05-22-08 7:34  •  The Bad Kids

Ava: Liberals just want to divide us into groups - men & women, blacks and whites, homosexuals and normals. To a conservative, we're all just Americans.

Schools are crap because people don't raise their children to be decent human beings. If teachers weren't being told to go F themselves and being assaulted they would be able to teach just fine. That is why private schools with vouchers would work much better. If your kid acts up then out the door they go. They can go to the "bad kids" school, or perhaps department of family services should get involved.

I'm preaching to take care of others.

You are preaching taking care of some others.

Draining the money away from the public school system to funnel it into vouchers is not helping the ones you call "the bad kids," and they are the ones who need help the most.

Ava: If the bad kids are unable to control themselves in school we should just allow them to disrupt every-one's chance at learning? Like I said if these kids are causing that much of a disturbance perhaps someone should be looking at their home life, The last case scenario is that the children would then be sent to a state school, it should be similar to a juvenile detention facility.

So, to a conservative we are not all just Americans. At least not the kids. To a conservative they are divided into the "bad kids" and the real kids.

The "bad kids" must be segregated, sent to bad schools and then - prison.

The "real kids" get everything else.

I'm sorry your view is so divisive. To me, they are all just kids.

Ava: Some of them need more guidance then others, they should not be allowed to hold other children back.

I believe that kids can be helped but not merely from providing their basic needs, I guess you are content to make them "out of sight out of mind."

Segregating them into bad schools and then to prison is "out of sight, out of mind."

Ava: So, as long as they have a roof over their head, food in their tummies, and free medical care they should just turn out to be decent adults?

It would be a start. How do you expect them to be decent adults without that?

Ava: Whatever Fairytale lady!!!! LOL

Of course that was not good enough. Later:

Ava: You fail to realize the utopia you speak of already exists. It is called an American Ghetto, and everyone there is fighting to get out!!!!!

If everyone is fighting to get out, it's nothing like what I am speaking of.

Ava: It's proof positive socialism does NOT work.

American failures are not a failure of socialism. America does not practice socialism.

05-21-08 3:34  •  $19 Million Temple

I have been following this thread and I have gone back and forth in my thinking about it. When I read Mickey's article, my first reaction was complete agreement - of course, this 19M$ temple is a monstrosity which should never have been built.

But I got to thinking about Cornelius' position, and his referring to "art on a grand scale." I started to think that there is something wonderful about grandiose endeavors of uplifting beauty. And, throughout history, of all human attempts to surpass ourselves and overcome our limitations, grand architecture is one of the most enduring and meaningful.

Yet, Mickey's original point is that the money could be better spent on helping those in need, which I still agree with. So here's my current position:

I think that humans should strive to create beautiful, ornate and elaborate architecture, for many public purposes, including worship. But I think it should be done with the excess left over *after* basic human needs have been met. This is far from impossible. Real human material needs are pretty few. It would take a fraction of the world's wealth to ensure that everyone had decent food, shelter, education and healthcare.

The only reason we don't have this now is because of an unfortunate ideology that dominates our culture: the idea that no poor person is entitled to even the tiniest scrap that they did not earn for themselves - even when earning is impossible; and yet each rich person is entitled to every penny that they manage to finagle for themselves - even if it amasses far beyond any reason and is used only to accumulate power at the expense of the powerless.

It would only take a slight tilt in our current thinking to turn this around. It's not complex. My Sweety summed it up for me very well when he described how his family shares their Thanksgiving meal - "Everyone gets firsts before anyone gets seconds."

I think that once the simplest needs are met, *then* humans can amass wealth and create grand visions to our hearts content. Can you imagine what the world's cities would be like if a) there was no abject poverty, b) we had a healthy, educated populace bringing all of our skills and potential to bear, and c) our goal was to make magnificent temples of dazzling beauty for every public purpose? Our cities would be gleaming crystal citadels of science fiction proportions, a testament to human ingenuity for all to enjoy. Only then would I start to think that humans, as a species, truly possess intelligence.

05-20-08 2:34  •  God and Gemology

Schirin: Swarm asked, "How do I know it's God?"

