We're fat!

That's what a new OECD report tells us in very stark terms

The Health Care Data 2009 report says that we are the third fattest country in the developed world. Only the United States (the World HQ of Fatties) and Mexico are fattest. I don't think the corporate media will be going nuts over this particular 'achievement'.

While the All Blacks may never be able to win the Rugby World Cup we'd be one of the favourites for the Fatty World Cup - especially since the report says that we getting even bigger.

Chef Gordon Ramsay might make television shows called The F Word but for us folk sitting on our couches, its all about 'The O Word' - Obesity.

The executive director of the Obesity Action Coalition, Leigh Sturgiss, had this to say yesterday.

"We're eating far too much of the wrong food. It's accessible, it's cheap, we see it advertised on TV, we're busy, sometimes the choice isn't there. There are parents trying to operate on reduced incomes because they've lost jobs or sometimes these parents are working two jobs each and are unable to monitor what their kids are eating during the day.

And we are going to make even more of the 'wrong food' even more accessible with McDonald's set to open thirty new outlets in the next five years. Clearly Ronald McDonald thinks he's on to a good thing here in New Zealand.

What's more the Government is going to use the new outlets to try and 'mop up' some of the burgeoning unemployed. It won't work given that McDonald's has a high staff turnover anyway, but it does show that the fast food corporate has become a integral part of the New Zealand economy, a important provider of low paid jobs.

The colonisation of New Zealand by McDonald's tells us much about the state of our country.

One of the fundamental changes in the McDonald's operations is that they are open more often and for longer - in some cases they are 24/7 operations.

In the United States nearly fifty percent of McDonald's never close. We're not at this stage here, and are unlikely to ever be, but McDonald's opening hours have expanded considerably.

This is to tap into an economy where people are working longer hours just to make ends meet.

These days McDonald's devotes a significant share of its massive advertising budget to promoting it breakfast menu. This is revealing indication of a country that used to be called 'Godzone' but where people are now working longer and harder.

So it’s not just that more and more Kiwi workers don’t have time to eat at home, many have to eat while travelling to and from or during their work. Or between first and second part-time jobs. And parents, preoccupied with the demands of work, simply don't have the time to prepare meals for their children.

I don't imagine many parents will say this is a acceptable situation but when the boss is on you're back..well, what choice do you really have?

And it's not just McDonald's. Competitors like Burger King and KFC are also churning out the fast food.

Up against such powerful economic - and political forces - such things as public awareness campaigns and banning fast food television advertising is always going to have a marginal impact. Of course the National Government has made the situation even worse by cutting funding to several anti-obesity campaigns, including Labour's curbing of fatty foods in school tuckshops. These cuts have largely been driven by the deep 'recession' New Zealand has sunk into.

You don't have to be a socialist (but it helps) to know that capitalism seeks to increase its profits by expanding the hours of work, to expanding the hours that workers are available to extract surplus value from.

While the neoliberal politicians in the parliamentary parties talk about the 'innovation' and 'creativity' of 'the market' for workers it just means working longer hours and not having much to show for it. It means less time to spend with family and friends. It means less time to cook meals. It means less time to pursue interests.

In his work the Grundrisse (1858) Karl Marx wrote: 'The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labour time, but rather disposable time'.

To be really rich means being rich in disposable time. Few of us can say that we have a lot of free time to dispose of.


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