52 pm

Yeah I agree, it’s a global and most like human nature based thing. Easy fixes and all that.

I guess society does exert pressure on parents, if their kids weren’t at school with other kids that were getting everything they wanted they wouldn’t be able to say “but John Doe’s parents let him eat lard in nicely wrapped packages!”

#4   Jungle Rhino on 07.19.06 at 2:03 am

Hear hear, the words “shut the fuck up and deal with it” should be encouraged as a parental tool.

Kids these days eh..

#5   Alice on 07.23.06 at 1:05 am

It may be parents fault (for whatever reason you may speculate) that kids dont eat well, but its everyones PROBLEM. Kids dont get turned away from hospitals because they’re fat, one ‘bariatric’ pt can cost the tax payer millions (of which I can think of two patients in Christchurch alone). Why shouldnt we make it easier for people to make better choices.

#6   Joel on 07.23.06 at 1:22 am

Or we could empower people with knowledge to make those choices.

I think regulating food advertising during the time that children watch tv plus preventing junk food companies from exploiting the school system should be sufficient.

It retrospect I agree that taxes do make sense to cover the health costs that arise due to obesity.

Still the point about personal/parental responsibility still stands. I’ve chosen, with my partners agreement, to never have a biological child of my own (adoption might happen) since the world is overpopulated as it is.
I think if people make the huge choice to bring another life into this world then they should be prepared for how much work, care, and responsibility that entails.

People often argue that you don’t always plan to have a child – it’s a catch 22. Those parents that don’t intend to have children, but are not responsible enough to prevent it, are the ones that end up with children.

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