Well, if I had studied gemology and showed you gold, and you had never seen gold, your question as to whether I held gold in my hand and doubt would seem foolish to me. In the same way, because I have studied God's Word and know Him, your question as to whether it is He that I know seems foolish to me.

A metallurgist (to be precise), at least a nice one, would simply explain the properties of gold and allow you to examine the sample in his hand to see if it fit the criteria. He would not require that anything be accepted on faith. He could explain everything about what makes gold unique and then let you make your own determination.

Only an asshole metallurgist would sniff that gold has properties only HE can understand and that all questioning is foolish. In fact if a metallurgist could not be bothered to explain the heart of his craft, I might be tempted to think that he didn't really know anything about it at all and that he was just blowing smoke.

Schirin: How can one explain the beauty of a sunset to a blind man?

If a blind man asked you to describe a sunset, would you really tell him that there's no way he can understand, so you can't be bothered? I mean, you could at least try - what have you got to lose?

05-17-08 11:11  •  New God

Have you heard? There is a New God!

Recently our reality was taken over by a New God. This New God is not affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hindu, or any existing Earth religions. All the previous gods, angels, saints, and spirits were all obliterated by His glorious arrival. The New God is now completely in charge.

Frequently Asked Questions about the New God

Is The New God the God of the Bible?

No. The New God came from somewhere else. He destroyed the God of the bible, and also Jesus and Satan, when He arrived, along with Krishna, Zeus and several other celestial beings. He didn't intend to, but they were occupying the God dimension and when the New God arrived He just squished them like bugs. The New God remains the sole deital being in our spectrum.

Does The New God require faith?

No. It doesn't make any difference at all what you believe about the New God. The New God is impervious to belief.

Is there any proof of this New God?

There is as much proof of the New God as there is of the previous ones.

Is the New God powerful?

Yes. Just to give you a sense of scale, the New God is a trillion times more powerful than the God of the Bible.

Did the New God create this planet?

No, he's just taking over the running of it. But He says that the Bible God did not create it either, he was just getting all the credit. The New God says that to learn the origin of the earth you must examine it.

Is the New God a He?

Not really, but He's definitely not a she either.

Does the New God provide an afterlife?

The first act of the New God when He arrived in our domain was to open the gateways of Heaven and Hell and release all the souls imprisoned there. All the souls moved to their proper destination, the Oneness of Eternity. Without H & H to block the natural progression, all souls from earth will now go straight to the Oneness of Eternity.

Does the New God have any commandments?

No. He says, "Figure it out yourself."

Does the New God forgive sin?

The New God has abolished all sin. All past sins are forgiven, erased. No future sin can be committed. As for how to act, He says, "Do what is good, avoid what is ill, and take the time to learn the difference."

Does the New God need or want us to worship him?

The New God does not need anything from us. Worship will not buy favors. But He's not opposed to a little ceremony here and there, some slight reverence.

Does the New God listen to prayer?

That's His specialty! The New God listens to every prayer. As a big improvement over some previous Gods, the New God never judges about sin or makes you beg for forgiveness. The New God listens to you, is there for you, and appreciates you just how you are.

Does the New God answer prayers?

The New God hears your prayers and uses the same levers that your previous God used to turn the fates of life in your direction.

How do I pray to the New God?

Just pray as you always have. The prayers will automatically go to the New God now.

How do we revere the New God?

The new God accepts reverence from any existing religion. Light candles, sing hymns, etc. All reverence is now automatically directed to the New God.

05-16-08 10:01  •  Abortion

I think the thing that bothers me about the abortion debate is that there doesn't seem to be any compromise position. Either a zygote is eligable for full legal rights, or you don't become a person until the doctor slaps your fanny. No middle ground.

I would certainly concede the need to carefully proscribe very late abortions if others would concede the need to allow very early ones. If a woman really does not want a pregnancy she should be able to move quickly to terminate it, no questions asked. I don't think you can really say a person has been harmed when a woman aborts a dot.

Taylor: Good Compromise.

IdaKaye: That's a stupid remark! You were a dot in size once!

As a dot I had no neurons. I did not think, I did not feel pain, I did not move. If I had been aborted I would not have been harmed.

What's your suggestion for a compromise?

