Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

April 30, 2006

Sex is the New Obesity

No, it only seems like I'm vying for world supremacy in the least-frequently-updated-blog sweepstakes. I enjoy blogging, I really do; what I lack these days is time. So, embarrassed by the prospect of a blank archive for April, we proudly present The Obligatory April Post.

This morning, I heard an item on The Sunday Edition that made my hair stand on end. A doctor of "evolutionary medicine" put forward the hypothesis that cancer and heart disease may be (in part) caused by viruses. Now, I was half-asleep and may be misquoting the guy: if so, I apologize. But I thought I heard something to the effect that if viruses (in addition to genetic and environmental factors) are partially responsible, then cancer and heart disease could conceivably be transmitted through sexual contact or heavy petting. Having no background (or interest) in medicine, I can't say whether this thesis is plausible, absurd, or somewhere in between. What set my mind reeling were the dizzying sociological implications.

See, if HIV didn't discourage hedonism, maybe the nasty spectre of cancer will do the trick. This is called social control, folks, and it's how the health industry and nanny state put your tax dollars to work. Witness the banning of "junk" food in school cafeterias and the paranoid, witch-hunting zealotry behind anti-smoking legislation. And how about this: I was recently in a public washroom that gave me explicit instructions on how to wash my hands. The poster went on to tell me why proper hand-washing is so critical. I'm not opposed to basic personal hygiene, but come on—do we really want to raise a generation of obsessive-compulsives?

I'm beginning to think we do. North American society is fixated on disease prevention. It's as though we believe we'll live forever if we eat all the right things, jog five miles a day, and avoid exposure to any and all toxins (except the ones we're attached to, like alcohol and automobile exhaust). In this neo-puritan age, longevity is valued above all else. Doesn't matter if your jogging-and-broccoli-shake regimen makes you miserable: better to lead a long, healthy, ascetic life than a shorter, risk-taking, fun-filled one. "Life at any cost, no matter how wretched" seems to be the new mantra. Now, I'm not advocating wanton recklessness; even I (sometimes) eat well, exercise, and take care of myself. This now-unfashionable concept is called moderation.

Certainly, health and fun are not mutually exclusive, and I don't claim they are. What bristles is the wellness-above-all philosophy that underlies modern thinking. I'm old enough to remember a catchphrase that went, "If it feels good, do it." Sure, that's naive and perhaps a little extreme, but compare it to today's horrific equivalent: "If it feels good, it's bad. It'll kill you. Don't do it. We won't let you do it."

I'm not saying the good doctor necessarily falls into this camp. One, I lack the knowledge to make that assessment; and two, anyone who raises an eyebrow at bird-flu hysteria can't be all wet. If my foggy morning recollections are right, he was quick to distance himself from the moral quagmire his thesis could inspire. But no matter: if he doesn't grab the ball and run with it, you can bet somebody will. These days, there's no shortage of self-proclaimed experts salivating at the chance to dictate what's best for us. Many of them have legislative powers.

Tobacco is the new leprosy
Obesity is the new tobacco
Sex is the new obesity

Where will it end?