Over the years I’ve made a habit of observing people. Most writers do. And when I say observing people, I mean from an anthropological perspective – class, color, creed etc. One thing has always struck me – how prosperity is slowly killing us.

The rich and the poor at play.

Class has always been, and always will be, the thing that divides our societies. Having an Irish background (history of mass migration and poverty) has led me to believe that there are more classes than you might first believe…

  • The immigrant class – those who, despite having university degrees end up driving buses and taxis or cleaning the homes of the middle classes
  • The ‘working class’ – traditional blue-collar workers in what I regard as ‘real’ jobs that keep the economy going – making things, moving things, building things etc.
  • The hamster class – those who have progressed from the working class and are on their way to the middle classes – stuck in office jobs and on the hamster wheel
  • The middle class – you know who you are – people with middle management positions and mortgages bigger than they should be.
  • The newly rich – those awkward individuals who do not yet understand how to spend their money
  • The upper class – mostly inherited wealth and a distinctly different species
  • The 1% – Jeff, Bill, Warren and company….

There is something of a bell curve here. And I mean it literally as well as figuratively. As one moves from the lean, hard working immigrant and working classes you will notice something – the preponderance of obesity as a social marker. As you approach the upper class and the 1%, obesity is a rarity.

Of course this is closely linked to education, environment and income. No one will dispute that. But when one looks at the alarming rates of early death amongst these burgeoning working and middle classes you will begin to understand how both our education and our heath care systems are failing us.

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You have read, no doubt of the ‘food deserts’ in the poor neighborhoods of large cities – where the only food available is either fast or convenience food. Fresh produce is thin on the ground. One need only take a trip uptown to see the aisles of ecologically grown vegetables and meats that are on offer to the well-heeled.

Good food is cheap. So why is bad food more expensive? And I mean expensive from a personal and a social perspective. Policymakers seem unwilling to address the issue. Instead of granting licenses to fast food franchises, perhaps they should encourage more local farmers’ markets…

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Food, like class, is a political issue. So it is no surprise that the problem goes unanswered. After all, if there is no problem there can be no solution. The solution? More expensive drugs to treat the symptoms of our diet and our generally unhealthy lifestyles. Who benefits? The middle and upper ‘investor’ classes. They are literally profiting from the ill-health and early death of the less well-off, while paying less tax than those that are dying for them.

Inequality comes in many shapes and sizes – just like people. The role of government is to address inequalities and encourage the betterment of all citizens – not to use them as a pool for clinical trials for drugs they will never be able to afford.

Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

The food industry needs to be cleaned up. This will reduce the health care burden, reduce our dependence on Big Pharma, improve peoples’ lives and increase productivity. The investor classes can survive with lower returns. The alternative would be a hefty tax on the profits of the food and drug companies that create the problems in the first place…

So when your local politicians ask what they can do for you, ask them for another five or ten years of life – and explain in clear terms how they can deliver that, along with all of their other promises.

The other option is to emigrate or win the lottery, unless you are already rich…

TS O’Rourke

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