IdaKaye: I cannot compromise on absolutes. Abilities do not equal value. Human beings are eternal souls. Their value comes form God, their Creator.

If God wants me to support His position on abortion He can come to my house and explain it to me personally. If He wants this country to make certain laws He can run for president. Until then, I don't accept your guess as to what you think He wants. Until then, we have to make our own laws.

I'm interested in finding laws that everyone can tolerate, regardless of religion or lack thereof.

Jovaiel: It's a question of human rights and when, exactly a human should be allowed human rights.

Personally, I feel that a human just has to be able to breathe air in order to qualify for human rights. But I realize that is not acceptable to many people and I would not insist on that position if there was a reasonable compromise.

The problem is that endowing the fetus with full human rights ignores the full human rights of the woman encompassing the fetus. The fetus doesn't live in a box. It is inside a woman. She was here first, and she has a fully developed mind and body and feelings and plans and goals. Even if we agree that they BOTH have some rights, that doesn't make them equals. The rights of the woman must come first.

Jovaiel: If a human just has to breathe air, then that would mean birth, wouldn't it?

The lungs are capable of breathing air for several weeks before birth and I would definitely say at that point it's too late for an abortion.

Jovaiel: It would also mean that those with emphysema and others on breathing machines might find themselves stripped of human rights.

People with emphysema and others on breathing machines are still breathing air. Let's not get silly.

Jovaiel: Also, should technology ever allow us to colonize under water...

As soon as that actually happens I will debate it. Right now that is a non-issue. I'm concerned with the present.

Jovaiel: Everyone has to give up some freedom to protect others. I may feel like killing my neighbor but I agree that his right to life trumps my freedom to kill him.

Your neighbor is not inside you. No comparison.

Jovaiel: Maybe we should be providing some education about birth control. But we must teach that only abstinence is certain to prevent pregnancy.

It may work for some, but no human population has ever succeeded in preventing pregnancy with abstinence. Even priests and nuns have sex. There is no force in the universe that can stop people from fucking, even when they don't want a baby.

I do think that eventually we will be able to design birth control that will prevent virtually all unintended pregnancy. In fact, in this overpopulated world, I think it is a moral imperitive that we do so. But that day has not yet arrived, and as I said, I'm concerned with the present.

Jovaiel: Well, she doesn't have to raise it! The only restriction pro-life people wish to apply is to honor her baby's right to life for the temporary period in which it lives in her body and the brief period afterwards until it can be given to others to protect and raise.

I might be willing to go along with this, but only after a certain point. If, in the first few weeks after a woman discovers that she is pregnant, she wants to terminate the pregnancy before it can permanently change her body, her relationships and everything else in her life, she should be able to privately take care of it. Remember, the Roe v. Wade decision was about a woman's right to privacy.

Keep in mind that making abortion illegal does not stop abortion. It just means that desperate women die from dirty back-alley procedures. As long as we have unintended pregnancy, people will need abortions. Making it illegal in the U.S. just means that rich women will go to Canada and poor women will die horrible deaths.

Jovaiel: So you are saying that innocent human beings who have harmed none and, as far as can be assumed, mean no harm to any should be allowed to be killed on the whim of another person?

I don't consider a cluster of cells with no brain a human being.

But even if I did, I am a pragmatist. Abortion was legalized because it was not stopping abortions and the poorest women were paying for it with their lives.

All she did was fuck. Maybe it was a mistake. Does she deserve to die a horrible death from infection for that?

You can't stop abortions. You can only ensure that they are safe and try to keep them rare.

IdaKaye: The right to life is absolute! I mean, I'm pro-death penalty, but that's Biblical.

Unfortuanately some individuals are so aberrant, violent, and uncontrollable, they do unspeakable violence to others. They were given the right to life already.

Apparently the "right to life" has its limits. I think that if it's possible to decide that some don't have the "right to life" anymore, it's certainly possible to decide that some don't have it yet.

IdaKaye: You say, "you can't stop abortions." Are you saying, you can't stop drug users so lets just make them all legal?

Within regulation, yes. That's what they did when they repealed Prohibition in the 30's and do you know what? It worked. Social conditions improved immediately. This is exactly what we need to do again today, for exactly the same reasons.

IdaKaye: You mean, you can't stop pedophiles or rapist so do we just start giving them condoms and ask that they do it sparingly?

As far as I know, no one has ever proposed legalizing rape or pedophilia. Some things are so wrong that almost everybody realizes it and can agree that it should be against the law. Neither abortion or drugs fit into that category.

IdaKaye: She made her choice to 'fuck'. Why should a baby die a horrible death for an adults irresponsibility?

You need a brain to experience horror.


I have spent the last twenty-five years as an ardent pro-choicer, and I'm still personally convinced that the easy way to figure out who is a person and who isn't is to check who is breathing.

However, recently I've come to feel that the real tragedy is the way this issue is tearing our country apart at the seams. If we don't find some kind of compromise, we are going to piss our democracy down the drain while politicians use this as a wedge issue instead of dealing with urgent crises that affect every single post-born person on the planet.

As much as I feel that a woman's body is her own, and if she wants an abortion that's her business, I would be willing to compromise that position. I would be willing to say that once a fetus looks like a baby and can move and feel then maybe we should extend it some measure of protection, within limits. I would be willing to say that there comes a time, fairly early, when it is too late for an elective (that is, non-emergency) abortion.

But that is not going to solve the problem unless others are willing to compromise too...unless people realize that a clump of cells without a brain cannot feel and is not entitled to the same protection as a living, breathing person who has to be allowed make her own decisions about what she wants for her life. There are a million good reasons why a woman might want to end an unwanted pregnancy before others learn of it, safely and privately. That microscopic clump of cells is not even going to notice. It does not have the capacity to suffer harm, and pretending it does is hurting people who DO have brains and DO feel and DO notice.

Maybe this isn't the best compromise but there must be a reasonable position somewhere. Are those tiny clumps of unfeeling, unaware cells worth throwing away every election over, worth throwing away a hundred years of hard won battles for women's rights over? Are they worth throwing away our country over?

As much as I love a good debate, this problem does not need a debate, it needs a solution. I'm willing to work on it. Is anyone else?

05-12-08 9:46  •  Corporations

Ava: Legalizing marijuana isn't a threat to the corporations, how can people say that? Besides, corporate profits create jobs!

Corporate profits do not create enough jobs, and the jobs which are created are not good enough. Many of them do not provide enough money on a 40 hour week for a person to support a family. Many of them do not provide enough health insurance for a person and family to receive adequate medical care.

Ava: Corporations have problems creating more jobs and offering benefits because they are taxed to high, and have to pay exorbitant insurance rates to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. You have to understand their problems...

Oh, boo hoo. Forgive me if I don't lose any sleep over the corporation's "problems". A corporation is not a person or even a fixed set of people. It is a revolving profit funnel with no fealty to any industry, country or person.

If corporations "have problems" creating jobs, maybe they should consider not paying enough money to support a hundred thousand people all to one guy.

If corporations "have problems" providing benefits, maybe they should support a single-payer system and get out of the health care business altogether.

If corporations "have problems" with lawsuits, maybe they should put public safety ahead of obscene profits and make safer products.

Money is the only thing that matters to a corporation. They are totally amoral.

Ava: Where will the jobs come from without corporations?

First of all, there might be an honorable place for corporations if they were required to hold to any kind of ethical standard, which they currently are not.

Second of all, jobs can come from where they have always come from - from a need which exists for work to be done. Small business, trades, private business, social jobs and collectives are all sources of work and renumeration.

Think about it this way...five of the ten richest people in the world are all named Walton. Does this make sense?! Don't you think that the world grocery business should be a big enough industry to make more than one family rich? None of the money people make stays in their own community anymore because it is all being funneled into the pockets of Sam Walton (not to mention the oil company execs.)

It would be better if locally-owned businesses could make a profit and employ local people because the profits and paychecks would go back into the communities where people live, instead of all being funneled into the bank accounts of maybe seventeen people in the world who already have so much money they will never, ever be able to put it back into circulation.

05-12-08 8:25  •  Dark Moment

Jana: Can you describe your darkest moment?

One of my darkest times was right after my last baby was born. This was my 3rd c-section, and for a moment or two after the delivery everything seemed normal - doctors and nurses bustling around, chatting, murmuring, "Congratulations - it's a boy!" Then, when the nurse started to clean him, she suddenly cried, "What is that?!"

Everything got very quiet. The doctors all left my side and crowded around the cleaning table, saying "I don't know what that is," "That's weird!" and "I never saw anything like that before."

In a panic, I asked my husband, "What is it? What's wrong?" He said, "I'll tell you in a minute."

I was in a state, I can tell you - I was basically tied down under a big tarp and couldn't move and I had no idea what was happening. My husband finally explained that my baby had these very weird scabs all over his right arm, and the arm itself was twisted and not moving.

Eventually they resumed sewing me back together, but all the happiness had gone out of the delivery room. They finished the surgery and gave me the baby to hold while they wheeled me to my hospital room, but I didn't get to keep him long. The pediatrician thought he might be partially paralyzed from a stroke in utero and whisked him off to have a CAT scan.

While he was gone, alarm bells started going off in the maternity ward and we could see people rushing around. We were soon informed that this was just a drill to test procedures in case of a baby abduction.

I'll never forget how cold I felt - I looked at my husband and said, "The abductors can have him." I just couldn't believe we had a less-than-perfect baby and I thought maybe the whole pregnancy had been a big mistake. I thought I could never love him.

Well, soon afterwards they returned the baby to our room and said that his CAT scan didn't reveal any problems. The pediatrician said they would keep searching for the cause, but then she gave me some of the most important advice I've ever gotten - she said, "In the meantime, just treat him like an ordinary baby."

I took Neo into my arms and looked into his precious little face, and suddenly I realized that he was perfect, in his own tiny way. I fell in love with him at that moment, and I resolved that whatever was wrong with him we would face it together.

I still feel guilty over the hesitation I felt accepting him. But my husband let me completely off the hook - he said that I was groggy and wigged out from the surgery and all the medications and that maybe I didn't remember, but it had actually taken awhile to accept the previous two babies too, even though they had been perfectly normal.

Neo started moving his arm not long afterwards, and it began to heal amazingly fast. Here he is just two days after he was born:

Neo arm temp

In the weeks that followed, we eventually learned that, most likely, Neo had had his arm trapped by the umbilical chord without circulation for an extended period. The arm specialist told us that he was a very lucky little fellow - that most babies who have this happen are born with a dead arm and the only way to save their lives is to amputate.

Well, Neo is now ten months old and he seems to have good use of the arm. He has a huge scar, and may face additional challenges, but he's a healthy, happy little guy and I love him with all my heart. I often feel that if this is the darkest hour I have to face then life is letting me off pretty easy!

Brittney: I can't imagine what u must of been goin through. And I am glad that everything turned out ok. I cant stand to see my daughter hurt so I cant imagine. And I admire you honestly, with how you felt after you delieved your baby when u were talkin about the alarms goin off. It takes a real woman to admit to feeling this way. But your human and I can see where u were coming from.

05-12-08 5:25  •  Social Systems

Ava: I'm a conservative, I don't believe Liberals are open minded. I think they want everyone to be the same. This is why they are pushing a socialist agenda.

Socialism doesn't have anything to do with "everyone being the same." There are several countries with "socialized medicine" and it's easy to see that they are much healthier than we are - they have longer lifespan, lower infant mortality, fewer preventable diseases, fewer surgical complications, faster recovery times, etc. They also spend much less per person than we do. Socialized medicine can objectively be shown to be more efficient and more effective.

I'm not interested in the ideologies of "liberals" or "conservatives." I'm interested in what actually works. I wish more people were.

Ava: There are countries that have successful social programs, but their societies do not have the same concerns as ours. Simply providing basic needs for people will not solve our social problems.

What do you recommend?

Ava: Foster care, Big Brothers Big Sisters. Teach job skills. Volunteer to train people for job interviews.

We already do have that. Obviously it is not enough. What good is being 'trained for job interviews' when there are ten people for every job? What good are job skills when the jobs that require skill are being outsourced to China and India and there is nothing left here but jobs at Wal-Mart?

Ava: We have to teach people the importance of education.

Understanding the importance of education will not help if you cannot afford to go to college. There are a hundred applicants for every scholarship.

What do we do with the leftover people?

Student loans? Those loans are highway robbery and most young people (that is, those who are lucky enough to qualify) are starting their careers already fifty thousand dollars or more in debt. Many grads spend their lives paying most of their extra money towards the outrageous interest and never touching the principal and only the lucky have a chance to break even.

Ava: Please don't think you get something for nothing, there is always a cost.

The costs can be shared between us. That's how people have always done it, and it's a good investment. The people we share with today can share with us tomorrow.

Ava: Sure, that sounds nice - but social programs hinder growth and leave people stagnant.

Growth!? What is this obsession with "growth"? Growing the American economy for the last fifty years has left the planet ravaged. Do we really think that we can continue to grow, indefinitely, forever? We are already running into limits on our economic growth at every level, and the urge to keep bloating and sprawling is turning our beautiful countryside into one big strip mall from coast to coast.

But, perhaps you are speaking on a personal level. In that case, poverty is doing far more to hinder personal growth than social programs. How can a person grow if they can't get an education, can't get decent preventative health care, can't get off of the "work two jobs to get by" treadmill and develop their talents, nuture their personal relationships, and spend time teaching their values to their children?

As for being "stagnant," who cares if someone is "stagnating" if they are happy and feeding their family?

Countries with strong social systems produce a happy, well-educated populace. If that is "stagnation" then it doesn't seem too bad. It beats endless "growth" for the very wealthy and a slippery slope down for everyone else.

Ava: It's that kind of thinking that hurts our economy.

I'm tired of sacrificing the happiness and well-being of people and our planet in order to shore up "our economy." The "economy" is not a living being that must be kept alive at all costs. It is nothing more than a system, designed to ensure that the needs of human beings are met, and at that it is a miserable failure. What's more, it is a system wholly created and managed by people, and if it is not serving us, then people can - and must - change it until it does.

05-10-08 6:06  •  Women's Weight

Julie: Sometimes women say that Big is Beautiful, but I think women today just cannot control themselves. They let themselves get so fat and it just shows that they are lazy and gross.

I would say that the drive to consume food is pre-cognitive. Animals don't think about their “weight", they simply consume as much food as they are able to. For millions of human generations, people could also consume as much as they had available, but their lives were so physically demanding that most of their calories were naturally burned off. It is only with the advent of power machinery to do our labor that we find large segments of the population with weight problems.

I would further say that modern food merchandising takes full advantage of our natural urge to consume. Advertising is carefully designed to hit people at a level of instinctual craving that existed a billion years before we developed language and higher brain functions. I think there is too much blame placed on the individual, for not "having better control," when the advertisers are actively trying to undermine self-control with very coersive tactics at every turn.

This is not to say that people have NO control over what they eat. But there is a reason why some people seem to have such difficulty with it and that is because it is extremely hard. Especially for some moms, because what we call "overeating" today used to be the norm. In past times, when food was plentiful one season and scarce the next, it helped everyone for the mom to have a little "extra padding." When the food ran short, mom could say, "You go ahead and eat, little ones, Mama can afford to skip a meal this time." Then there was more food available for the growing children during lean times.

Also, today's food alternatives are just making it harder...the healthiest, leanest foods are the most expensive and take the most preparation. When we're stressed, harried and pressed for time, it's much easier to grab a quick, cheap, delicious, heavily-processed-and-marketed but nutritionally poor food choice.

I think the answer to all this is beginning to arise naturally, as a result of reaching peak oil and confronting global warming. Entire communities are being rethought to encourage walking as the main form of transportation - not just strolling for exercise, but really having to walk all the time to get where you need to go, like humans used to do. Also, all manner of labor-saving devices may soon be abandoned as we find that human labor is actually cheaper than fossil fuel energy.

Additionally, grain that is grown in South America and then shipped to China to be turned into over-packaged quicky snacks and then shipped to America to be consumed, is rapidly becoming much too expensive to transport. We will have no choice but to turn to freshly-grown, unprocessed local produce. Combined with more physical labor, this trend should result in healthier bodies for everyone.

To be clear, I don't lump all the blame on society or all on the individual. I say both factors are present. As individuals, we can become well educated about food choices and healthy lifestyles, and exert some effort to make good choices more of the time. As a society, we can make the good choices easier, and I think that eventually we will. We don't have any other choice.

Julie: I don't see how you can blame Taco Bell for people getting fat. Nor do I think the advertisers are to blame. Human Beings are 'programmed' to eat- that part is true- but we are also able to drive PAST the Taco Bell without stopping.

Taco Bell is spending $256 million dollars every year to make sure that not everyone drives by Taco Bell every time without stopping. They would not be doing that if it didn't work. And, I did not suggest that they were entirely to blame. I said that they were partly responsible. However, I know that shared responsibility is a very difficult concept to understand.

It's easy to see the culpability of a societal system if you examine weight as a cultural issue. For example, China is about a generation behind the United States in terms of industrializing. Until recently, there was no problem in China with obesity. Does this mean Chinese people just have more self-control than Americans? Or is there another factor?

In recent years, China has had their own technological revolution, and with rising wealth they have adopted the eating standards common to our culture - more meat, more fat, far more processed food. Now the Chinese are experiencing an onrush of obesity and all that goes with it - drastic rise in diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc. What happened? Did the Chinese suddenly lose their self-control?

The same thing happened in China as here a generation ago - techno-industrial caplitalization decreased the opportunity for natural physical labor, and increased the availability of poor food choices and aggressive marketing. This is at least partly responsible for the change in Chinese health habits.

When you see rapid changes across an entire society, you examine what has changed. People are not suddenly a lot more "lazy and gross" than they used to be. Our technology has changed tremendously, and our physicality has changed in direct parallel. This suggests that they are linked.

Julie: You make some valid points, and I see where you are coming from. However, if I am able to drive by without stopping, even though I REALLY REALLY want to stop, then their millions are not working on me.

They must have worked at some point, at least a little, or you wouldn't know what a 7-layer burrito is.

Julie: I can control my weight, and consider myself to have very little self control. I don't think I am anything special.

Maybe you are. Maybe you are lucky in some regard. Genetics play a big part, not only in how the body processes calories but in how a person percieves their food needs. As I said, humans have pre-cognitive, instinctive drives, and like any animal, the degree to which they are compelled by these drives varies greatly from one individual to the next. For example, some people seem to require a lot of sex, while others could live without it entirely. This variation is natural and has nothing to do with "free will."

Education about food issues is also important - a lot of people still don't really understand how different processed food is from fresh food, or how much exercise it takes to purposely burn calories. It takes more than just hearing about it - this information has to be deeply internalized before it really starts to affect each and every consumption decision.

Also, some people place far more value on a slim figure than others. Some men place more value on their wives' appearance than on her personality. There are many different factors at play here. It is far from a simple, "If I can do it, then only the 'lazy and gross' can't."

P.S. You should try the 7-layer "al fresca". Without the sour cream and guacamole, their mixture of rice, beans and vegetables is actually a fairly nutritious choice - at least for fast food. :-)

MaryAnne: When *I* see a fat person I picture laziness and an unhealthy lifestyle. Don't you? Men want someone who takes pride in their body, their health and how they look. No one would ever be attracted to a fat woman...all animals are drawn to the 'healthier' looking' mate. It's an innate animal instinct for reproduction.

I would like to emphasize that, until a few generations ago, heavier was healthier. Food was often scarce and people experienced constant cycles of "feast or famine." Calories had to be stored for future lean times - the natural selection was for people who stored calories most efficiently.

Women in particular needed to "bank" calories for the whole family. It's very common in times of famine for a mother to skip meals so that her offspring can have the benefit of the available food. She can only afford to do this if she has a little extra stored.

Also, prior to the industrial age, work was back-breaking and only the very wealthy ever had the opportunity to become overweight. If you look at artwork from different human periods, you can see that a heavier figure was often considered the ideal by other cultures.

Here is Ruben's Venus, c. 1600s

Renior, c. 1870

Julie: Ha! You are trying to imply that I have a fast metabolism! Actually, I gain weight very quickly and am now only consuming 1,300 calories A DAY just to maintain. I'm F**cking starving.

I'm sorry to hear that. It sounds like a very unpleasant way to spend your life.

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